How to fill holes in wood with different products

Woodwork can be considered part of crafting and DIY, but the truth is it’s a type of construction that has existed ever since the ancient Egyptians and there are many techniques that we can use nowadays that have been inherited from those times.

Even most of the materials used are based on the ancient formulas from that era.

Some of these products are wood fillers and putties, which, of course, have been modified, but follow the basic principles old civilizations used. But how to fill holes in wood with wood fillers?

There are two basic products that we can use to fulfill this objective, and they are wood fillers and wood putty. We need to keep in mind several things to decide which is the better option for our project.

What do I need to know before filling holes in wood projects?

The three main characteristics that can determine which product you need are:

  • Hole size
  • Finished or unfinished project
  • Sanding and staining

The first thing you need to identify is the size of the hole you need to fill.
Of course, there is not such a thing as measuring the hole in inches, but you need to know if you are just going to fill, for instance, wood holes made with nails, or if you need to replace a whole piece of wood that chipped off a door’s surface.

Wood holes made with nails don’t need to be molded or shaped but just hide a dip on the surface.

The wood that chipped off a door’s surface needs to be molded to hide that there is a whole part missing, so it’s a bigger work.

The second thing you have to keep in mind is whether your project is finished and it needs repairing, or if it is unfinished and you want to work on the details before painting.

Keep on reading to find out which wood hole filler you need after you have finished identifying what kind of project you are dealing with.

And the third variable you need to consider is sanding and staining. Different products allow sanding or not.

Besides, some products are porous and absorb paint in case you want to stain them, but some others don’t.

So, it is very important to know whether you will need to do it before you buy the product.

What are the available products to fill holes in wood?

There are two options you can use based on your answers to the questions we asked above.

Considering the size of the hole, whether your project is finished or not, and your necessity for sanding and staining, you have to decide whether you need to use wood filler or wood putty.

These two products are usually though to be the same, but really, they aren’t.

Wood filler is a substance that can be made of a water-based or solvent-based medium mixed with different fibers that can be natural or synthetic.

You want to use this product if you are simply filling a small hole that doesn’t require resembling a whole piece of wood or surface.

Besides, it is more porous so it allows sanding and staining after its application. If it’s soft enough to degrade with sandpaper to provide a smooth finish.

That’s why it is considered to be the best for unfinished projects on which you later need to continue working.

Besides, this repair is most recommended for interior pieces, as it is not so durable in harsh conditions.

Wood putty is the second option for hole repairs, made of an oil-based medium mixed with fibers, but it is more consistent and dries harder than wood filler.

That’s why it’s most commonly used for fixing big surfaces where you need to resemble a piece of wood that got rotten or chipped off with time.

It can be molded and shaped, and has a denser consistency so it can be used on vertical surfaces.

However, you need to make sure to apply it properly in your first attempt, as it cannot be filed or sanded to fix details and finishes.

Besides, you can paint it on top with varnish or with an opaque paint, but you cannot stain it, as it is not porous and won’t absorb paint to give you a tinted color.

Considering these contexts of use, we recommend using wood putty mostly on finished projects that don’t require a whole renovation.

What is good about this product is that, although you cannot tint it to make it match the original color of your furniture, you can find it in different tones and shades so that you only need to apply the material and let it dry and call it a day!

How to fill holes in wood

How to fill holes in wood with wood fillers?

As said before, wood fillers are used on little holes in unfinished furniture. Grab a little amount of product with a putty knife (or paint knife) and apply it onto the hole.

Scrub the product with the knife to push it inside and repeat the process until you have filled the hole completely and cannot put any more product in it. Let it dry completely, sand the surface and paint.

How to fill holes in wood with wood putty?

Wood putty is more consistent and is usually used on chipped big surfaces or rotten sections on finished pieces.

First, find a version of putty that matches your furniture’s color as much as possible, and then, using a flat trowel, apply it on the surface, making it as smooth as possible, resembling the original piece that you are replacing, keeping in mind that you won’t be able to define the details with sandpaper later.


Here is a super complete video on how to fill holes in wood with different products:

So, next time you need to fix a piece of wooden furniture, remember these tips about how to fill holes in wood using wood fillers or putty according to the project you are working on.

We invite you to also see these articles about how to remove acrylic paint from wood and how to make a whirligig + free template.