Image of painted wood

Whether your home is built from wood or you only have a few wooden structures, you should do everything to get the best out of your investment.

You can achieve this by offering your wooden items adequate protection from foreign elements, unexpected weather changes, and the subsequent effects. 

Extreme moisture, heat, and other destructive elements will strip the existing paint on wood, exposing your bare wood to environmental damage.

Such damages undermines the structural integrity and soundness of your wood. In this section we are going to look at the following aspects of wood painting: 

What Is Wood Painting? 

Wood painting means applying a protective coating on wood surfaces to avoid premature deterioration caused by damaging elements.

The protective layer also acts as a decorative agent to keep your wood looking new for years.

Types Of Wood Paints

Wood is a porous material and can accommodate all paint types. But as a woodworker, you should have explicit knowledge of the paint options for your woodworking projects. Check below: 

  • Oil-based Paints

Though oil-based paints have health and environmental concerns, they deliver the best finish. Thanks to the evolutions in paint manufacturing: we now have safer formulations that serve equally well.

Oil paints offer a broad range of colors since they can be mixed and layered more freely than water-based paints.

Oil paints provide excellent coverage in one coat, shrink less, and hold up well in high-stress areas than water-based paints.

They also excel at covering minor surface imperfections, and they take longer to dry, allowing you to address mistakes before the paint dries on wood.

Still, oil paints have a smooth, high-gloss finish without visible brush marks. 

However, there is a set of disadvantages balanced against the benefits of oil paints. Some oil paints have high VOCs that present health and environmental concerns.

They are also susceptible to discoloration and fading and should be treated as a dangerous waste for disposal. 

  • Water-based Paints

Paint manufacturers have been producing new additives that enable latex or water-based paints to simulate the good qualities of oil-based paints.

Today, people are shifting to water-based paints because they are more resilient to surface contraction and expansion without warping. 

Latex paints also dry quickly to provide excellent UV toughness and resistance against coloring fade out. 

However, they are likely to scratch and peel off quickly over time, meaning water-based paints aren’t suitable for surfaces enduring high traffic.

  •  Chalk Paint

Chalk paint differs from other paint options in many ways. First, it doesn’t need surface preparation, making it a great candidate for working on detailed furniture design.

Second, this paint option has a thick consistency meaning you can attain full coverage with only 1 or 2 coats.

It’s also more forgiving to mistakes as spills and drips can be cleaned up quickly, unlike oil paints. 

However, it would help if you waxed chalk paint to make it repel water and scratches. Without a wax coat, chalk paint won’t last long, especially in high-stress areas. 

  • Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a primary art material for most DIYers and artists because of its versatility and vibrancy.

You can customize acrylic paint by mixing it with other formulas to achieve different textures or change the drying time. It contains low toxicity levels, so it’s safe for the environment.

However, be sure to perform proper surface preparation to reap the benefits of this versatile paint. 

Acrylic paint offers more color options with more saturated pigments but varies by brand. The paint dries quickly on wood, depending on the layers you will apply to your project. 

The flexibility of acrylic paint means it can conform to temperature and humidity changes.

It stretches and compresses instead of cracking in high and low temperatures.

However, it can not withstand high-traffic areas better than oil-based paints. So I recommend you to use this paint formula on wood pieces that you rarely use. 

Why Should You Paint Wood?

Painting wood is a great way to mask the wood’s flaws making it restore its former shine.

It also helps protect the wood from degrading or discoloring as it ages. Besides, there are other compelling reasons to paint your wood: 

  • Improve the Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is a center of attraction for potential buyers. If you plan to sell your home, ensure you give it a good paint job first so that buyers don’t worry about investing in a house with too many maintenance issues.

  • Keep Your Interior Cooler

Another reason to paint wood is to keep your home cooler. If you have a wooden house, I recommend painting it with a pale color to repel the UV rays.

A light color ensures your home stays naturally cool and saves up to 30% of the energy bill. 

  • Block Sunlight

People paint wood to keep away the sunlight damage. Repeated exposure to direct sunlight has adverse effects on unfinished wood. The

UV rays will discolor the wood and damage its fibers. Therefore, you should paint your wood with a UV-resistant coating to prevent sunlight damage.

