The Best Wood Fillers of 2022

Bid goodbye to blemishes on wooden surfaces indoors and out with our top picks among the best wood fillers on the market.

By Manasa Reddigari and Tom Scalisi | Updated Nov 30, 2021 12:05 PM

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Best Wood Filler Options

Photo: Tom Scalisi

Cracks, divots, holes, or rot can crop up on wooden surfaces due to ordinary wear and tear, accidents, and during DIY projects. Fortunately, wood fillers—which come in water- and solvent-based formulas—can handle all sorts of repairs, from hiding blemishes in the wood grain of cabinets and filling seams or gaps in door trim to sealing nail holes in a newly built patio table.

With the wide variety of wood fillers available—each having a unique formulation, usage scenario, and application technique—it can be tricky to pinpoint the right one to use. This guide will explain these practical putties and how to choose the best wood filler for your needs.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Minwax Stainable Wood Filler
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Elmer’s E887Q Stainable Wood Filler
  3. BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Elmer’s E913 Carpenter’s Color Change Wood Filler
  4. UPGRADE PICK: FamoWood 40022126 Latex Wood Filler
  5. BEST FOR SEALING PORES: Aqua Coat Wood Grain Filler
  6. BEST FOR HOLES: Goodfilla Water-Based Wood Filler
  7. BEST FOR FURNITURE: Coconix Floor and Furniture Repair Kit
  8. ALSO CONSIDER: Elmer’s Probond Wood Filler
Best Wood Filler Options

Photo: Tom Scalisi

Water vs. Solvent Fillers

Wood fillers are either water or solvent based. Either can be used to fill wood voids or pores, but they have a number of differences.

  • Water-based wood fillers are generally a mix containing cellulose, wood fiber, or gypsum. They tend to have a less potent odor, as they emit few, if any, volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some water-based wood fillers are more versatile than their solvent-based counterparts because they can be readily diluted with water and used in projects requiring thinner filler. Water-based fillers typically dry in about 15 minutes, and cleanup requires only soap and water.
  • Solvent-based fillers tend to consist of vinyl or epoxy. They have a higher VOC content and are correspondingly smellier. Solvent-based wood thinners take about an hour to dry, and cleaning up after use calls for acetone or turpentine. Cost-wise, solvent-based fillers are pricier than water-based fillers because they’re more resistant to water, humidity, extreme heat and cold, and rot, making them best suited to exterior wood projects and applications.

Choosing the Best Wood Filler for Your Project

Task: Wood fillers typically handle one or more specific tasks. Some are suitable for filling voids such as divots, holes, or gouges in all wood species. Others are for filling pores in open-grain woods with large pores visible to the naked eye, such as oak or elm, to smooth their naturally coarse texture. (As the filler inundates the pores, it levels any unevenness to achieve a finish particularly desirable on furniture.) The most versatile fillers can fill either voids or pores.

Consistency: Wood fillers can have thick (putty-like) or thin (pancake batter–like) consistencies. Thicker fillers are primarily for filling voids, while thinner fillers mainly fill pores in open-grain woods. It’s important to choose the right consistency for your project, as thicker fillers contain large particles that don’t readily fit into the pores of open-grain woods, and thinner fillers generally lack the body to adequately fill voids. (Tip: In a pinch, some thicker fillers can be thinned with water to fill pores.)

Color: The most common fillers come in white or wood-inspired shades; clear versions for filling pores are also available. If you don’t plan to ultimately stain or paint the piece, opt for a filler in a shade that either closely matches or contrasts with the original wood color, depending on whether you want to play down or play up the filler color. If you do intend to coat the cured filler with stain or paint, be sure to pick a stainable or paintable product, either in white or in a shade that’s lighter than the stain or paint you’ll use.

Application environment: Fillers are generally for “interior-only” or “interior/exterior” use. This serves as an indication of how well the filler will hold up in the stated environment both during application, while wet, and post-application after it has dried.

