Filling nail holes and other imperfections before applying a finish is essential if you want a professional-looking result. If you’re not experienced with woodworking or have never had to use filler before to repair a defect, figuring out which type to use can be a bit of a challenge. So, let’s compare wood putty, wood filler, and caulk to see how they vary.
Caulk is a flexible sealer used to seal gaps between neighbouring surfaces, whereas wood filler is used for fixing major holes or flaws and wood putty is used for patching nail or screw holes.
All three are highly dissimilar and require distinct methods of application to achieve the desired result. This article will explain each type of filler in great detail so that you’ll always know what to reach for the next time a scratch, gouge, or other minor problem arises.
I’ll make sure you know all about the different kinds of filler material, their benefits and drawbacks, the best brands to use for certain purposes, and expert tricks for making your work look polished and professional. Whether you’re just starting out or have been making crafts for years, you’ll always be able to find the perfect filler for the job.
The Difference Between Wood Putty Vs Wood Filler Vs Caulk
Before purchasing a filler, you should ensure that it will work for your needs and complement your project’s aesthetic. Most notably when placing an online order. If you want a certain look or feel for your project, it’s crucial that you choose the right filler.
Say, for the sake of argument, you need to conceal wood screws for an outdoor bench. In that instance, wood putty is an excellent choice because it can be painted or stained to match its surroundings and has enough elasticity to withstand temperature and humidity swings without cracking or peeling.
Do you know the distinction between wood glue and wood filler? Just go to that link to learn more. Before delving deeper into the topic, I’ll give you a quick overview of the two primary types of wood fillers.
Although most wood fillers are best left unfinished, some can be coloured after they have been filled. Big holes or spaces in wood can be filled with wood filler, which can then be sanded smooth as it dries.
Wood Fillers are manufactured using a wide variety of wood scraps, including sawdust and wood particles. Multiple solvents, including petroleum and aqueous solutions, can keep them in suspension.
It’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each type of wood filler before making a final decision. Wood fillers made from petroleum are more durable and less likely to break over time.
But water-based fillers tend to crack or disintegrate under pressure. There’s also the fact that wood filler can be sanded because it’s made from real wood instead of synthetic material.
When to Use Wood Filler
Wood filler is something you’ll want to have on hand if you plan on doing any additional work on your project. This type of filler is great if you need to further treat the wood by staining, sanding, or applying a finish. We’ve already established that it’s ideal for making things like furniture, lining, shelving, and the like for usage indoors.
Test the wood filler’s ability to retain a screw.
Projects Using Wood Filler
Locate the damaged area, sand it down, then clean it before applying wood filler. Then, using the putty knife, carefully insert the filler into the hole.
After the filler has dried, it can be sanded and stained as needed. Wood filler shouldn’t be used for anything more than minor cosmetic touchups, so keep it in reserve for when the damage isn’t too severe.
It is not recommended to use filler to patch cracks that extend all the way through an object or massive holes because these flaws will eventually weaken the piece’s structural integrity.
Stained Wood And Wood Filler
Filler can be pre-mixed with the appropriate stain or other color enhancer to provide a seamless blend with the wood to which it will be applied.
You should produce a test batch because filler takes more stain than regular wood, so you’ll probably need to use deeper colors to achieve the same result.
Furthermore, you must ensure that the color of the stain and the filler are compatible with one another. It is recommended to use a solvent-based stain with petroleum-based fillers and a water-based stain with water-based fillers.
This will make sure the filler dries without any problems. Stains and fillers made of water are not recommended for use outside because they can be damaged by moisture and temperature changes.
Wood Filler Prices
Wood filler is less economical since it dries up and becomes unusable at a certain point, no matter how well you seal the container.
Since it is intended to cover larger flaws than putty, it is typically supplied in bulk. Some brands of wood filler are more expensive than others, but overall the cost is about the same as that of wood putty.
The standard range is from three ounces to one pint. You may expect to pay anywhere from $6 to $30 for one, depending on its size, its base material, and its brand name.
Top Brands Of Wood Filler
A few popular wood filler brands are listed below for your consideration. This is not meant to be an all-inclusive buyer’s guide, but rather a presentation of the various fillers that can be used for a wide range of projects.
Wood Filler That Won’t Stain
3.25 ounces in size.
Formula without the use of solvents
In addition, this product is ranked #13 in Wood Filler on Amazon’s list of best-sellers. Intended for usage in both enclosed spaces and the great outdoors.
