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

Filling holes in a wood surface or piece of unfinished furniture will require wood putty or wood filler. So, which one is better?

If you’ve never worked with wood, you may wonder about the difference between wood putty and filler. Woody putty is oil-based and ideal for finished wood pieces in moisture-prone areas. Wood filler is water-based and ideal for filling small holes, cracks, and gouges, in wood you’d like to paint or stain.

What Is The Difference Between Wood Putty And Wood Filler? 

Difference Between Wood Putty And Wood Filler

Even though they’re often mistaken for one another, wood putty and filler are different.


You can sand wood filler but not wood putty. Wood putty doesn’t fully harden, and unless you’re using a two-step product, you won’t be able to sand it. Wood filler hardens, creating a sandable surface. 

Finished Or Unfinished Wood

Wood putty is for finished wood, while wood filler works for finished and unfinished wood. You can find wood putty in several shades to match existing finishes. But because it doesn’t accept stain or paint, avoid using it on 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. 


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. You can stain or paint your wood filler to match your piece of wood if desired.

How to Fill Holes In Wood: Wood Putty vs. Wood Filler

You can use wood putty and wood filler to fill gaps in wood. Here are the steps.

How To Use Wood Filler

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

We applied a generous amount of wood filler to the hole and allowed it to dry. Then, we sanded it. Finally, we used a stain and sealer to finish the piece.

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

You can apply wood putty by pressing it in the hole you need to cover. It will dry within 2-8 hours. Make sure it looks good within those first couple of hours because as it dries, you won’t be able to reshape it.

Since wood putty is oil-based, it’s moisture resistant and won’t expand and contract the same way wood filler does. Use it in bathrooms, kitchens, and other places with high humidity. But because you can’t paint or stain wood putty, you’ll need to find a putty that matches the finish of the wood you’re fixing. 

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. 

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