What Is The Difference Between Wood Putty and Wood Filler?

If you are a carpenter or a DIYer who often repairs furniture and other wooden structures, it is likely that you’ll need to fill holes and other imperfections on wood. Such imperfections could be the result of nails or screws that you drove in and removed, defects in the wood, or other causes.

Now, two products commonly come into play when filling holes and other small imperfections in wood – wood filler and wood putty.

Woodworkers frequently use the two interchangeably, and they take them as the same thing but are they really the same?

The truth is, there are differences between wood filler and wood putty, and it is these differences that our post tackles. Knowing them is vital as it will help you use the right product for any given project, so read on.

1. Ingredients

Wood putty

Woodworkers like to call wood putty plastic wood. This is because it looks like plastic resin. When water is added, the substance feels like soft clay.

The reason as to why it’s called putty is that the substance has a stiff dough texture and a putty knife comes in handy for applying it.

Even though different manufacturers might use slightly different chemicals to make their wood putty, oil-based compounds are the main ingredients.

In most cases, the primary ingredients of wood putty include calcium carbonate, linseed oil, and a colorant.

Wood filler

Wood filler is made up of materials like lacquer, epoxy, polyurethane, and clay, and sometimes it’s mixed up with wood fibers.

The most common type is made of latex, and to make the cleanup easy, manufacturers often make it water-based. Another advantage of Latex fillers is that they mix well with dyes.

Wood filler is also referred to as wood grain, and it looks putty-like.

2. When to apply

Wood putty

As chemicals are used to manufacturer wood putty, it is usually advisable that you apply it after varnishing or staining the workpiece to prevent the chemicals from harming the raw wood.

Wood filler

Note that wood fillers require lots of sanding. Hence, it’s better to apply them before varnishing or staining. And it also makes sense to apply them before applying the finish as they don’t affect raw wood.

3. Drying time

Wood putty

Wood putty takes a long time to dry, typically several hours, and it definitely takes much longer than wood filler. Some putty varieties stiffen on their own, but others have to be mixed with hardening chemicals to dry.

This lengthy drying time is a great downside because it gives dust plenty of time to accumulate, and if you had applied a light putty, it might end up looking darker due to the accumulated dust.

Wood filler

This one dries a lot quicker. In fact, if the application is shallow, the filler can take as little as 10 to 15 minutes to dry. Even if the application is deep, eight hours should be enough drying time for the filler.

If the furniture is needed urgently, then wood filler would be a great option for fixing those minor imperfections.

4. Indoor or outdoor use

Wood putty

If you’re doing repairs on outdoor wood or furniture, there are two aspects you need to take into consideration – the moisture from humidity or rain and they heat from the sun.

You know why wood putty is the best option for outdoor furniture? It is not only waterproof but also resistant to the shrinkage brought about by the sunlight.

Wood filler

Unfortunately, wood filler doesn’t hold out very well to the harsh conditions found outdoors.

As it’s not that expandable, it breaks when the wood expands. Also, in the heat of the sun, wood filler loses moisture and shrinks.

Hence, fillers are only suitable for indoor filling projects.

5.  Pros and Cons of wood putty


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    Cost effective – wood putty is very durable and thus cost-effective. Even if it has stayed in the container unused for a long time and appears dry, all you have to do is add several drops of acetone, and your putty is restored.
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    Works perfectly for outdoor projects – wood putty is resistant to water and shrinkage, and as it’s expandable, it doesn’t crack when the wood expands.
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    Adhesive in nature, and hence there’s no need to apply adhesive sealer on it.


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    Long drying time – wood putty might take lots of hours to dry, and its shade might darken as dust collects through the long drying time.
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    It damages raw wood – that’s why it’s advisable to apply it after applying the finish.

6.  Pros and Cons of wood filler


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    Quick drying – wood filler can take as few as 10 minutes and a maximum of around 8 hours to dry. It’s thus very appropriate where there’s urgency.
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    Versatile – wood filler is more versatile than wood putty in the sense that it is available in more types. From latex to stainable and polyurethane fillers, the varieties are endless.


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    Not suitable for outdoor use.
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    Not very adhesive, and thus you have to seal the spot with an adhesive when applying the finish.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is wood filler made of and what is it used for?

Wood filler is made of epoxy, polyurethane or clay and sometimes wood fibers. It is used for sealing imperfections like holes on indoor furniture.

2. What is wood putty made of and what is it used for?

Wood putty is typically made of linseed oil, calcium carbonate, and colorants. It is used to seal imperfections on outdoor furniture.

3. Which one is more cost-effective? – wood filler or wood putty?

The prices of the two are basically the same but as wood putty is more durable, it is more cost effective. For instance, if you find that your wood putty has dried in the container, you don’t have to buy fresh wood putty; you just add a few drops of acetone in there, and the product is fresh again. The said can’t be said of wood filler.

4. Why is wood filler not suitable for outdoor use?

Well, that is because it is not resistant to moisture and it’s not very expandable, making it crack when the wood expands when heated. Again, it shrinks when exposed to direct sunlight for a long time.

Final Verdict

Both wood filler and wood putty are very useful for sealing imperfections in wood. Knowing the difference as explained above is the key to using the right product for the specific project you’re working on.

If you’re sealing wood indoors, it’s better to use wood filler, but if you’re sealing outdoor furniture, wood putty would be more appropriate.

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