Wood Filler vs Spackle — Which to Use for Trims, Nail Holes, & Others?

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Diving into a home makeover? One common dilemma many face is choosing between wood filler and spackle. While it might be tempting to use them interchangeably, making the wrong choice can leave you with patches that don’t hold up over time.

Instead of playing a guessing game and risking the finish of your project, let me break down the ins and outs of wood filler vs. spackle, ensuring you pick the right product for the job. 

About Wood Fillers

Typically, a wood filler includes different substances like polyurethane, clay, and epoxy resins. It’s a material you can rely on to fill gaps, holes, and cracks on a wood surface.

And since it bonds well with wooden materials, many newbies still mistake this product for wood putty. Particularly, you may opt for a quality epoxy resin for thick pours to achieve great results!

Besides filling small holes, you can also apply wood filler to hide flaws like small cracks and scratches from wooden materials. However, it’s important to note that not all these compounds suit the same wood surfaces. 

If you scan the available products in today’s market, you’ll discover that some wood fillers don’t respond well to wood stain applications or sanding. In this case, you might want to check this review of the best stainable wood fillers here!

applying wood filler

You should also be careful not to use a filler material for interior wood surfaces when working on outdoor projects. You may not know, but using the wrong filler with incorrect grading will affect its effectiveness in filling small cracks or other sealing tasks. 

Although it’s a material specifically for wood materials, you can also use it as a drywall compound to fill small holes. 

Related Read: How to Fill Cracks in Wood Using Epoxy

Kinds of Wood Filler

Oil-Based Wood Filler

Since an oil-based wood filler includes either vinyl or epoxy in its ingredients, it carries a high amount of volatile organic compounds or VOCs. 

Because of this, you’ll notice that this wood grain filler emits a more pungent odor than other options. 

patching nail holes with wood filler

And while you can also utilize quality epoxy wood fillers to repair holes, it’s more suitable for larger projects. It also takes longer to dry than water-based wood fillers, so achieving a smooth finish can be challenging, especially if you need to apply it in multiple layers. 

The upside of filling cracks with this wood filler is it gives the surface better adhesion and durability. It can also stand against harsh weather conditions and water-related damage. 

For a flawless finish after using this filler, always opt for mineral spirits to tidy up the neighboring wood. Steer clear of soap and water – trust me, they just won’t do the trick.

Water-Based Wood Filler

When it comes to a water-based wood filler, you can expect it to include gypsum plaster and cellulose substances. 

applying Elmer's Probond P9890 Interior Wood Filler

If you ask us, filling nail holes with this material can be easier for newbies since it doesn’t produce a foul smell during usage. 

You can also opt for this wood filler if you’re not keen on using toxic materials. Its non-toxic attributes make this product a safe option for indoor wooden surfaces. 

It only requires soap and water for cleaning, unlike various wood fillers. Given that it’s not messy to apply, you don’t need to worry much about yielding a smooth surface.

The only problem is it’s not as durable as its oil-based counterparts. For this reason, I don’t urge you to use water-based wood filler for large-scale projects or exterior applications. 

DAP Inc 16Oz Latex Plastic Wood Filler on wooden surface

Although it carries less volatile organic compounds [1], I still recommend wearing essential protective equipment before using it. 

Next Readings:

Homemade Wood Filler

Believe it or not, you can create a homemade wood filler with sanding dust from your previous woodworking project. All you need is to mix the dust particles with wood glue. Once these substances are together, you can use the filler to fill nail holes or quick wood crack repairs. 

Since it’s a homemade product, it doesn’t offer the color variation that wax filler sticks have. It also doesn’t include common wood filler ingredients like stabilizers or additives.

Laminate Flooring Wood Filler

Wood fillers are known to fill cracks and gaps for small furniture pieces, but did you know that they also work well for laminating wooden floors? 

applying wood filler for paint restoration

Applying wood filler on laminate surfaces means that you can cover obvious flaws like gouges, cracks, and holes.You won’t have difficulty spreading this wood filler over the damaged area because you can utilize a putty knife to level its application. 

Don’t forget that the product specification dictates if you can sand or stain the surface after application. So, you better check the labels first before purchasing the wood filler.

Pros and Cons

What i like

What I Don't Like

About Spackles

If you look closer, spackle and wood filler mainly differ in consistency. Although both can cover a crack and fill a nail hole, spackle includes more durable substances. 

applying wood spackle to drawer corner

It’s a material consisting of gypsum, which comes from calcium sulfate hydrate and other binder elements. 

When comparing spackles to wood fillers, it is worth noting that spackles have the advantage of quicker drying time and minimal shrinkage. These characteristics make them particularly suitable for filling shallow cracks rather than deeper gaps.

However, despite its water-based properties, its durability as a wood finish won’t be affected. You can still count on it to fix exterior & interior walls, primarily because this product is specifically for drywalls. 

applying spackle paste to wood

If you need to apply spackle on outdoor projects, prime the damaged surface first for better results. 

Kinds of Spackle

Standard Spackle

Unlike lightweight spackle, this material includes more than gypsum. It has traces of adhesives and additives in its component, making it suitable for heavy-duty repairs. 

If you inspect closely, this spackle has a rigid consistency. Because of this feature, many construction workers use it as a semi-solid drywall material.  

Lightweight Spackle

This spackle, made of sodium silicate and special adhesives, is ideal for minor wood fixes. If you’re just starting out, it’s a great choice because it dries quickly and sands down effortlessly. Trust me, it’s a handy tool for beginners!

applying wood spackle with brush

Thanks to its lightweight structure, applying a single spackle coat should suffice to fill a small crack or hole. 