Based on 854 customer ratings, this product receives a 4.3/5.
Capacity, 16 oz.
a latex foundation
Details: This product is ranked #12 on Amazon’s Best Sellers list for Wood Filler. It’s prepped for stain, sanding, and painting.
Based on the opinions of 609 customers, this product receives 4.5 stars.
Wood Filler That Won’t Stain
Capacity, 16 oz.
For more info, know that this product is ranked #3 in Wood Filler on Amazon’s Best Sellers list. You can use it with water-based or oil-based stains.
There were 1,397 customers who gave this product a rating of 4.4 stars.
Capacity: 8 ounces
Beginning Point: H2O
In addition, this product is ranked #8 in Wood Filler on Amazon’s list of best-sellers. This material doesn’t shrink and dries quite fast.
Based on the opinions of 757 customers, this product receives a 4.3/5.
To avoid any confusion, wood filler is not a replacement for wood glue or fasteners; its sole purpose is to improve the aesthetics of the finished product. It is not a replacement for primary support, although it does offer some backup.
Because it is manufactured from a wide variety of synthetic materials, wood putty is often referred to as “plastic wood.” Putty comes in a wider range of colors and textures than wood filler does, and each variety is ideally suited to a different task.
In most cases, wood putty won’t dry firm enough to withstand sanding and should be avoided. There are some hybrid putties like DAP’s Plastic Wood that cure hard enough for sanding, but they are the exception and not the rule.
When to Use Wood Putty
Small cracks or holes in finished wood are perfect candidates for wood putty. Even if they have been stained already, that’s alright; most manufacturers offer putty in a range of colors that mimics that of stain, so you can easily match it. Most wood putties are oil-based. Materials like polyurethane and epoxy are used to construct them.
Projects Using Wood Putty
Wood putty, unlike wood filler, can endure the weather for longer, making it a superior choice for outdoor work when damage is minor.
Primarily, this is for repairing minor damage to outdoor wooden furniture like benches and tables, as well as siding and trim around the house.
The water-based putty is versatile, finding use in a variety of interior applications including cabinetry, moulding, paneling, and trim. In most cases, however, the more natural wood trim, which will be less obvious in terms of matching hue to the original wood, will perform just fine.
Stained Wood And Wood Putty
Putty’s integrity is compromised by the addition of a stain, thus manufacturers don’t provide it in any other hues, but they do sell it in every available stain shade to make up for it.
Since most putty is supplied in tiny tubes, it’s easy to stock up on a wide variety of your favorite stain colors for a wide variety of DIY endeavors, since it’s perfect for covering up little imperfections. If you’re going to use a water-based stain and a water-based putty like DAP’s Plastic Wood Latex, you should utilize the structure only indoors.
Before applying the mixture to the item you want to repair, you should always perform a test. It’s the most precise method for locating a suitable color match.
Wood Putty Prices
Since Wood Putty may be revitalized long after it dries out by properly mixing in a little acetone, it is more cost-effective than wood filler.
It has an extremely long shelf life and can be easily maintained, allowing you to get the most out of your investment. There are many varieties of wood putty available, so it’s important to do some research on the product you’re considering buying to make sure it will work for your woodworking project.
It is possible to purchase wood putty in larger quantities, up to 32 ounces, though most retail packaging is between 3 and 4 ounces. Size, color, and brand all play a role in the pricing, which can be anywhere from $4 to $15.
For around $10-$15, you may get a set of multicolored putty sticks or scratch-touch-up markers. This is the more cost-effective choice because to the permanence of a one-time purchase.
Top Brands Of Wood Putty
Here we list some of the most well-known wood putty manufacturers, along with the sizes of putty they produce, how much it typically costs, and what it is best used for. This is by no means a thorough buying guide, but more an overview of the many possibilities.
Fix-It Kit with Wooden Markers for Fixing Furniture
Components: 6 wax sticks and 6 markers
Waxes serve as the foundation.
More Info: This item is ranked #1 in Wood Scratch Covers & Removers on Amazon’s Best Sellers List. Different hues are available.
Based on 7,217 customer ratings, this product is rated 4.3 out of 5 stars.
Putty for Woodwork
3.75 ounces in size.
It’s worth noting that this product is now ranked #5 in Wood Filler on Amazon’s Best Sellers list. Only one color is available.
Based on 1,114 user ratings, this product receives a 4.1/5.
A Stick of KwikWood Wood Repair Putty
Dimensions are 3.5 inches in diameter.
