Wood Putty Vs. Wood Filler: Which One For Your Project

Anything can happen with old, new, and raw wood. Adding a smooth finish to a wood surface or piece of unfinished furniture will require wood putty or wood filler. So, which one is better?

wood putty and wood filler

If you’ve worked with wood stain fillers or with wood surfaces, you’re familiar with the difference between wood putty and filler.

What Is The Difference Between Wood Putty And Wood Filler? 

Wood Putty Vs. Wood Filler

Putty and filler are different but are often mistaken.


You can sand wood filler but not wood putty. The wood putty needs to be on a flat surface. After wood filler hardens it becomes permanent. Because of its texture, it cannot be sanded down, nor can you smooth it.

Finished Or Unfinished Wood

Wood putty is for on finished wood while wood filler is for unfinished wood. But you can use wood filler on finished and unfinished wood. 

wood filler applique

Outdoor Application 

With exterior woodwork, filler won’t last like putty. Wood putty is oil-based so it will work better on an outdoor surface. Meanwhile, wood filler is water-based. 


When painting, wood filler is better. Putty doesn’t take to paint like filler.


Wood putty is an adhesive made with plastic. Wood filler contains sawdust or wood fibers, and blends well with unfinished wood. However, it will need to be stained or finished for it to adhere.

How to Fill Holes In Wood

See if the wood product hasn’t been sitting in a damp place for too long. But other than that, it can last decades if sealed. 

How To Use Wood Filler

Wood filler is great for small projects like covering nail holes. You can apply it to holes and cracks in unfinished wood. For this project, we applied it to imperfections in a handrail.

We applied wood filler but didn’t flatten it much. Then, we sanded it after it dried. Finally, a stain and sealer were used to finish it.

We did the same thing with this retro rainbow dresser. For imperfections and knots, we used filler. In this case, we smoothed it down and painted over it.

How To Use Wood Putty

How To Use Wood Putty

Wood putty is easier to use than wood filler because it dries faster. Wood filler hardens within a few hours and is permanent. Putty thicker than wood filler is used to repair cracks and fill small holes. 

For example, if you re-wire a room and there are holes in the doorframes. If the doorframes will be covered by the door again, you can fill them with wood putty.

Overall, it’s best for daily home repairs.

Buying Wood Filler

When buying wood filler, follow a guide to find out what the best wood fillers are.  

Buying Wood Filler


Most wood fillers cost between $1 to $4 an ounce unless bought in bulk.


The most common brands are Minwax and DAP.


Look at the area and surrounding wood you need to cover and the depth of the holes. Use clay to test the amount you need. 


Some wood fillers have a distinct odor. Wear a mask and protective eyewear.


How to apply wood putty

Make sure you read the uses for the filler to see if it applies to your project. Some are for specific types of projects which isn’t always obvious at first.


Make sure your wood filler can be sanded and stained if you are using it on unfinished wood.

Related: How To Use The Epoxy Wood Filler

Drying Time

Drying time doesn’t always matter. You should know beforehand so you can plan your project. See if you need to wait a day to sand it or paint it.


If it says wood filler but doesn’t have wood fibers, then don’t buy it. If it says wood putty but doesn’t have an adhesive, it’s not real.

Expiration Date

For regular touch-ups, your wood filler should have a good date. You want it to last long enough for you to use it twice.

Drying Color

Check out the drying color of the wood filler. Wood filler comes in many different colors. You can easily stain it and it will look the same as wood.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

Can I Use Wood Stain On Wood Fillers?

Yes, you can use wood stains with wood fillers.. There are a few stainable wood fillers on the market that work great. The only issue is that fillers are formulated to take stain. However, stained wood filler looks different than the surrounding wood.

Can Acrylic Wall Putty Be Used On Wood?

Before we answer this, let’s look at acrylic putty and see what it’s all about. Acrylic putty is an alkali-resistant and water-based undercoat. It’s almost as consistent as butter. Due to its advanced technology and hardworking acrylic binders, it can fill holes and repair dents beyond expectations. It also leaves repair surfaces looking pristine.

Acrylic putty is great for wood surfaces and interior walls. It’s also for plaster walls, concrete, brickwork, and asbestos. One thing you should know is that because acrylic putty is an undercoat, it’s only available in white.

Can I Use Caulk Instead Of Wood Filler?

Caulk doesn’t work when filling holes in wood because it will shrink and the hole will reappear. Wood filler and caulk are not interchangeable. If you need both, then buy both of them as it will save money in the end. 

Can I Fill Gaps With Wood Filler?

Cracks, yes. Gaps, no. Gaps should be filled with caulk, sealers, and expanding foam. Wood filler will not work.

Can I Make Wood Filler Or Putty?

Yes, you can. It won’t work the same as store-bought filler, but you can combine wood glue with sawdust to create a decent filler that can be used to fill small holes and cracks. It may take longer to dry but it’s worth a try. 

How Big Of A Gap Can Wood Filler Fill?

You can safely go up to 3/8th of an inch with wood filler. More than that is a hassle and may require further repairs.  

What Is Spackle?

Spackle is similar to wood filler but for plaster and drywall. If you plan on painting the wall or project, then spackling it will work because the paint will cover the difference if done right. 

How Thick Can Wood Filler Be?

Try not to go thicker than half an inch. A 1/2 in deep and 3/8 wide would be good. But you can go as long as you wish. 

Can Gorilla Glue Work As Wood Filler?

Not all Gorilla Glue as some brands expand. Gorilla Epoxy is a putty that can do the job well. You may not be able to finish it like regular wood filler, but it can do a good job of filling small gaps that are unseen. 

How Does Wood Putty Harden?

Wood putty contracts and expands to form with the wood surface. It is meant to have the same texture as wood after sanding and refinishing it.

Is Wood Filler Durable? 

Yes. Even though it doesn’t get rock-solid, which would take away from the natural effect it has on blending with wood, it is indeed durable. It isn’t usually durable enough for outdoor use but it likely won’t scratch. 

Is Putty As Strong As Wood?

Yes, it is stronger than wood as wood is not fire-resistant and is susceptible to scratches as well.

Can I Use Putty As Wood Filler?

Wood putty is for finished wood while wood filler is for unfinished wood. Putty can’t cross over but wood filler can. 

Are Most Wood Fillers Waterproof?

Yes, wood filler is water-resistant but no, it isn’t waterproof. It is water-resistant only after it dries. While wood putty is for outdoors, wood filler is more susceptible to the weather. Including rain. 

Is Wood Putty And Wood Filler The Same?

Both are different and are two separate products. 

Wood putty is for finished wood. Wood filler is for unfinished wood. Unlike putty, wood filler is good for both. 

If you have both, and you keep them sealed in a cool and dry place, they will last for decades. You can them on hand for your finished and unfinished interior woodwork projects. 

Wood Putty Vs. Wood Filler Conclusion

One isn’t better than the other because they’re different. Whether you need putty or filler will depend on your wood surface and the surrounding wood. Do your research before you begin and you’ll be glad that you did.

You can now add putty and filler to you DIY woodworking skills.