How to paint wood, a guide.

how to paint wood

This is a guide on how to paint wood. How to paint wood? It’s a straight forward question with a few different answers.  It depends on the type of wood and where it is, for example wood on the outside of your home will be painted a little differently than wood on the inside of your home, with different paints. The reason for this is because exterior wood has to stand up to the elements. If you want to know how to paint wood that is new and unpainted or previously painted wood then keep reading!

First you’ll need some tools:

  • Paint brushes, a good quality paint brush and a small cheap throw away brush
  • Paint kettle/paint container
  • Sanding block
  • Sandpaper – grades 100, 120, 150, 220
  • Dust brush
  • Paint stirring stick
  • Clean rag
  • Caulk gun/mastic gun
  • Filling knives
  • Masking tape
  • Drop sheets, paint sheets or newspapers
  • Flat head screwdriver
how to paint wood

Before you start to paint new wood, you should prepare the area for painting first. If you are painting skirting boards then use the masking tape to neatly cover the ground right beside the base the skirting board. The same goes for any other area where there is a chance you might get some paint on a wall, carpet or anything else you’d like to keep free from paint. Then place the paint sheet or newspapers on the ground to protect the floor from paint drops or spills.

Materials you will need:

  • Bottle of knotting (or B-I-N primer)
  • White spirits
  • wood filler
  • Caulk
  • Wood primer
  • Undercoat
  • Finish coat i.e. gloss, satinwood or eggshell finish.


If you want to use water based paint for your finish then its best to use water based primer and undercoat too. If you are using oil or spirit based paint for the finish then you can use either oil based undercoat or water based undercoat.

How to paint wood that is bare:

  1. Pour some knotting into a paint kettle/container and using the cheap brush apply the knotting to all the knots in the wood. Its best practice to give 2 coats of knotting. If you skip this step you will regret it later on. If you paint new wood without treating the knots, then the knots will start seeping sap through your finish. This can take a few months but will happen and will look like brown stains (alternatively you can use Zinsser B-I-N primer to cover the knots, this a more expensive option but has the benefit of drying out really quickly. If you are in a hurry and cost isn’t an issue then use the B-I-N primer as you can apply 2 coats of B-I-N, a water based undercoat and a water based topcoat in a single day!).
  2. Use the flat head screwdriver to open the tin of wood primer. Give the primer a good stir before pouring a small amount into a clean paint kettle/container. Using the good paint brush, apply the primer to the wood in small amounts and work the paint into the wood. It doesn’t really matter too much how the paint goes on but once on lay the paint off in the same direction as the grain in the wood. Laying off means to use one long light stroke on the paint to ensure that you don’t get stop start strokes once the paint has dried.
  3. When the primer has dried get some sandpaper and give the surface a rub down to make smooth. The roughness of the wood will dictate which grade of paper to use. If it’s quite hairy then uses the 100 grade, otherwise the 150 grade sandpaper will do.
  4. Use the wood filler and filling kives to fill any holes that you can find. Once the filler is dry sand it back smoth. Repeat this if you need to.
  5. Dust the wood down then wipe it with a damp cloth. If you are using an oil based paint then instead of a damp cloth use some white spirits on a clean rag.
  6. Open up the tin of undercoat and give it a stir before using. Use the same technique for applying the undercoat as you used with the primer.
  7.  Once dry, give the undercoat a rub down with the 220 grade sandpaper before cleaning with the rag again. If you want a nice smooth finish then sand between each coat of paint. This is how to paint wood like a pro.
  8. Give the wood another undercoat. Repeat step 6.
  9. Use the caulk to fill and gaps between the wood and the wall e.g. the top of a skirting board or the side of a door fram should be caulked where the wood meets the wall. Caulk the lenght of the board then using a wet finger run the caulk in to the gap. Then wipe off any excess caulk with a damp rag
  10. Open up your tin of finish. If you are using a gloss then one coat should be fine for a finish. If using satinwood or eggshell then apply 2 coats for best results. Make sure to rub down between coats. The finish coat will take longer to dry than the undercoat or primer. Make sure not to use to much paint at this stage because it will drip or sag if there’s a lot applied. Just use a small amount of finish and really work it in before laying it off.


If you are using a water based paint instead oil based then you can apply more paint without it sagging. A good tip for using water based paints is to slightly dampen the surface you are about to paint with a damp rag. This helps the paint flow a lot better and keeps it wet a little longer which will help you get a nice finish

That’s how to paint wood that’s new or bare and if you follow these instructions then you should get a nice smooth finish.

 If you are painting wood outside then keep an eye on the weather, if it rains on your finish coat you’ll have to redo it. If it’s too cold the paint won’t dry properly.

How to paint wood that has been previously painted:

This can be slightly easier or harder than new wood depending on how well it was painted previously.

Materials you will need:

  • Bin primer
  • White spirits
  • Wood primer (aluminium wood primer for hard wood)
  • wood filler or 2 pack wood filler for exterior wood
  • Undercoat
  • Finish coat i.e. gloss, satinwood or eggshell finish

The process is the same as used for painting new wood. The only real difference is in the preparation.

  • First give the paint a good clean & rub down with the sandpaper. Make sure to sand out any old drips
  • Dust and wipe down the surface.
  • If there are knots bleeding through the paint then apply a coat of bin primer. This will stop the knots bleeding again in the future.
  • Touch up any bare wood with the wood primer
  • Fill any holes with the wood filler and sand back.
  • From this point on follow steps 5-10 of painting new wood

That’s how to paint wood that’s been painted before.

How to paint wood – Tips.

  • Always start at the top and work your way down.
  • When painting panel doors always paint the panels first.
  • When painting doors, frames, window boards, skirting boards and any other type of wood at the same time make sure to separate the paint into 2 batches. 1 batch for the skirting boards and the other batch for everything else. The reason for this is because there’s a good chance when painting skirting boards your paint brush will pick up some dust and contaminate the paint. If you then use this paint on doors etc. the dust will ruin your finish.
  • The better the brush the better the finish.
  • For water based paints slightly dampen the surface first just before you paint.





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