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Patching holes in siding

Q: I’m painting my 100-year-old house. The clapboards are in pretty good shape, but I have some holes and gouges to fill. What type of filler should I use?


Jeff Perlee, via email


A: Tim Leahy, a finish foreman for Kirby Perkins Construction in Newport, R.I., replies: My company does a lot of restoration work, so I deal with damaged clapboards all the time. Because our jobs are often time sensitive, I like products that dry fast enough for me to fill, sand, prime, and paint all in the same day.


The type of filler follows the size of the patch. For holes up to and gouges narrower than 1/2 in., use Elmer's interior/exterior Carpenter's Wood Filler. Any holes and gouges larger than 1/2 in. should be filled with an epoxy filler or Bondo.
Photo (left) by: Dan Thornton.; Photo (right): Courtesy of Simpson Strong-Tie.The type of filler follows the size of the patch. For holes up to and gouges narrower than 1/2 in., use Elmer's interior/exterior Carpenter's Wood Filler. Any holes and gouges larger than 1/2 in. should be filled with an epoxy filler or Bondo.

Photo (left) by: Dan Thornton.; Photo (right): Courtesy of Simpson Strong-Tie.
For holes up to 1/2 in. dia. or for gouges narrower than 1/2 in., I like Elmer's interior/ exterior Carpenter's Wood Filler (www.elmers.com). It sands well and is creamy, so it works well off the knife. I sand the damaged area to bare wood and spot-prime the holes to seal the old wood; then I force in the putty. Deep holes and gouges might require a second application. Although the product claims to be shrink-free, the filler occasionally shrinks slightly as it dries. I sand and reprime the area once the filler dries.

For holes and gouges larger than 1/2 in., I reach for an epoxy filler or Bondo (www.3m.com), which is a polyester compound. Bondo doesn't adhere well to paint or smooth surfaces. Before I apply it, I sand an area to bare wood about an inch around the repair. If the hole or gouge is deep, I also carve out small crevices with a chisel or putty knife around the perimeter of the repair. This gives the filler more area to cling to. I fill the hole, then sand the repair with a random-orbit sander to smooth the surface to level.


From Fine Homebuilding 205, pp. 76 July 16, 2009