Is Wood Filler Stainable

Is Wood Filler Stainable? (Tips & Tricks from Pros)

Wood filler is any woodworkers best friend – it’s an affordable solution when you need to fix a wooden surface that might have some dents, cracks, or gaps.

But can wood filler be stained? And more importantly, is there wood filler that’s specifically meant for staining?

If you’re wondering “is wood filler stainable?” and want to know how to make your next project look amazing, keep reading!

KEY TAKEAWAYS:
Yes, certain kinds of wood filler are stainable. For example, DAP Plastic Wood, Minwax Stainable Wood Filler, Elmer’s Carpenter’s Stainable Wood Filler, Goodfilla Wood Filler, or FamoWood Latex Wood Filler are all stainable. Or you could use a DIY solution, like a wood glue-sawdust mixture or a shellac-sawdust mixture. While you can technically stain other wood fillers, they may not match the surrounding wood.

What Is Stainable Wood Filler?

Wood filler is common product used to fill nail holes, cracks, notches, and gaps in wood, and as its name implies, stainable wood filler is wood filler that can absorb stain.

Not all wood fillers are stainable, which is the reason stainable wood fillers exist.

Most wood fillers have a makeup that allows for staining, but just because a wood filler can be stained doesn’t mean it’ll be the key to making a surface look unblemished – but more on that later.

Types of Wood Filler

There are two kinds of wood filler: water-based wood filler and oil-based wood filler. Both wood fillers can be stained, which come with benefits and drawbacks.

Generally, water-based wood fillers are easier to stain. This is in large part because of their chemical makeup. They aren’t as thick as oil-based wood fillers, and since they’re colorless you don’t have to worry about a wood filler and wood stain mix that leads to an undesirable color.

Oil-based wood filler, on the other hand, is ideal when you’re using a darker wood stain. Because of their composition, oil-based wood fillers usually have a yellowish-orange tinge, which is the main reason why they’re not suited as well for light stains.

Also, water-based wood filler dries quicker, which means you won’t have to wait a long time for the filler to be stain-ready.

Oil-based wood filler, on the other hand, may dry slower, but once it’s dry it can absorb plenty of stain and eventually display a rich, complementary color.

Best Stainable Wood Filler

I’ve used plenty of different stainable wood fillers over the years. That’s why I put together this quick list of the best stainable wood filler you can buy.

1. DAP Plastic Wood

DAP Stainable Wood Filler

One thing you’ll notice right off the bat when using DAP Plastic Wood is that it has a strong odor. This has no bearing on how useful it is as a wood filler, but the smell can make applying this wood filler difficult. (Pro tip: be sure to turn a fan on when applying)

This wood filler will feel smooth and a little powdery when you touch it, and it’s a tad darker than most natural woods; it’s definitely darker than pine.

As far as stainability goes, once stained this wood filler will resemble the surrounding surface pretty well.

If you’re using a moderately dark or dark stain, this filler will be tough to notice. However, with a lighter stain, the filler will be more prominent.

Sale
DAP 00540 5.5 Oz Natural Plastic Wood-X Stainable Wood Filler with DryDex Dry Time Indicator
  • DryDex Dry Time Indicator Technology
  • Strong Nail & Screw Anchoring
  • Shrink & Crack Resistant

2. Minwax Stainable Wood Filler

Stainable Wood Filler

If you’ve been woodworking for a while, you probably know the Minwax name quite well. They make a range of products, including a number of wood fillers.

Their stainable wood filler has a foam-like consistency, and it’s lighter than DAP’s Plastic Wood.

But despite looking like foam, it certainly doesn’t feel like foam when it’s being applied. It’s grainy, and I can’t help but feel like I’m rubbing granules of sand on the wood when I’m using it.

This wood filler will shrink as it dries, which means you may have to apply it a couple times to fill a larger hole or gap.

When this filler dries, it turns a shade of orange, and I know the first time I used this I was alarmed. But once sanded, it goes back to that lighter color, and it blends in really well with pine.

