Home » Wood Putty Vs Wood Filler | Which One is Best For Your Project?

Wood Putty Vs Wood Filler | Which One is Best For Your Project?

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Even new wood is prone to imperfections, with old wood needing repairs more often than you think. Wood with dents and holes can be repaired to give it an even and smooth feel and improve the feel of your project.

If you work with wood a lot, you’ll be familiar with repairing chopping off or indented wood surfaces. Wood putty and wood filler are used to cover these dents and fill up the area.

Many people assume that wood fillers and wood putty are the same. Oftentimes it isn’t even their fault because it is being used interchangeably in some quarters. These two materials may have a similar purpose of repairing dented wooden surfaces, but they are different in a lot of other ways.

Their use cases are different as each one has the most suitable use for them. Whether you want to sand the wood or repair the wood without sanding, you’ll need wood putty or wood filler. The one you choose depends on a lot of factors.

People always struggle to differentiate between wood putty and wood filler, and that is what this guide seeks to resolve. Knowing how to differentiate between them will allow you to use this wood repairer. It’ll do this by showing you everything about each material and its uses and comparing them to see the best.

Wood Putty

Wood Putty

Wood putty is sometimes called plastic wood and comprises plastic and oil-based solvents. Sometimes there might be an additional pigment to give it color. They are oil-based, which helps them to resist moisture and allows you to use them for projects that may see moisture. Adhesives are used in wood putty to hold it together.

Wood putty is flexible and does not completely dry out. This feature allows it to fill up an expanding or contracting area. This also makes it difficult to attach properly to raw wood. Epoxy and polyurethane used in the putty make it pliable at any moment. They are perfect for finished surfaces, especially as the pigment in them can match the finish. You’ll find matching colors for oak, mahogany, walnut, and more.

When to Use Wood Putty?

When to Use Wood Putty

Wood putty is used for outdoor and indoor repairs since it has a good water resistance level. It can be used for filling up small holes. It is best used on finished wood to fix dents and scratches. Wood putty is unsuitable for raw wood because it contains harmful chemicals. It is the material you turn to when you notice a gouge, scratch, or gap after finishing.

Wood putty is not limited to small dents and scratches, as you can use it for bigger repairs like cracks. It is used when you want to touch up the finished project and close nail holes. Usually, you’ll need a combination of wood putties that’ll make a bond easily with the wood.

How to Use Wood Putty?

How to Use Wood Putty

Wood putty has a texture that requires you to use a screwdriver or putty knife to apply for the best results. Select a matching putty color with your finished wood. Putty comes in varying pigments, and you can mix them to get the perfect blend where necessary.

Take some putty on the tip of the screwdriver or putty knife and fill the hole or crack with it. Apply the putty so it is as level to the surface as possible, as sanding does not produce the best results since it doesn’t harden when dry. Allow the wood putty to dry; however, you should remember that they are still pliable when dry.


  • Long-lasting: Wood putty is durable when applied as it does not dry completely. Its flexibility prevents it from cracking when the wood contracts or changes shape. Unused putty can also last several years if stored in a cool, dry place.
  • Flexibility: Wood putty does not harden and is pliable even after drying, which allows it to adjust its shape to fill up cracks even if the wood expands or contracts.
  • Water resistant: Being oil-based helps wood putty to be able to prevent water from entering the wood. Bear in mind that it is only water resistant and not waterproof, so consistent exposure to moisture will open it up.

Wood Filler

Wood Filler

Wood filler is a water-based material made from wood particles and a binder. While wood putty feels like a last grasp solution at the end of your project, wood filler is the first aid to your problems before the end of construction.

There are two forms of wood fillers; the more popular water-based fillers and solvent-based fillers. Water-based fillers are perfect for indoor use, while solvent-based can do the job when used outdoors.

Wood fillers are quite popular since they cover a variety of uses which we’ll see shortly. Wood filler is in the form of a paste and fills up cracks and dents when applied. It is fast drying and hardens in an hour or two. This drying speed ensures you do not have to pause your work for long while waiting for the filler to dry.

