Wood Filler Vs. Spackle: 7 Deciding Factors


If you enjoy home improvement projects, you’ve probably encountered wood filler and spackle before. But even though you can use both of these for the same purpose, is one better than the other?

Wood filler is ideal for filling in wood surfaces and can also be used for minor drywall repairs. Meanwhile, spackle is best for drywall and plaster, but you can also use it on wood, painted metal, wallboard, and masonry. Application processes are similar and both can be painted, but wood filler takes longer to dry and is prone to shrinkage.

In this article, you’ll learn more about the similarities and differences between wood filler and spackle. We’ll also talk about whether you can use each of these in place of the other. 

Wood Filler Vs. Spackle: Which Is The Best?

For a quick overview, take a look at the table below. If you’d like more in-depth information, keep reading!

CharacteristicsWood FillerSpackle
CompositionClay, polyurethane, epoxy, and other substancesVinyl powder and binders
UsesFixing holes, cracks, and other defects in wood; can also be used for minor drywall repairsFilling holes, cracks, and defects in drywall, plaster, wood, wallboard, masonry, and painted metal
Application MethodApply with a spatula, remove the excess, sand, and paintApply with a spatula, sand, and paint
Drying ProcessCan take between two hours and two daysTakes 30 minutes to two hours
ShrinkageProne to shrinkage in changing temperatures, especially if water-basedExtremely resistant to shrinkage
SandingMay require a power sander to create a smooth finished surfaceTakes very little time and pressure to smooth out; can typically use a sanding sponge
PaintingCan be painted; should be primed firstCan be painted; should be primed first
Finished AppearanceRepairs are often slightly visible, even after sandingUsually creates a smooth surface over the repair that isn’t noticeable

What Is Wood Filler?

Wood filler is a mixture of clay, polyurethane, epoxy, and other substances. It’s primarily used to fix, fill, and seal crevices and small holes in wood surfaces.

There are multiple types of wood filler, with water-based and oil-based being the most common. Some wood fillers can be sanded and stained, while others cannot. Most wood fillers are only meant for indoor projects and aren’t effective for outdoor applications.

Even though wood filler is mainly meant for wood (as you’ve probably guessed from its name), you can also use it on drywall. However, it’s not recommended for major repairs and is best used to fill small cracks.

What Is Spackle?

Spackle has a creamy consistency similar to paste. It’s made of vinyl powder mixed with various binders, and it’s used to repair defects and holes in drywall. You can find spackle in multiple weights and consistencies that are formulated for particular applications.

The main types of spackle include standard, vinyl-based, epoxy-based, acrylic, and lightweight.

Most kinds of spackle are water-based. They usually come in premixed tubs or bins. After you apply the spackle, it hardens and can be sanded for a smooth finish.

Spackle is mainly intended for use with drywall. You can also use it on plaster, wood, wallboard, masonry, and painted metal. Spackled surfaces can typically be stained once they’ve dried fully.

Generally, spackle can be used both indoors and outdoors. However, if you plan to use it outdoors, be sure to prepare and prime the surface first.

Wood Filler And Spackle Comparison

Below, find a detailed comparison of wood filler and spackle.

1. Uses

Wood filler and spackle are best used with different surface materials. Wood filler is particularly suited to wood, while spackle is most effective with drywall and plaster. However, wood filler and spackle are both versatile and can be used on other surfaces as well.

There are wood fibers in wood filler, making it the best choice for fixing any defects in a wood surface. Its resemblance to wood means you can also use it to create a smooth, manageable surface on porous wood.

As a drywall compound, spackle’s formulation is the best choice for drywall repair. Spackle tends to be more versatile than wood filler and also does well with painted metal, masonry, plaster, and wallboard. While you can use it on wood, wood filler is more effective.

2. Application Method

In most cases, you can use the same application method for wood filler and spackle. The first step is to apply plenty of wood filler or spackle onto the damaged area using a spatula. 

For wood filler, you’ll then use a damp rag to remove the excess product. Once the filler is dry, use fine-grain sandpaper to give it a smooth finish.

With spackle, you’ll want to let it dry and then sand the surface. 

After you’re done sanding, you can paint over the wood filler or spackle.

3. Drying Process

The dry time for wood filler is usually longer than the dry time for spackle. For both, the dry time varies depending on the depth of the crack or hole being filled.

Water-based wood fillers generally take two hours to dry for small fixes and up to six hours for larger problem areas. Oil-based fillers take even longer. You may have to wait two full days for the wood filler to dry completely after filling a large hole!

You’ll only need to wait about a half-hour for the spackle to dry if you’ve used it on minor dents or cracks. Spackle can take a couple of hours to fully dry for deeper holes and larger repairs. 

You can find fast-drying spackle at your local hardware store if you want to cut down on wait time.

4. Resistance To Shrinkage

As your wood filler or spackle dries, one thing to watch out for is shrinkage. Wood filler is known for being prone to shrinkage, especially when faced with temperature or weather changes. 

Water-based wood filler is particularly susceptible to shrinkage, so be sure to apply large amounts of it. Oil-based wood filler is more resistant to shrinkage and tends to be a better choice for larger repairs.

A benefit of using spackle is that it’s very resistant to shrinkage. Even when it encounters major weather changes, spackle does not shrink. Once it’s dry, it retains its shape.

5. Sanding

You can sand both wood filler and spackle, but spackle is quicker and easier to sand. Spackle only requires a sanding sponge to smooth out its surface.

Wood filler, meanwhile, sometimes requires a power sander to get the job done. While you can often use a sanding sponge, it’ll take more time and pressure to create a smooth finished surface. 

6. Painting

Similar to sanding, you can paint both spackle and wood filler. We recommend priming before painting, whether you’re working with wood filler or spackle.

7. Finished Appearance

Spackle tends to have a nicer, more even finished surface than wood filler. This is mainly thanks to how easy it is to sand. 

Repairs completed with wood filler are usually more visible, even after sanding and painting them. You’ll often be able to see the edges of the patched area after the repair is complete.

Can I Use Spackle Instead Of Wood Filler?

Yes, you can use spackle instead of wood filler. Spackle is primarily meant for drywall and plaster, but you can also use it on wood, painted metal, masonry, and wallboard.

Wood filler will generally do a better job at repairing defects, cracks, and holes in wood surfaces. Still, spackle is an effective alternative, and it has some advantages, like a faster dry time.

Can I Use Wood Filler Instead Of Spackle On Drywall?

You can use wood filler instead of spackle on drywall if you’re working with minor cracks and holes. Any larger problem areas will need to be handled with spackle. Some large holes may even require replacement with a new piece of drywall.

The Final Verdict: Wood Filler Vs. Spackle

If you’re looking for the most versatile option, spackle is the winner here. It can be used with drywall, plaster, wood, masonry, wallboard, and painted metal. It’s also easy to sand and highly resistant to shrinkage.

Meanwhile, wood filler is the best choice for wood, but it’s also effective for minor drywall fixes. Wood filler has a longer dry time, is prone to shrinkage in changing temperatures, and is more difficult to sand.

Jessica Allen

Jessica is a freelance writer and editor who has years of experience writing about home improvement and interior design. When she’s not typing away in her office, you can find her doing yoga in her backyard or curling up with a good book.

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