What is the Difference Between Wood Putty and Wood Filler?

(Last Updated On: January 6, 2018 )

There are different ways that will help you fix your wooden surfaces other than having to replace them. Using wood putty and wood filler could actually be the answer to all your renovation problems. Some people think that these products two are similar. However, experts know that there is a big difference between wood putty and wood filler when it comes to their uses and properties. In order to finish your job perfectly, you need to understand when wood putty would be the route to go and when you should consider wood filler instead. Let's see the detailed guide of wood putty vs wood filler.

Wood Putty:

Wood putty is also known as plastic wood. It is usually used after wood has been stained and varnished, since sometimes the putty can be harmful to raw wood. It is mainly used by woodworkers to fill nail holes and cracks.

It is made of boiled linseed combined with calcium carbonate. Wood putty dries hard and can be later sanded smooth. Any oil residue left after the putty has completely dried, can be easily washed away.

Wood putty comes in a can and might have the texture of stiff dough or wet clay that will dry as you apply it using a putty knife. Some types will harden on their own. Others require mixing with a hardening chemical that will turn the putty stiff.

Wood putty takes a long time to dry. This means that lighter colors might collect dust and look darker once the putty has dried. You can buy putty that has been already dried or add your own color to better match your wood. Putty will contain wood fibers that will match different types of wood. And it can be stained and painted.

Wood putty is best used for outdoor furniture. It resists shrinkage and doesn’t get affected with rain or sun. However, some types will still be visible after you have smoothed it. This is why you need to be careful about the way it is applied and finished.

Wood putty is cost efficient. It will last longer and can be refreshed with a little amount of acetone if it dries in the can. It has adhesive properties but will only work with oil based finishes. Here is details guide to apply wood putty.

Wood Filler:

difference between wood putty and wood filler

The time of application is the main difference between wood putty and wood filler. Unlike putty, wood filler will be applied before finishes and stains. Wood filler is made of clay, epoxy, lacquer or latex. Wood filler usually comes in a neutral color but you can easily add color to better match your wood.


Wood filler is usually used to fill big holes and cracks especially in open grain wood. It can be sometimes mixed with sawdust and other fillers in order to have a natural finish. One of the most popular types of wood fillers is the latex filler. This is water based and can be cleaned easily. Polyurethane fillers will work on pre-furnished furniture because it will protect the surface. Epoxy fillers will work only on unfinished wood as they require heavy sanding.
Wood filler is not expandable. It will break and crack when the wood expands or contracts. This is why wood filler is not suitable for finishing an outdoor job. Moreover, direct sunlight will dry it out and make it shrink. It doesn’t have adhesive properties and you will have to use a seal on top of it.
However, wood filler is the best to use if you are looking for something that will dry quickly. It can completely dry in less than a day and this means that you will be able to get on with your job quickly. It is also more versatile than wood putty and can be used with several finishes.
Understanding the difference between wood putty and wood filler can help you pick the right one for you. Consider the nature of the job, the nature of the wood and pick the one that matches your needs. 

You may read this guide also: ​How To Fill Wood Holes​​​

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