The 7 Best Products to Patch Wood

Sometimes it’s nail holes and sometimes it’s rotten wood, but your projects will often require you to patch wood. In this post I’ll help you determine the best materials (and there are tons available!) to use when the time comes to patch wood projects.

The type of material you should use will depend on what kind of patching or filling you need to do. Is it exterior or interior? Will it be painted or left natural? We’ll focus on answers to those questions as well.

If you want to purchase any of these products I would love it if you bought them through the links in this post which are affiliate links and help me pay to keep The Craftsman Blog running at no extra cost to you. If you decide not to you can always purchase most of these at your local hardware store.

1. Durham’s Water Putty

This product is extremely versatile and is a mainstay of my shop. Mix the powder with water to whatever consistency you need. If you want it to self-level, mix it thinner. If you need it to stick to a vertical surface mix it thicker.

Apply it with a putty knife or whatever tool is most applicable to your project. And let it dry. Drying time varies wildly depending on how big the wood patch is and the weather. Once it is dry sand it smooth, prime, and paint.

Water Putty can work both outdoors and indoors, but without priming and paint, it will mildew and fail rather quickly. The great stuff about Durham’s Water Putty is that as it dries it expands to fill the hole and really sticks into the patch unlike most wood fillers that shrink as they dry.

 

2. MH Ready Patch

As of late, this has become my go to filler to patch wood. It doesn’t work for structural patches like an epoxy, but it does almost everything else. It dries fast, 30-45 mins before it’s ready to sand.

It is an oil-based product but it cleans up with soap and water, which I love! I use it to fill holes up to a quarter in size, smooth out alligatoring paint, fill surface gouges or almost anything else I may need. I really can’t extol the virtues and uses of MH Ready Patch enough.

 

3. LiquidWood & WoodEpoxAbatron LiquidWood WoodEpox

There are tons of different types of epoxies for wood, but this product by Abatron is by far my favorite. We use this every single day! This system is a permanent solution that you can use for repairs as small as filling small holes to completely rebuilding damaged pieces. The two parts work together to stabilize “punky” wood and fill in the missing areas.

The repairs can be sanded, drilled, planed, essentially you are left with a piece that performs just like wood but will never rot or fall out. Epoxy repairs are some of the strongest most long-lasting ways to patch wood. They are structural, so they can be used anywhere and are usually not troubled by water issues like other putties.

Got some serious rot? This is the stuff you need. For info on how to use this awesome product, read my tutorial How To Repair Rotted Wood With Abatron Epoxy

 

4. Wood Filler

Wood filler is available everywhere and it is the standard. Some wood fillers have a sandy consistency and some are smoother. There are interior formulas and exterior as well.

The nice thing about wood filler is that you can usually find it in many different colors or in stainable options to achieve an even better color match. Apply it with a finger tip or putty knife, sand when it’s smooth and prime when you’re done.

 

5. Sawdust & Superglue

This is an old carpenter’s trick to fill nail holes on furniture that will be left unpainted. This method works great for filling small holes in woodwork.

To patch wood using this method, you’ll need sawdust from the specific wood you are patching. Mix it with just a bit of superglue. You don’t need a lot of glue, just enough to bind the sawdust together and create a thick paste. Use a putty knife to push the mixture into the nail holes quickly since superglue dries so quickly. Once it’s dry, sand the surface and you’re good to go.

 

6. DAP Painter’s Putty

This putty excels at filling nail holes and other small spots. The thing I love about it is that it doesn’t require sanding. Use your finger to push it into the hole and then smooth the surface level with your finger.

This is an oil-based putty which makes it fairly slow drying, especially if it is primed or painted with an oil-based paint. That slow drying aspect means that it remains flexible for a longer period which is very helpful. The negatives are that it doesn’t do well in large gaps and also has a tendency to make your paint “flash” if not primed.

 

7. KwikWood

Anyone who does wood repair should have a tube of this sitting in their shop or garage. This is a very simple to use 2-part epoxy that you mix with your hands. It is kind of like squishing a tootsie roll together to mix both parts. Once you mix it, you have about 10 minutes before it starts to set up and in 20-30 mins, it is hard as a rock.

I use it to form difficult profiles that I need to sculpt or as a structural repair. Its fast drying time and resistance to rot and mildew make it perfect for exterior repairs. I have used it outdoors and left it unpainted for years with no problem. It’s a champ and a real time saver!

 

You may have a different product or technique that I didn’t mention, and if you do let us know about it in the comments. Hopefully, this post has given you some great new products to try. I know these will make your projects go smoother and look better. Happy patching!

