How Long Does it Take for Wood Filler to Dry?

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When I embark on home improvement projects, I frequently encounter the need for minor repairs like holes and gaps in wooden furniture. I’ve always relied on wood filler, a quick and straightforward solution, to get the job done effectively.

But how long does it take for wood filler to dry? I’ll cover everything you need to know in this guide!

What is Wood Filler Used For?

Wood fillers are commonly used to fill in gaps and holes in different wood pieces. It covers uneven surfaces, scratches, or damaged wood. Once applied, the wood filler can not only result in leveling the wood surface but also provide structural stability. 

Differences Between Wood Filler, Wood Putty, and Plastic Wood

Knowing the difference between wood fillers, wood putty, and plastic wood is very useful. These materials can effectively fill holes and cover the wood surface blemish. But one major distinction between wood putty and wood filler is their formula. 

Wood putties are usually applied to make the surface smooth. An oil-based wood putty is made from plastic chemicals and petroleum-based compounds and it takes longer to dry. On the other hand, a water-based putty is easy to use and dries up quickly.  

applying wood filler to the gap

Meanwhile, wood filler is usually made of pulverized wood byproducts and fibers, and there are two types: water-based wood fillers and oil-based wood fillers.

Plastic wood is sometimes referred to as wood putty. Plastic wood is made from a composite material of wood fibers and wood flours. 

Drying Time of Wood Filler

Different types of wood fillers have different drying processes. On average, you’re looking at a curing time of about 15-30 minutes. But for the best results, I recommend giving it a few hours to thoroughly dry out. 

Drying Time Compared to Wood Putty

A wood putty takes longer to dry than a wood filler. If a wood filler takes approximately 15-30 minutes to dry, a wood putty takes 2 to 8 hours to dry.

(Read this article to know more about how long it takes for wood putty to dry.)

Wood Filler Types

Knowing the different wood filler types can help you decide on the top coat that you will use. Wood fillers are based on two different types: 

person holding a wood filler

Oil (or Petroleum)-Based Formula

This is not as popular as water-based ones. But, they are more expensive due to their resistance to heat, water, and cold. 

Water-Based Formula

Water-based fillers are an eco-friendly option used to fill gaps in wood. They are free from harmful chemicals, making them a safer choice for the environment.

5 Easy Steps to Apply Wood Filler

Not only is wood filler an easy and effective formula that will instantly smoothen wood’s exterior and fill in gaps—it’s very easy to use, too! Here are five easy steps to apply wood filler and effectively fill gaps.  

Step #1: Pick a Wood Filler

Choose the appropriate and the best possible wood filler for the gap or blemished wood surface. You can choose between a petroleum-based or water-based wood filler, depending on what you prefer. Alternatively, you can use an oil-based or water-based wood putty. 

Step #2: Ensure that the Surface is Even

Make sure to smoothen the surface until it is even. It will result in smooth and beautiful wood finishes.    

gap on a wooden deck

Step #3: Spread the Filler

Apply and spread the filler unto the surface using a putty knife. Make sure that the hole is completely covered. If there’s any excess, carefully scrape it off. I recommend using a dry cloth to wipe away any remaining wood filler for a clean, smooth finish.

Step #4: Wait for it to Dry

After applying the wood filler, allow it to completely dry. Then, observe for at least 30 minutes up to 2 hours and wait again for it to dry completely and bind to the surface.

Afterward, you can spread multiple applications of the wood filler for larger gaps and create a finished wood.

Step #5: Sand and Even Out the Surface

Once the filled area is completely dried up, smoothen the wooden filler. Proceed to hand sand the area using sandpaper. This method can also effectively remove excess wood fillers. 

sanding off excess wooden surface

Drying vs. Curing

Drying and curing [1] are two processes that are different but equally important when applying a wood filler on surfaces. Drying refers to the time it takes to remove moisture from the material and leave the wood stain behind. 

Curing, on the other hand, refers to the time it takes it has hardened before you can use the item. 

Factors That Determine the Drying Time of Wood Filler

There are different factors to consider to determine how long a filler will take to dry. Important factors include: 

#1: Formula

The formula of the wood filler can help you understand and determine the drying period of a wood filler. Water-based fillers will take 30 minutes when applied on shallow surface cracks. oil-based fillers can dry up to 20 minutes and take about eight hours to dry. 

preparing wood filler

#2: Humidity and Moisture

The amount of humidity and moisture can influence the duration it takes for wood fillers to dry. A wet filler takes a longer time to dry. Increased moisture and humidity are going to lead to a longer drying time.  

#3: Area Depth

The depth of the gap can determine the time it takes for the filler to dry. Shallow repairs are more manageable.

A hole ¼ inch and less is considered shallow, whereas ¾ of an inch is considered wide. The deeper the gap, the longer the time it takes for wood fillers to dry up. 

Also Read: How Long Does Caulk Take To Dry? 

How to Speed Up the Drying Time of Wood Filler: 7 Tips

If you’re pressed for time and need that wood filler to dry faster, I’ve got some tried-and-true techniques I often rely on:

Tip #1: Use During Warmer Weather

You can plan and schedule repairs during warmer weather. Warmer days and ambient temperature increases can shorten the wood filler’s time to dry completely.

applying wood filler

Tip #2: Make the Filler Warm Before Application

One technique I’ve also found effective is to warm the wood filler before applying it on a surface. It’s remarkable how much quicker the filler dries when you do this. 

Tip #3: Spread the Filler in Thin Layers

Thick layers of filler can take a longer time to harden completely. Also, applying a thick layer is less manageable.

You can opt to apply a thin first layer, allow it to dry then apply the next one. Applying thin layers of the filler on the surface also speeds up the time it takes to dry up completely. A thin layer of filler is more manageable to spread.  

Tip #4: Sand the Surface First

Clean up any debris to prevent bumps on wood surfaces. You can use sandpaper to sand and result in a smooth surface. 

sanding wooden bench

Tip #5: Keep the Surface Clean and Dry

Keeping the wood’s exterior clean and dry will help remove debris. This can help decrease the time it takes for the wood filler to dry. You can use a cloth to keep the surface clean and dry. 

Tip #6: Apply a Hardener

Consider applying a hardener to the filler. Hardeners can be found in the market, and some of the most common are epoxy resin. 

Tip #7: Dry With a Fan

When I need that wood filler to dry in a jiffy, I often turn to either a fan or a heat gun. By increasing air circulation, the filler tends to dry much faster. And if you’re dealing with a humid environment, a simple fan or even a hairdryer can effectively reduce the humidity, helping the filler dry more rapidly. 

FAQ

What can I use to fill larger holes in wood?

You can use the wood glues and wood fillers to fill larger holes in wood. There are different wood fillers available in the market.  

(You can check out the best exterior wood fillers and drillable wood fillers available in the market today.)

Can I remove wood filler? How can I do so?

You can remove wood filler easily. If you are lucky and the filler is still wet, you can easily remove it with alcohol and scrape it off. If you are dealing with petroleum-based fillers, make sure to wear protective gloves.

What paint should I use over filler?

You can add any type of paint over filler. Simply make sure the filler is completely dried before applying coats of paint for a professional wood finish. 

But how about staining? Is wood filler stainable? Find out next!

Conclusion

When tackling home repairs involving wood, I always emphasize the importance of planning ahead. It’s crucial to stock up on the materials you’ll need before diving into the project. And understanding the drying time for wood filler is key to keeping everything on track with your project timeline.

Wood fillers can be a lifesaver for fixing up damaged woodworking projects. However, it’s essential to be aware of various factors to make the most of them and ensure a seamless repair.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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