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Have you come across a piece of furniture that you fell in love with, but the damage was too extensive? Maybe there was peeling and chipped veneer, maybe there was water damage, maybe both. This is what happened to me on my last furniture flip. I picked up this lovely cabinet, but it had extensive damage. It took a lot of hard work, and I had to use a good amount of wood filler to get it restored to a useable condition.


The Simple Truth of How to Use Wood Filler

If you have never used wood filler before, I’m hear to tell you that it’s not difficult. The main concern is prepping the area before you begin, and making sure to use a mask, gloves and a well ventilated area while mixing and using the wood filler.

RELATED: A Cabinet’s Cinderella Story – Before and After of an Old Cabinet

What You Will Need:

  1. Wood Filler (I used MINWAX High Performance Wood Filler)
  2. Latex-type Gloves
  3. Painter’s Mask
  4. Box Cutter
  5. Plastic Putty Knife
  6. Orbital Sander with Medium Grain Sand Paper (I used 80 Grain)
  7. Damp cloth for cleaning the area
  8. Acetone to clean-up

water and veneer damage fixed with wood filler

Prepping the Wood

As you can see, the wood had a lot of water damage, plus peeling and chipping veneer. Before doing any kind of filling, you have to prep the area. For this project, I used a very sharp box cutter and cut away the water damaged portion of the veneer and wood underneath. I also removed the chipping veneer that couldn’t be salvaged with wood glue.

Once the broken and damaged portions are removed, it’s imperative that the area is cleaned of all dirt and debris. I used a damp cloth and cleaned all areas to ensure that the wood filler would adhere correctly.

prepping the wood for wood filler cleaning water damage

Mixing the Wood Filler

Once the area has been prepped, it’s time to mix the wood filler. In this case, I used Minwax Wood Filler. There are different types out there. However, I this is my go-to for wood projects.

Before you begin, make sure to wear gloves, a mask and work in a well ventilated area. This stuff stinks and will make you feel light headed. Safety first, always!

how to mix wood filler before using

Mix the wood filler with 1 part hardener, and 16 parts filler (16:1). Mix the combination thoroughly until you are no longer able to see the white of the wood harder. The MINWAX Wood Filler comes with a plastic top that you can use to mix the wood filler.Β 

The paste will be usable for about 10 minutes. This may vary a bit depending on your humidity level. I live in Colorado, at high altitude, where it is extremely dry. I do not have 10 minutes to work, I have about 5 before it begins to harden. If you live in a very humid environment, you may have a bit longer to work with the wood filler.

Applying the Wood Filler to Damaged Areas

Apply the paste to the area that needs to be filled. Feel free to use a heavy handed amount in order to fill in all the nooks and crannies. I used a plastic putty knife to fill the gaps and holes. Then I scrape the wood filler with the edge of the putty knife to make sure that any extra wood filler is removed from the furniture piece. Again, you’ll want to work fast as it will begin to dry pretty quickly.


Be sure to clean up your plastic putty knife and any other tools or objects that touched the wood filler. Clean with acetone before it has the opportunity to dry.


After about 20 minutes, the wood filler is hard enough to work with, but still soft enough to mold. If you have a large area or you’re filling in a corner or an edge, this is the perfect time to use a sharp knife or scalpel and meticulously cut and mold the edges and/or corners of the furniture. Take your time and be careful.


Wait at least 6 hours (on the container is says 30 minutes, but I always wait longer to be safe), and sand the area to ensure the surface is smooth. As you can see, a lot of the wood filler on the sides is removed at this point and you can see exactly where it will stay.

filling the area with wood filler and sanding

Completing Your Project

Once the piece has been sanded down it is now ready to paint! You can also stain it, but if the area of repair is large, it may be obvious that wood filler was used. Wood filler is stainable, however, it doesn’t take stain as well as wood (in my opinion) and it stains one solid color, while stain on wood will show wood grain.

Related: Chalk Painting For The Beginner

before and after wood filler

As you can see above, the wood filler saved this piece from being taken to the dump. You can’t even tell I used wood filler on the corner and I love that I can salvage old, beautiful projects with this great product.

repair damaged wood with wood filler