Picture this: You’re in the middle of staining your woodworking project, and you notice that the wood filler you’re using isn’t taking the stain.
All you’re left with is a blotchy, uneven mess that looks terrible.
I feel your pain. But don’t despair!
There are a few things you can still do to fix this problem.
First and foremost, if you’re continuously getting blotchy results when staining wood filler, the stain and filler must be sanded down to 100 grit sandpaper, wiped down clean, and restained.
While there are many stainable wood filers available in stores, it’s preferable to use sawdust from the existing wood project to make a wood filler that matches the wood project exactly when staining.
You can mix some wood glue and sawdust to use on your project and then stain as required.
Hopefully, it will fix the problem. If not, you will need to know the exact causes of the issues you are getting and then act accordingly.
So, let’s get into those details right here…
Why do Wood Fillers Doesn’t Take Stain Well?
If you are wondering why your wood filler isn’t taking the stain, it is likely for one of the following reasons:
a) You are using the wrong type of wood filler
For example, if you are working with an oil-based stain, then you will need to use an oil-based wood filler.
Also, not all wood fillers will take the stain or paint because they may not be designed in such as way.
So, ensure to check the product description before making your purchase.
When shopping at stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot, see if they are marked “stainable wood filler.”
Brands such as Minwax, Elmer’s, and FamoWood have good options that can be used for indoor woodworking projects and are worth looking at.
b) The wood filler you are using is too old
As wood filler ages, it starts to become more and more difficult for it to take stain evenly.
This is especially true for water-based wood fillers. So, if you’re using an old can of wood filler, it’s probably time to toss it and get a new one.
If you keep on trying with old, you will be just wasting your time and effort – most likely, your old wood filler will not absorb the stain as well as it should.
c) The wood filler wasn’t sanded properly before staining
If the wood filler wasn’t sanded properly before staining, then it won’t take the stain evenly.
This is because the wood filler will have a different texture than the wood around it, and the stain will absorb the wood filler differently than it will into the wood.
d) The wood filler wasn’t mixed properly before staining
If the wood filler wasn’t mixed properly before staining, then it won’t take the stain evenly.
The stain will absorb into the wood filler differently than it will into the surrounding wood, and this is due to the fact that the wood filler will have a different consistency than the wood around it.
e) The wood filler wasn’t applied properly before staining
Wood filler usually has a different thickness than regular wood, which means that it will absorb the stain differently.
This means that if you do not apply the stainable wood filler evenly before staining – the filler will show through the stain, the stain will be applied unevenly, or it will turn out to be patchy.
How to Fix the Wood Filler that Won’t Stain as it Should?
If your wood project has been taken over by stain and wood filler, and you are still in the middle of it, the only way to save it is to sand off every trace of them and start over again.
How to do that? Let’s have a look…
- Wait until the stain has dried on the wood filler.
- Then with a belt sander and 100-grit sandpaper, take the layer of stain and filler off.
- If the project area is not significantly large, you can use a mechanical sandpaper block instead of a belt sander.
- Sand the area until it’s smooth, and wipe down the project with a clean rag
- You will most likely have some exposed holes or gaps at this time; fill them up again using a bit of wood filler and your fingers.
- After that, apply a coat of pre-stain wood conditioner to help take the stain well.
- Finally, apply the wood stain of your choice evenly on the wood and the filler, and let it dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
And that’s it! You have successfully fixed the wood filler that refuses to take the stain.
Hopefully, completing the project this way will help you hide the wood filler.
What if I have Already Completed the Project and Need to Fix it?
In case you have completed the project and haven’t noticed the problem early enough, there are still ways to salvage the project.
The easiest way to remove or cover up wood filler stains (showing through wood stain) is by using a wood dye.
You can buy these at any hardware store, and they come in a variety of colors.
All you have to do is mix the dye with water according to the instructions on the package and then apply it to the wood with a brush.
Let it sit for a few minutes, and then wipe it off with a clean cloth. The dye will darken the wood, but it will also even out the color of the stain and wood filler.
Another way to fix this problem is by using a gel stain.
Compared to regular liquid wipe-on stains, gel stains are thick and will help to even out the color of the stain and wood filler.
To use a gel stain, simply apply it to the wood with a brush and then wipe it off with a clean cloth.
The gel stain will darken the wood, but it will also even the color of the stain and wood filler.
Furthermore, if you want to lighten the wood, you can use white paint. Simply apply the paint to the wood with a brush, and then wipe it off with a clean cloth.
The paint will lighten the wood and will even out the color of the stain and wood filler.
