Is Wood Filler Stainable? Staining Wood Filler In 4 Simple Steps

Wood filler perfectly conceals nail holes, dents, scratches, and other surface blemishes on wooden items. However, it is best to match the patched-up areas with the other surface for a better outcome. You can achieve the above by getting a matching filler or painting the repaired area. But there is a question, is wood filler stainable?

Most wood fillers receive stain well. But the stained filler often appears significantly different than the surrounding surface, giving an undesirable look. The problem is even more prevalent when using lighter stains than darker ones.

Read along to know various options at your disposal when filling stained surfaces. In addition, you will determine whether it is viable to seal the wood and touch up any resulting imperfections.

What Is Wood Filler?

Typically, wood fillers combine various wood byproducts such as wood dust or sawdust, suspended in a binder to give a petroleum or water-based formula. The fillers dry into a hard untinted finish, allowing you to stain them with the rest of the surface.

The product is a sandable material suspension in a hardening resin solution and soaks into the wood fibers to deliver a durable surface. In addition, the hardening resin can either be solvent or water-based, depending on your project needs.

A wood filler has three defining attributes: It is sandable, stainable, and hardens during curing. Moreover, the paste is uniformly sandable, while stainability varies with the specific product.

Wood Grain Filler is spreadable and comes in handy when working on flat interior surfaces such as countertops and tabletops. Besides, you only need a putty knife for a desirable outcome. Then, apply the finish.

There are two primary classifications of the product: petroleum and water-based. Petroleum-based wood fillers feature a smoother texture and deliver a more consistent surface. Also, they have chemical solvents, making clean-up faster and easier.

You can use these wood fillers to seal and protect the wood from excess humidity and moisture, causing rotting.

On the other hand, water-based wood fillers have a more crumbly texture. They allow you to modify their consistency by adding water as desired. And you can identify the product by checking whether water is needed for the clean-up.

Wood fillers dry quickly into a hardened finish, making them a quicker fix for filling wood. Moreover, you will find products that can dry in as little as ten minutes, guaranteeing you a shorter work time.

Lastly, the paste is ideal for natural lumber and thus does not work for finished wood surfaces. However, it will readily fill cracks and holes on raw, porous wood.

Types of Stainable Wood Fillers on the Market

Generally, staining a regular wood filler makes the filled portions look significantly different than other surface areas. Such a result is pretty undesirable, especially if the wood stain has a light color. Therefore, it is advisable to pick the correct product for your work.

Fortunately, we have stainable wood fillers for stained surfaces. In addition, they have tiny holes that resemble natural wood pores to absorb stain formulas. So, applying a stain to the repaired surface for a uniform appearance is possible.

You can also test the product on scrap wood to get a sneak peek of the expected finish and make necessary changes for a professional result.

Stainable wood fillers are available in multiple varieties. They include:

  • Epoxy-Based Wood Fillers 

Image of Stainable Wood Seal In "Is Wood Filler Stainable?"Epoxy-based fillers are primarily epoxy resin products and comprise a two-part organic compound of a resin and hardener. Manufacturers store these parts separately as they form a hard substance when combined.

Mixing the curing agent and resin creates a chemical reaction, resulting in a tough compound. Besides, the final product withstands tremendous physical impact without breaking and gives a durable structure.

This attribute makes epoxy-based fillers the toughest and most durable of all. But they are more demanding to use and require more expertise during application. In addition, you must follow the manufacturer’s directives when mixing the product for perfect consistency.

Please avoid letting the epoxy sit around after mixing the ingredients. Otherwise, it will harden after some time, resulting in total wastage. Also, use it within the recommended window.

Finally, epoxy-based fillers are incredibly weatherproof, making them suitable for multiple exterior applications. You can also use them in high moisture environments, thanks to their excellent moisture and humidity resistance.

  • Latex-Based Wood Fillers

These wood fillers are premium stainable products due to their excellent resilience to extreme environmental conditions. Hence, you will find them relatively more expensive than epoxy wood fillers.

The product delivers durable surfaces that withstand rapid and extreme weather changes. In addition, it is easier to use than epoxies because you do not need much preparation to provide a professional outcome.

Latex-based wood fillers have a quick setting time as they only need an hour to deliver a hard finish. Besides, the surface becomes rigid and resistant to moisture, keeping it from rot and decay.

The material continues to harden and becomes more solid with time. Also, you can sand the filler into a smooth, uniform surface or drill it without risking damage, making it easy to make further repairs and adjustments to the wood.

  • Gypsum-Based Fillers

These wood fillers are typically a water and gypsum dust mixture. In addition, the formula works best while in paste form and dries to deliver a rigid composite material similar to hardwood or rock.

However, the product is not ideal for outdoor projects with rapid and extreme temperatures as it is inflexible when dry.

Gypsum-wood fillers are rare for woodworking projects. Instead, you will find them in drywall repair projects. But still, they are perfect for filling large holes in wooden items and are the most affordable types of stainable fillers on the market.

The downside with the fillers is that they have a low water tolerance and sustain significant damage in wet environments even after drying. So, it is best to use them in relatively dry locations.