 

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by Scott Sidler

Scott is the owner of Austin Home Restorations, a company that specializes in renovating and restoring historic homes in Orlando, FL and the creator of The Craftsman Blog. When not working on, teaching about or writing about old houses he spends time fixing up his own old bungalow with his wife Delores and their son Charley.

http://www.austinhomerestorations.com

35 comments

  1. Kent Hartle on said:

    Scott, I found your blog article interesting, however still many options. I am looking to fill plywood kitchen cabinet door fronts that were routed with a design box type line on the front thirty years ago , but we want to make flat and paint to bring up to more current designs. Considering a thin laminent sheet or fill sand and paint. Do you think one of the fillers that you mentioned would work well for the fill sand and paint approach?

    Thank you for your thoughts!

    Kent

    • Kent, when we build cabinets we typically use Bondo to fill and sand holes. As long as it won’t be exposed to the elements.

  2. linda on said:

    Hi, I found this site by google search and I was wondering if I can repair wood railings that are splintering with KwikWood? I need to put a layer of something down and sand and paint. Thanks for your help.

    • Linda, welcome to The Craftsman! Kwikwood works best to fill gouges in the wood surface. Depending on what kind of splintering exactly you may need something different. It may also just need a good sanding and refinishing. Send a picture if you can and I might be able to help you a bit more.

  3. Marv Curtis on said:

    Scott, I need to fill some holes in a antique convertible top bow. The bow is where they tack the canvas top to. The bow is structurally sound, but one side is peppered with holes. My question is, is there a filler that when I’m done it will hold tacks again and not just crack and fall out?

    Thank you in advance
    Marv

    • Marv, try an epoxy like the WoodEpox and LiquidWood combination by Abatron. Kwikwood would likely do the trick as well. Sand it smooth when you’re done and both of these will hold nails well if you fill the holes completely.

      • Marv Curtis on said:

        Thank you Scott. I was hoping you had some suggestions. A replacement bow is $400 and I would much rather spend that else wear.

  4. Edward on said:

    Scott, I’m buying a table that has a damaged leaf, and I want to repair that damage as easily and invisibly as possible. You make all seven products sound easy and effective, but I’m leaning toward the $5 Elmer’s Wood Filler for this, unless you think Kwikwood’s a better way to go.

    • Since the damage is on an edge your options are a bit more limited. Kwikwood might work, but if it were me I would use a restoration epoxy called WoodEpox made by Abatron. It will cling onto the edge tenaciously and not chip off like ordinary wood filler which works best to fill a hole mostly. Once you’ve patched it you’ll need to sand, stain and finish it. Good luck!

  5. leslie on said:

    hi scott! i’m working on a fireplace which has big grooves cut out by a router. we’re wanting to smooth the surface to create a modern look. i noticed in an earlier comment on the kitchen cabinets you advised bondo and didn’t know if you’d recommend the same for this situation or one of the other products in the article. it’s also a painted surface and i’ve started sanding it down to the bare wood. obviously this is more of a challenge in the grooves and i was wondering if it’s critical to get ALL the paint off or just “weather” it. thanks so much for your help!

    • Leslie, just about any wood filler or patching compound performs best when it is used on bare wood vs. a painted surface. Your situation is tough because the area around a working fireplace will have extreme temperature swings so you’d be best suited with an epoxy filler like WoodEpox. Use that in conjunction with LiquidWood and sand down to bare wood as much as you can in the grooves. Check out this post on how to strip the paint from the grooves: http://thecraftsmanblog.com/how-to-strip-paint-part-1-chemical-strippers/

  6. Whitney on said:

    Scott, we’re taking carpet up off of an engineered wood surface. we’ll need to patch the nail holes left by the tack strips. can you use the same products on engineered wood? which product would you recommend? thanks for your help!

    • Whitney, I would use colored wood filler that matches the color of your floors as closely as possible.

  7. ilen on said:

    We’re trying to use an old redwood plank as a countertop, but the epoxy that was used previously to repair the wood is delaminating. There are a few fist-sized knotholes about 1″ deep. We don’t want to paint, so ideally whatever we use comes in colors or can be stained to match the wood. What would you recommend?

    • I haven’t worked with redwood much being down in the southeast, but delaminating epoxy is no good. I would try the Abatron products making sure to use the LiquidWood first to essentially glue the WoodEpox into the repair. It’s also stainable as long as you sand the epoxy once dry. Just try pulling that stuff out once it’s cured!