  • Waterproofing

Excessive moisture encourages wood rot, cold spots, cracks, peeling, and mold growth.

Fortunately, you can paint wood to offer an effective waterproofing barrier and prevent water from compromising your wood’s properties and performance. 

What Are the Disadvantages Of Painting Wood? 

Knowing the downsides of painting wood can help you decide whether or not painting is the best alternative for your woodworking projects.

Below are the common disadvantages of painting wood.

  • Cost

Painting wood is expensive because it involves purchasing primers, surface preservatives, and paint.

Hiring professionals to paint for you also adds to the cost considering they charge per hour or depending on your project size.

  • Difficult to Touch Up

No matter how much commitment you put into achieving an excellent paint job, the surface will likely fade with time.

Touching up these faded parts on your wood is not easy, considering you will need to color match the fresh paint with the existing one on the wood. 

If the new paint coat doesn’t complement the existing one, it will appear more pronounced than the surrounding areas. 

  • Time-Consuming

Painting takes time to achieve full coverage and promising results because you need to address repairs, clean the wood, and prepare it before painting.

Each step requires accuracy, so you should not skip any to achieve professional-grade results. 

  • Recurring Potential Problems 

If your painted wood has had previous defects such as peeling or bubbling, painting the same area often results in similar issues in the future.

This means you have to repaint your wooden surface more frequently to prevent such problems from recurring. 

Wood Painting Vs. Staining

Beautifying and protecting your wood involves choosing the correct finish.

In most cases, it narrows down to choosing between painting and staining wood since they are designed for such applications.

They are usually selected for different purposes, so it pays to understand their similarities and differences before purchasing.

Similarities Between Painting and Staining Wood

Both paint and stain have ingredients that provide protection and add color to wood, making it shine. They also come in water-based and oil-based versions.

The oil-based stains and paints have harsh synthetic additives that can be hazardous or flammable if not applied in a well-ventilated space. 

The water-based varieties are eco-friendly, meaning they don’t diffuse dangerous vapors into the environment.

However, they dry very quickly, meaning it’s not easy to get a uniform finish with this option. 

Differences Between Staining and Painting Wood

The main difference between stain and paint is that stain soaks into the wood to enhance its natural beauty, whereas paint sits on the surface to keep away the elements.

So depending on your decor goals and the amount of coverage you need, choose a finish that adds aesthetic appeal or protection to your design. 

Stain highlights the surface deformities because it forms a thin layer when it blends with wood. Paint fills the wood pores and hides the surface imperfections with high pigments and resins percentage for a more manufactured look. 

Here are other differences. 

  • Coverage and Ease of Application

Either painting or staining wood requires thorough surface preparation, including cleaning, addressing damages, and sanding.

But when applying these formulas, the stain spreads more quickly because it has a runny consistency.

However, stains are more watery than paint and have less coverage, highlighting the surface deformities. 

Though the paint is not easy to apply, It delivers full coverage to hide the surface irregularities. This is one of the compelling reasons wood painting outshines staining.

  • Durability

Both paint and stain have specific weaknesses. Paint, for example, is prone to chipping or peeling, whereas stain suffers heat-related issues.

However, paint is more durable than wood stain because it offers the best defense against scratches, moisture, and UV-related fading. 

Stains are more vulnerable to watermarks and discoloration when subjected to extreme moisture. 

  • Cost

Wood painting is more expensive than staining because it involves applying primers, clear coat finishes, and maintenance.

However, these additional supplies and steps help protect the paint from flaking, peeling, and chipping with time. 

  • Color and Texture Options

Choose paint if you need color and texture options for a more contemporary vibe. Paint comes in different sheens and textures: semi-gloss, gloss, eggshell, matte, satin, and flat.

Wood stains have limited color options even if stain manufacturers widen their color options nowadays. 

  • Decor

Decorative themes are primary considerations when selecting between paint and stain.

Choose stain if you want your wood to have a natural look, or opt for paint if you like to change the wood texture and natural appearance. 

