Last Updated on October 14, 2023 by Ernest Godia
Wood filler is a versatile material traditionally used to repair and prepare wood for staining or painting. Is wood filler stainable? Yes, it is. However, not all fillers are suitable for staining.
This comprehensive guide explores the world of stainable wood fillers and provides a step-by-step process on how to stain wood fillers.
From latex-based to cellulose-based options, we’ll review the best stainable wood fillers and help you make an informed decision for your next project.
Is wood filler stainable?
Yes, most wood fillers can be stained. However, it’s important to note that the final result may not match the surrounding wood, especially when using lighter wood stains. You’ll achieve a more uniformly stained surface with darker stains because they conceal the difference in color and texture.
What is wood filler?
Wood filler is a composite paste typically composed of sawdust, wood fibers, or other wood-based materials combined with a binder such as latex, epoxy, cellulose, or gypsum.
As the name suggests, wood fillers are designed to repair and fill holes, cracks, and other imperfections in woodworking applications.
Once applied and dried, you can sand, carve, stain, or paint it to match the color of the surrounding wood.
Why stain wood filler?
Staining wood filler helps it blend in with the surrounding wood and match its color, making any repairs less noticeable. Staining the wood filler can also protect it from moisture and other environmental factors that can cause it to deteriorate over time.
On the other hand, leaving the wood filler unstained may have a noticeable difference in color compared to the surrounding wood. This will make the repair obvious and likely less aesthetically appealing.
Over time, an unstained wood filler can become discolored and stand out even more from the surrounding wood, especially if it’s exposed to moisture or sunlight.
In conclusion, staining wood filler provides both aesthetic and practical benefits, while leaving it unstained can result in an obvious and unsightly repair.
Types of stainable wood fillers
If you plan to stain wood with penetrating stains, you’ll need one of these fillers. We’ll also recommend some trusted wood filler brands you can try for your project.
1. Latex-based fillers
This type of wood filler is a product of water-based emulsion of acrylic and other polymers. It’s commonly used to repair small to medium-sized holes, cracks, and other imperfections on unfinished indoor and outdoor wood surfaces.
One of the best in the market is the Minwax Stainable Wood Filler. It has a specially formulated composition capable of accepting penetrating wood stains.
Minwax wood filler is compatible with oil- and water-based wood stains, providing versatility and flexibility for your project needs. It’s easy to use, dries fast, and sands easily, making it convenient for professionals and DIY enthusiasts.
2. Gypsum-based wood filler
Gypsum-based wood fillers are made from gypsum powder and water. This filler is excellent for fixing small cracks and holes in wood.
The DAP Plastic Wood Filler is a highly-regarded gypsum-based filler for its quick drying and easy sanding capabilities. It is versatile, as it can take paint or wood stain to match the surrounding wood.
This filler provides a strong anchor for nails and screws, preventing them from splitting the wood. It is also resistant to shrinking and cracking, making it a durable option for long-lasting repairs.
It contains real wood fibers, giving it a natural look and feel that resembles real wood.
3. Epoxy-based wood filler
Epoxy-based wood filler is a two-part product that consists of a resin and a hardener. When the two parts are mixed, they chemically bond to create a sturdy and durable filler material.
An excellent epoxy-based wood filler is Bondo Home Solutions Wood Filler. This high-quality wood filler can restore and repair large gaps, cracks, and voids in the wood.
The two-part formula bonds permanently and won’t shrink. After a 15-minute drying time, you’ll be ready to sand and stain your filled wood surface.
This Bondo wood filler is also water-resistant. This makes it suitable for interior and exterior wood surfaces such as siding, trim, decks, window sills, doors, and furniture.
The Bondo Blue Cream Hardener comes with the package, giving you everything you need for a wood repair project.
4. Cellulose-based wood filler.
Cellulose-based wood filler is made with wood fiber or sawdust mixed with a solvent-based binding agent. This filler is perfect for filling large gaps because it dries to form a hard, solid surface.
One of the best fillers in this category is Elmer’s Carpenter’s stainable wood Filler. This product is an excellent choice if you want to match the color of the wood as closely as possible.
It goes on pink but dries to a natural wood color, making it easy to see when the filler is dry and ready for sanding. Generally, its dry time is as little as fifteen minutes.
