help! how do i paint over polyurethaned knotty pine ?

CR1974December 8, 2012

Dear Friends,

So we just purchased our first home. It was built in 1979, we love everything about the house but the walls. The whole house interior is walled with knotty pine boards. ALL OF IT ! COMPLETELY COVERED! It has that orangey tint to it. We want to paint over it with a light color so we can brighten up the place since we don't really get that much light. We plan to do this ourselves since we really don't have much left in our savings after the downpayment.

I've done a few tests to figure out what the original owner (who built the house himself) used to finish the walls. It's not shellac nor is it varnish (tried rubbing den. alcohol and lacquer thinner on it and those solvents did not do anything to the finish). I imagine it's either an oil or water based polyurethane.

After all is said and done, we ultimately want the top coat to be a satin or flat latex in a version of white.

My questions are :

1.) How do I treat the walls prior to painting ? I am overwhelmed by thought of sanding the whole interior since the whole 2500 sq ft is COVERED with it--or do I just suck it up? How much sanding do I do ? Do I attempt to remove the finish or sand it so I just get enough tooth for the primer to adhere.

2.) Is there a deglosser that is low or no VOC that I can use instead of sanding ?

3.) THE KNOTS. In my research, everyone seems to think that shellac based primer like BIN is the best primer to use to prevent the knots from bleeding through. Does anyone have experience using this product on knotty pine?

4.) THE EXPENSE. Since BIN is twice the price of ordinary latex primer. Do I just use the BIN on the knots and use regular latex primer on the rest ? WIll the latex topcoat adhere to both?

5.) APPLICATION. I was just going to use the regular brush and roller method to apply the primer/s, It is better/fater to use a spray.

We are desperate to paint over the walls. I understand that some people may like the knotty pine look and I respect that but, for us, it really has to go.

We bought the house not for the walls but for the location, layout and general condition-- we love almost everything about it.

Please please send me your input and/or experiences on this.

I've attached some pictures so you guys have an idea of what we're dealing with.


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Relax. It's not going to be difficult. And while I like nice wood, having 100% knotty pine is a bit much.

1 - You need to have the walls clean as well as de-glossed. Wash the walls with any decent wall-washing de-glosser that you can get locally. They are not solvent-based, they are rather harsh detergents, so wear gloves.

2 - Locate and sand any really rough spots, spackle and sand any holes

3 - Paint over the knotholes (just in case the poly is not stain-proof) with alcohol-based shellac primer.

4 - Prime it and paint it.

Sit back and enjoy the nice clean white walls.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2012 at 5:28PM
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Thanks lazygardens ! Mostly for telling me to RELAX !

Ok. Any brand in particular that you can recommend for the de-glosser?

Should I also worry about the seams expanding when the boards contract in the cold months ?


    Bookmark   December 8, 2012 at 6:59PM
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I would prime everything with BIN and you would only have to sand lightly with fine or medium grit sanding blocks....just enough to dull the sheen down.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 3:25AM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

I agree with paint guy

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 6:28AM
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Beware. Those knots may bleed thru in time no matter what you do. Double prime them if you have the time and energy.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 9:13PM
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I asked the same Q a year ago. I think I followed paint guys recommendations.
I lightly sanded with a foam sanding block, then cleaned with vinegar water. Then primed with bins stain block.I think I hit the knots the second time with bins.
Then two coats of paint.
A year later no bleed through and it looks real nice.
BTW, Do not use a high end brush with Bins, Just toss, it is almost impossible to clean.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 6:58AM
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HELP!!! , I to have a 1960 home and the kitchen and dinning room has tongue and groove all over. Need to know what I have to do to paint over the polyurethane on some of the walls. Was going to drywall but need help to figure out if painting is a option.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2015 at 5:52PM
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Read this discussion. It has all the info you need.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 11, 2015 at 6:07PM
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