best finish for pine

Best Finish For Pine: Furniture, Floor & Walls

Right now, you may be wondering to yourself, what is the best finish for pine furniture, floor or walls? Pine is a type of ‘softwood’ that is often used for many different types of wood-working projects. As with other species of wood, it is important to apply the proper finish to pine in order to protect its surface and enhance its overall beauty. Right now, you may be wondering to yourself, “What is the best finish for pine wood?”

What is the best finish for pine wood? The best finish for pine is polyurethane and epoxy products, gel stains and oil-based or latex paints followed by clear topcoats, such as varnish or shellac. Which types of these to use will often depend on what the wood is being used for.

Keep reading on as we go over these topics more to help you with the current project you are working on.

Finishing Pine Wood Knots

It is important to always pre-seal any knots in the wood with a shellac or wash coat before applying the stain. This will prevent the natural pigments in the knots from ‘bleeding’ into the finishing product.

Now that you know stains, paints and clear tocoat finishes are best for pine wood, let’s take a closer look at how and why this is so. We will also discuss pine in more detail, such as what type of wood it is, why it is used and what it is used for. Now, if you’re ready to learn more about this durable and versatile ‘softwood’, then please continue reading…

What Kind of Wood is Pine?

Pine is a type of softwood that grows in the Northern Hemisphere, mostly. It comes from a coniferous tree, which grows quickly and in a straight fashion. There are at least four known species of pine in the world! It is usually white or pale yellow in color but can also appear to look blue or gray. It is light-weight and straight-grained. Pine is great for a variety of indoor and outdoor wood-working projects as it resists both shrinking and swelling.

What are the Different Types of Pine Wood?

Pine wood is cut from evergreen trees and is often considered ‘the material of choice’ for all kinds of construction work. There are four main types of pine wood. Let’s take a closer look at these types below.

Southern Yellow Pine

Just as the name implies, this is a type of yellow-colored wood. Its density and strength make it ideal for a variety of construction and do-it-yourself projects. It often used to make boats and floors. It is the least expensive of the four types of pine wood and looks best when finished with a dark red stain or brown stain to give it that ‘weathered’ effect.

Northern or Eastern White Pine

This white-colored wood is too soft for home or building construction, but ideal for furniture, carpentry or other crafting projects. It is chosen for its ability to resist shrinking, splitting, swelling and warping. It looks best when finished with polyurethane or clear varnish to allow the natural beauty of the wood to ‘shine’ through.

Blue Pine

This type of pine has a bluish hue that can also appear to look brownish or grayish in color. This is caused by a dark fungus that lives on the wood. It is very strong and well-known for its high load-bearing capability. Finishing this wood can be challenging, as it tends to retain that blue color even after staining. Staying true to its natural pigment is key, so finishing with a clear lacquer or varnish works best.

Deal Pine

This type of wood is native to Europe and Northern Asia and comes in both red and yellow varieties. It has a very distinctive ‘knotty’ grain, which makes it ideal for doors, wall paneling, and furniture. Like most other types of pine wood, it is best finished with a clear varnish or polyurethane, to protect its surface and allow the natural beauty of the knotty grain to show through.

What is Pine Wood Used For?

Pinewood is strong, durable and versatile. It is used for a number of indoor and outdoor wood-working projects. Indoor items (such as furniture, wall panelling and floors) are usually finished with a clear lacquer or varnish, after a pre-sealant has been applied and given time to dry. Outdoor needs (such as window frames, decks and patio structures) usually require the pine be pressure-treated (or latex painted) in order to protect the wood from outside elements including wind, rain and sun damage.

Is Pine Good Wood for Furniture?

Pine Wood is great for furniture, as its soft nature makes it easy to design and carve during the building stage.

It is strong, shock-resistant and takes stain well, as long as you remember to seal it first! It is often for dining room tables, bedroom sets or any other type of ‘solid’ furniture piece. For these, a wood veneer (or thin, decorative covering usually of a different, finer variety) is sometimes used to cover or finish the surface. Otherwise, a standard brush-on polyurethane varnish is typically used.

What is the Best Finish for Pine Furniture?

The best way to finish pine furniture includes four main steps. Let’s review these steps in more detail below.

Sanding

Begin by sanding the pinewood fist using a random orbital sander with a variable-speed setting. Be careful, pine, although easy to sand, is also easy to damage. Set the sander on low and gently move it across the wood surface until it is smooth, without ‘bearing down’ on it.