  • Interior-only fillers can be safely applied indoors to wooden pieces that will stay indoors, such as a coffee table. Apply that same product outdoors or to a piece that will live outdoors, such as a patio table, and the filler will be more likely to freeze or harden while wet from exposure to extreme cold or heat, or crack or shrink over time once dry.
  • You can safely apply interior/exterior fillers in either environment and to wood pieces that will live indoors or out since they can withstand extreme weather without hardening during application or cracking/shrinking once dry. Water-based interior/exterior fillers are more versatile because they’re durable enough for outdoor projects yet emit virtually no odor while wet. While solvent-based interior/exterior fillers are safe to apply in both environments, you’re better off using them for heavy-duty outdoor projects (e.g., filling gouges or replacing rotted decking), where their highly weather-resistant solvents can handily defend against the elements and the fumes they emit while wet will quickly dissipate in the air.

Packaging: Wood fillers are packaged in tubs, squeeze tubes, and sticks. Those in tubs are either no-mix and can be applied with a putty knife or spreader, while two-part fillers must be mixed before application. For tube fillers, you need only squeeze out a scant amount to fill voids or pores, while with stick fillers, simply rip off a small chunk and apply by hand. Tubs, which hold the most product, tend to be most economical and are suited to larger projects, while sticks are the least cost-effective and best used to repair scratches and cracks.

Our Top Picks

Now that you’re all filled in on the latest information on these products, it’s time to check out some of the best wood fillers on the market. We performed hands-on testing with all of these products to ensure they’re up to snuff. Be sure to keep all the top considerations in mind when comparing the best wood fillers.

Best Overall

The Best Wood Filler Option: Minwax Stainable Wood Filler
Photo: amazon.com

When it comes to versatile wood fillers, Minwax Stainable Wood Filler might be top of the heap. This water-based wax features a compound made with real wood fibers, leaving behind a strong, durable patch once dry. It’s suitable for indoor and outdoor wood filling, and it can take paint or stain.

During testing, the Minwax Stainable Wood Filler proved to be a joy to work with. Its relatively dry consistency leads to almost no shrinking at all when dry. Also, because of its consistency, we were able to roll small wads of it to fill large holes like putty. Despite its grainy consistency, it was easy to spread with a putty knife and sanded to a very smooth texture. The only downside we could find is that the large fibers and grain could be too large to seal off small pores.

Product Specs

  • Type: Water-based
  • Indoor or exterior: Both
  • Stainable: Yes

Pros

  • Spreads easily, despite grainy consistency
  • Minimal shrinking due to low moisture content
  • Can fill large holes
  • No odor

Cons

  • Large grain might not seal pores well

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Wood Filler Option: Elmer’s E887Q Stainable Wood Filler
Photo: amazon.com

Don’t want to lug a pound of wood filler around for a small-scale indoor or outdoor project? This 3.25-ounce, 7-inch tube of water-based stainable wood filler fits right in a pocket or tool box. Usable for both indoor and outdoor projects, this wood filler also emits zero odor. Once dry, it can accept paint or stain.

During testing, we found the tube of Elmer’s Stainable Wood Filler to have separated into a soupy liquid and a very stiff putty. After mixing (which was difficult to achieve in the tube), it reached a much better consistency and was easy to spread. The holes filled nicely, and despite its wetter consistency, it didn’t shrink much while drying.

Product Specs

  • Type: Water-based
  • Indoor or exterior: Both
  • Stainable: Yes

Pros

  • Incredibly easy to apply
  • Zero odor
  • Didn’t shrink once mixed

Cons

  • Has a tendency to separate during shipping

Best for Beginners

The Best Wood Filler Option: Elmer’s E913 Carpenter’s Color Change Wood Filler
Photo: amazon.com

Novice DIYers who hate wondering if wood filler is ready for sanding should consider Elmer’s Carpenter’s Color Change Wood Filler. This interior-only, no-mix water-based product boasts a patented formula that goes on purple, then turns natural when it’s dry and ready for sanding, staining, and painting. Small repaired areas go naturally colored in as little as 15 minutes without shrinking or cracking, while deeper voids dry in 2 to 8 hours.