Stainable Wood Filler

Just know that sanding this wood filler can be tough, and I recommend using a small orbital sander if you can.

As far as stainability is concerned, Minwax Stainable Wood Filler matches light and dark stains well, but moderately-dark stains look better with other wood fillers.

Note: Don’t apply too much of this wood filler, as the excess may turn lighter than the rest of the wood when it dries, and this will be hard to ignore.

Minwax 42853000 Stainable Wood Filler, 16-Ounce
  • Ideal for repairing cracks, small gouges, nail holes, knot holes and other defects in all types of unfinished indoor and outdoor wood surfaces
  • Stainable Wood Filler is specially formulated to accept Minwax penetrating wood stains
  • It is designed for use with oil-based and water-based wood stains

3. Elmer’s Carpenter’s Stainable Wood Filler

Elmer’s Carpenter’s Stainable Wood Filler has a runny consistency, and when you open the container you’ll immediately see that this wood filler looks wet but it works just the same as others.

Despite its consistency, spreading it can be a challenge, and for whatever reason this wood filler has a habit of popping out of the holes you fill with it. The trick is to spread slowly so you can fill holes deeper.

Although it is somewhat gritty, sanding this wood filler was a breeze, and you can easily do it by hand.

It works best with dark and light stains; stains that are moderately dark have a hard time matching this filler’s color after it’s been stained.

Sale
Elmer's E891 Carpenter's Stainable Wood Filler, 1 Pt Tub, 12-24, 1 Pint, Light Tan
  • For interior and exterior use
  • Resists shrinking and cracking
  • Contains real wood fibers for superior sanding, staining, and painting

4. Famowood Latex Wood Filler

Famowood Wood Filler

Famowood Latex Wood Filler, like the Elmer’s product discussed already, has a runny consistency, though it’s smooth and easy to spread.

It’s recommended that you sand this wood filler by hand.

As far as stainability goes, it works best with moderately dark stains. It goes well with light and dark stains too, though other fillers look better with these stains.

It’s made with latex, which makes it dry extremely fast.

Also, because of its composition, this wood filler can absorb stain quicker than most of the other wood fillers discussed thus far.

FamoWood 40042126 Latex Wood Filler - 1/4 Pint, Natural
  • Dries in 15 minutes
  • Won't crack or shrink, solvent free – low odor and easy water cleanup
  • Can be sanded, drilled or planed

5. Sawdust + Wood Glue

This is the DIY method I’ve tried before.

To make this wood filler, grab your favorite wood glue and some sawdust.

Note: It’s best to use sawdust that’s either from the wood you’re using or the same color as it.

Start out mixing with a little bit of wood glue. Apply more as needed. The goal is to get a consistency that resembles putty. It should also have a gummy texture.

This mix is harder to spread, and sanding can be difficult. Again, here’s where having an orbital sander is useful.

The truth is, I tried this mixture with light, moderately dark, and dark stains, and while they all looked decent, nothing really knocked my socks off.

DIY wood fillers are great if you’re in a pinch, but otherwise I’d just purchase a stainable wood filler.

6. Sawdust + Shellac

I haven’t used this DIY wood filler before, but I’ve heard really good things. This time you’re combining sawdust with dewaxed shellac, and your goal is to get a putty-like consistency.

Unlike the wood glue-sawdust mixture, this mixture feels dry and somewhat flaky when it’s reached the putty state.

Because of the texture, it’s hard to spread, and the popping-out problem occurs with this filler as well. Again, the fix is to apply the filler slowly so you can reach those deeper holes.

Sanding this mixture is super easy and can be done by hand.

And when it comes to staining, it works best with dark stains. Light and moderately dark stains accentuate the filler, causing it to stick out.

How to Stain Wood Filler

Staining Wood Filler

Staining wood filler isn’t a difficult process by any means. You can completed the steps in just a few minutes. Here’s how!