Epoxy-Based Spackle

As a spackle with oil components, you can count on this material to resist water and moisture damage better than its water-based alternatives. Its durability against external elements makes it an excellent tool for outdoor wood repairs. 

This product comes in two packages—one for the hardener and another for the resin. Don’t forget to check the instructions for proper volume and mixture.

Acrylic-Based Spackle

An acrylic spackle is a material you can apply in multiple layers to cover and fill deep gouges. So, in a sense, it’s similar to a vinyl spackling compound. 

putty knife and spackle

Besides wood repairs, acrylic spackle works well as drywall or plaster because it’s less likely to shrink than other materials.

Vinyl-Based Spackle

You can utilize a vinyl spackle for filling holes and cracks with a depth of up to ¾-inch. If you’re fixing surfaces with deeper gaps, you’ll need to add more layers for a more durable result. 

The problem with using a vinyl-based spackle is its long drying time. You must wait for the application to dry before applying another coat. 

Pros and Cons

What i like

What i don't Like

Differences Between a Wood Filler and Spackle


While spackle and wood filler look similar, the latter is a product specifically for wood materials. On the other hand, spackle products are typically for drywalls and plasters.

preparing spackling paste

Some woodworkers use spackling compound and wood filler interchangeably because they seal effectively on wooden and metallic surfaces. However, the natural lumber fibers on wood fillers make them less effective on materials like drywall and metal. 

When it comes to woods like walnut and mahogany, I’d strongly advise using wood fillers. These woods are less porous, which means you can get a smoother, more polished finish with them compared to other woods.

Now, if you’re talking about versatility, spackle takes the crown. While wood fillers excel with wood, spackle is a jack-of-all-trades. It works wonders on a variety of materials, from brickwork and plaster to finished metal.


The application process between spackle vs wood filler is similar. Since you have to patch the damaged area with paste, all you need to do is add a generous amount of paste from each product and spread it evenly. 

applying spackle paste to wall

You can use a spatula or putty knife to apply these products. Let them dry completely on the wood trim or other surfaces before sanding them for a smoother effect.  


As mentioned earlier, spackle has excellent resistance to shrinkage. After applying it in holes, this material can retain its form after drying and stands strong against weather changes. 

Meanwhile, some wood filler types aren’t durable enough to withstand changing temperatures. If you don’t want to encounter material shrinkage, my best advice is to opt for oil-based fillers.  


You won’t need a power sander to smoothen a spackling compound since it’s not a stubborn material. 

sanding off excess wooden surface

At best, you’ll only need a sanding sponge to even the surface. It also has a shorter sanding time than wood filler since it doesn’t require too much pressure. 

Dry Time

So, how long does spackle take to dry? A typical spackle will take around 30 minutes to dry. However, it can extend to one to two hours if you repair deeper and larger damaged areas. You can buy a fast-drying spackle if this waiting duration does not work for you. 

On the other hand, wood filler takes longer to dry than the previous alternative. If you’re using a water-based product, deeper gaps will take five to six hours. Meanwhile, oil-based ones can take one to two days to cure. 

Painting and Finishing

Both wood filler and spackling compound require primers before painting to make the color pop. You may not know, but priming can help the surface accept paint better. 

using oil based primer

Although both products can be sandable after drying, spackle yields a smoother and more even finish than fillers. Because of this, it’s easier to sand.  

Which is Better to Use for Nail Holes?

It depends on the material you’re trying to repair. If it’s a wooden surface, it’s best to fill holes with wood fillers. In contrast, spackle works better in covering gaps in drywall and plaster. 

Which is Better to Use for Baseboard and Trim?

Since most baseboards and trims are wood, they suit interior wood fillers better than spackle products. These materials have a specific formulation that allows them to stick to wooden surfaces better.  

Tips and Tricks for Using Wood Filler and Spackle

Before adding the wood filler, don’t forget to smoothen the rough edges with a sander. You should also wipe the surface with a clean rag to eliminate dust particles. 

person holding white cloth

If you can, reading the product instructions and labels is crucial for safer usage and better results. When mixing spackle products, you must do it in batches for easier dissolution. It’s also wise to create mixtures on wide containers. 

Before sanding any of these products, you must inspect if the applied area shows signs of shrinkage. You can only proceed to sand if the surface is clear. 

My Top Picks for a Wood Filler and Spackle

Gorilla All-Purpose Wood Filler

Besides coming from a reputable manufacturer, Gorilla All-Purpose Wood Filler quickly caught the eye of many woodworkers because of its flexibility. 

After it dries, this filler is durable enough to resist shrinkage and cracks. It also accepts wood stain and paint, which will suit your design expectations. 

What I Like

What I Don't Like

Dap 12328 DryDex Spackling Interior/Exterior

More than anything else, the best feature of Dap 12328 DryDex is its color indicator. It has a unique ability to change color, determining if the ideal dry time is achieved. Once the spackle turns white from pink, it signifies that the surface is ready for painting and sanding.

What I Like

What I Don't Like


What will happen if I use the wrong wood filler?

If you use the wrong filler, it’ll likely come off faster and easier than you expect. The compound won’t bond well to the surface, damaging the wood further instead of fixing it. It’ll also ruin your material’s visual aesthetic.  

What is the best formula to cover large holes?

It depends on what material you’re trying to fix. Spackle is the best option if the holes are in drywall or plaster. Meanwhile, fillers are more workable on wooden surfaces.  

Read Next: Should You Opt for Warm Satin or Clear Satin Polyurethane?


In my deep dive into wood filler vs. spackle, it’s essential to note that each is tailor-made for specific materials. 

While it’s easy to think they’re interchangeable due to their overlapping benefits, I want to emphasize that their performance really shines when matched with the right material.

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.
Robert Johnson

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