Truth be told, we thought this product was a bit of a gimmick, so we didn’t have high hopes. In reality, it dried quickly without shrinking and sanded to one of the best finishes in the test. It was a little thick during application, but it packed well into the hole in the wood and sanded smooth. This is definitely the real deal. The only downsides are that it’s a little thick (maybe because of the color additive) and it’s for indoor-only use.

Product Specs

  • Type: Water-based
  • Indoor or exterior: Indoor
  • Stainable: Yes

Pros

  • Color changes when dry
  • Leaves an excellent finish
  • Minimal shrinking

Cons

  • Indoor-only use
  • A little thick

Upgrade Pick

The Best Wood Filler Option: FamoWood 40022126 Latex Wood Filler
Photo: amazon.com

For those looking for a premium product, this FamoWood Latex Wood Filler is a worthy option. It has the versatility and viscosity to handle voids of different sizes, meaning one tub can handle almost anything. The formula is a combination of latex and real wood fiber, and it’s suitable for indoor and outdoor applications. Also, it cures in 15 minutes to a harder-than-wood surface. Once dry, it can be sanded, planed, or sawed. It can also be stained or painted after staining.

Here’s the deal: This wood filler is thick. It’s so thick, in fact, that it settled to the lid of the tub and became extremely frustrating to open. However, once open, FamoWood did nothing but wow us. Yes, it’s thick, but it was the easiest and smoothest to spread. It also rolls into small wads for plugging holes. The finish left behind was almost entirely shrink-free, and it filled the pores of the test piece entirely.

Product Specs

  • Type: Water-based
  • Indoor or exterior: Both
  • Stainable: Yes

Pros

  • Creates a smooth finish that fills pores
  • Thick but easy to spread
  • Dries harder than wood

Cons

  • Can be frustrating to open

Best for Sealing Pores

The Best Wood Filler Option: Aqua Coat Wood Grain Filler
Photo: amazon.com

Some wood filler applications don’t require a thick, opaque layer of wood filler. For those that prefer a simple, light, see-through coat that simply seals pores, check out Aqua Coat Wood Grain Filler. This wood filler has a thick, milky texture that dries to a clear coat, and since it’s eco-friendly and water based, cleanup is a breeze.

Admittedly, there are few applications for a wood filler that doesn’t actually make holes and gouges disappear. However, when it comes to sealing pores, we found Aqua Coat to do an outstanding job. It applied very easily and created a smooth, glass-like finish over the wood. Since it’s water based and eco-friendly, it’s a better choice than polyurethane (for some applications). The downside is that it doesn’t fill holes particularly well, and it does shrink quite a bit. But this product is for sealing pores, not filling holes.

Product Specs

  • Type: Water-based
  • Indoor or exterior: Indoor
  • Stainable: Yes

Pros

  • Water-based, eco-friendly design
  • Seals pores very well
  • Easy to apply

Cons

  • Interior-only use
  • Shrinks (a lot)

Best for Holes

The Best Wood Filler Option: Goodfilla Water-Based Wood Filler
Photo: amazon.com

There are nicks and scrapes, and then there are large holes left from screws, lag bolts, and even carpenter bees. For those big, gaping holes, Goodfilla Water-Based Wood Filler might be the product to reach for. This wood filler has a clay-like consistency that doesn’t shrink when dry, and it’s stainable and paintable.