Next, use a hand sander to remove the tiny circular swirls left by the random orbital sander. Remember to always sand with the grain. Once completed sanded, clean away any remaining dust or debris with a tack cloth or vacuum.

Sealing

Pinewood absorbs stain at different rates and amounts because it has both softwood and hardwood features. This can cause the stain or varnish to appear blotchy or uneven. To avoid this, always seal the wood first using clear shellac. Allow the sealant to dry completely (for at least one hour) before applying any paint or stain.

Staining

A brush-on gel stain is great for pine wood. Clear finishes work best, if possible. Use long, smooth strokes (with the brush) to properly apply the product. Wipe off any excess stain using a clean cloth or short-bristle brush, especially in the corners. Once complete, allow the wood to dry thoroughly (for a minimum of five hours or more). 

Varnishing

Clear topcoat finishes, such as a thin layer of satin varnish or polyurethane work great on pine wood. Two layers of a brush-on variety will protect the surface while enhancing the beauty of the piece. Lightly sand any imperfections that remain after applying the topcoat. Do this using a very fine sand-paper and then gently dust-off the surface to reveal a smooth, polished finish.

Finishing Pine Wood Knots

It is important to always pre-seal any knots in the wood with a shellac or wash coat before applying any paint or stain. This will prevent the natural pigments or ‘resins’ in the knots from ‘bleeding’ into the finishing product. It is very common to have knots bleed through and change the color of the paint or stain.

How to Treat Unfinished Pine Furniture

Unfinished pine wood is gaining popularity in the design industry for its weathered look and rustic appeal. Remember, because it is a softwood, it can damage easily (and is prone to discoloration and cracking) if not properly treated. To treat unfinished pine furniture, follow these five simple steps below:

  • Unfinished pine is susceptible to cracking and shrinking from extreme heat and moisture so keep the wood in a cool, dry place.
  • Use a clean, dry cloth and gently dust the unfinished pine at least once a week, to keep dirt from mixing with moisture and embedding into the wood grain.
  • Use a clean, damp (never wet) cloth to remove unsightly dirt or oil, but only as needed.
  • Apply a thin layer of wood oil with a clean cloth on areas where the pine appears to be overly dry and possibly cracking.
  • Use furniture wax to further protect unfinished wood. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly as specified.

How to Finish Pine Outdoor Furniture

Applying a finish to deck or patio pine furniture is essential, to protect the wood for outdoor elements such as wind, rain and sun damage and give it a clean, bright look. The best finishes for outdoor pine furniture include latex or oil-based paint, gel stain or polyurethane (followed by a varnish topcoat). The six simple steps (for paint or stain finishes) include the following:

  • Set-up the work area. Place a tarp down on the drive-way or in the garage. Be sure to set up the work area in a space with plenty of air circulation.
  • Choose your finish. Gel stain or oil-based paint work great for pine wood, unless it has been pressure-treated. If so, then choose a latex paint finish instead.
  • Sand the wood. Sand the surface area of the pine with fine-grit sandpaper to smooth any imperfections in the wood and to help the finishing product adhere to the surface better.
  • Prime the wood. Spray a thin, even layer of primer over the sanded wood. Allow it to dry for at least thirty to sixty minutes.
  • Finish the wood. Apply two (or even three) coats of paint or stain to the pre-treated wood, brushing along the surface using long, smooth brush strokes. Be sure to let each layer dry completely (thirty to sixty minutes) before applying another coat. 
  • Seal the wood. When the last coat of paint or stain has dried, apply an even layer of varnish or sealant to the wood surface. This will give the piece a smooth, glossy finish. Be sure to allow ample time to dry completely, sixty minutes or more.

To finish outdoor pine furniture using polyurethane, follow these six easy steps bellow:

  • Set-up the work area. Be sure to work in a well-ventilated area with plenty of fresh air circulation. Place a tarp on the ground to protect your garage floor or drive-way.
  • Prep the wood. Apply a smooth, line layer of polyurethane to the pine surface. Allow time for the product to dry, at least twenty-four hours.
  • Coat the wood. Apply another layer or polyurethane, using long, thin strokes. Let this second layer dry for another twenty-four hours.
  • Finish the wood. Apply a third layer of polyurethane to the wood, again, allowing it to dry completely.
  • Smooth the wood. When the last layer of polyurethane is dry, cut away any bumps on the surface with a utility knife and then lightly sand the entire surface with a fine-grit sandpaper.
  • Seal the wood. Re-apply the polyurethane again for a fourth, protective layer that will preserve the wood for up to three threes!

