Knotty Pine is making a comeback in homes and is currently being used to trim moldings, cabinetry, floors, doors, and even decks.

Unfortunately, knotty pine loses its beauty if it is not painted often. But you can transform knotty pine into something beautiful just by applying a fresh coat of paint.

Knotty pine makes a home warm, luxurious and welcoming when properly installed and painted.

So if you are looking to update your home but do not want to spend a lot of money, painting knotty pine could be the solution. So read on to learn How To Paint Knotty Pine Paneling.

What is this Knotty Pine

Knotty pine is some type of timber used to construct and give houses the western theme and rustic accent. It is brown or dark wood with well-distributed decorative knots that make striking patterns on the floors, cabinets, or even walls.

Knotty pine is sold in groove pieces or finished tongues for paneling; hence it can be used for decorating panels, beams, and even columns. In addition, it is ideal for interior finish.

How To Paint Over Knotty Pine Wood

To paint the knotty pine wood paneling:

  • Clean the walls
  • Prep them
  • Sand the knotty pine to remove imperfections and to smoothen the surface
  • Lay the right primer
  • Paint

Tools and Materials

You will need the following tools to help you paint over knotty Pine wood paneling

  • A roller (Read our guide on 3/8 nap vs 1/2 nap to select a suitable roller for yourself.)
  • A brush
  • Sponges
  • Paint stir sticks
  • Sandpaper
  • Painter’s tape
  • Utility vacuum
  • Rags
  • Shellac based Paint primer
  • Mask
  • Paint tray
  • Latex paint
  • White painter’s Caulk
  • plastic putty knife
  • Paint sprayer

Step 1: Clean Knotty Pine Wood

Before painting the knotty pine wood, clean it thoroughly to remove grime and grease. However, how you clean it depends on the Knotty pine wood you will be working on.

If it is bare wood, wipe it with plain water to remove the gunk and the dirt. But for the stained knotty pine wood paneling, start by removing the old wood stain first and use a mild detergent mixed with water or oil soap and a sponge to wipe the surface.

The process removes grime, dirt, and any other contaminants easily. Remember to wipe the wood with a clean rag to remove any soap residue before you start painting knotty pine.

Step 2: Preparation

Once your knotty pine is clean, the next step is to prep the panels. Here is what you should do to prep the knotty pine wall:

  • Wear appropriate attires such as safety goggles, masks and an overall.
  • Filling the knotty pine holes and scratches.
  • Filling the gouges with latex-based wood filler.
  • Sanding the panels using the 150 –grit sandpaper.
  • Wiping the dust.using a wet piece of cloth.

(i) Sanding

Sanding the knotty pine removes the dirt and imperfections and smoothens the surface. Sanding is necessary if the pine is in bad shape. It creates a clean and smooth surface that prepares the wood for sealing and staining. Here’s more on staining wood paneling.

You’ll get good results if you start sanding the surface using 80-grit sandpaper. Sand the knotty pine once again using the 120-grit.

Finally, smooth the knotty pine using the 200 grit paper to give it a finer finish, and use a sanding rug to wipe the dust, dings, and scratches.

(ii) Wipe down

Wipe down the dust to help get better results when applying the primer. You may also use a vacuum cleaner to remove the dust and a damp rag to wipe out the remaining particles. Also, pre-treat the wood using a pre-stain or conditioner.

Pre-treating prepares the wood to receive the paint while ensuring that it does not develop blotches and streaks. Use a paint brush to remove the conditioner and a rag to wipe out any knotty pine wood paneling dust.

(iii) Apply painter’s tape

Before you embark on painting the knotty pine, identify areas and sections of the house that should not be painted. Such sections may include furniture and cover fittings.

Also, areas around the windows, doors, and even ceiling need to be protected from the paint or primer. So use the painter’s tape to protect them. Place canvas or plastics on the floor to further protect it from spills and drips.

Step 3: Priming

The oil-based shellac primer will do well on the knots. It prevents the knots’ resins from seeping to the surface after painting.

Therefore, apply oil based primer to the edges and on the knots. Prime the entire surface to give it an even texture before applying the paint.

