Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I receive a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase using my link.
A rotting piece of wood is a sad sight indeed. We rely on this material for so many things, and yet, it is a relatively short-lived substance. Thankfully, there are many creative ways in which you can restore old or rotted wood to its former usefulness.
Perhaps the easiest way is to use a wood hardener. This is a glue-like product that soaks deeply into the wood, fortifying it against further rot while also protecting it from moisture. Let’s look at the best wood hardeners that I could find.
Best Wood Hardeners in April, 2021
|#||Hardener||Dry time (hours)|
|5||J-B Weld Original||2-4|
Minwax is one of the more trusted brands when it comes to these kinds of products. Looking at the reviews for this product, we can see why that is so. This is a product that falls right in the middle of our price ranges, meaning that it is not particularly cheap or expensive. It’s right in the middle, which is fine for most people.
This company also makes an excellent wood filler, and the wood hardener is meant to work in unison with that product. Thus, you already know what kind of filler to buy when you work with this stuff. I also like the way that this hardener darkens the wood, improving the appearance and bringing out the grain in a manner similar to staining.
A lot of this hardener’s properties come from its thin and watery consistency. This feature provides both benefits and problems. On the plus side, this stuff absorbs into the wood very quickly and very deeply. If you really want something that will go all the way to the core, this is the right bottle for you. However, that thin consistency also makes it a little harder to use, especially on vertical surfaces.
Not Very Forgiving
I do have some problems to report. This substance dries very quickly in spite of its thin consistency. This might be a good thing when you’re doing a rush job, but you shouldn’t be doing something like this as a rush job anyway. The fast drying time gives you less time to correct any mistakes, so it’s a slight problem.
A bigger problem is the fact that this stuff contains some rather harsh chemicals. As such, you need to be careful not to get any of it on your hands. Never use latex gloves when applying this hardener, as they will melt. Go with some rubber gloves to avoid this little hazard.
Here we see one of the cheapest products on our list. However, I didn’t list that as a “pro” because low prices can sometimes equal shoddy manufacturing. Still, the reviews for this product indicate that most people are happy with its performance.
Less Drip, Less Penetration
This stuff is a little thicker than the Minwax hardener, which makes it slightly less absorbent. On the upside, it is a lot easier to brush this stuff onto a rough surface. A thicker consistency is also nice when you are working on any vertical surface. PC-Petrifier doesn’t drip quite as much as the competition, leading to less aggravation for the user.
Gentle And Versatile
This stuff is also environmentally friendly. You certainly don’t want to drink it, but it doesn’t have nearly as much stink as some others. Also, it is non-toxic once dried. This product can even do double-duty as an outdoor primer, as it is perfectly suitable for painting. By using this stuff, you won’t have to remove the old paint.
As for problems, I do see a few. That nozzle tends to squirt big globs that are harder to smooth out. Also, the manufacturer says that this product is not to be used for structural repairs (meaning wooden beams that bear weight). This is a clue, and it tells us that this product does not penetrate as far as some others. Finally, there is a problem with filler compatibility. This stuff cannot be used in combination with any wood filler that contains borate, and many of them do.
Most people think of Bondo when it’s time to fix a rusty car, but they also make an excellent wood hardener. This is what some people might call a premium option, as it offers a high level of quality and convenience. Of course, the extra quality and convenience don’t come cheap.
Expensive And Hazardous
This one is about twice as expensive as other products on the list (on average), making it a poor choice for those on a tight budget. It’s also not the best choice for those with breathing problems or smokers. Why do I say that? Because this stuff gives off some volatile and harmful fumes and is also highly flammable. You’d better make sure to put out that cigarette before you open this can.
Still, there are many good things about this product. First of all, it’s one of the most fast-drying wood hardeners that I have seen. It only takes about two hours to dry fully, even though it’s a good idea to let it cure for an additional 24 hours. The downside of this is a very narrow working time.
This product is meant to be mixed with wood filler, making a putty-like substance that can be applied like clay to any wooden surface. This is pretty cool, but you had better be able to mix and apply this stuff quickly because you only have three to five minutes before it starts to set. After two hours, don’t even bother trying to correct your mistakes.
When it comes to strength, this one gets some serious points. It is meant to penetrate deeply and reinforce the wood. Obviously, that only happens when you use the product without mixing, which you certainly can do. Even though the quick dry time can be a bear, it does mean less waiting between coats.
This is another product that might be described as premium, but it’s not quite as expensive as the other one. However, it comes with one big inconvenience. Liquidwood is basically just an absorbent epoxy. Like most epoxies, it has to be mixed with two different substances. This raises the price even higher, since two cans must be purchased. Thankfully, this product is sold in a kit, saving you a little money.
The best thing about this product is the strength that it produces. This hardener is rated for structural repairs, so it should restore any piece of wood to its original strength (and possibly make it stronger than ever). This makes it a great choice for those who are looking to preserve something made of softwood. Softwoods like pine do not tend to last as long, but Liquidwood will make them harder than Oak.
Not only does this stuff provide a strong repair, but it also provides a waterproof and weatherproof finish that is suitable for outdoor projects. It isn’t very visible once it dries, so it shouldn’t affect the appearance of your deck or its furniture.
Kind Of Slow
This product takes a little bit longer to dry than most others. If you are an accident-prone person, this will be a good thing. You should have at least thirty minutes to correct any mistakes that you have made, and the whole thing won’t harden up for about 24 hours. In some cases, it may take even longer. Temperature and humidity will play a role in the dry time, so it’s hard to know for sure.
Although this long dry time is very forgiving of mistakes, it does present a problem when you are working on a vertical surface. There is a lot more time for this product to drip and run down a wall, for instance.
This product comes from a company that is best known for their two-part metal epoxies. Their wood hardener is less well-known, but works just as effectively. Unlike J-B’s other products, this one requires no mixing or special preparation. You just dip the brush in the can and slop it on there. It has a watery, milky appearance and soaks easily into rotted wood.
Draws Out Moisture
This product is formulated in such a way that it actually draws moisture out of the wood as it dries. This is great because you will have less chance of internal rotting. Sometimes, a hardener will not penetrate deeply enough, causing it to form a hardened outer layer that traps moisture in the middle. As you might guess, this trapped moisture will rot the wood from the inside. It’s good to see that at least one company has given us a way to prevent this issue.
Most reviews seem to agree that this product will last for years once applied. Some people claim that it can last as long as ten years before needing to be re-applied. Also, the quick-drying nature of this product makes it great for non-horizontal projects. If you are trying to seal up the wall of an old log cabin (for instance), a quick-drying formula can be a real plus.
Don’t Breathe This Stuff!
You do need to be a little bit careful with this one, as it is quite toxic. Keep it away from your kids and your pets, and you should be fine. Also, wear a face mask when you start brushing this stuff onto the wood so that you don’t inhale deeply and get sick. Thankfully, this bad smell will go away when the hardener has dried.
Some reviewers insist that the product has changed its formula in recent years. They say that the old formula was acetone-based and provided stronger results. However, this may very well be untrue.
Even though all of these products do the same thing, they do not perform the same. The small variations are very important here, so make sure you understand the importance of choosing carefully and wisely. After all, you will only get one shot at this project! Once a wood hardener has been added to a piece of wood and dries, you are stuck with the results. This is a non-reversible process, and that’s exactly why we chose to create this article. With a little bit of knowledge under your belt, I hope that you will now be able to choose well and attain the best of results.