Door frames, especially those laid with wooden trim, are used so frequently that they commonly see a lot of wear and tear. Wooden fixtures are appealing yet sensitive because they are easily damaged by age, spills, and scrapes. And since you see the door frame every day, you’re probably wondering how to fix it up already. We have carefully researched the proper way to repair your door frame with wood filler.
Repairing a damaged door frame with wood filler is mostly a straightforward process. You don’t need many tools, but you should prepare to invest some time and effort. There are just a few steps you need to follow:
- Determine the ideal wood filler
- Sand and clean the door frame
- Evenly apply the wood filler
- Stain or repaint the frame
Wood filler can be a versatile tool, but it’s sold in a wide variety of options. Multiple products are floating around, from wood grain filler to wood putty. So, it can be confusing to choose the correct filler for you. Keep reading to learn how to select the ideal wood filler for large gaps, when you need to paint or stain it, and any alternative products that could do the job.
Step One - How do I choose a wood filler?
This is the only step in repairing your door frame that can get pretty tricky. To begin with, you need to learn exactly what wood filler is.
That’s because multiple products are designed to fill damaged wood, and they share very similar names. Two primary products are considered to be wood fillers. If you use the wrong one, you won’t have any proper results.
You can find wood grain filler, which is also known as grain filler. Alternatively, there is just wood filler, which is also sold as wood putty. These two are often used interchangeably, but they are actually quite different.
How hard is wood filler?
The biggest difference between grain fillers and wood fillers is the texture. Any kind of grain filler will dry very quickly, and the result is very hard. This means that grain fillers aren’t flexible at all, but they can be sanded down to an even surface.
That’s why wood filler is used before any wood finish is applied or reapplied. It is ideal for interior projects, including door frames, because it won’t hold up to conditions outside the home. It is also better for long, thin cracks instead of larger gaps. It simply isn’t going to stretch or flex enough for wide damage.
Meanwhile, wood putty is a lot more like clay. It is very flexible, which also means it can’t be sanded down after it’s applied. You should use wood putty for larger problems, and it’s best to use wood putty on top of the wood finish.
Wood putty is flexible enough to expand with wood, which means it can also withstand frequent wear and changing temperatures. That’s why wood putty is often reserved for hardwood floors, which see a lot of foot traffic. Putty is mainly used for outside fixtures and projects, which are subjected to the weather.
Can wood filler be painted?
Wood fillers, as opposed to wood putty, are not available in many different colors. So, you definitely want to make sure that you purchase wood filler that you can paint. Otherwise, you’ll just have a door frame with an obvious, conflicting blotch spread across the surface.
Fortunately, you can paint most wood fillers, but the results are sometimes less than perfect. This can be frustrating since you need to repaint the entire door frame after applying the wood filler. But it’s still possible with a few tricks. More to come on this in Step 4 when we cover staining and repainting.
Can you stain over wood filler?
The next thing you need to consider for your wood filler is whether or not you can stain it. Staining wood is a very popular technique because it can really change the wood's appearance. So, it is commonly used to unify different wood floors or wooden fixtures together.
Staining your wood filler will be an easy way to help it blend in with the door frame. Bear in mind that wood fillers don’t always interact very well with paint. Also, note that not all wood fillers can be stained. Although most fillers can be painted, you specifically need to find one that will let you stain it.
You also need to seriously consider what kind of material your wood filler is made of. It might be water-based or solvent-based. For example, epoxy wood filler is unique because it is often known to contain plastic. Plastic is not a porous material so it won’t absorb any wood stains.
You can sometimes use gel stains, which are thick and oil-based varnishes, but they don’t tend to hold up. In fact, they won’t even soak into the wood itself very well.
You can read this post to learn if epoxy will soak into wood.
Which is the best wood filler for large gaps?
If you have wide gouges in your door frame, you may have to resort to wood putty instead of wood filler. The putty is going to be durable and flexible enough to support the gaps. Traditional wood grain fillers are typically designed for thin cracks and dings.
You can find wood putty that is made from epoxy, fiberglass, or urethane. But remember that you can’t sand down wood putty, and it won’t harden as much. So, you may have to consider replacing the wood of the door frame altogether.
Step Two - Sand and Clean the Door Frame
Once you’ve purchased the correct wood filler, you’ll need to sand and clean your door frame. Remember that wood filler is designed to be applied underneath your wood finish. It also needs to be applied evenly, so the door frame needs to be even beforehand.
Sanding down the door frame is going to scrape off larger debris and create a level surface. If you need to use wood filler, then you probably have peeling, unwanted wood.
You can use sandpaper that has different levels of strength, which is determined by grit. Lower grits are coarse, while higher grits are fine and gentle. Here, you should start with a lower sandpaper grit. This way, it will take less work to brush out thick imperfections.
Next, you can clean the area down. The easy way to do this is to wipe the door frame down with a clean, microfiber cloth. Avoid using cleaners or water on the unfinished wood you just exposed with the sandpaper.
Step Three - Evenly apply the wood filler
Now you just need to brush the wood filler onto the sanded and cleaned door frame. Usually, you should use a putty knife to distribute the wood filler across the area evenly.
Make sure to use the right amount of wood filler. Keep in mind that wood filler is known to shrink during the drying process. So, you should use just a little extra wood filler in the cracks of the door frame.
But you still need to smooth everything down when you’re done. The wood filler needs to be even enough for staining and painting. It is common practice to sand down the wood filler once you’ve applied it. You should use a high sandpaper grit now because a softer touch is needed.
Step Four - Stain or Repaint the Frame
Now you are free to stain the door frame again, or you can repaint it. Generally, this means that you will have to apply either to the entire door frame. You can’t just stain or repaint the affected areas. Otherwise, areas where the wood filler was added will be clearly noticeable. Wood filler will typically require a full layer of primer in order to properly bond with new layers.
Sometimes, wood filler can actually discolor a new coating of paint. This is because the residue from wood filler can disrupt the unfinished wood a bit. You can avoid this by sanding the door frame down properly and then mixing a neutral wood filler with the intended stain before applying it.
Should I use wood filler or spackle?
Spackle is a flexible putty, just like wood putty. However, spackle filler is usually made of gypsum plaster. This is why spackles are generally used for drywall damage. But you can also use spackle on other materials, including both metal and wood.
You should use spackle in the same instances you would use wood putty. The difference is that spackle can be successfully sanded down, which might make it more useful in certain circumstances.
Wood filler can be difficult to select and apply. But it’s always worth the time and effort for door frames, which will likely be an eyesore every day. Now that you know how to choose the right wood filler, no matter what the situation, your damaged door frames will be sleek and good as new in no time.