Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

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How to Paint Knotty Pine


Knotty pine wood paneling.

Is there a product that will cover up the knot holes in knotty pine should I decide to paint the wood a light color? -Judy

Hi Judy,

Knots, like those found in knotty pine, can pose a problem when painting, since the resin in them has a tendency to bleed back through the finished surface. To prevent this:

  • Spot prime any knots first with an oil based or pigmented shellac primer that is designed to prevent bleeding.
  • If there are a lot of knots, prime the entire surface to give it a more even texture.
  • If the boards have been varnished, lightly sand them and wipe off any dust before priming so the primer will adhere well.

More information on primers is available on our website at A Homeowner’s Guide to Paint Primer.

Good luck with your project,


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31 Comments on “How to Paint Knotty Pine”

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  1. Barbara McCann Says:
    April 15th, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    I have had good luck painting 50+ year-old knotty pine by priming with two coats of Kilz Premium water-based primer and two coats of Benjamin Moore paint. A small bedroom that was once a dark cave now has a very cottagey look.

  2. alison miller Says:
    February 16th, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    have this home where four of the bedroom floors
    are knotty pine with holes of different shapes and sizes.
    How can I get these holes filled in…

  3. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    February 17th, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Hi Alison,
    To fill knot holes in flooring, I would use a mixture of epoxy glue and a dark sawdust such as walnut. To darken the patch even more, mix in a drop or two of universal colorant.

  4. Cheryl Says:
    June 19th, 2009 at 6:37 am

    I have a knotty pine bathroom. I would like to paint it.
    Should I use a oil base primer or a water base primer. I don’t want it to mildew. I am using a semi-gloss exterior paint after priming. Is that ok?

  5. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    June 19th, 2009 at 8:05 am

    Oil and shellac based stain blocking primers do a better job of keeping knots from bleeding through than latex primers. It’s not advisable to use exterior paints inside, as they may contain strong chemicals that are not suitable for an indoor environment.

  6. Elaine Says:
    October 10th, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    I live in a house that was built in 1865, in 1959 my father put up knotty pine in the kitchen, cabinets, walls, backspash. I have put ceramic tiles over the backspash, and now I want to get rid of the knotty pine look, , thinking of painting it….how do I do this without taking the walls down, want to bring the house back to the era the house was built, pre-knotty pine????????would painting the cabinets help? and what do I do with the walls???? HELP

  7. Evelyn Davis Says:
    March 14th, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    I have knotted pine in my den. I want it gone like last week. It is dark and the room has dark carpet. It would love to have wood floors, but I can’t have wood on the walls and wood and the floor also. Please tell me step by step how to paint the knotted pine and hopefully cover it with a nice light colored paint. Much love, Evelyn

  8. celino dimitroff Says:
    July 15th, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    after I scrape and sand, can I use water based primer on exterior heart of pine before I paint?

  9. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    August 10th, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Hi Celino,
    You could experiment with an exterior, water based, stain blocking primer on a small area of your heart pine and see how it does after a month or so, but there’s a good chance the resin in the pine will bleed through. I would go with an oil-based, stain blocking primer instead. Good luck with your project

  10. John Lynch Says:
    August 18th, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Hi and thanks in advance,
    I am making a bookcase out of matched pine 1 by 6 tongue and grove. I buy scrap from the box stores when I can find it. This is raw wood, pre sanded and groved. Its coming out nice, but finishing is not my forte. Wife wants a matching color to our accent wall in the living room. Do I seal the wood first, then sand and then paint?

  11. patricia mattson Says:
    April 28th, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Hi, we bought an older mobile home with knotty pine paneling. My problem is it smells old. I have replaced the carpeting and drapes and it still smells old. Is it the paneling? Would it help to get some sort of odor neutralizer spray or bite the bullet and paint?

  12. Bernie Schwarzenfelder Says:
    July 20th, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    @patricia mattson: I think you are saying that it is your mobile home as a whole that smells “old” and not just the paneling.

    By your simple description of the smell it is impossible to know what your “old” smells like, so I will take a wild guess and say that what you are smelling is years and years of PEOPLE. We humans continuously emit gases and particulates and these organic products accumulate in our living areas. The gases are absorbed by the surfaces in the home and are re-emitted into the air you are breathing (and smelling). Likewise, the particulates (skin and hair cells primarily) break down with the help of bacteria and the bacteria emits odors that are characteristic of the decomposition of human cells.

    To see if this is true in your case you should thoroughly vacuum your ENTIRE mobile home with a good bag-style vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, and by thoroughly I mean every single surface in the home including floors, ceilings and duct work. When you are finished, go outside for 30 minutes or so to allow your nose to adjust to neutral odors. Then go back in your house to see if the “old” smell has been lessened. If it has, then you know that you’ve made a start at removing it from your home. Then, to remedy the situation you will need to repeat this exercise, supplemented by a thorough wipe-down of all non-porous surfaces such as appliances and countertops, once a month for about a year. In addition to removing the particulates the vacuuming pulls odors out of the surfaces much faster than they would outgas. And, whenever possible, open windows to allow fresh air to pass THROUGH your home. This will keep human odors from building up.

    Mobile homes are especially susceptible to the accumulation of odors because they have poor ventilation and it is typical to have a higher number of people per square foot living in them as opposed to apartments or houses.

