Appropriate wood finish inside old barn?

subk3March 16, 2009

I have recently finished construction on a new/old barn. The barn is built with post and beam construction and while it isn't an antique now it will be around for a good 200 years! While the inside of the barn is highly functional and will be used for horses on a daily basis I'm trying to still keep it "barn like" as opposed to the now popular Barn McMansion.

Inside the tackroom (which is weatherproof) as well as half way up the wall down the center aisle (which is protected from the elements but not "inside" so to speak) is tongue and grove, kiln dried, white oak paneling. I was getting ready to stain it with your basic wood stain when my lumber guy happen to suggest I look into putting an oil finish on the wood instead. He thought it would be more of an "old barn look as that's what farmers of yesteryear would have done."

Any thoughts on that comment? I like the look of linseed oil on a sample piece but was wondering as to the practicality of it. It won't be rained on but it is going to be, well, a barn, as in things will occasionally bump into or scratch the walls. Is linseed my best oil option?


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I've used linseed oil many times on an old house & highly recommend it. It's a penetrating oil that dries in the wood so there's nothing to chip or flake if it gets bumped. If the wood gets scratched, simply touch up with more oil. It must be applied to raw wood.

You are talking about BOILED linseed, right? RAW linseed never hardens & is usually used in marine & exterior applications where it remains tacky. HTH

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 2:44PM
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Why does it need anything?

I cannot remember the last barn or stable I saw with any finish on the inside.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 7:13PM
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None of the barns I've had, or my kids have had any type of finish on the interior either. If I were to put a finish on, it would be oiled so it could just age naturally.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 8:51PM
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The interior of our barn is paneled with tongue and groove pine but it was never stained or finished. Its probably been up for about 40 or 50 years and has a nice patina. The barn was used as the office and sales/storage for an apple orchard. i don't know if having horses in the barn might require some kind of stain or sealer on the paneling.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 11:36PM
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My 175 y.o working farm barns (cattle and draft oxen and horses) were always white-washed inside, (even the few places where oak was used) in any area where animals were housed. This was a way to make them easy to care for and keep clean looking (because manure, um, happens!) plus it was believed to discourage flies and mud-wasp nests. White wash is just a slurry of hydrated lime and water, but I doubt you'd want to cover new white oak with it. Personally, I like the look of the silver-grey of old white oak that's exposed to air.

I would have some trepidation about using boiled linseed oil given its recent implication in mold growth. If I wanted to use linseed oil, I would use the cleaned linseed from Allback Paints. (I have some test patches of that up on the outside of my outhouse and it seems to be doing well after about a year.)



    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 9:20PM
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My barn interior has a mix of board siding and plywood sheets lining the stalls, and looked like a junky mess before it was painted. I liked the idea of painting everything white, but the outside of the barn is dark red with tan trim and dark blue doors. White seemed too stark.

So I painted the interior walls a light mushroom tan color, using leftover house paint. I couldn't believe how beautiful it looked, very clean and almost elegant. A freshly painted horse stall is pretty swank, let me tell you. Of course, the animals have dirtied the walls up since then, but they still look much better than the old raw wood did.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 7:01PM
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I don't know if you're still checking this thread, but if you haven't yet made a decision, you might want to look at Waterlox. I think you can apply it over linseed oil, but you might want to check with the manufacturer -- they're great about answering questions if you give them a call. (No affiliation. I used Waterlox on my floor and ended up making several phone calls.) You might also check with them as to whether the usual horse-related chemical aerosols (fly spray, ShowSheen, clipper lube, etc.) will ruin the finish.

BTW, I love the "Barn McMansion" term. LOL And is this the subk from COTH?

I've been in tons of barns over the years and I think most of them were either raw wood with natural "patina" (patina = all sorts of stuff accumulated on the wood after years of horse occupation) or whitewash. But I'll bet your white oak would look fantastic with a finish that would accentuate the grain.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 8:00AM
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