How to whitewash pine panelling

Updated February 21, 2017

While pine is traditionally finished clear or painted, there are other options available to colour the wood, including whitewash. Whitewashing is the process of applying diluted white paint to a surface to create a ghostly, translucent finish. If you are working with wood that has been previously stained, painted or coated with clear finish, it will need to be sanded before you begin your whitewash application. Proper preparation of the surface and the use of thorough application techniques are the keys to a quality, whitewashed pine finish.

Apply masking tape around the edges of panelling that must be finished in place. Since you will be using oil-based paint, which is much tougher to clean up than water-based paint, be sure to use the widest tape available; also cover carpets, flooring and other surrounding surfaces with plastic dust sheets.

Sand the surface of the panelling. If there is a previous finish to remove, start with 80-grit sandpaper to remove the bulk of the old finish, then repeat with 100- and 150-grain papers for the fine details. For unpainted pine, sand with 150-grit paper to align the grain and remove any roughness.

Run a tack cloth over the surface to remove any remaining sawdust from the sanding process. Use a small amount of white spirit if needed, but do not dampen the rag with water, as water will raise the grain and cause an uneven finish.

Combine oil-based, semi-gloss, white paint with white spirit to create a mixture of one part white spirit to eight parts paint. Use odourless white spirit, if available, to reduce the fumes you will be working in. Mix the solution in a chemical-resistant plastic or metal container.

Brush the diluted paint on to the surface with a fine-bristled paintbrush. Choose at least a medium-quality paintbrush to ensure that the bristles are firmly anchored and less likely to pull out and end up in your paint. Work in long, straight strokes moving with the grain. Spread the paint as evenly as possible to prevent runs and drips.

Work from the top of the panel down for best results. Once the panel, or a section of wall about 1.2 metres (4 feet) wide, is well-coated, rub across the damp paint with a smooth, clean, lint-free towel to remove about half of the paint. This will cause the colour to be mostly removed in the high spots and leave white paint in the grain and in any low points, grooves or other details.

Allow the paint to dry and cover the object with a coat of clear finish in your choice of sheen. Brush on the clear finish using a similar technique as the paint; however, do not rub the clear coat with a rag.

Things You'll Need

  • Masking tape
  • Plastic dust sheets
  • Sander
  • Sandpaper
  • White oil-based paint
  • White spirit
  • Chemical-resistant container
  • Paintbrush
  • Clean lint-free rag
  • Clear finish
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Mark Morris started writing professionally in 1995. He has published a novel and stage plays with SEEDS studio. Morris specializes in many topics and has 15 years of professional carpentry experience. He is a voice, acting and film teacher. He also teaches stage craft and lectures on playwriting for Oklahoma Christian University.