How To Use Wood Filler On Cabinets: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide

Applying and repair cabinet wood door with wood filler.

Do you need to fill in the wood texture for your cabinets? Look no further. We have the entire process down below in the most straightforward steps you can follow. 

Wood filling a cabinet is simple. In the end, wood fillers for cabinets merely boil down to finding quality, paintable wood and getting a matching color for your cabinets. 

Are you ready to use wood filler for your cabinets today? We can make sure your project is a success! Read on to find out the steps, requirements, and some considerations. 

What You May Need: 

  • Scrub brush 
  • Moistened rag or tack cloth
  • TSP (trisodium phosphate)
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Wood filler
  • Wood putty 
  • Wood stain 
  • Wood paint

The Step-by-Step Guide to Wood Filler on Cabinets

With just seven steps, you can effectively use wood filler for cabinets. Let’s begin! 

Step 1: Use TSP to Prep The Cabinets 

Before you fill the wood grain texture, you need enough preparation. Banish any thoughts of complication from your mind! The preparation you need to fill in the cabinets is the same as prepping for painting them. 

First, you must clean the cabinets thoroughly. For this, you can use trisodium phosphate and a scrub brush. You have to remove the varnish covering the furniture. Raw wood is a must for the wood filler to work. 

A moistened rag or tack cloth can also do the job of cleaning it all off!

Step 2: Sand and Repair the Wood Surface 

We’re still in the preparation period. Use fine-grit sandpaper to create an even surface. You want to get rid of paint flakes, splits, and loose wood as much as possible. Rough edges must be repaired immediately. 

The damaged area needs the most of this sanding. After you’ve got the wood surface all smoothened down, get a new moistened rag or tack cloth again. For this wood filling step, can also use a shop vacuum to get rid of the dust and debris.

Now, let the entire workpiece dry up. 

Step 3: Get The Right Wood Filler 

If you used a moistened rag or tack cloth, make sure the surface is dry before proceeding. 

Have you hit the shops for quality wood filler? You should! Don’t use just any brand to fill in the wood grain. You want it to level out and seal in the wood pores. 

We recommend using water-based fillers instead of solvent-based ones. Epoxy and solvent-based fillers are pricier and take longer to dry up. If you’re an already experienced woodworker, you can do solvent-based with enough practice. 

Whatever you choose to use as your filler, you want it to result in a smooth, neat look. 

Step 4: Use Wood Putty to Fill Up the Holes & Cracks

Do you see any holes and cracks in the cabinet? It’s time to use wood putty! You want to use just the right amount – you don’t want an excess around the edges. 

Small holes can be filled in with your hands or by using a putty pen. Estimate the right amount of wood putty to use, push it into the hole, then wipe it away smoothly. Larger holes benefit from putty knives as well. Push it in, make sure it’s all filled, then scrape it away. The putty should be flush in the hole.

As much as possible, you want the wood putty to match the cabinet color. If it doesn’t, you can always take a few extra steps to stain or paint it to fit.

Step 5: Let the Filler Dry 

Wood fillers vary in drying times, but most have recommendations in the package. It all depends on the product and the weather of where you’re in! 

Thick layers and cold weather may take as much as eight hours to a full day. If you’re lucky, you can get a product that dries as quick as fifteen minutes. 

Step 6: Use Sandpaper for the Excess Putty 

It would be best if you allowed the wood filler and putty to dry, too. Once the putty is dry, you may still have some residue sticking to the surface. Or maybe, the putty is sticking out of the hole. 

Use the fine-grit sandpaper to scrape away the putty again. Be gentle – you don’t want to redo the entire wood surface’s finish or paint! You want the putty smooth and flush, not sticking out of the surface.


Step 7: Paint or Stain the Grain and Holes 

Check the grain and holes. Are the spots smooth? You can now move on touching the putty up! 

Stains and paints will work well. Make sure you get an exact match – or at least a hue close to it. Dab the stain or paint gently to see that every surface is covered. By the time you’re done, the color should blend in with the rest of the furniture. 

A large spot requires some drying – and some layers. You can allow a few hours before stepping back and seeing the finished product. 

Tips and Tricks For Successful Cabinet-Filling 

Wood filler requires some techniques for it to be pulled off successfully. Usually, you’ll need the experience to get to that level of practice – but we’re here to share each woodworking tip with you all for free. 

Use a Palm Sander or Multi-Tool

Sanding can take a long time. While you might give up somewhere around the middle and judge that it’s all smoothened out, it won’t be a good idea. Later on, you’ll find that the sanded portions and the rest of the cabinet are distinct and noticeable! 

You want the sanded portion to transition seamlessly into the rest of the cabinet. To make sure even the corners are smooth, a palm sander or multi-tool works well. It’ll save you hours of work, so you don’t have to tire yourself out to achieve the best results!

Only Stain for Smaller Portions 

As much as possible, use paint. It’s the best way to get the wood fillers to match the grain! You’ll need to smooth it out more if you’re using a stain, so it’s best applied to a smaller area. Individual pores receive wood stains easier.

Layer Wood Fillers and Paints Thin

One you see those products, it’s tempting to want to go all out. Especially with the wood fillers! You need to restrain yourself. Wood fillers are much smoother when applied as thinly as possible. They aren’t flexible, so you can expect thick layers to crack easily – and leave damage. 

Thin paint layers, however, are necessary to keep the filler dry and its place. Heavy layers lead to filler reactivation, and you don’t want to wait out everything again. 

If You’re Working With Oak, Fill the Grain Properly 

One too many woodworkers have encountered this problem! If you’re working with oak, you want to use a grain filler for deep cracks and pores. It leads to a smooth finish and is so much easier for you. 

Once again, don’t overlayer the wood. One coat is enough for the grain. You can remove cracks once you use paint. 

Okay, now we have to talk about paint: rolling and spraying. Priming surfaces with rollers are great – the roller’s pressure pushes everything into the cracks. Deep pores benefit from this. 

If you’re spraying, grain filler is necessary. It doesn’t have the pressure a roller has, so you need to fill it in on your own. It can be hard to do so, but stick it out! Be patient, and you’ll get a smoother workpiece in the end. 

To Sum It Up 

See? Using wood fillers for cabinets is easy! Holes can’t be helped. Sometimes, age and accidents cause them, and you’ll find them everywhere: bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms. Thankfully, wood filler is available around and simple to use. 

As long as you have suitable materials, you can do wood filling on your own! Some of the requirements don’t even need a cent wasted on them. You can find them in your workshop or at home. 

Just make sure to set aside a day or two from filling up your cabinets. You need the patience to touch everything up. It can take a long time – especially if you hit unexpected blockages in your way. 

We hope this article helped! Are you ready for your cabinets’ fresh, new look? We are. Try out wood filler on your cabinets today!

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