The 7 Best Products to Patch Wood

By Scott Sidler • April 22, 2013

7 best products to patch woodSometimes 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 this 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.

You can also read the results of my 2-year field testing of most of these wood fillers and epoxies at The Wood Filler & Epoxy Test (Year 2) to see how these products performed in the real world.

 

1. 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 dime in size, smooth out alligatoring paint, surface checks, fill surface gouges or almost anything else I may need. I really can’t extol the virtues and uses of MH Ready Patch enough. Its only weakness is when you try to fill large areas. For that I use the next item on the list.

 

2. 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.

 

3. 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 outside. 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. Almost as good as epoxy at a fraction of the cost.

 

4. KwikWood

For strong repairs in a hurry, this product is the best. 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’s 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!

 

5. 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.

 

6. 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.

 

7. 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.

 

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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331 thoughts on “The 7 Best Products to Patch Wood”

  1. FLooring people replaced stairs and risers. He just told me I have to fill gaps in stringers where new stairs not exactly the same size. He told me to get ‘pink stuff’ in box. Anyone know what that is or what should be used that will stay in place after painting? Thank you!

  2. hi i put new wood on the botton half on the outside of my house as it was needing repaired . the person who put it on told be to use creosote on it before i painted it . I done this and now my paint keeps flaking off , How can i fix this . I usually use a satin exterier paint by Cuprinol. Any help would be appreciated

    1. Since the wood now has creosote on it (and in it to some depth or other), the obvious goal is to get a surface on the wood that your paint will adhere to.
      I’d suggest that you wash the surface with a rag soaked with old-style paint thinner (taking the proper precautions with the flammable thinner; and wear rubber gloves) to remove the creosote from the surface. Let it dry until it is completely dry to the touch. This might take a few days in cooler, wet weather.
      Then sand it with 180 or 240 grit sandpaper or whatever works. Then prime it with BIN primer, which has a reputation for covering knot holes, the oils from which will bleed through ordinary primer and overcoat combinations. You might have to lightly sand and apply another coat of BIN primer until you get the paintable surface you need.

  3. We just installed this beautiful med light engineered wood 1 month ago. In front of my refrigerator it looks like someone had rocks in their shoes and scrapped 5 very small holes in the wood. I am afraid they might snag and make it worse. What can you recommend, sylvia
    This is the only post I have made????????

  4. Hi,
    I have a project that sounds similar to some discussed here but I’m unsure about one aspect and hope to get advice.

    I have outdoor furniture that needs repair. Mahogony Adirondic chairs, footstool and a small table. They have been left outdoors for years and the wood is badly weathered. Not rotted, still structurally sound, just weathered. Alligatored.

    I need to restore every inch of all surfaces. I could use a wood putty like Abratron, I’ve used it in the past and love it, but in this case, the cost of the product for the quantity I will need may exceed the cost of buying new furniture. I’m hoping to use Durham’s. You said at one point that it can be mixed to the need of the project. Therein lies my question. Could I mix this thin enough to paint on? The chairs will be exposed to direct sunlight after repair and another blog says that is reason to not use Durham’s. But, I plan to prime and paint the furniture (after a light sanding) and according to the manufacturer, it should be good to go outdoors if it’s painted. But I doubt they ever considered it being applied with a paintbrush. Good quality paint is a fairly heavy consistency. I would mix to that, or slightly thicker. Possibly put a second coat on before painting. Maybe the first being thinner to penetrate, then a heavier mix to cover. Do you think this will work?

  5. hi . i have cedar decking and there are a bunch or areas that have rotting ends . i have tried exterior plastic wood filler last year and stained it but this year the patches are disintegrating . i really dont want to have to replace the boards so what do you recommend that i use to refill these rotting areas

  6. Your opinion on the use of bondo for wood is vey misleading. I have been building customcabinets for 35 years, and bondo has alwways been highly effective in filling nail holes and other knicks and gouges for paint grade cabinets. It produces a flatter, smoother surface for a superior finish to any of the products you are obviously endorsing on your list. Your reasons for not using bondo on wood do not add up. Everything expands and contracts, (even the steel of the body of a car). The only variable that matters is the rate of expansion and contaction of the two materials together. In my experience, bondo fills wood voids, both large and small, with no problems at all. Further, the final product is seemless whereas some of the other products you mentioned experience mild deterioration when a solvent based sealer is applied, which shows in the final product. Rhe only drawback to using bondo as a wood filler for paint grade woodwork is it is a pain to sand, so apply just thick enough to get it flat.

    1. Hi! I’m not a carpenter, just a homeowner, trying to repair/restore/preserve my family home., and I read his review about Bondo. He said he doesn’t recommend it for exterior wood work. There is also a photo he posted, that shows the just after 2 weeks, it was “melting”, (my word, as the term he used, evades me at the moment). Also of note, I’ve not seen, thus far, any response for the questions posted, by whomever runs the blog. 🤔
      Good luck!
      Hope this helps ~

  7. Which product would be good to cover nail heads on an outdoor/covered screened porch. Had 2 wood floor boards replaced that rotted and the rotted boards were cut away from the rest of the boards which were still good, so they were nailed into place matched up with the good boards.

