My Review of Durham's Water Putty for Cabinet Painting

Updated on July 15, 2019
Matt G. profile image

Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.

Durham's Rock Hard Water Putty for Cabinet Prep

I remember walking past Durham's water putty in my local paint store years ago, but never tried the stuff until recently. Durham's putty has been around forever, including the outdated label with the Speedo man on it.

This putty is inexpensive and works better for patching cabinet damage than some of the more expensive wood filler products I've experimented with. The putty is a powder that you carefully mix with water, using a putty knife to apply the material. You can also add vinegar to the mix to slow down the drying time if needed.

Without vinegar, the yellow colored putty starts to harden in about five minutes, with the ability to sand the surface in about ten to fifteen minutes. When mixing the putty, a little water goes a long way. If you add too much water, the putty consistency is too thin and ineffective for patching.

Patching Holes and Filling Grain on Cabinets

The putty definitely dries hard as advertised, but it's also difficult to sand out of corners, or when layered too heavily, making Durham's a bad choice as a grain filler for oak cabinets. This product also dries too fast to be used as a grain filler when filling multiple cabinet doors. You would have to stop and mix another batch every ten minutes.

This putty works great for patching small holes and minor damage on cabinet doors and frames. Shrinkage is almost non-existent, but deeper holes and cracks will require at least two coats to make the patch flush with the surface. I like this product because I can patch holes and sand them less than fifteen minutes later.

Patching Big Holes and Miter Joints On Cabinet Doors

Durham's is too brittle for filling joint cracks on doors if there's any movement where the wood connects. I find that caulk is more flexible and works the best for filling joint cracks on cabinet doors.

If you need to fill hardware holes from old knobs, the best product to use for that is Bondo Wood Filler with the cream hardener. The smell is horrible, but the filler dries as hard as concrete and works great for filling large holes fast in less coats.

Does it Sand Easily?

I've found that this product sands easier when applied to primed, or painted, wood. I use a sanding sponge to sand patches flat with the surface. Using a sanding sponge, particularly the angled sponges by 3M, are great for sanding repaired corners and beveled edges. This stuff sands easier when applied in thin layers. It's hard to sand if you leave globs, or ridges, on the surface.

This product is water-based, so the sanded patches should be primed before painting to seal them. I patch cabinet doors between the first and second coat of primer. Patches also sand nicely with an orbital sander.

Is Durham's Water Putty Good for Patching Cabinets?

I use both Bondo Wood Filler and Durham's water putty to prep cabinets for painting. Bondo is awesome for big holes and damaged areas that you want to dry as fast as possible without shrinking, or cracking. Bondo Wood Filler is a two part filler that won't crack when used to fill large holes and cracks in wood, but the main downsides are the horrible smell and the difficult sanding, especially for corner repairs.

Durham's is cheap and works great for patching shallow cracks and small nail holes on cabinet doors. This product works especially well for patching chips and dents on the outside corner parts of cabinet doors. I can work the material into the damaged area and shape it with my putty knife easily to restore the corner. When applied in light layers over a primed surface, the putty sands much easier than over bare wood. The patches are ready for sanding in about ten minutes.

Being water-based, I haven't noticed any unpleasant odor when using this product, unlike similar products I've used that practically require a respirator to avoid a headache. While this product is advertised as being fine for exterior use too, it's water-based, so a water-resistant filler, like Bondo, is more durable.

Questions & Answers

  • Can you add color to putty before using it?

    I suppose you could, but I have no idea if that would impact the performance of the putty. I would test that first before doing that all over your painting project.

© 2019 Matt G.


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