How to Repair Rotted Wood

Updated: Aug. 23, 2022

Rebuild and restore rotted wood without replacing it.

Next Project


Use a polyester filler to rebuild rotted or damaged wood. You can mold and shape it to match the original wood profile. It takes paint well and won't rot.

Tools Required

  • Paintbrush
  • Putty knife
  • Rasp
  • Sanding block
  • Utility knife
  • Wood chisel

Materials Required

  • 100-grit sandpaper
  • Polyester filler
  • Wood hardener (consolidant)

Project step-by-step (3)

Step 1

Repair wood with polyester filler: Apply wood hardener and filler

fillervia Elmer's

To repair rotted door frame, first remove rotted wood with a 5-in-1 or other sharp tool. Then coat the rotted door frame area with wood hardener as shown. Mix polyester wood filler or Bondo wood filler and press it into the recess with a putty knife.

Step 2

Shape and smooth

knifeFamily Handyman

Carve the partially hardened sagging Bondo wood filler with a putty knife or chisel. Add another layer of filler if necessary to the rotted door frame.

If you’ve done any auto body repair, you’ve probably worked with two-part polyester filler. Minwax High Performance Wood Filler is one brand formulated for wood repair, but a gallon container of Bondo wood filler or some other brand of two-part auto body polyester will also work and may be less expensive for larger fixes. In repairs like this, make sure to use wood filler instead of wood putty.

The process for repairing wood is much the same whether you’re using polyester filler or epoxy for wood repairs. Instead of epoxy consolidant, you’ll use High Performance Wood Hardener to solidify and strengthen the wood fibers (Photo 1). Polyester begins hardening faster than Abatron WoodEpox. Depending on the temperature, you’ll have about 10 to 15 minutes to work before the filler starts to harden.

Step 3

Smooth out the repair

Pocket Planevia Amazon

Also, unlike WoodEpox, polyester tends to sag when you’re doing vertical repairs. One trick is to build a form and line it with plastic sheeting. Press the form against the filler and attach it with screws. Then pull it off after the filler hardens. Or you can wait until the sagging filler reaches the hardness of soap and carve it off with a putty knife or chisel or shape it with a Surform plane or rasp. Most medium to large repairs will require at least two layers of filler. Complete the repair by sanding and priming the filled area and then painting.