Your Place: Filling in the uneven spots on wood siding

Posted: October 07, 2011

Question: We have a very old home with wood siding. After years of scraping, sanding and painting, the siding has several uneven spots. Is there a technique and/or product we can apply to even out these boards?

Answer: By uneven, I assume some of the boards are deeply gouged or have chunks of wood that might have been torn away in the scraping process - at least that is the experience I have had with my cedar siding.

If you paint, you have a little more wiggle room than if you stain. What I do is fill the gouges with Elmer's wood putty, let it cure and shrink and then repeat until the putty is even with the surface of the board. Then I sand, prime (sometimes two coats, lightly sanding in between) and then paint with acrylic latex paint.

I have used a two-part wood epoxy on old columns and fascia boards, but that was more to even out the surface when I was trying to blend new and old wood after rebuilding.

Here's an interesting thing I found, and maybe I'll show the results on an Al's Place video soon if I can arrange it:

In April, I noticed the bottom right side of the frame of the door of my workshop (yes, really, my workshop) had rotted down to the two-by-four. As I tried to remove the trim to get to the frame, a piece of the trim split and ripped away.

I used wood putty to fill in the missing trim, and clamped a couple of thin pieces of wood to hold the repair in place. Then I sanded lightly and repainted. You cannot tell even on looking closely that the trim is not a single piece.

I'm not patting myself on the back, which at my age is a stretch physically. I do believe that with a little patience, all things are possible.

You didn't ask but ... It is time to get that house ready for winter, a topic I recently broached in a chat on Here's one job to tackle; we'll do more before the last leaf finally hits the ground.

Start with the furnace, or heater, as many locals call it. Now is the time to call the professionals to check it out, since they tend to get pretty busy as the fall wears on.

If you have a modern furnace, winter preparation might mean something as simple as replacing the filter. You need to do it, however, because regular filter changing means that the furnace will operate efficiently.

Unless you have one of those turn-of-the-20th-century monstrosities that grace many a rambling Northwest Philadelphia homestead, you probably have a manual for your furnace that you need to follow. If you've misplaced it, you are likely to find a copy on the manufacturer's website.

If you have oil heat, many suppliers have maintenance contracts that will keep your furnace at peak efficiency.

From a recent Monday chat: "I have a major bathroom remodel looming, and I had a contractor quote me $5,000-plus fixtures/materials. I have zero experience as a DIYer, but I believe the potential cost savings for taking on this task myself could be huge. Do you agree?"

From my experience as a do-it-yourselfer, unless you come to the job with a great deal of prior experience and knowledge, these projects end up costing more than your budget and consume many, many hours.

I'm just letting you know that DIY is a road filled with disappointments. But if you have made up your mind, my advice is to pick parts of this project. For example: I redid a bathroom. I had an electrician replace the wiring and the lights; a plumber install the toilet and the sink and convert the old clawfoot tub into a shower. I did the tiling (after watching a Hometime video 200 times); installed the wainscoting; and painted. I also did the demolition of the walls, removed the old molding and trim, and replastered the ceiling.

Check out the Time Life home repair series; DIY videos; and search for projects on the Internet. Also, go to demonstrations at the home centers.

Your Place:

This week on Al's Place: Sharpening drill bits.

Chat live with him at noon Monday on

Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies. He is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing).

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