Wood structures on the exteriors of dwellings can be repaired easily to prevent encroachment of rot and other decay. The most important part is to determine the cause of the wood damage and to insure preventative as well as maintenance measures are taken.
Make rotten, gouged, beat-up wood look as good as new – no special skills or tools required.
If this article sometimes sounds more like advertising than a report on wood repairs, it’s not because some wood filler manufacturer set up a Swiss bank account for us, but because we want you to know about these economical, versatile and downright useful wood-repair products.
We won’t just praise these products though. We’ll point out their drawbacks, explain how they work and show you how to use them. With a bit of time and money you’ll be able to make good-looking, long-lasting repairs to almost any non-structural wooden part of your home, inside or out.
- The beauty of these products is their versatility. Like wood, they can be cut, sanded, planed or carved to match any pattern, from simple, flat decking to the most intricate Victorian gingerbread. Unlike wood, however, they won’t rot, split or splinter.
- Even ornate woodwork can be restored to its original shape.
- Repairing wood (especially fancy stuff like the post shown on p. 81) is often much cheaper and easier than replacing it, so these products can save a lot of strain – on both your back and your wallet The porch post we show here, for example, was repaired in five hours for about $20. Replacing it would not only have taken a couple days of sweating and grunting, but would have cost over $100 for materials.
The most durable and effective fillers are two-part compounds you mix yourself just before using. Their sticky, peanut-butter consistency makes them difficult to work with, and most fillers harden very quickly (5 to 15 minutes), so you have to move fast. There are several one-part wood fillers on the market that are easier to work with and don’t require mixing. But the messy two-part fillers we list in the Buyers Guide are stronger, easier to shape, and well worth the extra trouble.
These fillers are most effective when used after applying a “consolidant,” a thin liquid that penetrates the repair area and dries, making the wood a stronger, harder, rot-resistant foundation for the filler.
Deciding how much filler to buy is an act of faith. Unless you’re willing and able to solve long calculus problems, the best you can do is look at the holes you want to fill, guesstimate how many fluid ounces it will take to fill them and add 20 percent for overfilling and mistakes.
Most of these products are toxic and flammable. They give off harmful vapors and generate heat as they dry, so don’t just read the manufacturer’s instructions, obey them. Plain and simple.
Experts use these wood fillers for perfect repairs – so can you.
Making structural repairs (restoring the strength of wood that helps hold your house up or together) is neither plain nor simple. Nor is this a task for amateurs. If the damage you want to repair is only superficial – a dent from a runaway skateboard, shallow rot, or a gouge from moving in the new fridge – the strength of the wood isn’t affected. But if the damage is deeper, you have to make some judgments, first about your own level of knowledge and then about the purpose of the wood and the damage to it.
- If you have a basic understanding of home construction, you can probably distinguish between structural wood like porch posts or ceiling beams, and non-structural parts like doors, jambs, windowsills, casings, gingerbread or moldings.
- If you have a good understanding of wood, you may be able to judge whether the damage is deep enough to affect strength. Our post, for instance, is structural. But it wasn’t so deeply rotted that we had to make a structural repair or replace it.
- If you have even a sliver of doubt about your ability to make these judgments, get a professional opinion. If you don’t have any friends with expertise, call your local building inspector.