  • Cellulose-Based Fillers

Cellulose wood fillers comprise actual wood matter and thus are stainable by default. Interestingly, some manufacturers skip describing the product as stainable because of this characteristic.

In addition, expect the wood filler to be sandable and stainable after drying when you see ‘‘cellulose’’ in the package description.

On the other hand, other manufacturers only indicate that the filler has actual wood fibers. Therefore, you’d know that the product is stainable. In addition, these fillers are water-soluble and can work with most wood stains to give richly pigmented wood finishes.

However, please note that the above is different from Do-It-Yourself wood fillers from sawdust and glue. Also, the glue component darkens the lumber requiring you only to add a drop at a time. But you can still expect a more consistent and rich surface.

Although cellulose-based fillers are more pricey than gypsum products, their prices often fall under those of epoxy and latex-based wood fillers. Therefore, they are more favorable to most woodworkers.

Lastly, some cellulose-based formulas can withstand extreme weather conditions, making them ideal for outdoor projects. But please check the product label to confirm you are getting an exterior-grade item.  

How to Stain Wood Filler

There are some specific steps to follow when staining wood filler. Also, you need a few materials: putty knife, wood stain, sandpaper, vacuum, cotton rags, applicator, random orbital sander, and stainable wood filler.

Once you are ready with the supplies, adhere to the following procedure for a satisfactory outcome. These steps should apply across the board regardless of the wood filler.

  • Sand and Wipe Away the Dust

First, sand the lumber to scuff it up for better adhesion, as the filling material will stick better to a roughed-up surface. In addition, the process helps to remove any grease or grime that could compromise a perfect finish.

Use medium 120-grit sandpaper for the project. It is also okay to get a power sander for large applications and a sanding block for smaller projects. Otherwise, sanding by hand would be time and energy-consuming for heavy-duty tasks.

Vacuum the excess dust or wipe the sanded surface with a tack cloth once you finish smoothing. Also, you can use a clean damp rag to remove all the excess moisture thoroughly.

  • Apply the Wood Filler

All wood fillers come with application instructions. Hence, ensure that you follow them to the letter for an accurate outcome. In addition, most manufacturers recommend using a plastic putty knife for a better finish.

However, although these putty knives prevent you from gouging the wood, you may find them too flexible, making them hard to be effective. Therefore, it is okay to use a metal putty knife but be gentle and careful.

Press the filler firmly but gently into the lumber. In addition, metal spatulas give the best result when used correctly and are also excellent for more rigid fillers that need more pressure during application.

Consider filling the wood filler slightly above the surface. This measure gives enough material to sand away when leveling and smoothing the finish.

  • Sand the Wood Filler

To smooth the wood, use slightly finer sandpaper, preferably 150 to 180-grit. Then, wipe away the dust with a dampened cotton rag or tack cloth. Also, allow the lumber to dry completely before moving to the other step.

  • Applying Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner

Wood Putty vs Wood FillerYou can apply the stain without a pre-stain conditioner, but the finish may not be as intended. The conditioner helps the formula adhere better and more evenly to the surface.

Remember, the wood and wood filler areas absorb the stain differently, resulting in uneven coverage. Therefore, the wood conditioner is handy as it helps these portions absorb the solution uniformly.

Ensure that you adhere to the manufacturer’s directives, regardless of the chosen wood conditioner. The exercise can involve rubbing the formula into the wood using a brush or a cotton cloth, then wiping the excess with a clean rag.

  • Applying the Wood Stain

Use the selected applicator to apply a uniform stain coat to the wood. Let it sit for about five to ten minutes, and wipe the excess with a clean, lint-free cloth. Also, work along the wood grain for a consistent finish.

Give the surface sufficient time to dry and observe the final color. If you are not happy with it, then add another layer.

Also, here are summarized tips to ensure a professional result.

  • Test the stain and wood filler before application, as you do not know how the formulas would look together. Also, it is risky to experiment on an almost-finished task. 

So, grab some scrap wood and test things out first. Or use the bottom, back, or another invisible location on the wood.

  • Use a colored wood filler. You can use a colored wood filler that matches the lumber when not intending to stain the board. 

Alternatively, you can color the wood filler before application to ensure it matches the surrounding wood. So, start by staining the main wood piece and then mix some stain on the wood filler before applying.

  • Utilize a wood conditioner to reduce stain absorption into the lumber. Besides, most wood fillers take in more stain than the surrounding wood, making it appear darker. Therefore, conditioning the wood guarantees a more consistent finish.
  • Get the correct stain. Most woodworkers prefer a typical oil-based formula for these projects. But it’s worth noting that we have other products that absorb differently with wood filler.

So, check out the stain and wood filler combination before application.

Having the most suitable wood filler is essential for a successful project. In addition, it is vital to know how to narrow down to your final choice even after identifying multiple products matching your project requirements.

Unfortunately, this process can be challenging when you have various wood fillers with close similarities. Thus, here are some considerations to make to get a paste that meets your needs.