As it comes out of the tub, Goodfilla doesn’t spread easily, so it’s not exceptional for filling scrapes or small spots. However, it can be diluted with a bit of warm water to become a more spreadable consistency, although the clay-like consistency makes it very easy to wad into small balls and fill large holes. It’s also odor-free, doesn’t shrink at all, and is suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

Product Specs

  • Type: Water-based
  • Indoor or exterior: Both
  • Stainable: Yes

Pros

  • Excellent for filling large holes
  • Doesn’t shrink
  • Odor-free
  • Easily dilutable

Cons

  • Not easy to spread out of the tub

Best for Furniture

The Best Wood Filler Option: Coconix Floor and Furniture Repair Kit
Photo: amazon.com

Small nicks and chips in antique furniture don’t always respond well to traditional wood fillers, making Coconix an attractive option. This repair kit comes with everything necessary to match nearly any color and apply the water-based filler for a top-notch furniture repair. While it’s only suitable for indoor furniture, this product is water based.

This might not be a traditional wood filler, but there is a lot to like about this kit. First, using the included color guide as a reference, we were able to perfectly match the pine test piece. It doesn’t fill large voids or holes exceptionally well by itself, but it does come with a wood putty that does the trick before coloring over it. The mixing and application were very easy, as it comes with several base colors, a mixing cup, a spatula, and an application brush. We did notice that this product takes seemingly forever to dry completely (at least a day), and it will shrink, but it might be the best way to match colors in chipped furniture and millwork.

Product Specs

  • Type: Water-based
  • Indoor or exterior: Interior
  • Stainable: No

Pros

  • No need to stain after successful color match
  • Comes with everything to mix and apply
  • Directions are very easy to follow

Cons

  • Long, long drying time
  • Will shrink in large repairs

Also Consider

The Best Wood Filler Option: Elmer’s Probond Wood Filler
Photo: amazon.com

Those looking for professional results at a reasonable price would do well to consider Elmer’s Probond Filler. This tub of water-based wood filler features ceramic microsphere technology, which allows the dried wood filler to be tougher and more durable than most other wood fillers. Because it’s suitable for exterior applications (as well as interior), that strength could be a big benefit.

Elmer’s Probond was easy to apply, thanks to its slightly wet consistency. The finish it left behind was also very strong. Although the filler was slightly grainy, it did seem to fill the pores nicely on the test piece. However, this product did shrink quite a bit, most likely due to its high moisture content.

Product Specs

  • Type: Water-based
  • Indoor or exterior: Both
  • Stainable: Yes

Pros

  • Wetter consistency makes it easy to apply
  • Seals pores well, despite grainy texture
  • Very strong, durable formula

Cons

  • Shrinks quite a bit

Our Verdict

If you’re looking for the best wood filler overall, it’s our opinion that you can’t go wrong with Minwax Stainable Wood Filler. However, if you’re OK spending a little more for an excellent finish, consider FamoWood Wood Filler for its top-notch quality and smooth finish.

How We Tested the Best Wood Fillers

We got pretty scientific with this wood filler comparison. First, we found one piece of pine that was large enough to divide into separate sections for the different wood fillers. Then, each section was divided into four segments, each with its own test:

  • A screwdriver point driven into the wood both with and against the grain, meant to simulate the holes left by finish nailers
  • A ¼-inch hole drilled straight through the board
  • A chip of wood taken from the test piece with a chisel
  • A “Charlie Olson,” or an errant hammer strike shaped like a C or O

Once each section was properly damaged, we set forth with the wood fillers to fill them in. When they were dry, we sanded the fillers to see how well they cured the damage. The result gave us all the information necessary to suggest the best wood fillers based on their strengths and weaknesses.

FAQs

Even with all that background on the best wood fillers, you might have a few additional questions spinning around. This section aims to fill you in on the most frequently asked questions about the best wood fillers. Be sure to check for an answer to your question listed below.

Q. What is the difference between wood putty and wood filler?

Wood filler is designed to be stained or painted, and it goes on before the finishing coats. Wood putty is primarily for after finishing, and it comes in predetermined colors.

Q. Can you use wood filler on items that are meant to be left outside?

It depends on the product, but some wood fillers are suitable for use both indoors and out.

Q. Can you paint wood filler?

Almost all wood fillers are paintable; however, some are also suitable for staining.