How to Repair Rotted Wood

Rebuild and restore rotted wood without replacing it.

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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.