Epoxy for the foundation
Note: This product is now ranked #6 in Wood Filler on Amazon’s Best Sellers List.
Over 1,282 customers have given this product a 4.5/5 star rating.
a latex foundation
This product is the #28 best selling in the Wood Filler category on Amazon.com, which provides additional information. It may accept stains.
Based on the opinions of 202 customers, this product receives a 4.4/5.
Wait at least two or three days for the wood to cure before painting it with water-based paint; otherwise, the paint will not set properly over the area where the putty was applied.
Whenever feasible, it is better not to use water-based paint over putty. For minor dings and dents in furniture, you can use a “patching pencil” like the lacquer-based Minwax Blend-Fil Pencil.
You can get one in a shade that complements the wood finish or stain you’ve chosen for your furniture.
Caulk, unlike gap filler and silicone, cannot be sanded and is used primarily for sealing joints between surfaces.
For a seamless finish, use a damp cloth or finger to apply acrylic-based gap filler. Caulk can be used to fill gaps and then painted over.
Caulk of the silicone variety should also be applied with a damp cloth for best results. It can’t be sanded down once it’s been applied, so make sure it’s smooth before you put it down.
Although there are paintable silicones, most forms of general-purpose silicone cannot be painted.
Projects Using Caulk
Caulk is great for closing gaps along architraves and skirting. Acrylic caulk can be painted over to create a smooth surface.
Silicone caulk is the go-to for any waterproofing job, whether it’s around a window or a skylight, or even in a sink or a bathtub.
Pros and Cons For Using Wood Putty Vs Wood Filler Vs Caulk
Depending on your goals, wood putty, wood filler, or caulk each have their own set of benefits and drawbacks.
Here I’ve compiled the most common recommendations made by woodworkers and provided my own comparisons. For the sake of completeness, we will repeat certain information that has already been presented.
These fillers are sufficiently comparable that they can be used interchangeably for various tasks; nonetheless, before purchasing or using any filler, it is important to read the manufacturer’s instructions.
Maintains its quality over time. Dried wood putty can be revitalized with some acetone.
Extremely cost-effective because only a tiny amount of putty filler is required to conceal flaws.
When compared to wood filler, putty is superior in strength due to its ability to form bonds with the wood.
The drying time is significantly longer.
As a result, it may not be a perfect match like wood filler would be if used before drying.
It’s not recommended for use on raw wood and may cause damage to unfinished surfaces.
It dries in a flash.
Wood filler comes in a wider variety of textures and colors than wood putty does, so you might be able to choose a product that blends in better with your current finish.
You’ll need to seal it because it doesn’t adhere to the wood (e.g., adhesive, paint, etc.).
The natural expansion and contraction of wood when exposed to weather conditions renders most of them unsuitable for usage outside.
Architraves, walls, and other connection surfaces can be easily applied.
Paint can be applied quickly and readily to some varieties.
Watertightness is greatly improved when using silicone.
Cannot be sanded after application, therefore precision is essential.
Types of silicone are difficult to apply precisely.
Not fit for woodworking purposes.
Putties that don’t dry completely are ideal for cosmetic repairs in the great outdoors since they can stretch and contract with the wood as the seasons change.
Indoor projects benefit more from wood filler because it will dry completely with considerable shrinkage, making it easier to conceal larger, more noticeable visual defects.
Using Filler for Time-Sensitive Emergencies
When using filler, putty, or caulk, the drying period varies depending on the product.
If you need something to help in a hurry, but don’t have a day to wait for putty to dry, go with wood filler instead. Some of them dry in as little as 10 minutes.
Markers or sticks of putty may dry more quickly, but you should read the package directions first.
Caulk dries in a few hours, whereas silicone takes a full day, so it’s not the best choice for quick repairs.
Wood fillers, putty, and caulk are available in a wide range of options. Remember that putty is the better option because it bonds well with finished wood and lasts longer in different climates, and it is also less expensive.
Though it may cost more up front, filler is worth it for indoor, unfinished sculptures with greater flaws.
For a seamless finish when painting inside, caulk is important.
In light of your newfound filler knowledge, you should be well-equipped to deal with every gouge, scrape, scratch, or hole you encounter on your woodworking adventure.
A great strategy to select fillers is to consider the current state of the project (whether the wood is finished, stained, unstained, etc.) and the typical conditions in which the filler will be used (e.g., outdoor weather, significant wear stress, etc.).
Once you have that information, you can pick the best course of action from the ones I’ve provided.