Wood Filler vs Wood Putty – What’s the Difference?

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What makes your ordinary project turn into a truly outstanding piece of art is the ability to correct your mistakes. That’s why an eraser is considered as important as the pencil itself to make a perfect drawing!

The craft of woodworking requires skills, patience, emotion and creativity. However, all the hard work that you put in a big project might go in vain, if you make a simple error.

Suppose you have mistakenly drilled a hole bigger than it needs to be. Now what? The screws won’t grip on the surface anymore! Should you throw the whole project away and start over?

Relax. There’s an easy way out!

Filler and putty are two common items that are used by carpenters to fill these inconsistencies in timber and repair any defects that might be visible. As a DIYer, you must know about the difference of wood filler vs wood patty and which one is better suited for your project.

If you want to know more about these two items and dive into the world of woodcraft to fix all those tiny imperfections, read along to the rest of this article.

What Is a Wood Filler

Filler is a substance that is used to repair wooden products.

There is a small catch though. You will only be able to repair minor imperfections like scratches, scrapes, holes and cracks in open grain logs.

Have you ever noticed that some wooden surfaces are much more porous than the others?

For instance, you can examine a walnut, ash or oak material and find large pores within their surfaces. That’s where a filler comes into play. The main purpose of using this product is to hide all those imperfections in a way that it doesn’t mar the visual appearance of a surface.

You can choose to use a water-based product, which can easily be thinned by adding more water. And for a bigger project, you may select the solvent-based ones that come with a thicker consistency and are usually more heavy-duty.

Regardless of what kind of product you use, fillers will help you fill holes inside a wooden furniture, smoothen the surface and repair cracks on the floors. Once the product dries out, you will be able to sand and repaint the surface for a better finish.

A man checking a wood

Benefits of Wood Filler

Dries Quickly

While we are fond of good quality work, most often we need to hurry up to meet our deadlines.

Fillers are a great choice for busy people. Once applied, it dries pretty fast. Although the drying time also depends on how much of the product you have used in a particular area, typically it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to dry the surface completely.

Different Types of Wood Filler

When it comes to choosing a particular type, you must remember what kind of surface you are working on. Sometimes you may need to mix the product with a little bit of sawdust to bring a more natural-looking finish to your furniture.


Fillers are one of the most widely used products all over the world. It’s a water-based solution that is easy to clean up and typically used on raw timber for sealing any types of cracks or pores on them.


Fillers are most commonly used on furniture. It helps seal the outer surface of any pre-finished furniture and protects it from moisture and other environmental issues.


Fillers are designed to work well on unfinished log. You need to sand it well to get the best result out of this product. Once applied, it’s a good idea to use a sealant to keep it from getting brittle or crumbled.

Using Purpose

Fillers work best on porous surfaces.

If the surface that you are working on lacks enough holes in it, then you should try sanding it for a bit before applying this product.

There’s a reason why this product is such a great choice for unfinished timber. After applying it on a finished surface, you will notice that the surface becomes a little uneven. And you won’t be able to make it smooth without damaging the log at all!

An unfinished surface, on the other hand, already contains holes in it and you can sand it later if required.

Perfect For Filling Large Holes

No matter how deep the hole is, wood fillers are there to save your day!

It’s hard to find any other alternatives when it comes to repairing large holes or cracks on any surface. This product is available in various consistency, which allows us to use it in a lot of different projects.

To use it for repairing large cracks, use sandpaper to smooth out the surface beforehand. After applying the product, let it dry and then paint over the surface for a smoother result.

Softly holding and touching the wood

Disadvantage of Wood Filler

Not Flexible

As we all know temperature causes the wooden furniture to expand or shrink in size from time to time.

However, fillers aren’t flexible enough to adapt to this change in the environment and tend to break easily. So, it’s best not to use this product on outdoor furniture like a patio bench, chair or table etc.

What Is a Wood Putty

Putty is a substance that is typically used on surfaces that have already been stained and varnished. It is also referred to as “Plastic Wood”.

While there are many different ways of making this substance, usually most manufacturers use calcium carbonate, colors and oil-based components to make this material.

Putty takes the form of a soft clay once you start adding water into its mixture. The dough-like texture allows it to stay wet for a long time. However, if you want it to dry quicker, then you have to mix it some other hardening chemicals and make the putty stiffer.

It’s best to apply this product on stained or finished surfaces, as it contains chemicals that shouldn’t be used on raw timber. Once applied, wash the leftover oil residue and sand it to make the surface smooth.

