The only thing worse than having to paint something once, is having to paint this same item a second time, and then a third, should the finish not turn out quite as good as expected.
So, understanding that having to paint something twice is about as inspiring as watching Maple Leafs pre-season hockey; while also understanding some products simply receive paint a little better than others, let’s make our lives a little easier by choosing products to paint that are actually paint-friendly.
Other than walls and ceilings, things we tend to paint on the interior of a home include moldings, window sills and buildouts, shelving, bookcases, or any number of craft-type projects.
Products that don’t paint so well include fir, spruce, particle board, and mahogany plywood. Wood species that are somewhat unfriendly to paint include knotty pine, spruce, and oak.
Why some product species have difficulty with accepting paint is mostly due to their porosity. When a wood species or plywood is somewhat porous, regardless of its hardness, it tends to absorb paint in a haphazard manner.
As a result and once dry, a porous surface, once painted, will have often produce a raised grain, where the wood fibers rise up like little hairs, creating an uneven sheen, which will require sanding and subsequent coats. The results certainly aren’t disastrous by any means, just unsatisfying.
Now, you may question, if I included spruce in my list of those species not so friendly to paint, then why in last week’s article was it recommended to paint your treated decking planks, which in most cases are made of this same spruce species?
That would be a fair inquiry.
The simple answer is, sometimes it comes down to money. First, outdoor wood products should be painted or stained, regardless of species. So, even though spruce may not be the most suitable product for painting, the fact it’s a fraction of the price of cedar, or composite lumber, makes treated lumber definitely worth the paint risk.
What species of wood best suits the exterior, and paints or stains really well?
That would be cedar. It’s light in weight, easy to cut, drill, and sand, whether you’re looking to build a multi-tiered deck, pergola, or a couple of traditional Adirondack chairs for the backyard.
If we’re talking outdoors and if it’s in the budget, make it out of cedar.
Back in the house, preferred products to use when a painted finish is desired include finger-joint pine, medium density fiberboard (aka MDF), and birch plywood.
Finger-joint pine boards differ from knotty pine planks in that the knots have been cut out, with the board being re-glued back together using what’s known as a finger joint, since the seam resembles the fingers of two hands interwoven together. Finger joint planks represent the best compromise between regular knotty pine and clear pine.
Although knots in a pine plank can technically be sealed with a primer or shellac type solution, in reality, and in time, knots always tend to bleed through to the surface, ruining what was a good finish. Clear pine would be an option, but it’s prohibitively expensive, making finger-joint pine the best value when painting.
Finger joint pine is generally three-quarters of an inch in thickness and available in planks ranging from 2.5 inches to 7.25 inches wide.
If a wider plank is needed, in the case of a deep window buildout, shelving, or bookcase, ask for paint-grade birch plywood. It’s less expensive than stain-grade plywood, but every bit as durable. Paint-grade birch ply can be ripped to any width.
If you’re an artistic or crafty type and are looking to install a cutout of Santa and his eight little reindeer on your lawn this Christmas, then look for Russian (aka Baltic) birch plywood. Available in a variety of thicknesses, Russian birch plywood is the best choice for really any interior wood project or craft that will require paint.