(i) Roll the primer

Prime the entire wall using an oil-based pigment such as shellac primer. A roller can help you to do the job faster. Besides, it prevents bleeding. Here are helpful tips to follow:

  • Use a tape to mask sections you do not wish to prime
  • Protect the floor from paint splatter
  • Apply enough shellac primer on the roller
  • Role in the same direction
  • Role widthwise and not lengthwise
  • Remove any loose lint
  • Remove the tape as soon as you finish priming

Step 4: Painting

The type of paint you choose determines how long it takes before drying. For example, latex dries faster but may take up to 4 hours for the first coat to dry.

On the other hand, oil-based paint requires more than 8 hours to dry to touch. However, you should wait for 24 hours before applying the second coat.

Other factors that may affect the paint’s drying time are:

  • The part of knotty pine wood to be painted
  • Ventilation
  • How the paint is applied
  • Humidity levels
  • Temperature

Here are the steps for painting the pinewood paneling.

(i) Caulking

Refers to using wood filler to trim the gaps and make the surface uniform. Then, use a caulk gun to give the trim a smoother and uniform finish.

(ii) Apply the first coat of latex paint

Apply the first coat of latex paint over Knotty pine wall paneling using a paint sprayer. The sprayer gives it a smooth and beautiful finish. Give it enough time to dry.

First, however, you should check to ensure that the paint sprayer does not get a patchy job. Typically, patchiness happens when you don’t use enough paint. Thus ensure to:

  • Use more paint
  • Paint small sections at a time
  • To roll in a grid fashion

(iii) Apply the second coat of latex paint

After applying the first coat of latex paint, you must give it some time to dry. The rule of thumb is to wait for at least four hours. But if you have the time, allow it to dry for a day or two before applying a second coat.

Typically, the paint manufacturer will give instructions and guidelines on the label on how to and how long you should take before applying the second coat.

(iv) Apply the third coat of latex paint

Give the second coat a day or so of drying before applying the final third coat of latex paint. In addition, allow it to dry for a day or two before touching it.

However, if you want to subject it to other uses, including washing, it must take a week or so of curing. Also, allow it to dry for more than 3 weeks before mounting the fittings back on the knotty pine wood paneling.

Here is a guide on how to seal pine wood for outdoor use.

Tips For Painting Knotty Pine Paneling

Pine paneling is a popular choice for many homes because it is affordable and easy to work with. If you are considering painting your pine paneling, here are a few tips to help you get the job done right.

  • Using the wood filler to fill existing gaps
  • Cleaning the stained knotty wood with a sponge dampened in a mild soap
  • Using a fine grit to sandpaper the pinewood paneling
  • Applying a painter tape to protect the surrounding area from both the paint and primer
  • Applying the primer using a roller
  • Painting the latex on the wall, crevices, inside the knots and seams using a paintbrush
  • Allowing the paint to dry before applying the second and the third coat
  • Opening windows and increasing airflow to reduce the time it takes to dry

3 Alternatives to Painting ALL Your Knotty Pine

Knotty pine wood was popular in the 1950s and 60s. Today, things have changed slightly, with manufacturers producing paneling blocks like the original knotty pine wood.

Unfortunately, installing such panels can make your room look small, dark, and outdated. Therefore, there is a need to invest in alternative methods to make the Knotty pine paneling look attractive.

Here are other things you can do to make your Knotty pine paneling sleeker.

1. Adding White Furnishing

Generally, white is considered the color of peace. So white furnishes can complement the knotty pine wood quite well. Therefore,  it is not necessary to paint the knotty pine.

Instead, use the white furnishings to break up knotty pine’s monotonous yellow and brown colors. But if you have no prior experience in furnishing a home, consider hiring the services of an expert.

They should advise you on using white furnishes to make your knotty paneling attractive.

2. Painting the Knotty Pine White

You may choose to paint some parts of the knotty pine white. It is a good alternative to ALL painting your pine wood paneling. Also, consider painting the window frames and moldings white.

You may also decide to whitewash or stain the wood to brighten it and enhance its looks. Whatever you do, staining and whitewashing can give it the cottage look or a farmhouse feel.

Note that whitewashing protects the wood and brings the rustic look indoors. But before whitewashing, ensure to remove the old varnish since unfinished pine will only absorb shades.