Despite its hard drying nature, the wood filler does not improve the structural integrity of the wood. The wood filler also comes unpigmented as it can be stained or painted. Binders are used in wood filler to hold them together.

Types of Wood Filler

There are different types of wood filler available for you. They all serve different purposes and are made slightly different from each other because of that.

  • Wood grain filler: This type of wood filler is made to be used on open grain wood. This type of wood has open pores and requires a filler that can accommodate these openings while still serving its purpose.
  • Latex wood filler: It is also known as water-based, is used for interior wood repairs since they do not have any water-resistant qualities. They are also quick drying and dry hard.
  • Epoxy wood filler: Wood that has rotted requires an epoxy wood filler to restore its strength and shape. With this type of wood filler, the loose wood forms a proper structure, and stops the decay.

When to Use Wood Filler?

Wood filler is used to repair cracks and dents on unfinished wood. This includes raw wood up until any finishing is applied to it. There are instances where wood fillers shine the best, and using them will significantly improve their quality.

It covers nail holes, cracks, scratches, dents, and more. It is durable enough for indoor use and has epoxy filler for outdoor use.

How to Use Wood Filler?

Wood filler has a similar application process as putty, only that the need for a smooth surface at first is not so important since you can sand after. Select the type of filler you want to use based on the type of wood and place it would be kept, whether outdoors or indoors. Take some of the paste on the tip of your finger and rub it into the hole or crack, ensuring it fills it up and rises above the surface.

At this point, you should allow the filler to dry, which usually takes an hour or slightly more for epoxy fillers. After it must have dried and hardened, use fine sandpaper to lightly sand the top of the filler till it is level with the surface of the wood. Then you can finish with a stain or paint of your choice.


  • Fast-drying: It takes about an hour for the wood filler to dry and harden. This speed at which it dries helps your project to move faster as you don’t have to wait for long before you continue.
  • Porous wood-friendly: It can fill up porous wood and hold together rotten wood, which is not something many other wood repairers can do
  • Several Types are Available: Its versatility is evident in the number of available types of wood fillers. You can select the type best suited to your needs.

Also Read: How To Fix And Secure Polyurethane Mistakes?

Differences Between Wood Putty And Wood Filler

Wood putty and filler may serve similar purposes, but they are different in so many other ways. Their differences are made evident here.

1. Durability

Wood putty is more durable than wood filler as it does not harden but remains flexible even when dry. Wood putty will last several years without getting damaged. This allows it to move with the wood as it expands and contracts. It is also usable outdoors with its water-resistant qualities helping keep moisture at bay. Wood filler is not as durable as putty and would require more frequent maintenance.

2. Sandability

Wood putty cannot be sanded since it does not harden. Trying to sand wood putty will only create a mess in the area. This means you need to apply the putty as close to the level of the wood surface as possible and use a rag to clean off excess putty on top. Wood filler, on the other hand, can be easily sanded to create a level surface with the wood since it hardens when dry. With this, you can overfill the hole and sand to adjust.

3. Finished or Unfinished Wood?

Wood filler is for unfinished wood, as wood putty is for finished wood. Wood filler is best used on raw wood before it has been stained or finished. Wood putty, on the other hand, should only be used on finished wood.

4. Composition

Wood putty is made of plastic and an adhesive, while the wood filler is made of wood particles like sawdust and a binder. The finishing done on the wood filler helps it adhere to the wood better.

5. Paint/Finish

Wood putty does not take well to paint or finish on it due to its composition and texture. Wood filler, on the other hand, can be painted or finished.

Wood Putty Vs Wood Filler; Which One for Your Project?

If you want to fill up cracks, dents, nail holes, gouges, or scratches on finished wood, your best bet is to use putty. Putty will also do well outdoors since they have some water-resistant qualities. If you’re dealing with raw and unfinished wood, you want to work with wood filler since it can be painted or finished after application.


Wood putty and filler have been an ongoing conversation for a long time, with a lot of people erroneously using them interchangeably. By now, you should know how they differ even though they both repair wood.