  • Uses

The primary use of paint protects wooden items from environmental conditions that can compromise the wood’s integrity and performance.

Some modern stains incorporate protective ingredients against sunlight damage and moisture, but their major role is decorating and restoring wood’s beauty. 

Pros of Wood Paint

  • Painting wood extends its lifespan provided you perform frequent maintenance. 
  • Paint discourages wood rot caused by extreme moisture.
  • Paint offers you a wide range of color options to choose from. 
  • Painting helps to cover the surface flaws in the wood. 


  • The paint is opaque; therefore, it hides the fine wood grains. 
  • It takes time to paint wood because each coat has to dry before proceeding to the next step. 
  • Painting wood is expensive in the long run, especially if you factor in labor costs. 

Pros of Staining Wood

  • Staining wood lets the wood grain remain visible because most stains are transparent. 
  • Stain highlights the wood’s beauty rather than completely masking it. 
  • Wood stains are easy to apply since they have a runny consistency. 
  • Stains penetrate the wood to create a water barrier. 


  • Stains don’t last for years. 
  • Not all woods adhere to stains well. 
  • Wood stains are less predictable than paints. 

How to Paint Wood

It’s easy to assume that painting wood is an easy task. However, this DIY project requires a lot of precision to get it right. You must prepare the wood for the new paint coat to adhere as expected.

Surface preparation involves repairing the minor dents so they won’t reveal in the final finish. Check out these steps to paint your wood like a pro. 

Step 1: Remove the Old Paint

Use a putty knife to remove the flaking paint on your wood and check for deep gouges.

If any, hold a putty knife or paint scraper at an angle and apply a joint compound into the gouges focusing on the detailed areas. 

Step 2: Sand the Wood

Sand the repaired areas with coarse sandpaper before committing to the other spots.

Ensure you remove all the paint remaining on the surface to get the wood ready for priming.

Finish off with fine-grit sandpaper to smooth out the imperfections left in the previous passes. 

Step 3: Clean the Sanding Dust

Use a vacuum cleaner fitted with a filter and bag attachment to remove the sanding dust.

The vacuum cleaner reduces airborne dust, but you will still need to wear your face mask.

If you don’t own a vacuum, use a damp cloth to clean the sanding dust and wait for the wood to dry. 

Tip: Avoid using a blower as it will redistribute the sanding residue back on the wood surface. 

Step 4: Tape Off the Sections You Don’t Want to Paint

If you want to paint a small portion of the wood a different color or you want it to remain unpainted, cover it with tape.

I recommend using Frog Tape, considering it is specially treated and minimizes paint bleeding through the edges. 

Step 5: Prime the Wood

Before painting, using a primer provides an ideal base for the paint to stick as expected.

It prevents surface irregularities from showing through and saves material consumption by erasing the need for multiple paint coats. 

Mix your desired primer thoroughly in a paint tray, then soak a bristle brush in the primer and prime the wood.

Prime in the wood grain direction and always maintain a wet edge to avoid unsightly brush marks.

Follow the user’s instructions for the drying time between coats before adding extra coats.

Step 6: Paint the Wood

Choose the best paint that has excellent reflective and durable qualities. It’s not good to be cheap with paints because the cheaper ones can get faulty with time.

That means you will attract extra costs of purchasing new supplies for a new painting project. 

Load your bristle brush with a good amount of paint for even coverage. Start painting your wood from the top, going down in short strokes.

Remember to brush the paint in the wood grain direction for a consistent finish. 

After achieving full coverage, let the first coat air dry according to the guidelines printed on the package.

Lightly sand the dried paint with medium-grit sandpaper to create a smooth texture for the subsequent coats to grip onto.

Then proceed with multiple coats to achieve your preferred shade. Lastly, seal the wood with a clear coat to create a barrier against destructive elements. 


Whether you seek a professional touch or do it yourself, painting wood is a promising, tested and proven way of prolonging its beauty and functionality.

The protective coating keeps moisture and other destructive elements at bay without sacrificing the overall wood performance.

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