How to Care for Knotty Pine Paneling

Written by emily beach
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Knotty pine panelling is a type of wooden wall panelling made from pine lumber. Pine is known for its rich smell, light natural colouring and minimalist grain variations. When used to create furnishings or panelling, the natural knots and flaws in the pine create a highly attractive, rustic finish. Knotty pine is a relatively soft wood and requires special care and maintenance. It also tends to be very porous, so staining and refinishing can be more difficult than when performed on other types of wood products.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Paint brushes
  • Clean rags
  • Wood wax
  • Lemon oil
  • Furniture cleaner
  • Mop
  • Towels
  • Wood putty
  • Sandpaper
  • Acrylic sealers
  • Shellac

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  1. 1

    Protect your knotty pine with a clear sealer to minimise moisture penetration and to increase the panelling resistance to humidity and temperature changes. Use a regular wood wax if you want to create a shiny finish or apply natural lemon oil to protect your knotty pine without the shine. These sealers should be applied several times a year to maintain the original finish and appearance of the wood.

  2. 2

    Fill scratches or holes with a matching wood putty. Because pine is fairly soft, it is highly susceptible to gouges and scratches. Use a wood putty that is a similar colour as your panelling to fill these voids, then sand the patched area until it is smooth and level.

  3. 3

    Clean pine panelling with wood cleaner. Use a sponge mop to apply the cleaner to the wall and gently scrub the panels, starting at the top of the wall and working down. Use a clean, dry towel to wipe away the cleaner and dry the walls when you're done. The dirt and grime on the wall should wipe away with the cleaner.

    Staining and Finishing

  1. 1

    Wait several weeks after installing your panelling before applying stains. Pine tends to change colour fairly rapidly after it is installed and will darken dramatically over time. This is due to oxidation as minerals in the pine react with the air, as well as to UV exposure from the sun.

  2. 2

    Apply an acrylic sealer if you want to slow the darkening of the wood. This sealer will not totally stop oxidation and darkening but will slow the process so that the wood stays lighter for a longer period of time.

  3. 3

    Use multiple coats of coloured shellac to colour knotty pine. Because it is very porous, pine tends to appear streaky and uneven when stained. Shellac will add colour while minimising streaks. Apply one coat at a time, allowing it to dry before adding another layer. The more layers you add, the darker your wood will appear. Stop adding coats of shellac once you've reached the desired finish.

  4. 4

    Hand sand pine when refinishing. Because it is a soft wood, pine is difficult to sand using orbital or power sanders. These devices can cause gouges or scratches that are difficult to repair and may ruin the panels. Hand sanding can safely remove existing finishes and allow you to seal or shellac the panelling as desired.

Tips and warnings

  • If you decide to stain your knotty pine, apply a wood conditioner first. Allow the conditioner to dry completely before applying stain. Remember that the open pores on the pine will cause it to soak up a large amount of stain, so start with a lighter shade than you think you need and go darker later, as needed. It's easier to add colour than to remove it.

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