    Now I need to cover the 4 nail heads and then paint the porch next summer. It’s already painted but these new floor boards aren’t.

    I couldn’t decide between a couple of the products you’ve listed which would be appropriate and not overkill. It’s just small nail holes to cover up but the carpenter told us to cover them, sand and then paint the porch so water wouldn’t get into the nail holes.

    Thanks!

  8. I just got a wooden porch built and the railing has deep holes from the screws in it. The builder is planning on priming the porch and said the painter could fill in the holes before painting. I am wondering if the holes should be filled in before priming? Will these hole areas need to be primed again before painting? and what product should be used to fill in the exterior wood screw holes? thanks!

    1. The builder should have used trim head screws which when fastened leave almost no trace.a very small hole to fill in any case.the holes should be filled before priming.i use paintable exterior grade caulking.it won’t shrink or deteriorate for many years and when applied properly makes a nice job that will have you relaxing and not worrying about your deck

  9. i m trying to find the best product to fill in nail holes in red oak steps. there are 8 to 16 holes in each step. i have “practiced ” with a couple of products and i do not like the look thanks

    1. When I want to match the color of the wood or stain it, little cans of DAP plastic wood are great. This product stains very well since it contains real wood fibers. I usually use Natural for Oak or if I plan to stain it. Otherwise, you can choose pre-mixed colors and mix them to match your wood. This patch dries quite hard, and is acetone based. So, if your patch dries a bit or if you want it to flow better, just add a little acetone.

  10. Pingback: best quality wood chips for smoking - WSN Blog
  11. I am in the process of refinishing interior doors (6-panel pine) in my 1924 Sears bungalow, three of which have small hairline cracks running horizontally across one panel. All have been stripped and sanded. I have Abatron epoxy repair kit. Do you have any application tips to ensure it penetrates the cracks.

  12. I have faux wood kitchen cabinets and the previous owner placed knobs and pulls too high on doors/drawers. Anything that can cover/fill these holes inconspicuously?

  13. I am trying to fill in under a door threshold that is now leaking water into my house. I was considering using wood filler with a flex seal paint on top as a temporary stop-gap for the rains coming over the next week. What are your thoughts on this?

    Link to pics of the damage: http://imgur.com/gallery/mcCSdOP

  14. Hi, I’m trying to repair my kitchen cabinets. I had someone come in & took them down painted them but hung them back up wrong. i don’t want to buy new cabinets. What can I use to fill in where the other holes were drilled in wrong.

    1. Hi Natasha,
      Ugh, we are so sorry to hear that! Are your cabinets actual wood or faux wood?
      Thanks for reading and commenting on our blog. We always do our best to help real world people with real world home repair questions!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  15. Hi. I am trying my hand at creating simple jewelry boxes, made with unfinished wood, which is already made up and makes half a box (two put together will make the whole box). In putting the four corners together the maker ran a metal staple down the length of the corner from top to bottom, approximately 3″. Obviously I cannot remove the staple because the box half would fall apart. So, can you tell me about a wood filler to cover the metal staples at each corner. There is no hole to fill, I just need to cover the staples so that I can stain the wood. I have tried using various wood fillers, but then when the rest of the box is stained the corners are darker that the rest of the box. Thanks for your help.

  16. Hello Scott
    We have hardwood flooring and there was a small knot hole that our dog decided to gnaw on its about the size of a dime now how can we fill and stain this so it won’t be so noticeable? The floors are oak

    Thanks Chris

  17. Hi Scott, I’m painting the exterior of a 1922 Craftsman in the Pacific Northwest. The old paint is alligatored, checked, cratered, pocked, etc., but also extremely well adhered to the siding and rock-hard. I’m having trouble finding much info about the use of products like ReadyPatch and CrackShot as a filler for this purpose. The few bits of info I’ve found mostly just say you should NEVER use exterior spackle for this purpose – but specific products aren’t mentioned, and maybe some newer products are okay? The professional paint stores (and box stores) have all told me that there’s no product that will fill those imperfections and hold up for more than a year or two, and even the product info for ReadyPatch, CrackShot, and DryDex state that they shouldn’t be used for exterior skim-coating.
    Above, you write: “I use it to fill holes up to a dime in size, smooth out alligatoring paint, surface checks, fill surface gouges or almost anything else I may need.”
    I would be elated to find out that I can use a spackling compound rather than having to go through complete removal! Am I mistakenly calling the process of filling these imperfections with a thin, knifed-on layer of compound “skim-coating?” What I’m trying to figure out is: can I use ReadyPatch (or ANY product) to fill in alligatoring, checking, pocks, etc., on my exterior siding? Thanks!