1. Pre-Sand

The first step—sanding down the area where you intend to put the wood filler—is critically important. If this area is not adequately sanded before the wood filler is applied, you’ll have a hard time getting the wood filler in there.

Plus, once the surface has been sanded, you’ll be able to clearly see what color the wood filler has to match.

2. Clean the Area

After you do a thorough sanding, you should get a shop vac and vacuum up any of the leftover sawdust.

Note: You could also save the sawdust and blend it with wood glue to make a DIY wood filler.

After you’ve vacuumed as much as you can, get a wet cloth and wipe down the surface to remove any remaining sanding dust.

It may seem tedious, but removing leftover sanding dust is important, as if you don’t do this neither the wood filler nor the stain will be able to adhere properly.

3. Apply Wood Filler

Now it’s time to apply the wood filler.

Some (but not all) wood fillers will require you to mix it with a hardener cream. I just use a painting stick to mix the filler and the cream on a scrap piece of wood.

Mix Wood Filler

When it’s ready. You should do this slowly and incrementally; this way you avoid using too much wood filler.

Remember, if there’s too much wood filler around the area that needs fixing, the whole area may end up lighter than the rest of the surface.

To ensure you don’t go overboard, apply the wood filler using your finger, a craft stick, or or a plastic putty knife.

Obviously, if you don’t want to touch the wood filler, use a tool, but just know you can get a tighter seal if you use your finger.

4. Sand the Wood Filler & Surrounding Area

Once the wood filler has been applied, you need to give it adequate time to dry. If it’s water-based wood filler, wait an hour; if it’s oil-based wood filler, wait five hours.

Once it’s dry, sand the wood filler as well as the surrounding area. I recommend using a 120 grit sandpaper so you can remove the excess filler.

After sanding, this part of the surface should be smooth and more receptive to staining.

5. Apply Stain

The final stage is applying the stain. You’ll need a paint brush or a roller to do this (depending on how big the surface is).

If you want a bold color, apply multiple coats of stain (three to four). But don’t over-stain around the filler, as this can make the filler stick out.

It’s best to stain the surface as if the wood filler isn’t there; this way you don’t run the risk of over-staining that area.

If the wood filler is a slightly different color than the surrounding wood after it dries, a light sand should improve the blend.

6. Let it Dry

Once you’ve applied the wood stain to the filler, you’ll need to give it time to dry before touching it.

It can take a few hours to completely dry but you need to be patient.

Check out the video below for more help using wood filler!

Tips & Tricks When Staining Wood Filler

Test the Stain

One of the most helpful things I did before staining all of the holes I was patching was testing it on one area first.

While it’s going to take more time, you can ensure you’ll get the right look and avoid having to redo work later. You can use a piece of scrap wood to test your filler and stain before moving on.

Use a Wood Conditioner

Wood conditioner can be very useful when it comes to patching holes in wood, especially if you’re using a light stain. Nearly every wood filler absorbs more stain than is actually necessary, which can yield a darker finish than you’re looking for.

By applying some wood conditioner on the wood before staining, it won’t absorb as much and it will produce a lighter result.

Find a Colored Wood Filler

If you’re looking for shortcuts, here’s one! By purchasing colored wood fillers you can avoid having to stain over wood filler in the first place. These come in a variety of colors that are designed to match many different types of woods so you’re sure to be able to find one that will work.

Apply with the Wood Grain

When applying wood stain on your project, you want to go with the wood grain to match the other paint or stain. This will make your patch job less noticeable easy to see.

Use the Correct Stain

Using the correct type of stainable wood filler is essential. For example, if you’re working on outdoor wood surfaces, you’ll need to go with an oil based filler. However, if you’re repairing cracks or filling small nail holes inside, a water based option will get the job done.

How Long Does Wood Filler Take to Dry?

Usually water-based wood fillers dry in under an hour. If the wood filler has been particularly diluted, it can dry in as little as a half hour.

Oil-based wood filler, on the other hand, needs several hours (usually five to seven) to dry.