The filler’s consistency is smooth and easy to apply to the target gap. The clean-up is equally effortless since it is water-based.
How to stain wood filler
Staining wood filler can be tricky since getting an exact match between the filler and the surrounding wood is challenging. However, this section will guide you on staining over the stuffing to ensure you get the best results.
Make slight adjustments depending on the filler and wood stain you choose for your project.
- Clean cotton rags
- Pre-stain wood conditioner
- Putty knife
- Sanding block or random orbital sander
- Shop vacuum (optional)
- Stain applicator
- Stainable wood filler
- Wood stain
Once you have assembled all the tools and materials needed to complete this process, follow this procedure to complete the task.
Step 1: Prepare the wood surface
Clean the surface of any dirt, debris, or dust, and let it dry before you start the repair process.
Step 2: Apply your chosen wood filler
Feed your chosen wood filler into any holes or gaps in the wood. Let the filled area dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions before you proceed.
Step 3: Sand down the wood filler
Once the filler has dried, use a sanding block or orbital sander with 220 grit and sand it in the direction of the wood grain. Sand lightly until it is smooth and leveled with the surrounding wood. Wipe the dust off the surface using a dry cloth or shop vac and follow up with a damp rag.
Step 4: Apply a pre-stain conditioner
Use a foam brush to apply a light coat of wood conditioner to the wood surface. This will help to even out the absorption of the stain and reduce the risk of blotches or streaks.
Step 5: Apply the wood stain
Always test the stain on a scrap piece of wood or an edge of the filled space. If it’s a perfect match, use a brush, sponge, or cloth to apply an even coat of the stain to the entire surface. Wipe off any excess stains after a few minutes.
Step 6: Let the stain coat dry.
Let the stain dry completely. This may take a few hours to a full day, depending on the type of stain and the ambient conditions.
Reapply a second coat of stain if the filler peeks through the first coat. If you’ll need a third coat, go for it.
Step 7: Seal the surface
If desired, apply a clear sealer to protect the wood and stain from moisture and environmental damage. Discover the amazing benefits of sealing wood after staining.
How long does stainable wood filler take to dry?
Stainable fillers can dry in as little as 15 minutes for latex and cellulose-based fillers. Gypsum and epoxy fillers may need 24-48 hours to dry completely.
Generally, the drying time for stainable wood fillers depends on factors such as the type of filler, the thickness of the application, the ambient temperature, and the relative humidity.
How long to wait before staining wood filler?
We recommend waiting at least 24 hours to ensure the wood filler dries completely prior to staining.
However, different fillers will have different drying times. Some latex-based fillers may dry in a couple of hours. In contrast, gypsum and epoxy-based wood fillers can take up to 48 hours to dry completely.
When in doubt, it is always best to wait an extra day before staining to be safe.
Using tinted wood filler: How to stain wood filler before applying it to wood
Instead of buying tinted fillers in the shade of the affected wood, try making your DIY tinted wood filler. This is the core of DIY projects; experiment to see what ratios work best for your project. Plus, you only need the following:
- Wood filler
- Wood stain
- Putty knife
- Disposable plate.
Here’s a step-by-step process for staining wood filler before applying it to the wood:
The steps to follow
Step 1: Mix the wood filler
Use a putty knife to scoop the wood filler you need onto a disposable plate. If using a two-part wood filler, prepare the ratios and mix them until you have a smooth consistency.
Step 2: Add the stain to the filler
Apply a small amount of stain to the mixed filler. Use a putty knife to mix the stain into the filler to ensure an even color.
Step 3: Test the color
Test the color of the stained filler on a scrap piece of wood to ensure it matches the color of the damaged wood. If necessary, add more stain or filler until you get a close – if not exact – color match with the wood you want to repair.
Step 4: Apply the filler
Once you are satisfied with the color of the filler, apply it to the wood as you normally would. Let it dry completely before sanding and adding more finishes.
How to hide wood filler after staining
Sometimes the filled spot shows through the stain despite your efforts to make it blend with the rest of the wood. This scenario is quite common with light wood stains. But it’s fixable!
Here’s how to hide wood filler after staining in a few simple steps.
Step 1: Use fine-grit sandpaper and sand lightly to avoid sanding through the stain.