      1. Thanks J, PC Woody and WoodEpox are available near me and I use those to repair large cavities and rotted wood (very similar to Wood Wizard I believe) – but what I’m looking for is something to fill rough painted areas (alligatored, checked/crazed, surface areas) of old cedar clapboard siding and to smooth raised edges where paint has broken off. Those areas are in no danger of failing – they are absolutely adhered to the siding, just need to be smoothed. Obviously sanding/stripping would produce the very best results, but that’s not an option in this case. So after I scrape I’m looking for an exterior compound or spackle that can be spread to smooth the surface in the worst areas. So far I’ve been looking into Ready Patch (Rustoleum), Platinum Patch (DAP), Alex Flex (DAP), and exterior caulking – but I’ve gotten different answers from almost every person I’ve talked to. There seems to be no definitive answer, which is surprising considering how common a problem this must be. Most product reps consider what I’m doing to be “skim coating” and have to recommend against it because that’s what the product sheet says (though the rep for Ready Patch said it would be okay). But I’m still trying to gather info from experienced contractors to figure out what they use (and don’t) and why. If anyone here has ideas, I would be very grateful!

    1. To follow up on what I’ve found: After some pretty deep searching that took me through virtually every exterior spackle available, I ended up talking to a couple of paint chemists and exterior compound product developers who suggested using elastomeric patching compounds for this application. The product I’ve found is Tower Category 5 Elastomeric Patching Compound – it’s a smooth knife-on grade compound. It can’t be sanded but it can be feathered on the surface with a putty knife and wet rag/sponge and it will flex with the movement of the wood without cracking or separating from the substrate.

      I’m a little nervous that nobody on the internet seems to be talking about this, so if any of you have any thoughts – I’d love to hear them!

      1. Hey Alex,
        What did you end up using? Did you use the Tower Category 5 Elastomeric Patching Compound? How did it work? My painting contractor just used MH Ready Patch for the same purpose as you described above. Now I’m scared to death its going to fail within 6 years. Do I need to worry? It seems like the area he patched are so thin, but there are quite a lot of areas on the house. He primed both before and after the application of Ready Patch. Any advise on how to move forward? What should we do if it fails? Sounds like its super durable, so is sanding even an option? Or can we use at heat gun to take it all off? Any advise would be greatly appreciated!

  18. Hi Scott,
    I am going to paint my facia and soffits and don’t know what’s best to use as a filler. I mainly need it to fill the mitered corners of the trim, something to blend the soffitt boards together and fill to old nail holes. What do you recommend? Is it better to wash then repair or repair and then wash? Is there an exterior primer you recommend and should I primer all the trim or just repaired areas? Thank you as this is my first exterior painting adventure.

  19. Hi Scott,
    I am going to paint my facia and soffits and don’t know what’s best to use as a filler. I mainly need it to fill the mitered corners of the trim, something to blend the soffitt boards together and fill to old nail holes. What do you recommend? Is it better to wash then repair or repair and then wash? Is there an exterior primer you recommend and should I primer all the trim or juat repaired areas? Thank you as this is my first exterior painting adventure.

  20. Auto body filler works for many things. Cures with a hardener in minutes, can be sanded and is waterproof. Two part spot putty is less porous and easier to use but pricey…

  21. Hello Scott,
    I just finished the interior of our 3 season lake cabin in NH with kiln dried ship lap. I nailed it with 8 penny nails that are sunk in pretty good (1/8 in to 3/16). The cabin has a wood stove and the temps will swing from 15 to 90 F.

    My plan is to treat the knots with Zinser. Then fill in holes with an elmers type interior / exterior wood putty. Finally, I was going to apply water based stain and top coats of white latex. I am looking to minimize work (lots of holes) and am hoping to get away with a single application of filler.
    Am I on the right track? Many thanks!!

  22. Hi Scott – we are replacing a wrought iron interior railing and in two areas the pickets will not match up – so we will have to fill the holes. We had one recommendation to use dowels. What method/product would you recommend? We recently had the stairs refinished so we have leftover polyurethane stain that matches the floor. Thanks!

  23. Our front door frame has been severely scratched by a dog with separation anxiety. What could I use to fill in the scratches and paint over?

    1. You could use”wall putty” mixed in paint (the color you intend to use for repainting). Let it dry for few hours. Sand it. Refill any left over gaps. Now it is ready for painting. Simpler, effective and low on cost.

  24. Hi ,
    I am from India, My home is very traditional with full of wood work and old building, so I don’t want to demolish it and done some repair in 1st floor; Now the wood pillar is getting small crack and its growing; And pillar is has balancing reasonable weight; In this case, wood filler could be suggest able or should I replace it. I am confusing, Please advise me.
    Thanks,
    Arun

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