You need to wait for the wood filler to dry before staining it, otherwise the stain won’t set properly and discoloration is a likely result.

And when applying multiple layers of oil-based wood filler, you need to wait at least 20 minutes after applying the first layer before another layer can be applied.

The drying process can be expedited by having fans in the area where the filler is drying, but it’s best to refrain from using direct heat—like a hair dryer—as you can cause heat stains on the wood.

Planning on using wood filler outdoors? Check out my post to learn if wood filler is waterproof!

Why Finding a Stainable Wood Filler Is Critical

If your plan is to stain a wood surface that’s rife with blemishes, you’ll need stainable wood filler to ensure a uniform surface and the look you’re going after.

If you use a filler that isn’t stainable, you run the risk of a blotchy surface that stands out.

Additionally, wood filler that isn’t meant for staining will not hold up long after stain has been applied.

Finally, you could face a scenario where the wood filler doesn’t absorb any of the stain and you’re left with a sticky mess. No thanks!

Finding stainable wood filler is critical to get the appearance you want. You can find them at your local hardware store and they are pretty affordable.

Check out these wood fillers for large holes and gaps if you’re working on a larger project.

Can You Stain Wood Putty?

Wood putty is different from wood filler in a few key ways, but just like many wood fillers, it can be stained. However, stained wood putty often doesn’t blend well with surrounding stained surfaces, which is why it’s better to use wood filler (if you can).

That said, if you elected to use wood putty over filler on your project, you don’t have to worry. Putty will stain well enough so it doesn’t stick out, and it’ll provide that extra strength and support the wood needs.

Wood putty is applied just like wood filler, with the main difference being you will have to wait longer for the wood putty to dry.

And just like with wood filler, there are both water-based and oil-based products. Wood putty that’s oil-based provides a richer color, whereas water-based wood putty dries quicker and still ensures a decent (yet not as bold) color.

FAQs

Are all wood fillers stainable?

No, not all wood fillers are stainable.

Stainable wood fillers are made with components that allow them to be stainable, whereas wood filler that isn’t meant for staining doesn’t have these components.

Wood filler that isn’t meant for staining will either absorb little stain or none at all.

It’s critical to use the right wood filler and stain after you patch up a wooden surface, otherwise the finished product will be visually unappealing and less sound.

How do I hide wood filler after staining?

After you apply stain to wood filler, you may not like how the finished product looks.

In this instance, you could do some sanding to see if that makes the surface more uniform, but in truth, sanding can only do so much.

If you still aren’t satisfied, you can opt to remove the stain and try to find a different stain that better matches the surrounding areas. Alternatively, you could try to hide the area altogether by using decor or plants to get it out of sight.

Can I stain over wood filler?

Yes, you can stain over wood filler.

Moreover, woodworkers tend to prefer staining wood filler over painting it, in large part because stain blends better with an already colored surface.

Whether you use paint or stain to cover up wood filler, it’ll be hard to notice that wood filler was even applied.

Can wood filler be sanded & stained?

Yes, wood filler can be sanded and stained. In fact, sanding before applying stain to wood filler is absolutely necessary, as sanding will make the wood filler more receptive to the stain.

You should definitely consider sandability when selecting a stainable wood filler, which is why I highlighted the wood fillers that are easy to sand and the ones that require more elbow grease.

Can you stain plastic wood?

Yes, you can stain plastic wood by using a specific polyurethane to the area and letting it dry.

Does wood filler stain well?

Most stainable wood fillers take stain really well. However, if you use a wood filler that isn’t as stainable, you might find it more difficult.

Does Elmer’s wood filler take stain?

Yes, because Elmer’s wood filler is made of real wood fibers, it can take stain better than other wood fillers.

Final Thoughts on Is Wood Filler Stainable

Not all wood fillers are stainable on their own, but you can find a stainable wood filler for purchase or even make your own.

Whether you have nail holes you’re looking to fill or larger cracks – finding a stainable wood filler can make all the difference in how your work turns out.