Benefits of Wood Putty


Using wood putty helps you save a lot of costs in the long run. The product is durable and keeps your repairing intact for a long time.

Putty comes in small containers that are enough to last for a couple of projects at a time. It’s advisable to keep the containers in a safe place if you don’t need the content of an entire can at once.

Here’s an interesting fact.

After several months or even a year, if you decide to check on this item and see that the material has become dry and brittle, you can easily revive it with just a few drops of acetone into the mixture!

Thus, you gain the privilege of using it as long as you want, once you purchase this product.

Available In Different Tones

A stained surface has certain characteristics. For instance, it comes with a particular shade of color and texture. And it’s quite important that you use the same exact shade while repairing any whole to keep it from becoming an eyesore!

Fortunately, putty comes in different shades and tones to match with any given project that you can think of. Hey! You can even buy your own color to better match the surface you are working on.

Adhesive Property

A 2-in-1 product is always everyone’s favorite because it saves you the cost of purchasing a different product and helps finish your work quickly!

Well, putty isn’t an ordinary product that can only perform one task. It repairs holes and cracks as well as work as a sealing agent at the same time! So, you don’t need to use any adhesive sealer on the surface after using this product.

However, keep in mind this technique works only on oil-based finishes.

A man handling wood with small light

Easily Applicable

You can easily apply putty on any wooden surface using a putty knife. If the area is too small or the angle is a little bit difficult to reach, then you can take a small portion on your finger and smear over the surface.

If you see any excess putty that’s left on the surface, wipe it off with a damp cloth and let it dry for a while.

Disadvantage of Wood Putty

Damages Raw Wood

Putty contains ingredients that are harmful to raw timber and it also takes a long time to dry. So, if the log is unfinished while you are applying this product, the chemicals in the solution might end up damaging the surface before it gets stained.

Wood Filler vs Wood Putty – Head to Head Comparison

Till now, we have discussed the advantages and disadvantages of both of these products. Although they both have some similarities, we have noted down the aspects which differ from each other and present them down below.


Fillers are mostly used on indoor furniture. In fact, it won’t work on any outside projects, as this material isn’t flexible enough to keep up with the harsh environment found outdoor.

For example, when the sun is at its peak and it’s too hot and uncomfortable, the fillers shrink in size! This could end up causing a major disaster if, all of a sudden, a repaired piece falls off from its place!

Putties are an excellent substance to use in both indoor and outdoor projects. Not only does it hold up its structure well, but also, it’s waterproof and resistant to high temperatures. Therefore, these are more suitable for any outdoor-filling tasks.


Typically, all fillers contain solvent, bulking agent and a binding agent which helps hold all ingredients together. Depending on what type of fillers you are using, the materials may vary from each other and contain compounds like, epoxy, latex, polyurethane, clay and wood fibers.

On the other hand, manufacturers usually decide on which ingredients to use in a particular brand of putty. However, several universal ingredients are used on almost all types of products.

Most of the materials consist of oil-based compounds. There are several other compounds used in making wood putty including boiled linseed oil, color and some calcium carbonate.

Drying Time

Wood fillers dries a lot quicker than putty.

Typically, it takes around 10 to 15 minutes to dry an unfinished surface. However, if the area is quite large and the cracks are deep, then it might take up to eight hours depending on how much of the solution you have applied.

On the other hand, putty takes its sweet time to dry completely. You have to let the surface rest for at least several hours before it becomes ready. In some cases, it might take up to an entire day!


Fillers are used on raw timber. It also requires a lot of sanding and polishing work to be done before it becomes ready. That’s why it’s best to use this product on surfaces before they get stained.

Putty consists of some chemical ingredients that might harm raw log. Therefore, it is used on a varnished surface most of the time.

A man cleaning the wood

Bottom Line – Which One to Go For?

Now that we have laid out all the pros and cons in front of you, it’s your turn to decide which one is better suited for you.

Based on our research on wood filler vs wood putty, it’s safe to say these two items are excellent at what they do and seal any surface with perfection. They also do a pretty good job of repairing and hiding imperfections.

However, if you are working with unfinished timber and in a hurry to move onto another project right after this one, then filler is a better option for you.

On the other hand, if you have an outdoor project in queue, like free standing wooden steps, and the surface is already stained, then wood putty will work like a charm in your favor, like !

This may even improve how you fix water-damaged wood. Whichever option you choose on your next craft, don’t forget to share your experience with others and let them know how the final result turned out!