Which is better: fill with wood putty or caulking?

la_koalaJune 11, 2007


The paint on the railings of our exterior front porch is peeling, and we've had two painters in for estimates so far. One guy said that to even out some places in the wood, he would use wood putty, but the second guy said that he would *never* use wood putty for those places, and instead use caulking. He was examining some places where the paint has peeled and said that he could see someone had used wood putty underneath in those spots and he would use caulking instead.

I have no idea which to believe, so turning to this forum's collective wisdom. :-) Does it make sense to say one would *never* use wood putty for this type of exterior work?



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I have done a lot of restorations on our home. We have an old 1920's Tudor, and I've had to patch a lot of wood surfaces with imperfections. I don't know why they would use caulk on a railing, unless they are concerned about expansion and contraction. Are the areas that need to be filled where joints meet up? If it's a stationary surface, I'd use a wood putty. I've always used Dap wood filler - I purchased at Home Depot. It dries hard as a rock, can be sanded, stained, drilled, painted, etc. Extremely durable. If it's floor boards then I can see why they don't want to fill with a putty because the joints need to expand and contract with the changes in weather temperature.

The only place I can think of to use caulk is around windows or window frames.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 5:45PM
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I'm the caulkin' queen of our house and if it were me, I would use wood filler on that exterior railing. Caulk is not really not meant for patching. I remember when we first bought our house and I was prepping to paint the baseboards and I caulked between baseboard and wall because of the gap. If I hit a nail hole or two I just slipped some caulk over it as I went along. Well, down the road, most of the caulked spots started to 'sink' in. Sooner or later it will probably cave in a little or expand a little, that's been my experience anyway. I've not heard of paint peeling over wood putty. But the PO of our house apparently caulked the original windows with a silicone caulk and globbed paint over it. That chipped. (Thankfully we got new windows.) I'm a huge Dap fan, but found a good (pre-mixed) wood filler made by Elmer's at my local big box store. That stuff is great! I used it on my kitchen cabinets before I painted them, the spot below the sink where water had dripped down over the years and pulled some of the wood away. It was easy to sand level, part of it even forms a corner, and it's held well, you can't tell it's there. We still get the occasional drip down the front of the cabinet and it hasn't hurt the wood filler at all.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 9:23AM
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Hey, thanks a lot for responding!

The area that the second painter was poking at is on the top railing for the steps that go from the porch down to the sidewalk. Not the floor boards (those are stained and unpainted). I don't think it was where joints met, but thanks for mentioning that--I will take another look. I think it was even the top of the railing, where the top layer of pain is peeling, and looks like it was just a gouge in the wood rail that when they painted the last time, someone filled in to even out the surface.

The porch is in the front, has the railing (top and bottom rails) plus the little posts (balustrade?) between the top and bottom rails, and the big posts holding the porch roof up. The railing goes around the front of the porch and then also on both sides of the steps going down to the sidewalk.

Would choosing to use caulk have anything to do with the moisture we'd expect the painted surfaces to get? I mean, the railings are likely to get hit with rain a lot when it rains (we're on top of a hill and the wind doth blow). Plus it is in Massachusetts and humid in the summertime.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 4:19PM
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I have had luck with Gorilla glue and a pumice stone to fill cracks in the wood siding of my home, and painted over it and it is very unnotible even after 6 years. Way better than the caulk used previously.

I wonder if it would work as a smoother for weathered areas as you speak. It Caulk and wood putty do not seem to be real long term solutions, but sound like the only other solutions.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 10:49PM
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By all means the best solution is to use a good wood putty caulking will always be somewhat soft and not a good choice for this application. If the old paint is peeling away from the old wood putty it could be that the putty was not completely dry when it was origionaly painted which resulted in the adhesion loss over time...Good Luck...

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 4:08PM
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Plain and simple caulk is for joints....between 2 pieces of wood where they meet. You can also use caulk for cracks, but not for repairs or filling nail holes. A lot of painters I see use glaze to do repairs and they call the glaze putty as a generic term. It's oil based and takes forever to dry and hardly any painter would actually wait for it to dry before painting over it. Of course it doesn't last long. Maybe that is what the painter is referring to when he says he would not use putty...just a guess. Putty that dries hard is okay to use.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 7:26AM
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I've used the Elmer's wood filler with both good and bad results on exterior surfaces - good results on nail holes and small cracks in vertical surfaces (i.e. exterior siding). Bad results on a fairly wide and deep hole on a horizontal surface (windowsill) which took a lot of filler (according to the instructions, that should have been okay). The wood filler dried hard, it had a good week or two before I painted. A couple of days after I painted it rained and the filler turned soft and expanded under the paint - I could actually dig a fingernail into it. I ended up pulling it all out - it was all damp and it cracked the paint.

I'm not sure how large your wood repair is, or if it's on a horizontal surface, but maybe Dap or something else would be a better choice.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 9:33PM
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My deck railing has become the site of hungery wood bees drilling holes and wood chips indicate wood peckers are enlarging the holes. I have used wood filler, but the little demons are back and making holes in my wood filler. What can I use that will be hard enough to fill the holes for good? Any info will be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 8:00PM
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