How To Use Wood Filler Before Painting

(Last Updated On: March 2, 2021)
Filling the holes on wood board before painting.

If you’ve worked on woodworking projects before, you know how wood filler works. Or maybe, you have an upcoming repair soon, and you’re starting to familiarize yourself. Whatever the reason, we all know wood filler can hide blemishes, deficiencies, and other damages on wood surfaces. 

During home repair, you can blend the wood filler into the damaged surface. Blending can create a smooth, slick backdrop. Then, you’re free to paint whatever you like! 

You don’t have to use excess layers of paint to make those holes and bumps invisible. Wood filler is the answer to make your job quicker and easier. 

But how does it happen? 

Today, we take you on a step-by-step guide on using wood filler before painting.  

What You May Need: 

  • Sandpaper
  • Scraper 
  • Tack cloth
  • Chosen filler 
  • Putty knife
  • Primer 
  • Paint or stain (optional)

Step 1: Assess The Damaged Area 

Before starting on any home repair, see what you need to do for everything to fix itself up. 

First, see what the damage is like on the wood. Are there any scratches, gouges, and blemishes? Which one strikes the eye first? 

How long do you think the repair will take place? Is the damage so extensive it’ll take days, or is a few hours is more than enough?

Finally, either memorize the wood tone or get a scrap to bring with you to the store. 

Step 2: Choose Your Wood Filler 

Now, it’s time to apply the information you got from above to choosing the ideal filler for your needs. 

Solvent-based wood fillers are more durable. They can withstand moisture, resist shrinkage, and won’t break under fluctuating climate conditions. If you have damage outdoors or you need something this heavy-duty for interior projects, go for solvent-based. 

Water-based wood fillers are much easier to clean up. Their formula is perfect for interior projects, while they may not last outdoors. 

Usually, it’s a good idea to get stainable wood fillers. You can apply a stain afterward to match the wood tone you’re working with for the project. 

Matching wood is the purpose of the wood scrap. Buy some wood stain on your way out of the wood filler shop. 

Get some paint, too. 

Alternatively, some wood fillers already come in pre-colored. If you think the color is enough and you don’t need to stain, you can save more money. 

Step 3: Tidy Up The Area

Before repairing the wood, tidy up the area. There may be flakes of wood or paint chips, so scrape it all off. Get as much as you can out of the area.

Next, get the sandpaper out. Rub at the rough edges to make sure the repair will go smoothly. You don’t want your final area to have visible edges and bumps. 

If there are still loose fibers and a scraper won’t do, get some scissors! Make sure to be safe. 

For small holes, you can use a flat-head screwdriver. Drive it in and rotate it inside the hole to clear any debris. 

After, use a shop vacuum or a damp tack cloth. Both can clear away dust and debris so you can have the smoothest surface possible. 

However, if you use a damp tack cloth, make sure the area dries first. Then, go on to the next step. 

Step 4: Apply Filler

If you’re working with holes, make sure to overfill them. Spread just enough to have excess. The filler you chose might shrink, so it’s better to have excess, just in case. 

Grains can benefit from the water-based filler. 

After applying the filler, you can smooth everything over with a putty knife. If you overfilled too much and it’s not as smooth as you like, don’t worry! You can still sand everything down later. 

Step 5: Wait For Everything to Dry

Congrats on making it halfway through! After such hard work, you can rest. After all, the filler has to dry. 

Check the brand you brought. The quickest fillers can dry in fifteen minutes, but some can take up to eight hours. If you can, leave the filler be for the day.

Step 6: Sand The Filler Down

Before sanding, make sure the filler is dry first. If it is, you can go ahead and sand everything down. 

Moderate to high grain sandpaper is a must. Apply even pressure and make sure everything becomes smooth and flat as you work. 

Never skip this step! Being rough with your application and not sanding properly can result in a lot of obvious bumps and edges. 

Step 7: Clean The Area

Moisten a piece of cloth with warm water and wipe the surface down. You want to get rid of the debris the sandpaper didn’t get. Make sure everything that’s flaking off is even enough to paint on!

You can check if everything’s even by running your hand over the area. Sometimes, eyeballing the repair isn’t enough. See if the wood is level. 

Depending on how the application went, you might have to repeat the process for holes not filled. Add more filler, wait, sand it down, clean, then check again. 

Step 8: Apply The Primer

If you’re painting the area, apply primer first. Even if you know you can paint over your fillers, you want to even out the look. Wood can soak up paint, and primer can prevent this. 

Be on the lookout for latex or oil-based primer. Ask around your local shop to see what’s suitable for your project, especially if it’s raw wood. 

Primer can fill in the grain, so you end up with a slick, smooth surface for the final coat of paint. 

Step 9: Paint Or Stain The Area

You’re at the final step! Again, make sure everything is level and even. 

Then, check the paint or stain you want to use. Even if you were sure it matches the area, it’s better to test it first. You don’t want any regrets – or to throw out a project. 

If it matches, paint and stain everything. Wait for both the paint and stain to dry. 

You’ve successfully applied wood filler! Congratulations on your home repair project.

We hope this step-by-step guide helped. Remember to check off everything in the required list first, so you’re ready to go in a day. If you start early, even waiting eight hours is nothing. 

Don’t be intimidated by any home repair project. Everything is doable! Enjoy the fruits of your labor and be more confident the next time a woodworking project rolls around. 

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