How to Choose the Right Wood Filler
When working with wood, there’s always the risk of cracks or splits, especially when you’re driving screws or nails into the material. That’s where wood filler comes in. You can use it to fill in any cracks or divots in the wood. Wood fillers can also treat open-grain woods, commonly used for flooring. There’s always a chance that pores in the wood might open up – and they also need to be filled! Wood fillers tend to come in three forms: water-based, solvent-based, and oil-based.
We’ll have a look at what wood filler is used for and answer some of the key questions you might have about it. Let’s get started.
What is Wood Filler Used For?
As the name suggests, wood filler is used to fill in the gaps found in wood. You might need to use wood filler for a few different reasons. The first is that cracks or divots open in the wood during the woodworking process. If you hammer a nail into wood, a crack could appear on either side of the nail. This can also occur when boring a hole or driving a screw into the wood.
The second reason is simply down to wear-and-tear. Whether you have a wooden floor or a piece of furniture, damage will occur in everyday use. When holes or divots open in wood, they harm the aesthetics, which is why people turn to wood fillers.
The third main reason for using a wood filler is when an open-grain wood’s pores have opened up. This might be due to a flaw with the wood when you buy it. By applying some wood filler to the open pore, then it’s possible to cover up this imperfection – you’ll have a piece of wood that looks flawless.
What is the Best Filler for Wood?
Wood fillers tend to fall into three categories: water-based, solvent-based, and oil-based wood fillers. Each of these forms of wood filler will suit different projects. Water-based wood fillers are cheap, easy to use, and don’t have an unpleasant odor. They’re also versatile. They tend to be thin and can be diluted even further with more water. Water-based fillers are ideal for fixing small cracks and divots or smoothing over minor imperfections.
Water-based fillers tend to be low-priced and can be purchased at all DIY stores. If you use a water-based filler, you can expect to wait about a quarter of an hour for it to dry. Wood fillers that are water-based also tend to be the quickest drying of all the fillers on the market. Another big plus is that they don’t create much of a mess at all. Once you’ve used them, all you need is some soap and warm water to clean up.
The second most common form of fillers for wood is solvent-based. They will usually be made with vinyl or, in some cases, epoxy. Latex wood filler is another example of a solvent-based filler. As you’d expect, these fillers are much thicker than water-based fillers. Because they have more chemicals inside them, they’re also a lot harder to clean up, and you’ll need turpentine to do so. Of course, they have a lot of advantages too. They’re much more durable and hard-wearing than those made from water. For that reason, you’d use this filler for outdoor wood that’s exposed to the elements.
To apply a filler of this type to wood, you’ll usually use a putty knife. If you don’t already have one, then purchase a putty knife when you get the filler. When a wood filling solution is based in oil, it remains somewhat pliable once it’s dried, which can be useful for delicate woods. But this form of filler isn’t as common as the two other types.
Always check what the filler is aimed at. You’ll either have interior, exterior, or interior/exterior fillers. This just means that fillers can be used indoors specifically, outdoors, or for both. Depending on the job, it may be an idea to purchase an interior/exterior filler, as this is the most versatile. You also need to check the color of the filler and also if it’s stainable. Ideally, you’ll want to treat the wood once you’ve finished filling in the imperfections.
Firstly, you’ll want to match up the color of the filler to the color of the wood. If you purchase a stainable wood filler, you’ll be able to treat the whole of the wood with the same varnish or stain. This way, the color of the filled wood will match that of the natural wood grain. Before purchasing a wood filler, also consider the drying time.
Is Wood Filler as Strong as Wood?
It depends on the type you purchase. In some cases, the filler can be even stronger than the wood itself. This is certainly the case when you use an epoxy wood filler. It’s even possible to drive screws and nails into the filled area with this type of filler. Many kinds of timber are stronger than others. If strength is important to you, then ensure that you choose a filler that explicitly states the amount of strength it offers. It’s unlikely you’ll be looking at water-based fillers if strength is your key aim. But there are plenty of very strong fillers available that are equally strong, if not stronger, than most types of wood.
What’s the Difference Between Wood Putty and Wood Filler?
There is a grey area. Both are used for filling wood, of course, and tend to do the same job, but they also offer a different consistency. Some manufacturers call their products wood putty, while others call them wood filler, and it can all be quite confusing. Generally, wood putty is applied with a putty knife and tends to be used outdoors. Wood putty often has some form of wood inside it, such as sawdust. However, there’s very little difference between a filler made with solvents and wood putty. The terms tend to be used interchangeably.
When it comes to wood repair, a good filler can be indispensable. Fillers can be used to fix imperfections, cracks, or divots that occur either naturally or due to working with the material. Some fillers are better for certain projects than others. It’s important to make sure you choose one that’s suited to the location and style of timber. For example, outside projects will need strong fillers capable of standing up to the elements, while those inside need to be thinner so they don’t alter the smoothness of the surface.
Regardless of the type you choose, fillers can usually be applied within minutes and don’t require an enormous amount of expertise for application. Always remember that you want the finish of the wood to remain in good condition, so if you intend to stain or sand the timber after application, then ensure you choose a product that allows this.