Can You Stain Over Wood Filler? (How-To)

Wood filler helps fill and cover nail holes, cracks, lines, and gouges in the wood. It’s your go-to product for wood repairs. But can you stain wood filler?

You can stain over wood filler but the wood filler has to be stainable. If you use unstainable wood filler, you can’t stain over it. 

There are two broad types of wood fillers; stainable and non-stainable wood filler. Stainable primer is a new product designed to absorb stains as natural wood does. This type of wood filler comes uncolored.

Unstainable wood fillers don’t accept stains very well. If you stain over this type of wood filler, the stain color will not set properly. Unstainable wood filler often comes pre-colored, usually with white color. 

Is Wood Filler Stainable?

Wood filler doesn’t absorb stain well.  Wood filler is designed to fill and cover holes and cracks in the wood. As a result, wood filler is designed to be as compact or tight as possible so it can cover and fill spaces.

In simple words, wood filler by design isn’t porous. This makes it difficult for wood filler to absorb stain properly. If you apply wood stain over wood filler, the area will appear darker and tacky. This is because the wood stain will not penetrate that spot as it should.

This means the stain will stay over the wood filler and if the wood stain doesn’t penetrate, it will turn tacky. ‘Tacky” means the stain will not dry and will appear semi-solid. At this stage, the stain will be too thick to allow light to pass through making the area appear darker than the rest of the wood.

Wood filler also makes the spot appear darker because it comes pre-colored. Though the color of the wood filler is neutral, it still prevents the wood grain from showing. Wood stain however is usually designed to reveal the wood grain. So, putting wood stain over a wood filler means the wood grain will be covered making the spot appear darker.

However, the stainable wood filler will absorb stain. Stainable wood fillers are made from porous materials, including sawdust which makes it possible for these wood fillers to absorb stain. You can also make your own stainable wood filler by mixing sawdust with a binding agent like glue.

Can You Stain Plastic Wood Filler?

You can stain over plastic wood filler. Plastic wood fillers are 70% porous wood in terms of composition. Since the wood filler is gotten from wood, it will absorb stain meaning that you can stain over plastic filler.

Plastic wood filler is made from wood dust and a binder. The wood filler, also known as wood putty, is a combination of fine wood dust or blended wood and glue. This means plastic filler is more porous than regular or epoxy wood filler and will accept stain.

However, plastic wood filler doesn’t accept wood stain like natural wood does. While plastic wood filler is made from 70% wood, the remaining 30% is glue and additives.

The 30% glue and additives formula prevents plastic wood filler to accept stains like 100% wood furniture does. If you stain over plastic primer, there will be differences in the shade or color of the finish.

Also, you have to stir the plastic wood filler before applying it. Plastic wood filler solidifies inside the can and in that state, it will be difficult to apply it without stirring first. You might even need to thin it.

How To Stain Over Wood Filler?

Before we go on, you should remember that you can only stain over stainable wood filler. If the wood filler isn’t stainable, the finish will not come out well. Here are some wood fillers that can be stained:

  • Minwax Wood Filler
  • Plastic Wood Filler
  • Goodfilla Wood Filler
  • Latex Wood Filler

To stain over a stainable wood filler, you’ll need a few tools and supplies:

  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Clean rags
  • A wood stain
  • A paintbrush or spray gun

1. Sand & Clean The Wood Filler

Sand & Clean The Wood Filler

Sand the wood filler to create tiny ridges and scars in the wood filler that the stain can seep into. Sanding also helps smoothen the wood filler so the stain can come out smoother. You should sand with very fine-grit sandpaper.

After sanding, remove dust and wipe the wood filler with a clean cloth. If there is dust on the surface, there will be bumps in the finish.

2. Apply The Wood Stain

Apply The Wood Stain

You can apply wood stain to wood filler using a paintbrush, but a spray gun offers better coverage. Also, the wood stain will penetrate the stainable filler better when sprayed.

3. Wipe Off The Excess Stain

Wipe Off The Excess Stain

Next, wipe off the excess wood stain on the filler. If you don’t wipe off the excess, the stain will turn sticky and appear darker. Also, when you wipe off the excess stain, the stain will set and dry properly.

4. Leave The Stain To Dry

Leave The Stain To Dry

On average, water-based stains take 1 hour to dry and less than a day to fully cure. Oil-based stains take longer to dry and can take over 3 days to cure.

The stain needs to fully dry before you clean it.  You can also seal the stain with a top coat or a sealant. Sealing the stain will make it more durable.

How to Hide Wood Filler after Staining?

Wood filler showing through stain isn’t something you want. Wood filler shows after staining because wood stains are designed to be a bit transparent. The purpose of doing this is to allow the wood stain to reveal the wood grain. So if you use stain over wood filler, the wood filler will show underneath the stain.

However, using a few methods, you can prevent the wood filler from showing through the stain:

1. You Can Use Solid Stain

Solid stains are thicker than regular wood stains. Solid stains have more paint pigment and color so the finish is usually more vibrant. As such, the wood filler won’t show beneath the vibrant stain color.

Solid stains don’t need to penetrate as deep as regular stains so the stain will stick better to a stainable wood filler. But, if you use a solid stain over wood filler, it’s not just the wood filler that won’t show, the wood grain wouldn’t show as well.

2. You Can Use a Deep Color

To prevent the wood filler from showing, use a dark color. Dark stain color will hide the wood stain from showing, but a light stain color will show the wood filler more. You can also paint over the stain to hide the wood filler. 

These methods will only prevent the wood stain from showing if you use them before applying it.

How To Fix Wood Filler Showing After Staining?

1. Use a Sealant

Using a sealant or top coat can prevent the wood filler from showing. A sealant or top coat will cover the wood filler.

The sealant will also protect the stain from scratches and dents. However, only use a colored sealant. Clear coats like water-based polyurethane will not cover the wood filler properly.

2. Apply Wood Glaze

Another way to stop the wood filler from showing is to apply a wood glaze. You can use any oil finish on the wood stain. This will cover the wood stain and make the finish glossy.

3. Remove The Stain

The last resort is to strip the stain and start all over again. This is often the best alternative if you want the wood grain to show through the stain as other methods will cover the wood stain, the filler, and hide the wood grain.

FAQ’s

Does Wood Filler Stain The Same as Wood?

Wood filler doesn’t stain the same as wood. Due to its compact nature, the regular epoxy wood filler doesn’t allow stains to penetrate properly.

Even the stainable primers designed to absorb stain don’t stain as well as natural wood because these wood fillers are not made from 100% wood.

Wood filler is designed to seal, cover, and fill damages in wood. The product is designed to fill spaces and not absorb stains. So regardless of the advertisement and branding, wood filler will not stain like wood does.

What Type Of Stain Should You Use Over Wood Filler?

The best type of stain to use is a water-based stain. Water-based stain is thinner than oil-based stain, and as such, is more likely to penetrate the wood filler than oil-based stain.

Also, oil-based stains usually contain additives and chemicals that can react with the compounds in the wood filler. You can also use Miniwax stains over a stainable wood filler.

What If Wood Filler Won’t Stain?

If wood filler won’t stain, it means it’s an unsustainable wood filler. However, you can try to sand the wood filler to help wood stain stick. 

Final Words

Overall, you can stain over wood filler but only if you use a stainable wood filler. Wood stain will not stick to regular epoxy wood fillers.

Also, you should sand the wood filler lightly to smoothen the surface and make the finish smoother. To stop the wood filler from showing through the stain, you should use a dark stain or apply a sealant over the stain.

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