The Difference Between Wood Filler and Wood Putty

Whether you’re building a new chair, repairing the floor, or changing the doors in your house, you’ll need to choose a finish to apply on the wood surface before your project is ready. 

As wood projects tend to be time-consuming, you better stay away from using the wrong materials that might ruin your project and set you a step back, or even worse, right where you started! 

As you can tell from the title, we’re here to discuss the differences between wood fillers and wood putty and how, when, and why to use each of them. So, without any further ado, let’s get down to business. 

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In a Nutshell

Type of Wood Finish Wood Fillers Wood Putty
Base Mostly water-based Mostly oil-based
Used With Unfinished wood Finished wood
Sanding Necessary Not needed
Drying Time Short Long
Indoor/Outdoor Indoor projects Outdoor projects
Price More Expensive Cheaper

What’s The Difference Between a Wood Filler and Wood Putty? 

In this part of the article, we’ll look into more details regarding wood fillers and wood putty. 

Wood Fillers

Wood fillers are used to camouflage wood imperfections like cracks, holes, and even scratches. They’re mostly water-based, and hence, they’re easy to apply and dry relatively quickly. 

These fillers are great with porous wood like oak and walnut, and you can typically use heavier, solvent-based fillers if your project is bigger and more porous. On the other hand, you can use water to thin out the filler if you need to.

When to Use Wood Fillers? 

To make an informed decision, you should have a better understanding of what makes fillers superior to putty in some situations.

Quick Projects 

If you’re too excited to wait a bit longer before you start using the new chair you made from scratch, then it’s better to use a wood filler. Also, you should consider it for redoing the floor if you want to use the surface straight away.

Unfinished Wood with Large Pores

Like we were just saying, fillers are only used with unfinished wood to avoid bumpy surfaces. Because they’re mainly used to “fill” holes and cracks, they are superior to putty in terms of repairing wood surfaces and covering up deep holes, scratches, and scrapes. 

When to Avoid Wood Fillers? 

Avoid using wood fillers with outdoor projects as they’re sensitive to environmental factors. They can shrink or expand depending on the temperature; thus, you might not get the desired flexibility, and they could bubble up or crack if they’re used for the wrong project.  

What Are the Different Types of Wood Fillers? 

Unlike putty, there’s more than just one type of wood filler to choose from, depending on the type and characteristics of the wood you used for your project. 

  • Epoxy Fillers: These are pretty common and do such a great job with deep and large holes. It’s essential to add a sealant while using epoxy filler to avoid crumbles.

  • Polyurethane: This type of filler is known for resisting humidity and moisture. Accordingly, it’s of great value when it comes to waterproofing the floor, increasing the durability of new projects, and fixing old furniture.

  • Latex: If you’re looking for a water-based filler that’s easy to apply and clean up, then latex is the way to go. 

Wood Putty

Wood putty, aka “plastic wood”, is much thicker than wood fillers because it’s oil-based. It has a paste-like consistency when you add water to it. This explains why it stays wet for longer periods; thus, it has a slower turnaround.

When to Use Wood Putty? 

There are many reasons why putty sounds like the better option in many situations; let’s check out why. 

Easy Application

You don’t need any professional tools to apply wood putty. If you don’t have a putty knife, you can use your finger to dab the putty in place and use a damp rag to remove any access, then let the surface dry, and you’ll be all set.


Putty is manufactured with different shades, so you can always find the right tone that matches your floor or furniture and won’t draw attention to that big crack that you’re covering up. 


If you’re low on money or you’re saving up, wood putty will help you keep your expenses minimal; not only because they’re more affordable than fillers but also because they have adhesive properties, so you don’t need to pay extra money for getting a sealing agent or an adhesive material to repair the wood surface. 

When to Avoid Wood Putty?

No matter what you do, you should never apply wood putty to raw, unfinished wood surfaces because it contains damaging chemicals that react with the wood and eat it up just like a moth to a flame.


How Long Do Wood Fillers Last?

Unless you use them for outdoor projects, they will last for many years, especially if you go for a high-quality filler.

Are There Any Substitutes for Wood Fillers? 

If you want to save up some cash, you can replace wood fillers with wood glue or hide glue. However, these typically dry faster, so you’ll have to be quick with the application.

What’s Best to Use for Large Wood Holes, a Wood Filler, or Wood Putty?

As mentioned earlier, epoxy wood fillers are the best for filling deep holes and covering up large cracks. 

Final Thoughts

With all that being said, it’s crystal clear that wood fillers and putty have different uses, and although you can technically use either in many situations, the results would never be the same.