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 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 1-year field testing of most of these wood fillers and epoxies at The Wood Filler & Epoxy Test (Year 1) 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.
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.
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!