What is the Difference Between Wood Putty and Wood Filler?

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. 

What’s the Difference Between Wood Putty and Wood Filler?

Chipped furniture, scratches on tables, etc. are common problems in a household. These may occur due to long use or even while making new furniture. If you have pets in the house, you can expect lots of scratches and other damages to your furniture as well. Defects in well-furnished furniture don’t look good. Sometimes, the defects are so minor that replacing the furniture is not a good solution. You can instead use wood putty or a wood filler to correct the defect.

Both wood putty and wood filler can be used interchangeably in fixing woodworks. However, they differ in many ways. Here we are going to look at these differences so that it helps us in choosing which one to use for a particular project.

PropertiesWood PuttyWood Filler
NatureThe wood putty can harden due to chemical reaction and bond well.

It is waterproof and so is ideal for exterior wood.

If you use cured putty, you need to paint it to resemble wood.

It doesn’t shrink and doesn’t have much effect due to weather changes.
Wood filler is best for use in indoor works.

A filler is mixed with pigment so that it matches a particular rood. It is then coated with a clear finish

When the wood contracts or expands, the filler may crack.

It can also dry out and shrink if left in sunlight

It is not waterproof as well. So, it is not appropriate for use in outdoor projects
UseWood putty is normally used for outdoor projects.

The wood putty doesn’t dry completely. So, it can move along with the wood as it expands or contracts due to variation in temperature.

It is often used for filling small holes.

It can match with the surrounding wood, and you won’t notice any hole on the furniture anymore.

You can use wood putty to fill up nail holes, cracks, and other defects in furniture.
Wood filler is also used to fill up cracks and holes in furniture and other wood products.

It can be used to correct imperfections like scratches on the wood.

You can make the surface of the porous wood, like oak or walnut, smoother using wood filler. It can fill up the pores. You can then sand it and paint the surface for a better finish.

You can use wood filler for floors as well. In this case, you need to use thinner wood filler.

If the surface has fewer pores, then wood filler won’t be the ideal choice in this case. It will make the surface uneven.
MaterialWood putty is plastic like fiberglass, epoxy, or polyurethane.

It can also contain wood dust. These fine particles can be used to fill up the gaps easily.

A binding agent can be used to hold the putty together.
The wood filler contains sawdust. It may contain wood fibers as well.

It can include a bulking agent and a solvent. The bulking agent helps in binding everything together.
VersatilityWood putty is very versatile as it is available in different colors.

Even, in case, you try to fill the holes after staining the wood; you can easily find a color similar to that of the stained wood.
Wood fillers are also versatile as it can be diluted with water easily.

So, it can be used in projects requiring thinner filler.
ApplicationIt is better to apply wood putty before staining the wood. This way the putty will blend well with the wood.

You can apply it on the stained wood as well, but the color of the putty won’t match exactly.

Before applying wood filler, you should sand the surface. This way the filler will reach deeper into the pores.

Wood filler is applied after the wood is finished. It is often used by the woodworkers after finishing a project. There may be some voids or splits left after the work, and these can be corrected using wood filler.

You shouldn’t use any harsh and abrasive tool to apply the filler. Otherwise, you will cause damage to the surface
DrawbacksIt takes a long time to dry. So, the lighter colors will have dust on them, and so the color will get darker than you expected. It doesn’t have any adhesive property. So, you cannot use it to seal something.

If the wood expands, the wood filler will break as it won’t expand.

Which is better?

In terms of price, wood putty is more cost-effective than wood filler. It is versatile and durable. Its adhesive nature allows you to use it as masking glue. It works well with oil-based finishes. Wood filler, on the other hand, dries up quickly and so you can complete the task fast. You can also use it for various purposes. So, you can choose one according to your purpose.

Wood putty and wood filler are very convenient to use. You can also apply them yourself without calling a professional woodworker. You need to know how to apply them properly to get the best finish. By knowing the differences between the two, it will be easy for you to decide which one to use for your wood project.

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

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