Spackle vs Wood Filler


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As a DIY enthusiast or a professional woodworker, you will always have holes and gaps to fill. There is a wide variety of filler materials you can use like caulk, wood filler, spackle, joint compound, and wood putty.

When it comes to spackle vs wood filler, you can easily get confused about choosing between the two. You will need both these materials if you need to fill gaps in baseboards and trim, or to conceal nail holes. It is useful to know the advantages and drawbacks of these two compounds.

Background

Applying spackle compound in a ceilingwith a finishing trowel to a ceiling

There’s much confusion about the differences between spackle and wood filler. Although there are many similarities, they are two entirely different materials. Knowing the difference between each can give you an idea about how to use each of them most appropriately.

Wood filler contains different ingredients like clay, polyurethane, and epoxy. We use it to fill small cracks, crevices, and holes in wood. If you have scratches and dents on the wood surface, you can cover up these blemishes with wood filler. There are various wood fillers like those that can be sanded or stained.

Spackle also contains different substances like vinyl powder and binders. We use spackle primarily to cover defects and blemishes in drywall. Spackle also comes in several consistencies and types to suit various applications.

Sold in sealed containers, spackle typically comes premixed and all you have to do is open the tub or bin and start applying it on the job. The commonest form of spackle is the water-based variety. It becomes hard once dry, and you can easily sand it.

To gain a better understanding of the specifics of spackle and wood filler, let’s take a closer look at each one individually:

What is Wood Filler?

Young carpenter in work clothes using scraper and wood filler i

Wood filler is what we use to fill small holes and cracks in the wood. It contains various substances like clay, epoxy, and polyurethane. You can get exterior-grade wood filler, and you also get wood filler for indoor applications. It is important to check the grade of wood filler before you use it on a job.

As the name indicates, we use wood filler primarily on wood. We can use it on other surfaces like drywall, but it may not be that effective. If you plan on painting over your wood filler, then ensure that you use a grade that accepts finish or paint.

Types of Wood Filler

There are two basic types of wood fillers – oil-based and water-based. You can also make your homemade wood filler using wood glue and sawdust.

Oil-based Wood Filler

The other name for oil-based wood filler is solvent-based wood filler. This type of wood filler contains epoxy or vinyl. The downside of oil-based wood filler is its high degree of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Oil-based wood filler is good for use in larger projects, but you may find it messier than if you used a water-based filler. The drying time for this type of wood filler is more.

If you have the patience to wait a little longer, the results from oil-based wood filler are quite satisfactory. You will need to use mineral spirits to clean off the surface of oil-based wood filler after it dries.

Water-based Wood Filler

Water-based wood filler is the most commonly used variety of wood filler. It contains either cellulose or gypsum as the primary ingredient and is an easy type of wood filler to use. You will find this water-based wood filler easy to clean up using soap and water, and it is less messy to use.

The drawback of water-based wood filler is that it is less durable than the oil-based variety. Due to this reason, you may not want to use it for exterior applications. So, we can conclude that water-based wood filler is primarily meant for indoor use.

You will find water-based wood filler ideal for filling small cracks and holes in smaller projects. It is a non-toxic variety of wood filler, so you don’t have to be concerned about VOCs.

Wood Filler Pros and Cons

Here are a few advantages and downsides of wood filler that you would do well to consider while using it:

Pros

  • You can sand and apply a finish to some types of wood fillers.
  • Wood filler can give you satisfactory results on porous surfaces.
  • You can also use wood filler to fill big holes.
  • You have considerable control over the consistency of wood filler.

Cons

  • Changes in weather conditions and temperature tend to cause the wood filler to expand and contract.

What is Spackle?

A handyman project to enclose PVC drain pipes in a 12 foot-high garage ceiling.
Image Credit: Tomwsulcer via Creative Commons

Spackle comes in the form of a paste. It primarily contains vinyl powder and binders The main purpose of spackle is to fix flaws in drywall and such materials. It is also possible to use spackle on wood. You can get in different weights, specifications, and consistencies.

Usually, you can use spackle right out of the container it comes in. It is pre-mixed and you get it in tubs or bins and is water-based. It has a characteristically-smooth consistency which helps to impart a smooth finish to the job.

