Holes come in all shapes, sizes and depths. And, holes happen in different materials, such as wood, plaster, drywall, plastic and metal. Is there a magic, one-size-fits-all product for fixing all of these holes? Of course not!
For professional painters and DIYers alike, paint preparation, including filling holes in walls and trim, seems to take as much time as the painting itself. If you have holes to fill, begin by answering these questions so you understand the requirements of the each hole.
Will it be exposed to weather? Does it need to be super smooth and blend into a large, flat background? Does it need to be able to hold a screw, or to be cut, or planed, or otherwise manipulated once dry?
How fast do you need the hole filler to dry? How deep is the hole? Can the hole filler air-dry or is it so deep that it will need an accelerant to help it dry?
Here are the most common products used for filling holes before painting.
For filling nail holes in wood trim, or smaller holes in plaster, drywall and even plastic trim, a high-quality, lightweight, non-shrinking spackling compound is perfect. You can also use 3M Patch Plus Primer that can be painted over almost immediately, so you can skip the primer step. These products are odorless, easy to sand, easy to remove from tools, quick drying and very forgiving.
For skimming a surface or when trying to smooth out a larger hole, a high-water-content filler like joint compound is ideal. It’s easy to apply and sand, it’s odorless, and easy to clean up.
DuraBond is a setting-type joint compound that can be mixed into various consistencies—thicker for deeper holes because it is self-drying and doesn’t need air exposure; thinner for shallow holes and for skimming. Its only limitation in this application is its self-drying feature. It sets up quickly and is harder to sand, so it’s not the best product for beginners.
Holes in metal require an epoxy filler, such as Bondo (the classic red patch you’ve seen on rusted car body panels). Other epoxies are designed to complement and mimic the dimensional movement of wood and still others are engineered for use with synthetic resins like composite decking.
Is there a single best hole filler? No, but for most homeowners, having a good-quality, lightweight spackling compound on hand is essential. For the more adventurous, adding joint compound and epoxy to your toolkit can be helpful.
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