No matter which method you pick, test it on a small wood area first to see how it will look.
Once you are happy with the results, proceed to fix the rest of the wood.
Types of Wood Filler that Can be Stained – Tips for Choosing the Right Product
Wood fillers come in a variety of colors and can be used to create different looks.
In this section, we will explore the main types of stainable wood fillers and how you should choose them wisely.
a) Gypsum-based wood fillers
Gypsum-wood fillers are typically a mixture of gypsum dust and some water.
You will need to use the filler while it’s still in the paste form as the paste will dry to form an inflexible composite material like a rock or a hard piece of wood.
But this time, it’s improved sturdiness compared to other types because these can stand up better under temperature changes.
This would otherwise cause them to dry out too quickly outdoors, where there’s more risk for rapid developments during hot summers/cold winters due to their general lack of flexibility.
Though not ideal for outdoor applications considering they’re mostly indoors, these types offer excellent stability.
This filler works best in locations that are dry and less humid because it cannot tolerate much water and can easily be damaged by dampness.
b) Cellulose-based wood fillers
Cellulose wood fillers, unlike polyurethane fillers, are made of real wood fiber and hence are easily stainable.
Because of this attribute, some producers don’t bother to mention them as stainable on the packaging and product description.
So, when you see “cellulose” in the product’s description or on the package, expect it to be stainable and sandable after it has dried.
Most wood stains are mixable with water-soluble wood fillers to create a vibrantly colored finish that will smooth out surface inconsistencies.
More often than not, the packaging for products like these will have indications from the manufacturer that actual wood fibers are present.
Remember that this is different from the DIY wood fillers you make by combining sawdust with wood glue.
Because the glue can darken the color of the wood, be careful to add only a small amount (a drop or two) at first to see the results.
Although cellulose-based are high priced than gypsum based, they are usually cheaper than latex and epoxy wood fillers.
A few are also designed to resist severe weather conditions so that you may apply them to the exterior. But ensure to check the product description and label to see if you are purchasing an outdoor grade that can be used outside.
c) Epoxy-based wood fillers
Epoxy-based fillers are tough, durable compounds that can withstand tremendous amounts of physical impact without breaking.
In addition to being strong and reliable in almost any circumstance, you may place it upon—epoxies.
But mind it, they also have one major downside: they’re difficult (if not impossible) to work with!
You’ll need a particular set of tools for mixing these 2 part chemicals into an easy application like putty or concrete repair paste-type material.
But don’t let this discourage you from giving them a go because once done right, there isn’t much else out on the market, like how simple everything will become when working with an epoxy-based wood filler.
d) Latex-based wood fillers
Due to their resistance to a wide range of severe weather conditions, natural latex-based wood fillers are pricy but stainable.
They can endure strong temperature swings and are ideal for outdoor usage because they can resist quick extreme changes in temperature.
The other significant advantage of latex-based fillers vs. epoxy fillers is the rapidity with which they are set up.
Unlike epoxies that may require several hours, a latex filler will be set in under an hour.
The substance then solidifies and becomes more robust while the surface becomes hard and resistant to dampness and water.
Once set, you can sand latex filler into a smooth, uniform finish or drill holes in it without any damages made.
Overall the simplicity with which they may be used is one of the significant benefits of their preference over epoxy fillers for a wide variety of projects for beginners.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Stainable Wood Filler
Even after finding a few wood fillers with characteristics that match perfectly with your project needs, narrowing down to the best option may be difficult.
This might be tough, particularly when there are several options with similar features on the market.
So, here are some essential things to think about while picking the finest stainable wood filler for your requirements…
- The consistency of the wood filler
- The staining ability of the wood filler
- The ability to sand the wood filler you choose
- The drying time and ease of application of the wood filler
- The versatility, strength, and cost of the wood filler you plan to purchase
Typically, if you’re looking for a wood filler that is easy to apply, dries quickly, and can be sanded down to create a smooth surface, a latex-based wood filler is your best bet.
But, if you’re looking for a wood filler that is versatile, strong, and durable, an epoxy-based wood filler is your best bet.
The Bottom Line
There are reasons that your wood filler doesn’t stain well. It could be that the wood filler is too old or wasn’t applied correctly in the first place.
Once you figure out the root of the problem, you can take steps to fix it so that your wood filler will take stain evenly.
By taking the time to do this, you’ll ensure that your woodworking projects have a professional finish.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
Just in case you want to hire pro painters in your local area, you can click here. We can instantly send you free quotes from trusted painters based on your specific requirement.