If you use vinyl spackle, you can use it directly without having to prime the surface. It will not shrink, and you can use it for both indoor outdoor, and indoor applications. On drying, you can apply a finish or stain to spackle.

Types of Spackle

We get five types of spackle. They are categorized according to their composition and application:

Standard Spackle

The primary ingredient of standard spackle is gypsum. It is a general-purpose formula, and you can use it for heavy-duty drywall applications. It is the most robust variety of spackle.

Lightweight Spackle

This type of spackle is very different from standard spackle The main ingredient of lightweight spackle is sodium silicate mixed with an adhesive. It is lightweight and you can get the best results for filling small crevices and cracks in walls from it.

Epoxy-based Spackle

Epoxy-based spackle is suited for outdoor applications. It is oil-based and significantly water resistant. You can perform all the required filling and sealing tasks to cracks, gouges, and holes with epoxy-based spackle.

Vinyl-based spackle

Here you have a type of spackle that contains vinyl as its primary ingredient. You can fill holes of considerable thickness with vinyl-based spackle up to depths of ¾”. But with this variety of spackle, you will have to add multiple layers for best results and you have to wait for the compound to dry before adding the next layer.

Acrylic Spackle

This spackle bears a similarity with vinyl spackle. It has multipurpose applications in that you can use it not only on drywall and plaster but on wood and stone as well.

Spackle Pros and Cons

There are advantages as well as disadvantages with spackle. You can use it for the best results if you are aware of both aspects of this compound:

Pros

  • Requires no priming
  • Pre-mixed so no prior preparation is required
  • Cost-effective product
  • Quick but permanent solution for fixing flaws on drywall
  • Suitable for interiors and exteriors
  • Does not shrink

Cons

  • It may not give the best results for large projects
  • All varieties of spackle may not be suitable for use on materials other than drywall such as wood or stone

Spackle vs Wood Filler

To provide you with a clearer picture of the nature of these two compounds, here are a few comparison points of spackle vs wood filler. It will help you get the best results and make the right choice between these two products:

Common Uses

The primary application of spackle is for use on drywall whereas we use wood filler mainly on wood. There is some overlap, however, as we do use some types of spackle on wood, and in rare cases, you might use wood filler on materials other than wood.

Ultimately, between spackle and wood filler, spackle is the more versatile of the two compounds.

Method of Application

The methods of applying spackle and wood filler are more or less the same. You will need the same accessories for applying either compound like a spatula to apply, a waste cloth to wipe off the excess, and sandpaper to smoothen the surface once dry.

Drying Time

If you have a deeper hole, the compound will take more time to dry. So, whether you use spackle or wood filler, it will take longer for it to dry with deeper holes.

But normally, spackle dries faster than wood filler. The drying time for spackle is less than half an hour or up to two hours for deeper holes. Wood filler, on the other hand, takes five to six hours to dry but it could be as much as two days for the oil-based variety.

Shrinkage

In terms of shrinkage, you get better performance from spackle than from wood filler. Spackle will retain its shape on drying. It will not expand or contract with changes in weather and temperature.

Wood filler on the other hand is prone to shrinking on drying. You may also see some changes in line with temperature and weather changes. Water-based wood filler is the most susceptible to shrinkage.

Sanding

When spackle dries, you can sand it and get a smooth surface. You will also find sanding spackle easier than wood filler. It also takes less time.

Wood filler, however, tends to dry a bit rough and you will need to use more force for sanding it. You will probably need to use a power sander. As a result, sanding wood filler is more time-consuming than spackle.

Applying Paint and Finish

painting wooden door in white color by brush

It is easy to apply paint or a finish on the spackle after it is dry and you have sanded it. You can get a fine finish. But you must apply a primer if you want to paint over wood filler.

If you apply a finish to wood filler, unlike spackle, the patched section may remain visible. Painting or applying a finish over wood filler is more time-consuming than spackle.

Conclusion

Whether you patch up old materials or cover blemishes and joints in new projects, spackle or wood filler will come in handy. But knowing when to use which in your woodworking projects is the secret to success.

We hope that after reading this post, you can easily choose between these two compounds and make each project a great one.