Having worked in the restorations trades for more than 20 years I have constantly been on the search for the best wood filler. I have tried countless products that at first seemed like a winner only to find, just like my high school dating experiences, they wouldn’t go the distance.
The conclusion I have come to is that there isn’t just one product, but rather a group of products that can handle any wood patching task I need. The best wood filler is sometimes not a wood filler at all, but a wood epoxy or even a putty. In this post, I’ll give you my take on the best products to patch wood on the market today.
The first thing you need to consider when choosing the best wood filler is what its use will be. Is it outdoors or indoors, painted or varnished, structural or cosmetic? There is a product for any need listed below, and you’ve just got to find the right one from the list below.
You can also read the results of my 5-year field testing of most of these wood fillers and epoxies at The Wood Filler & Epoxy Test (Year 5) to see how these products performed in the real world as well as to watch the video below.
Best for small cosmetic repairs and surface leveling – MH Ready Patch is a great patch for a myriad of little patches. It doesn’t work for structural patches like an epoxy, but it does work quite well for things like nail holes and surface imperfections in painted wood (it’s not stainable). It dries fast, 30-45 mins and 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 smaller than a dime in size, smooth out alligatoring paint, surface checks, fill surface gouges or almost anything else I may need. Its only weakness is when you try to fill large areas which causes it to sag and shrink. Keep it limited to very small areas and always make sure you paint it because it will not last if left exposed to the elements.
Best for structural repairs or rebuilding of big portions of wood – There are tons of different types of epoxies for wood, but this product is by far my favorite because of its ease of use and long performance.
We use this every single day and my rot repair franchise Preservan uses a similar product by the truckload. The two parts work together to stabilize “punky” wood and fill in the missing areas.
The repairs can be sanded, drilled, planed, and essentially you are left with a repair 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 wood fillers.
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.
Best for small structural repairs in a hurry – Anyone who occasionally needs to patch wood 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 fill screw holes that have stripped out so I can get a sagging door hung again quickly or other tasks like that. Its fast drying time and resistance to rot and mildew make it perfect for exterior repairs too. I have used it outdoors and left it unpainted for years (not on purpose) with no problem.
Best all-purpose wood filler – You knew I’d get around to an actual wood filler soon, right? Minwax Wood filler is such an easy to use and great product I am constantly surprised by how good it does for how little it costs. In the video above you can see the incredible results I got after a 5 year test with this stuff. It outperformed some epoxies and more expensive products big time.
It’s simple to apply with a finger tip or putty knife, sand when it’s smooth and prime when you’re done. No mixing to screw up. The fact that it’s not structural just means it should not be used for larger applications like the Abatron products above. It’s also a great option for stained and varnished projects as well as paint grade repairs.
Best for color matching and flooring joints – This is a weird little trick that an old floor refinisher taught me and it really has worked great in very specific circumstances. Here’s how it works:
To patch wood using this method, you’ll need sawdust from the specific wood you are patching. Mix it with enough wood glue to get the consistency you need. You can make this a wet slurry and trowel it into the joints between old floor boards or make a thick paste to fill spots on damaged furniture.
You have to work fast enough that the glue doesn’t begin to dry on you, but to match the color of a repair for something that will be stained and varnished there is nothing better. Once it’s dry, sand the surface thoroughly and you’re good to go.
Best for flexible joint filling – Glazing putty isn’t a wood filler, right? Wrong. For filling nail holes or joints glazing putty is actually incredibly useful.
Some glazing putties are bright white (DAP 33) which can hide well for painted trim, but are hard to see if you’ve gotten good coverage plus they can take weeks to cure. That’s why I created my own glazing putty with the help of the folks at Sarco Putty Co. that is usually ready for painting within just 24 hrs. It is also available in a brown color to blend in better for varnished projects.
For a better option to filling joints and ease of application you can’t beat a glazing putty. I can often use this in place of caulk for certain circumstances where more body is required than caulk which tends to sag.
What to Avoid
You’ll notice that there is one product I specifically did not include here that a lot of people use…Bondo. There is a good reason why it is not included in a post about the best wood filler and I’ve outlined why you should absolutely avoid Bondo when it comes to patching wood in this more in-depth post.
I’d love to hear what your experience has been with these products and if you have other favorites that you’ve found over the years. Are these truly the best products to patch wood or is there some other product that deserves the title of best wood filler.
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I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.