  • Nature of the Project. The size and location of your project heavily influence the wood filler to use. For instance, while a formula works best for interior and exterior applications, it may not be suitable for large projects.
  • Dry Time. The filler should dry first before staining. However, this attribute can significantly prolong your job timeline if your product needs several hours or days to dry properly.
  • Environmental Friendliness. Epoxy-based fillers are organic; thus, they have few chemical ingredients and are eco-friendly. In addition, they have fewer VOCs and a low odor, making them ideal for indoor projects.
  • Application. A filler could serve a specialized purpose or a wide range of uses. For example, it would be best to get a formula sold in large containers when working on multiple indoor and outdoor applications.
  • Clean Up. Choosing a wood filler that cleans up with water simplifies your work. In addition, you do not need cleaning solvents for your tools.

Video On Staining a Wood Filler:

How Do You Color Wood Filler?

You may want to add a wood filler to shape contours in your work or cover any imperfections in the wood. Also, it is best to ensure that the filled repair matches the lumber’s color.

Here is some insight on how to go about the venture.

  • Prepare and Fill the Surface

The first step is to prepare the surface. Use sandpaper or a grinding sander to smooth it out. In addition, get some fine-grade sandpaper to smooth the entire lumber to a velvet finish.

Sanding also helps prepare the rough wood areas and brings them to the same level as the entire project. So, your fingertips should feel no splinters or bumps when you complete the process.

  • Wipe and Clean the Wood

The second step involves wiping the wood with a tack rag or cloth. Ensure that the accessory is slightly sticky to help remove dust remnants and leaves the surface free from minute debris pieces.

Vacuum or brush away dust from the wood holes to give the filler a good surface to adhere to, facilitating a durable finish. Then, fill any cracks and smooth the wood with a putty knife.

Mainly, the filler shrinks after drying, leaving a slightly depressed surface than the surrounding lumber areas. Fortunately, this should not concern you, as sanding helps level the wood. So, sand the lumber with a grinding sander until you no longer feel the join between the wood and the filler.

  • Apply the Wood Stain

Ensure that the wood stain is a direct match or compliment to the project. For instance, consider using a formula that blends well with natural pine when using a filler on pine lumber. The same applies to oak, cherry, and maple.

Also, treat the wood filler as you would the rest of the surface. Besides, there is no difference between them after filling the holes and cracks as the filler is now part of the structure.

Grab a roller or paintbrush and apply the stain over the surface, including the filled area. In addition, it is advisable to brush along the wood grain for a more consistent and professional finish.

The surface may require multiple stain coats before delivering the desired finish. So, consider working with two to three coats, but ensure that each coat dries to the touch before adding another.

Frequently Asked Questions On Staining Wood Fillers

Here are some of the most prevalent questions on the subject:

  • How Long Does Stainable Wood Filler Need to Dry?

Most typical wood fillers require two or fewer hours to dry, depending on the brand and humidity and temperature levels. Also, deeper holes in ¼ inch layers may need two to six hours to dry properly.

It is advisable to wait for the wood filler to dry before sanding and preparing it for staining. Otherwise, you risk compromising the final result.

  • How Long Should You Wait Before Applying Stain to Wood Filler?

Like regular water-based and oil-based formulas, various wood fillers need different drying durations for a desirable result. Also, this factor determines how long you’ll have to wait before applying the stain. Therefore, choose a product aligning with the allocated project duration.

Nevertheless, the typical wait time for oil-based products is between 12 to 24 hours, while water-based stains need a minimum of two hours before staining.

  • Does Stainable Wood Filler Work?

Any stainable wood filler with tiny holes resembling natural wood pores can absorb a stain formula. These fillers are ideal for both water and oil-based penetrating stains. Thus, you are spoilt for choice.

Stainable wood fillers soak in the formula and allow its pigment to spread across their tiny pores. This process pigments the filled and surrounding areas to give a uniform appearance.

Also, please note that darker stains give better results and match the surrounding wood surface than lighter ones. Therefore, it is best to go for a darker finish if you want a higher success rate. 

  • Can You Stain Over Wood Putty?

It is possible to stain wood putty but ensure that you confirm with the product label before purchase. Besides, the manufacturer attaches a specification on the description area if the product can accept wood stains.

Nonetheless, regular wood putty does not accept stain formulas properly. So, you can consider working with a colored wood filler when in doubt.

  • How Do You Hide Wood Filler After Staining?

Ensure you sand the wood area with imperfections and sand it before filling it. Afterward, smooth the filling with medium-grit sandpaper until it is flush with the surrounding surface. Also, apply a conditioner before staining to facilitate uniform stain absorption.

  • Why Does Wood Filler Not Stain?

Wood fillers do not stain well because they are lighter than most wood surfaces. Moreover, most stains are semi-transparent. Therefore, they do not quite conceal the filled areas but highlight them, leaving you with an unpleasant finish.


Generally, wood filler is difficult to stain, and thus it is best to test out the formula on scrap wood before application. This way, you can tell if the product will look good. Also, the discussion above will provide some insights on how to go about the job:

Is Wood Filler Stainable

Many wood fillers are stainable, but not all of them. Always check the manufacturer’s directives to confirm if the product suits your project needs. Besides, there is no silver bullet to staining wood fillers, thus, test different techniques on scrap wood until you get the desired finish.

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Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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