Repairing holes as a professional or DIY enthusiast can be tricky with the different products available today.
For example, when working on wood and plaster, you’ll usually find holes caused by nails, cracks, hits, and more; filling the holes will ensure a clean finished project. To repair holes, you can use wood fillers, wood putty, spackles and more.
Wood filler and spackle have long been a hot topic of discussion with DIY lovers and professionals struggling to discern how they differ and which one to use.
However, the confusion between the two materials is not far-fetched, as they are fillers used to cover up holes. Nevertheless, their differences are as evident as they can be since they possess unique properties.
When faced with the option of choosing between wood filler and spackle, which should you consider?
This question is common among newbies and experts as they ponder the differences and use cases. This guide seeks to answer the wood filler Vs Spackle debate, providing all the necessary information anyone would need to choose the proper material for repairing holes.
Wood filler is often mistaken for wood putty, but they are different materials. Wood filler is a suspension consisting of materials like epoxy, clay, and polyurethane with the ability to soak into wood and bond with the fibers.
It hardens and fills holes, cracks, and openings. Some wood fillers are sandable and stainable, while others may need to absorb stain or sand properly.
Wood fillers can cover small openings, large cracks, and dents in the wood, while its work is limited to small cracks in drywall and even that, with reduced effectiveness.
Exterior-grade wood fillers are most effective outdoors, while interior-grade wood fillers will effectively seal indoor cracks. Your choice depends on the position of the crack or opening, as moisture, exposure to UV rays, and heat affect the fillers differently.
Categories of Wood Fillers
Having a wide variety of choices makes getting a more specific solution possible. This is because there are so many categories for wood fillers, all divided based on varying features like structure, uses, and more. For example, here are some of the different categories of wood fillers:
1. Water-based Vs Oil Based
One of the major categories of wood fillers is the differentiation based on their principal solvent solution, with water and oil or petroleum being the main solutions. Here is how they vary:
- Water-based: These wood fillers consist of cellulose, gypsum, or both and are more common than oil-based fillers. It has lower durability and is best suited to small indoor cracks.
You’ll also find that these fillers are easy to use and clean with only soap and water. Its non-toxic and odorless nature means you can use it without needing special breathing material.
Additionally, water-based wood fillers are sandable and stainable in most cases
- Oil-based: These types are more durable, consisting of vinyl or epoxy. Even though it is harder to use and clean, oil-based fillers are preferred when covering larger holes and exterior openings due to their adhesion and durability.
The toxicity of the oil-based fillers is high as it contains high levels of volatile organic compounds, making wearing special breathing materials essential. Use mineral spirits to clean off excess fillers.
2. Epoxy Wood Fillers
Epoxy wood fillers consist of epoxy resins or polymers containing epoxy groups. These fillers can react with themselves or other polyfunctional hardeners to form a hard surface with excellent thermal, mechanical, and chemical properties.
Epoxy wood fillers are highly toxic and leave you open to respiratory complications, contact dermatitis, and hypersensitivity reactions when you handle epoxy fillers without proper protection.
However, their structural qualities make them great for high-traffic areas and filling large cracks.
3. Homemade Wood Fillers
Mixing finely-pulverized sawdust and wood glue will make a good homemade wood filler. These two materials are easily accessible, making the homemade filler option great when you need a quick fix.
Additionally, they are best suited for small indoor cracks and quick fixes. Homemade fillers do not contain any stabilizer, preservative, or additive.
4. Wax Filler Sticks
As the name implies, Wax Filler Sticks come in the form of sticks made from wax. They come in sets of five or ten and would cover small to medium-sized cracks.
There are so many colors available that you can mix and match to get your preferred hue. One of the major advantages of wax Filler Sticks is their ease of use and shelf life; they can last for a long time as long as you keep them away from heat.
5. Laminate Flooring Wood Fillers
Laminate flooring wood fillers will fix holes in laminate floors and come packed as candles, squeeze tubes, and small containers. The fillers fix holes, cracks, and gouges in laminate materials. Some types of fillers are sandable while others are not, so select the most suitable for you.
Pros and Cons of Wood Fillers
Wood fillers consist of features that make them likable and unlikeable. This section looks at these factors and lets you decide.
- Some wood fillers are sandable and stainable
- Great on absorbent or porous materials
- It can be used on laminate and drywall
- Great for wood
- Offers control on filler consistently
- Easily affected by changes in temperature
- It can be not easy to sand
Spackle is a substance in paste form for filling cracks, holes, and gouges. It consists of gypsum from calcium sulfate hydrate and binder.
While spackles share several physical properties with joint compounds, they are not the same as spackles tend to dry faster, shrink less, and are best suited to smaller holes. In addition, spackles are stainable when dry.
Spackle is explicitly made for drywall, but just like wood fillers, it can also work on other materials, albeit with reduced efficiency. It comes premixed from the manufacturer in various consistencies, weights, or housing.
Since spackles are typically water-based, they dry fast and are easy to use and sand. Its water-based nature does not affect its use outdoors as it is effective indoors and outdoors.