Step 2: Apply additional coats of stain to help even out the color and hide the filler. Make sure to allow each coat to dry completely before the next. If you can use a darker wood stain for the entire surface, it will be easier to get the desired results.
Step 3: Touch up with a wood filler pen if the filler is still noticeable. We recommend using a wood filler pen that matches the stain color. Apply the pen carefully to avoid over-applying it and making the filler more noticeable.
If you still have trouble hiding the filler, consider staining the filled spots darker. This trick only works if the wood you’re fixing is knotty.
Step 4: Finish with a clear coat of polyurethane to further hide the filler and protect the wood surface. Check out our article on how to seal stained wood.
What to consider when choosing stainable filler
With many stainable wood fillers on the market, deciding which product to buy can make you sweat. Luckily, this section covers essential factors to consider before making a purchase. This is particularly useful if you’re new to the DIY world.
a) Range of applications
First up, consider the range of applications the filler can deliver. Pay attention to the filler’s suitability for interior or exterior use, different wood types, and project sizes from small to large.
b) Project type and size
Consider the size and type of project you’re working on, such as furniture, flooring, or cabinetry, and choose the appropriate wood filler for the job.
c) Amount of filler required
The amount of filler needed depends on the size of the project. Filling nail holes and shallow gaps will need fillers packaged in small tubes. In contrast, large holes in wood will require fillers sold in sizeable containers.
Aim to have enough material for your project without letting too much filler go to waste.
d) Filler’s dry time
Some fillers dry more quickly than others, which can impact the time you need to wait before sanding or staining the surface. Check the dry time of the filler you’re considering and ensure it aligns with your project timeline.
e) Clean up
Most wood fillers are water-based, and clean-up only needs water and soap. This type is the easiest and safest to use. However, if you end up with a solvent-based filler, budget to get the corresponding solvent.
f) Toxicity levels
Certain fillers may contain toxic chemicals that can harm the environment or human health. Consider using an eco-friendly or non-toxic option.
This aspect determines how well the filler can adapt to the wood’s expansion and contraction due to changes in temperature and humidity. That said, opt for a flexible filler that is less likely to crack over time.
Wood fillers are available at a wide range of prices, so choosing a product that fits your budget is important. However, it’s important to remember that cheaper products may not be as durable as the more expensive options.
Can I stain over wood filler?
Yes, you can stain over wood filler. However, using stainable wood filler specifically designed to accept wood stains is better. Additionally, it’s essential to ensure that the wood filler is completely dry and sanded smooth before applying stain to achieve an even and consistent finish.
What type of wood filler is Stainable?
The types of wood fillers that are stainable include latex, epoxy, gypsum, and cellulose-based options. These fillers absorb liquid stains and blend in with the surrounding wood to restore structural integrity and aesthetic appeal. Always check for the “stainable” label on your wood filler.
What wood filler is best for staining?
The best wood filler for staining is Minwax Stainable Wood Filler. This latex-based formula accepts oil- and water-based liquid wood stains. This filler material is versatile and suitable for a wide range of applications. It also spreads easily, dries fast, sands easily, and clean-up is a breeze.
Why does wood filler not stain?
Wood filler may not take stain if it’s not designed to do so. Using penetrating stains on wood filler not designed for staining will have the liquid stain pooling atop the surface. This kind of filler is best concealed using gel stains or paint.
Do you put wood filler down before or after staining?
You should apply the wood filler before staining—wood filler repairs and restores gaps, cracks, holes, and other imperfections in wood surfaces. Once the wood filler is applied and dried, the surface can be sanded to create a smooth, even surface for staining.
What is the difference between wood putty and wood filler?
Wood putty combines wood dust with an oil or wax binding agent. This is best for small repairs on interior projects. On the other hand, wood filler is made from wood fibers and an epoxy or gypsum binder. This filler is perfect for significant repairs on interior and exterior surfaces.
Summary: Is wood filler stainable?
So, is wood filler stainable? The answer is generally yes but with some caveats. Wood filler is only stainable if it’s mainly designed for staining.
Now that you know how to stain wood filler, you can achieve a beautiful, consistent finish that seamlessly blends with the surrounding wood.
We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below if you have any additional tips or advice on staining wood fillers.
And if you found this article useful, be sure to share it with your fellow woodworking enthusiasts!