Wood Putty vs Wood Filler

Over time, the wooden structures in your home are bound to develop cracks and tears. Now, to deal with these defects, the most logical and cost-effective option is to use either a wood filler or wood putty as both are designed to deal with such problems. But which one of the two exactly should you choose?

In simple words, wood putty is used to recover small holes and splits while the wood filler is used to recover the relatively larger ones. In addition, you have to take into account several other aspects, whether your woodworking project is indoor or outdoor, whether the defective wood you’re dealing with is finished or unfinished, and more.

In this guide, we will get you up to speed with everything you need to know on the head-to-head comparison of wood putty and wood filler. So, let’s get started!

What is Wood Putty?

Wood putty is a pliable, adhesive compound, made up of plastic, that is commonly used to deal with small scratches and dents, contracted by a finished furniture piece, such as your hardwood flooring or your picture frame.

It comes in assorted wood colors so you can make the choice according to the project at hand.

How to Use Wood Putty

Alright so now you want to get rid of the cracks on your wood flooring, how do you go about applying the wood putty. Follow the steps below for guidance:

Step 1: Selecting the Right Wood Putty

When choosing a wood putty, you have to keep in mind two factors; how fast your wood putty dries and its color.

As for the drying ability, you’ll probably want to go with quick-drying wood putty for your flooring whereas for the color, make sure that it matches with the hardwood of your floor.

Step 2: Preparing the Site

Any dirt and debris around your workspace can interfere with the desired results of wood putty. Therefore, use a clean rag to wipe off any dust.

Also, ensure that area where wood putty is to be applied is dry.

Step 3: Apply the Wood Putty

Use a stick to apply the wood putty to the concerned defect until it is overflowing with it. This is in order to prevent air bubbles or cavities from developing.

Rub the putty across the defect and scrape off the excess.

Step 4: Let the Wood Putty Settle

Leave the putty in place to let it dry. It will take at least 24 hours.

What is Wood Filler?

Similar to wood putty, wood filler is also a malleable compound but it is made up of either sawdust or wood fibers. Unlike wood putty, it is used to patch up relatively larger cracks and holes, such as gaps between boards or exposed plywood edges.

Wood filler can either be water-based or solvent-based. The former fits the needs of indoor applications while the latter is tougher, making it suitable for outdoor needs.

How to Use Wood Filler

The usage of wood filler is pretty similar to wood putty, with a few modifications.

Step 1: Choosing the Right Wood Filler

As mentioned before, if you are working indoor, you’ll need a water-based wood filler whereas, for outdoor, you will need to resort to its solvent-based counterpart.

Step 2: Preparing the Site

Just as in the case of wood putty, make sure that your workspace is dry and clear of any debris or dust.

Step 3: Apply the Wood Filler

Use a stick and fill up the defect with the wood filler. Make sure to overfill the defect in order to cater to the air cavities as well as the fact that wood fillers shrink upon drying.

Scrape off any excess filler so that it is flush with the rest of the surface.

Step 4: Allow to Dry

With the wood filler applied, let it dry; it may take less than 30 minutes.

Some wood fillers also change color when dried so that way, you can know for sure, if it’s time to take the next step.

Step 5: Sanding and Painting

Once the filler dries, sand it to make it even with the surrounding surface.

After you’ve acquired a smooth finish, paint it to match its color with that of the rest of the wood.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Wood Putty and Wood Filler

So, both wood putty and wood filler can be used for patching up defects and holes, but how do you know that which one better fits your needs?

Well, to help make you the choice, below, we have highlighted three main factors that you need to consider.

Consistency and Sandability

Unlike wood putty, wood filler dries to turn into a hard surface which allows it to be applied on larger defects in a project. The hardened surface can then be sanded and painted.

On the contrary, the pliability of wood putty means that it can only be applied to a piece of furniture when it is being finished and painted. Also, since it doesn’t harden much, sanding it is much difficult.

Nature of Project

The nature of your project could either be indoor or outdoor. Due to its harder consistency, water-based wood filler suits indoor projects.

On the other hand, the malleability of wood putty, even after it dries, makes it more suited to outdoor projects. This is because the wood on the outdoor is likely to expand and contract according to different seasons and wood putty is able to adjust to this contracting and expansion.

If the putty is not available, you can also opt for the solvent-based wood filler.

Painting and Staining

When it comes to painting and staining, wood putty and wood filler are applied at different points during a project. Wood filler is applied before you paint or stain while the wood putty is applied after.

In other words, wood filler is primarily used on unfinished wood while wood putty is generally used on unfinished wood.

When you’re applying paint on wood filler, make sure you spot test on an inconspicuous area because the paint might react differently with the filler and the surrounding wood.

As for the wood putty, before you apply it, ensure that its color blends in perfectly with the paint on the wood. With a range of colors of wood putty available to choose from, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Buying Wood Putty or Wood Filler

Now that you are aware of everything that sets apart wood putty from wood filler, it’s time that you buy one to fulfill your needs. Keep the following tips in mind when you buying either of these products:

  • Price – While the quality of the product should always be your main focus, make sure that the wood putty/filler that you are buying is not overpriced. It should cost around $1-4 unless you purchased in bulk.
  • Brand – There are quite a few renowned wood filler/putty manufacturing brands, such as Minwax, DAP, and Aqua Coat. If you feel doubtful about the quality of your product, getting in touch with one of these brands is your best bet.
  • Uses – Different types of wood fillers/putties are made for different projects. Make sure you check the label of the product before you buy it.
  • Drying Time – In order to plan your project out, knowing about the drying time of your wood putty/filler beforehand can come in pretty handy.
  • Ingredients – Wood filler must contain wood fibers while wood putty must have an adhesive. If that’s not the case, then the products you are getting are clearly fake.
  • Drying Color – Wood filler comes in a variety of drying colors. Make sure to choose a color that matches the wood as opposed to the stain as you can easily stain the wood filler afterward to make it look the same as your wood.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you Screw into Wood Filler?

Although not recommended, you can screw it into the wood filler. First, make sure it is fully dried and cured. Then, run a test on it by predrilling a hole. If it doesn’t crumble, you can proceed by adding screws.

Can you Stain Wood Putty?

No. That is just the reason why it comes in so many different colors. You can choose the color that aligns with your stain.

How Big of a Gap Can Wood Filler/Putty Fill?

3/8’’ seems like a sensible cap. For gaps wider than that, you should go for professional assistance in order to get lasting repairs.

How Thick Can Wood Filler/Putty Be?

It can go as thicker as you’d like but it’s recommended not to go thicker than ½’’.

Can Gorilla Glue Work as Wood Filler/Putty?

Not all Gorilla Glue since it is liable to expand. However, Gorilla Epoxy is a form of wood putty and it can fill up small, unseen gaps quite decently.


We sincerely hope that this guide has addressed all of the queries you had regarding this topic.

Both wood putty and wood filler are essential items in your arsenal as a DIYer. One is needed for handling small defects on outdoor projects while the other is suited to much larger defects in indoor projects. Also, the difference in their consistency, sandability, and time of application, makes them useful for varying scenarios.

Happy Woodworking!



Liam Weissman

Hello and welcome to PowerToolGenius! My name is Liam and for the last 9 years, I have worked extensively with various power tools and accessories. I have tested hundreds of different brands and models and understand the industry extensively and have been working with tools my entire life!

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