Can I stain knotty pine paneling?

karenjaneOctober 25, 2008

Our basement has the original knotty pine T&G paneling (from the 1950's) halfway up the walls. It has turned almost orange and it looks very dated; I would like to stain it transparent black. I was told a gel-stain was the best way, but I cannot find an ebony gel-stain. Should I sand off the old varnish or shellac? Is there something else I can use to achieve this? Any suggestions to make it look better? I would even like to make it lighter, if possible. My husband does not want to paint.

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The orange color is likely the natural patina that has developed in the wood and finish in the last 50 years. (My parents had knotty pine wainscoting in the 1954 house I grew up in.)

You have lots of options:

1. Paint. Yes, you can paint it. Clean it thoroughly, scuff sand to dull the surface. Use a shellac-based primer, such as B-I-N to prevent knot resin bleed-through. Then paint to your choice of color.

2. Strip and refinish. This sounds like a lot of work, but is the way to get back to clean wood. Lightly sand, stain, and finish. Yes, good gel stains are a choice for pine as it tends to blotch (absorb the stain unevenly).

Trying to "sand off the old finish" is not a good way to go. It is terribly labor intensive and will not do a thorough job removing the finish. This will complicate your efforts to get an even stain.

3. Neutralize the orange color. A good way to do this is with a glaze. You can get specific products called glazes, or you can use a gel stain. Orange's color opposite is blue. So a blue, or blue-ish, glaze will move the color toward brown. Or yes, you could use a black (ebony) gel stain, but the orange undertone will remain.

1 Like    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 11:46AM
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If we use a glaze (bluish) to neutralize the orange knotty pine, should we sand lightly or just apply the glaze over the existing finish? Or should we clean the paneling with mineral spirits or some other solvent? Do we put a finish over the glaze? Can you please be specific, as I have never done this before.
Thank you for your help.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 6:38PM
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Yes, you want a clean and dull base for your glaze. Clean with Dawn and water, then wipe with mineral spirits or naphtha.

Once you've selected and applied your glaze, let it dry thoroughly (a day or two). Then apply a top coat of varnish or finish of your choice.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 8:15AM
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Thank you for the advice on staining pine. I have a pine curio cabinet that I got from an unfinished furniture store years ago for a former country kitchen. I sprayed it with clear shellac. Now I want it to be darker. I am researching what type of prep and stain to use.

If you are looking for an ebony stain, you may like the Spanish Oak gel (or other) stain from Old Masters. They sell it at my local Benjamin Moore store (and others, I assume). I got a small tin of it last week. It looks like melted licorice and is a true black. My sample takes a while to dry, but I like it so far.

I am new to refinishing furniture. I finally have space to refinish the mid century pieces I have been collecting. I am not recommending any particular stain for your project, just commenting on the color.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2014 at 9:54AM
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I actually painted my walls with paint. I am not sure if this is an option for you but I primed then painted. Because of the grooves it took quite a while to do but well worth it in the end. Some of the rooms I wound up putting a thin sheet of drywall over it without taking the wood down and I tell you it was a good decision because now I can hang anything on the walls with no anchors. The drywall just provided a smooth coat.
Back to the knotty pine...the walls are over 50 years old and all I did was wash with TSP and fill in nail holes that I did not want. As you see it came out silky smooth. I would whole heatedly recommend painting as you can paint it any color you would paint a wall. I primed with normal latex primer stained dark gray and then painted. This room was done 6 years ago and it is still good as new. No problems whatsoever. This is in my grandkids game room (ceiling is styrofoam tiles painted white)
Hope this helps!!

    Bookmark   December 26, 2014 at 5:56PM
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What I would do to update old knotty pine paneling is a little different than what most people would do.

I would get cream colored milk paint and wipe the boards down with milk paint making the boards an antique white. You'll have to do a few tests with the milk paint mixture to see how thick you want it and what type of effects you can get.

As I was wiping down each board with the paint, I would have someone follow up behind me with another cloth and rub out each knot leaving an antiqued cream white board with the grain showing through and the knots visible.

Another option would be to get a cream latex paint with latex glazing medium and do the same type of process. The difference is that the milk paint gets pushed into the grain of the wood and becomes part of the wood where the paint/glaze mixture will sit on top.

I have done this with knotty alder to make a distressed antique faux barn wood look by first staining the wood with Minwax Ebony (2718) stain applied heavily and then immediately rubbed off as much as possible so that the wood was mostly grey with the knots and crevices totally black.

The milk paint was then put on in two coats. The first mixture was extremely thick and used to color streak the wood, and then a thinner mixture was put on and wiped into the wood over the thicker highlights until the wood looked like grey, aged barn wood. The knots were rubbed out so that they were revealed through the finish.

As the wood was going into a bathroom, it was sprayed with a dead flat varnish so that the wood looked like it was totally unfinished - but, in reality was totally sealed on all sides from moisture.

In your case, since it is paneling in a room, you could leave it unfinished in the final milk paint as it really doesn't need a sealer.

In a paneled room, I would go for more of an aged white look and apply the milk paint fairly thick and heavy and then gently wipe it off with the knots wiped back to reveal them,

1 Like    Bookmark   January 4, 2015 at 12:06AM
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