While dealing with the outdoor application, priming the surface before applying is essential.
Types of Spackle
Spackles come in five main types, each with its unique features. Here are the main types of spackle:
1. Lightweight Spackle
Lightweight spackle consists of sodium silicate and adhesive. It is light and great for filling small cracks. You’ll also find that it is easy to sand and dries fast. The structure of a lightweight spackle means only a single coating is enough.
2. Standard Spackle
Standard spackle is the opposite of lightweight spackle as it contains gypsum, adhesive, and other additives, which makes it ideal for heavy-duty holes and cracks.
It is sometimes referred to as semi-solid drywall as its paste is rigid, helping it fill larger interior openings.
3. Vinyl-Based Spackle
Vinyl-based spackle consists of vinyl, adhesive, and additives and is great for filling deep cracks up to ¾ inches deep. However, feeling deep cracks will require filling with several vinyl layers.
This is because each vinyl coat needs to dry first before you can apply the next layer, which elongates the drying time for vinyl-based spackles. In addition, this type of spackle has extra thermal stability due to its elastic properties.
4. Epoxy Spackle
While most spackles are water-based, epoxy is oil based with great water-resistant qualities making it great for outdoor use. In addition, this spackle is the most durable.
However, it is not the easiest to use due to its structure. It comes in two containers; the hardener and resin packages.
5. Acrylic Spackle
Acrylic spackle is similar to vinyl spackle as you can apply several layers to fill up deep and wide gouges.
However, they are more versatile as you can use them on drywalls, wood, plaster, and more. Acrylic spackle also resists shrinking as it dries.
Pros and Cons of Spackle
Spackles, like wood filler, have structures, uses, and ingredients that make them both exciting and annoying to users. Let’s see what these are.
- It does not require priming before the application
- Does not shrink
- It is inexpensive
- Impressive durability
- Easy to use
- Great for both interior and exterior projects
- A quick and permanent fix to holes
- Great for drywalls
- Less effective for larger holes
Similarities Between Wood Filler and Spackle
Before discussing the differences between the two, it is necessary to see if there are any similarities.
Both wood fillers and spackles have poor flexibility, which makes them crack when exposed to fluctuating temperature conditions. Since the wood around the filler or spackle contracts and expands in fluctuating temperatures, it cracks the materials.
As a result, Spackles and wood fillers are unsuitable for projects that’ll see many temperature changes.
Requires Primer Before Painting
Wood fillers require a primer before painting to ensure an even paint layer on the project. This is similar to spackle which can absorb a lot of moisture from the paint and affect its look.
Some spackles come with primers already added, while you may have to apply primer on dried spackles in other instances.
Differences Between Wood Filler and Spackle
Wood filler Vs spackle is always hotly contested due to their huge differences. In this section, we’ll be looking at these differences and how they may affect your work.
Their use is one of the major differences between spackle and wood filler, as they mainly attack different materials.
- Can fix hardwood flooring
- Fixes cracks in wood
- Some are sandable and stainable
- Great for filling porous materials
- Great for drywall
- It can be used to cover nail holes
- Perfect for concealing surface defects
- Can fix cracks not deeper than ¾ inches and wider than ½ inches
- Can fix damages on plaster
The drying time for each material is different and may even vary within the same material depending on the number of coats used, among other things.
Wood Filler Vs Spackle
wood fillers typically take more time to dry than their counterparts, as you need to wait at least 1 hour for water-based fillers on small cracks to dry. Water-based fillers may take up to 6 hours to dry when dealing with larger cracks.
spackle is usually fast-drying, especially as it only needs a few coats. It may require about 30 minutes for small cracks to dry. Deeper cracks may take up to 2 hours. You can further reduce the drying time by utilizing a fast-drying spackling compound.
1. Ease of Sanding
Wood fillers dry hard, making sanding these materials harder, thereby using more energy. Start with coarse sandpaper and then move to finer sandpaper as you progress. Remember, sand along the grain to get a matching finish with other parts of the material.
Spackles do not dry as hard, requiring less energy to sand the surface. Use fine sandpaper or steel wool to prevent scratches on the surface.
Shrinking is normal for both spackle and wood finish. However, spackle is more elastic, meaning shrinkage is minimal as long as you properly apply the compound. Spackles in deeper holes are more likely to shrink than holes less than ¾ inches deep.
Wood fillers shrink more when applied to cracks; thus, you may need a higher layer of wood filler so it fills up the crack when it shrinks.
Wood filler does not leave a fine finish, as you may be left with rough edges even after eliminating excess. Spackles, however, leave a fine finish since sand is easy to sand.
Which is Better, Between Wood Filler and Spackle?
The better material choice will rest on specific use cases since they all have strong points. For example, wood fillers are great for fixing holes in wooden and porous materials.
On the other hand, spackle is better when looking for flexibility and versatility, as it can fix a broader range of materials. Additionally, spackle is better when drying speed and sanding are essential.
Wood fillers and spackles will be clear once people grasp their differences and the better one to use at each instance. But, aside from their differences, their similarities will also reveal valuable lessons about the two products and their uses.