How to Finish Pine Floors

Pine wood floors look beautiful in a home, provided they are properly installed and finished. They are often chosen over hardwood floors for their pliability, durability and affordability. However, unlike hardwood floors, pine floors do not come pre-finished.

To finish a pine floor (which is basically plywood that is purchased and finished from large sheets), you need to use stain, varnish or oil. For the best results, clean the floor first with a duster or vacuum, to remove any lingering dirt or debris.

Apply two coats of stain (allowing each layer to dry completely). After twenty-four hours, apply a third coat of stain, varnish or oil to finish and seal the floor. Give the floor a final wipe-down when dry and it is ready to walk on!

Best way to Finish a Pine Wall

Pine wood panelling is making a comeback in interior design. It adds warm, rustic elegance to any room without breaking the bank! The eight necessary steps for finishing a pine wall include the following:

  • Prep the room. Remove as many items as possible from the room and lay sheets down to protect the floor or carpet. Open the windows, if possible, or use a fan for ventilation and/or air circulation.
  • Smooth the wood. Use a filler to smooth-out any holes or imperfections in the wood. To do this, combine epoxy with a little sawdust and apply to any gaps or cracks using a putty knife.
  • Sand the wood. Wearing a dust mask, use 200-grit sandpaper and rub the wood surface, in the direction of the grain. Continue sanding until the entire surface looks and feels smooth.
  • Condition the wood. Apply a wood conditioner to the pine panels with a clean, dry, lint-free cloth. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions step-by-step for best results. Wipe off any excess conditioner before staining.
  • Stain the wood. Apply stain with a paint brush in the same direction as the grain. Allow the first layer to dry completely (for at least eight hours) before applying a second coat. 
  • Seal the wood. Apply a thin layer of oil-based sealant to the pine panels, following the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Be sure to use long, smooth brush strokes in the direction of the grain. Let the product dry completely before sanding.
  • Sand the wood. Gently sand the surface with 220-grit sandpaper to remove any imperfections or excess sealant. Wipe down the panels to clean away any remaining dust or debris. Apply a second layer or sealant and let it dry completely.
  • Polish the wood. When the last layer of sealant is fully dry, polish the pine panels with a clean, soft cloth to reveal a bright, glossy finish.

Difference between Varnish, Shellac, and Polyurethane?

Varnish and shellac are two of the most commonly used pine wood finishes on the market today. Varnish is typically heavier than shellac and will usually require only one (maybe two) coats to finish. Shellac can appear glossier than varnish but requires several coats to achieve that high-shine finish. A completed shellac finish is often smoother than varnish, but not as durable. 

Polyurethane is similar to shellac in that it does not withstand heat and/or chemicals as well as varnish. It is meant for indoor finishes, just like shellac, whereas varnish can be used outdoors for protection from wood, wind, rain and sun damage. Varnish, is often the preferred ‘sealant of choice’, especially for pinewood finishes.

Conclusion

In conclusion, pine is a ‘softwood’ that has both pros and cons when it comes to wood-working. The pros include that it is the least expensive of all wood types used for making furniture, it is great for re-purposing and creating rustic, weathered looks and it is easy to mold and craft. The cons include its susceptibility to dents and scratches, its ‘knotty’ nature that can cause stain to ‘bleed’ through and its ability to mimic pricier woods (such as maple), putting other trees at risk from deforestation.

There are a number of ways to finish pine wood. The finish you choose depends upon what the piece is being used for. Polyurethane and epoxy products, gel stains, oil-based or latex paints and clear topcoats, such as varnish or shellac are the best finishing products for pine wood. 

This article has outlined step-by-step finishing instructions for various pine wood projects, including outdoor furniture, floors and wall panels. Now, all you have to do is purchase your supplies and get to work on your next DIY masterpiece! Good luck on your future wood-working endeavors!

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Hey, this is Brian and Gene. Since the two of us have pretty much been self-employed our entire lives, we have a lot of experience designing and creating all sorts of DIY projects for businesses and homes—projects that have helped us make money or save money through the years!

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