  8. Bill on said:

    Hi Scott, 

       I’m working on my log cabin and wanted to know what you suggest on filling in cracks/splits in the outside logs. I guess it’s due to nails splitting the wood. I’m going to fill in a lot of them so I’m going to need a large amount. I have been using Sikkens on the logs, so I’m looking for a stainable product. I saw at Lowe’s Durham’s water putty, Minwax stainable wood filler, and Elmer’s Probond wood filler. I wasn’t sure which one would be best or if one of the other six products you mention are better, if so, where should I look to buy them? Also, I do have some rot in some of the logs which I look to clean out and fill in, which product do you recommend? Will the products help prevent further splitting?
    Based on your guide, which is helpful, I should sand and clean the areas before applying the product then lastly I can stain. Any help or guidance is much appreciated. 

    Thank you in advance! 
    Bill

  9. Kathy on said:

    Scott, thanks for your helpful site. I have an old splintering deck and picnic table, both previously stained over 5 years ago. I would like to fill, sand and waterproof the wood. Both are made of treated lumber and are 10-20 years old.
    What do you suggest to smooth and protect from further damage of water And sun?
    Thanks,
    Kathy

    • Kathy, WoodEpox is the way to go for exterior wood filling if you don’t plan to paint.

  10. Joe on said:

    Scott,
    I have a cabinet door with a previously drilled hole for concealed hinges but the holes for the mounting screws are to big. Could I used one of these techniques to fill the holes, then re-drill and fasten the hinges in whatever filler I use. I should mention I drilled the holes and put hinges at the top and bottom of the door this previously drilled hole is in the middle. Thanks for any insight you can offer,
    Joe

    • I’d try Kwikwood Joe. Easy solution for something like this and plenty strong to hold the new screws .

      • Joe on said:

        Thanks so much Scott! I can’t wait to try it out!

  11. Angela on said:

    Hi Scott,
    What should I use to fill a few drilled holes in a cedar 4 X 4 deck post. (Kwikwood?) The post will be stained after the holes are filled. Also, the post rotted where to two top rails meet in the corner allowing water to drip into the post. Any ideas to fill in the space where the top rails form the corner?
    Thanks
    Angela

    • Angela I would use either Kwikwood or WoodEpox for those repairs.

  12. Jeff on said:

    Hello… I found the article of great interest… Question … How well do these wood repair products stand up to expansion and contraction from heat and cold?

    I live in northern most Michigan… The temps get down to -20′s in the winter and 80′s in the summer… Will the repairs with these products pop out or crack the wood in the very cold or over expand the wood during a hot summer?

    Thanx!

    Jeff

    • Jeff, if properly primed and painted most of these fillers will perform well with the extreme weather changes. The absolute best for staying bonded to the wood is the Abatron products though. When used with LiquidWood, WoodEpox really holds tenaciously to the surface it’s applied to.

  13. Sylvia on said:

    Hi Scott,
    Repair is needed to fill in a 2″-3″ diameter hole in a stained maple wood cabinet. What product would be best for this repair?
    Thank you,
    Sylvia

  14. Dana on said:

    I have wood siding. Where to boards meet the putty they installed is starting to crack. What is the best way to fill this gap. Re-putty or use one of the methods above.

    • For patching siding I would stick with an epoxy like Kwikwood if it’s a small patch or Abatron WoodEpox for larger repairs. They hold up much better in the extreme conditions that siding is put through all year.

  15. Bob on said:

    about to refinish approximately 800 square feet of oak flooring. I have seen someone use a thinned out wood putty poured onto the floor and spread with a trowel to fill joints, nail holes etc. Any idea what this product is?
    Thank you very much
    Bob

    • Bob, here’s a little trade secret. The national wood flooring association recommends filling joints in wood floors with premixed joint compound that is tinted to the color of the wood. It bonds well, fills great and is easily sanded. Get some tints from you local paint store and mix the colors yourself to come as close as you can to the wood color.

  16. Jessica on said:

    Dear Scott,
    I have just purchased an old butcher’s block. I plan to use it as an island in my kitchen. There are a few areas that had some wood rot. I want to fill it with something that will not need to be painted or stained but can be sanded. Preferably something clear? What would you recommend?
    Thanks!

    • Jessica, for a butcher block you’re better off doing a Dutchman repair than using wood filler or epoxy. Cut a piece of wood that matches the damaged section, then glue it in place an clamp it.

  17. Cathy on said:

    Hi Scott,
    We have old hardwood flooring in our bedrooms that is in fair condition but not good enough condition to “restore” them. I would like to find a product that I can use to fill cracks and splintered areas and make them “last” a little longer until we can afford to lay new flooring over them. I saw a comercial for a new Behr Deckover product for exterior decking and wondered if it can be used indoors for what I am looking to do?

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