  13. Mr N Staniforth Says:
    August 30th, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    I have 5 doors with knots showing through the paint although I used a knot sealer the 1st time. This time to stop the bleeding I have drilled holes in the knots then sealed them with knot sealer & B.I.N paint sealer, I then fill the holes with wood filler & sand down, then paint all the door with the B.I.N paint then undercoat & gloss.
    I think this will cure the problem.

  14. Carolyn Says:
    September 2nd, 2012 at 9:01 am

    I have kitchen cabinets that have a nice shape/cut, but the wood is dark pine with knots (doesn’t look like the same “knotty pine” my grandmother hand, but still…could be!) I’ve been told there is NO way to paint these a light color without the knots showing. Is this true?

  15. Awie de Wet Says:
    December 30th, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    My hole house has knotty pine ceiling with laminated beams. The local fruit bats had made the roof cavity there home.There dropping is like in dust form and it sifts trough the T and G joints.It is in a very fine powder form. Please advice on what I can apply onto the ceiling to prevent the above.

    Thank You.

  16. peggy Says:
    July 10th, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    Last year I sanded down all the schellaced knotty pine walls in my rec room ,primered them with kiltz primer and then painted 2 walls white and the remaining walls taupe using latex semi-gloss paint. Alas! now the knots in the 2 white walls are bleeding back through.
    Today I visited 3 different paint stores to get info on how to correct the error.
    I decided to purchase a spray on shellac base primer-sealer-stain killer by ZINSSER (B_I_N). Can you please advise me if I have chosen the best primer to redo my stains. What is the best way to apply the primer and is it possible to only primer the stains and then paint over them when the primer is dry.
    Do I need to do any prep work on the stains before putting the primer on? Thank you for any assistance you can offer me.

  17. peggy Says:
    July 10th, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    I am very encouraged by the comments I have read and am therefore seeking your expert assistance also

  18. Suzi Says:
    January 15th, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Knotty Pine is a beautiful wood. I’ve heard several things about knotty pine. I’d like to have it in my home. I’ve heard overtime the knots that are in the panel over time fall out leaving holes in the panel. Some people think it leaves a greater effect, others aren’t fond of it. What is the typical/common problems or facts rather about knotty pine?

  19. Carolyn Says:
    January 16th, 2014 at 11:01 am

    I commented in September 2012 about my pine cabinets. They are now painted a lovely shade of sage green, in keeping with the style of the home. I replaced the hardware with glass knobs and did some glass front cabinets for crystal glassware. It is GORGEOUS. No regrets!

  20. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    January 16th, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Glad to hear painting your knotty pine cabinets went well! Thanks for the update.

  21. Sherry Says:
    January 24th, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Just purchased a set of children’s furniture made of UNTREATED Pine that has not been sealed or painted. I wish to use these outdoors. I have ideas about painting various festive, bright themes….BUT….not sure how to begin so they last a few years. Do I seal with oil before painting? If so, what type do you recommend? Suggestions for paint also? I’m all ears…… :-) Thank you

  22. Sandy Says:
    July 31st, 2014 at 7:15 am

    Wanting to paint my knotty pine lounge ceiling. I have read your advice to use an oil based primer first, but can I use a pva paint for the top coat or will this not adhere to the oil based primer? I don’t really want oil based paint in my lounge. Thanks

  23. Pamela Parker Says:
    October 13th, 2014 at 11:22 am

    My whole house is knotty wood.and I hate it.my question is I want to paint over my kitchen wall in the kitchen what are some colors I could use for my kitchen walls.I would like something of a soft shade please help me.am drowning in wood.need color

  24. Seamus Culligan Says:
    October 18th, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    Quick question: When you say you drill holes in the knots are you drilling the whole knot out? ie. if the knot is one inch wide you are drilled a one inch hole? Or, is it small holes to allow the sealer stain to soak in/penetrate the knot? Thanks in advance for any clarification.

  25. Mary Says:
    October 29th, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    Is there a primer that will adhere to knotty pine wall panels without sanding or stripping the wood first?

  26. Leann Pettigrew Says:
    November 21st, 2014 at 10:27 am

    My living room and ceilings are knotty pine. Its all stained. Ive never messed with painting or primering these kinds ofwalls or ceilings. I worried about the knots bleeding back through. Do i need to sand the walls? What kind of primer? And im going to paint the walls with a light color paint. I just want to make sure i get this done right the first time!!! Thanks so much!!!

  27. Michelle Says:
    January 5th, 2015 at 5:59 am

    Just moved into a lovely house but all the doors have knots showing through the paint work of the all the doors. How can I get rid of them without taking the all the doors off and repainting and if so what would I paint them with to stop this happening again.

    King Regards.


  28. ERIC Says:
    January 12th, 2015 at 9:46 pm


  29. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    January 13th, 2015 at 8:02 am

    I think you’re right. Polyurethane is not only a finish coat itself, other finishes don’t adhere well to it, so I’d skip the lacquer and make the poly the topcoat.

  30. Tracey Says:
    February 7th, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    I have a knotty pine lounge ceiling and one main wall that I am dying to paint over but my husband is convinced that it’s impossible to do without it peeling in a few months, which end up costing us way more in the end to fix.

    I have done research and clearly it is possible for a beautiful long term finish but he still won’t budge. What can I factually say to convince him?

  31. A. Patenaude Says:
    February 18th, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    when I painting my knotty pine kitchen cabinets, I used Bin primer and then finished with ultra white floor paint. After 10 years, the knots did not bleed through and the white has not yellowed. The combination worked perfect.

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