Could you do this by stripping or sanding it? Sanding may take time, alright, but it is the best method to remove stubborn stains. Thus, whitewashing adds a shiny and long-lasting layer to your pine.

3. Using Green to Give the Knotty Pine Some Depth

Green colors compliment knotty pine and make the room look beautiful. But it will only work if the undertone is done right. Therefore, by using green as an undertone, you can enhance the freshness of the knotty pine and make it attractive.

You can achieve the same results by painting the green window frames, including green tables and green flower vessels. Place the vessels on the table. Alternatively, you may install a green carpet or one that combines both green and brown.

Learn more from our other related posts on stained alder wood.


What kind of paint do you use on knotty pine?

Knotty pine can accommodate many types of paint for wood. How you clean the panels and the primer you apply before painting counts. Typically, latex paints, oil-based and chalk type work well on knotty pine. Latex paint is popular because it is easier to apply, dries faster, and does not fade or peel off.

Can you paint knotty pine?

Yes, you can paint knotty pine with various colors to make it bright and fresh. But to get the best result, you must caulk trim it first and lay a primer before painting. Furthermore, it may require about three coats of paint if you look forward to something more contemporary. Otherwise, the best paint brand for trim and baseboards will need only two coats.

Do you need to prime knotty pine before painting?

Yes, you should always apply primer to your knotty pine before painting. Priming prevents yellowing over time. Besides, it gives the knotty pine wood a new coat that makes painting easier.

How do you modernize knotty pine?

While knotty pine is a cost-effective choice, you can enhance its appeal by applying paint, achieving a superb rustic cabin ambiance. Similar to the technique of painting on cardboard, it’s advisable to utilize an oil-based primer to ensure the latex paint adheres effectively to the polyurethane surface, resulting in optimal outcomes.

How to paint knotty pine tongue and groove paneling

Although it is challenging to paint knotty pine tongues and groove paneling, you can still paint it. But you will get better results if you remove the excess paint on the grooves. Also, ensure to cut in at the edges and start painting at the top of all the walls. Finally, give it a thin coat to avoid overloading the paintbrush with excessive paint. Ensure to use the best clear finish for knotty pine ceiling for best results.

The best primer for knotty pine walls

The best primer for knotty pine should coat the surface and seal it completely to stop any residue from surfacing. Therefore, shellac-based primers such as B-I-N Shellac or oil-based primers like KILZ Odorless are the best for this job. Chances are you get exited and ask, do you need to apply over Kilz? They seal off the knotty pine and prepare the surface to absorb the pine wood oil paint.

What to do with knotty pine paneling?

After several years of usage, you may get fed up with your knotty pine wall. So, it forces you to consider giving your room a modern feel. One of the things you may think of is covering it with drywall. But the best way to do this is to install drywall directly onto the pine by screwing them using the drywall screws.

Read: How to Make Wood Paneling Look Like Drywall

What does knotty pine look like

Knotty pine features many visible knots that give the room where they have installed a rustic feel and make it look inviting. Therefore, the pines are always installed on walls to enhance their looks. When used in the kitchen, they add décor and a honey-like finish.

Can you whitewash over polyurethane?

Yes, you can whitewash over polyurethane. When used on pine wood paneling, polyurethane adds a yellow tint to the knotty pine. Therefore, it is not always the best option when staining. As a result, you may need to whitewash it to make it appealing. However, to get the best results, you should sand it thoroughly before whitewashing. 

How to make knotty pine walls look modern

Knotty pines feature black knots and dark brown colors common in the 1950s and 60s. Some knots are so big that it may be difficult for anyone not to see or ignore them. Therefore, you must paint the walls white or gloss varnish to deemphasize the knots. 

Next, read on: Can you make a cutting board out of pine?

Final thoughts on painting knotty pine walls

Painting over knotty pine boards paneling is very important. Painting gives walls a fresh look and allows them to have a rustic feel. But to get the best results, there are four major steps you must follow when painting knotty pine.

They range from cleaning Knotty pine wood, preparing the wood (using wood filler to fill the gaps), priming, and finally painting.

But if you feel this is a long process, you can still make your knotty pine look sleeker by adding white furnishing, painting some parts white, or using green furniture and decorations to give the knotty pine wood some depth.

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