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.
  • Apply two coats of a quality interior paint on top of the primer.

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

Good luck with your project,



  1. 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. 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…

    • 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.

  3. 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?

    • Cheryl,
      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.

  4. 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

  5. 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

    • 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

  6. 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?

  7. 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?

  8. @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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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!

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. My whole house is knotty wood.and I hate 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 drowning in wood.need color

  18. 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.

  19. 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!!!

  20. 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.



    • Eric,
      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.

  22. 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?

  23. 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.

  24. So if I understand correctly, the steps are
    1- lightly sand
    2 – use oil based and shelack primer on either the knots or whole surface, preferably 2 coats and wait 24 to 48 hours between coats
    3.- sand again lightly
    4. Use Benjamin Moore paint, 2 or 3 coats and sand lightly between coats if needed.

    What type of paint? What type of brushes? Do I use something else as a top coat? what? I’m doing kitchen cabinets.

    • Hi Lynn,
      They brand name of the primer and paint you use isn’t important as long as it’s a quality primer made to block stains (either an oil based stainblocking or a shellac based stainblocking primer). For the topcoats over the primer, you can use either oil based or latex paint. Oil base paint will prevent bleed through better, but if you have sealed the knots with primer correctly, either one should work. Use a high quality brush that’s suitable for the paint you’re using.

  25. Our whole house is knotty pine. The kitchen back splash and cupboards are also knotty pine. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what color i could paint the cupboards to go with the knotty pine walls? Thanks

  26. Hi, I have a pine wall unit with knots! I have read your how tos. Can I use a paint sprayer since there are many grooves and crowns on the piece? I’m excited to start this project. Thanks for your know how!

  27. Great site. Thank you. I am going to try and paint my internal bedroom wall which is already lightly stained pine cladding by:
    1. light sand
    2. use a quality shallac base primer made to block stains and the knots on the pine
    3. Use an oil based or latex paint.

    I hope this is right.

    • Hi Lisa,
      Sounds like a plan! If you have problems with bleed through, try priming over the entire thing, including the knots with the shellac based primer on them, with a stain blocking oil based primer like Cover Stain from Zinsser, then topcoat over that with latex or oil-based paint.

  28. Good Afternoon, I am contemplating on redoing our Den, which is Knotty Pine. I painted the walls 10 years ago and the knots are starting to bleed through. I primed them originally, sanded the knots, primed with a lacquer, gave them two coats of white paint. Do I need to re-sand, lacquer again before I re-paint? Why do I have a feeling that the answer is going to be YES… It was a long process, which I hope I can avoid… Thanks for any help you may have to offer.

  29. 25 years ago I bought a 1959 house with a knotty pine bedroom. It looked dried and needed a coat of something so I washed the walls and applied a coat of cheap polyurethane over the whole room and that shined it up and looked good. Now I am ready to paint it white. Is light sanding and washing enough to put primer on before painting, and would water based primer work or is there an oil based primer non-toxic enough to use in the house? I have read so much but still don’t know the best, but easiest way to do this. Thanks you for any help!

  30. I have knotty pine throughout my basement. Old, knot holes and always smelly. After thorough research my wife and I decided to bring life back to the basement. After spending a month filling knot holes and improving the boards it was time to paint. The best product for filling the holes and chips/dents was Bondo. Follow the directions, it works excellent. Then apply two coats of Zinzer oil based primer. This prevents any bleeding of any exposed knots. Then two coats of Benjamin Moore latex and you will see a world of difference. My once dingy basement now looks like a bright new cottage and the smell is gone.

  31. I too want to white wash varnished pine board walls in basement also some parts are shingled walls no varnish on them 30 years old want it to look old white washed play room for twin four year old granddaughters easiest way please!!!

  32. I am wondering should I paint my knotty pine doors or will they become fashionable again because of the return to retro house decor?

  33. Hi,

    We have knotted pine cabinets and “ same “
    ( paneling I/2 way up is the wall in our new house in the kitchen and a we want to paint, it looks like it has a a clear shiny coat on it ???

    1.but not sure how??? Chalk paint? Other paint
    2. what color??

    I can’t visualize it ?
    the new tile floor will large rectangular tile- blue / grayish and long rectangular tiles…

    Hard wood floors everywhere else in the house

    Help please … thank you

    • Hi, Hollie,

      Danny says, “Hi, Hollie, sounds like a great project and you’ll see a big before and after result!

      “My suggestion is to use liquid sandpaper, which is a deglosser, to dull the shine on your existing cabinets. Follow the directions. Then apply one coat of bonding primer over all of the wood surfaces. Then I would suggest applying one of the most popular colors in the country now. A light gray semi-gloss acrylic latex, two coats. You will probably want to upgrade your hardware and this should fit in nicely with the wonderful tile floor that you had mentioned.

      Good luck!”


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