best finish for pine

The Best Finish For Pine (Easy To Apply & Durable)

Pine is a type of ‘softwood’ that is often used for many different types of woodworking projects.

As with other species of wood, it is important to apply the proper finish to pine in order to protect its surface and enhance its overall beauty.

So, what is the best finish for pine wood?

The best finish for pine is polyurethane and epoxy products, gel stains, and oil-based or latex paints, followed by clear topcoats, such as varnish or shellac. Which types of these to use will often depend on what the wood is being used for.

Ready to learn more? Keep reading!

Finishing Pine Wood Knots

It is important to always pre-seal any knots in the wood with a shellac or wash coat before applying the stain. This will prevent the natural pigments in the knots from ‘bleeding’ into the finishing product.

Now that you know stains, paints, and clear-to-coat finishes are best for pine wood, let’s take a closer look at how and why this is so.

We will also discuss pine in more detail, such as what type of wood it is, why it is used, and what it is used for. Now, if you’re ready to learn more about this durable and versatile ‘softwood,’ then please continue reading…

stacked pine wood logs

Best Finishing Products For Pine

If you are interested in looking for a product to finish your pine wood, then let me tell you which products are the very best for the task.

The product that I personally use is called the Minwax wood finisher. I have been using this product for years now for all kinds of wood, not just pine.

The Minwax wood finisher that I linked to above has everything that you look for in a wood finisher.

It is easy to use, the product is very affordable, and you can find this product everywhere! It is rarely sold out, and I really recommend that you try this product if you are looking to stain pine.

By the way, speaking of the best finish for pinewood, you might also want to check out Danish Oil. It is easy to apply and acts as a durable finish for pine wood. Read this guide about using Danish Oil on Pinewood to learn more.

What Kind of Wood is Pine?

DefinitionType of softwood that grows in the Northern Hemisphere; comes from a coniferous tree
TypesSouthern Yellow Pine, Northern/Eastern White Pine, Blue Pine, Deal Pine
ColorsWhite, yellow, blue/gray
PropertiesLightweight, straight-grained, resists shrinking and swelling
UsesIndoor: furniture, paneling, floors (finish with varnish or lacquer); Outdoor: window frames, decks, patios (needs treatment or painting)

Pine is a type of softwood that grows in the Northern Hemisphere, mostly. It comes from a coniferous tree, which grows quickly and in a straight fashion.

There are at least four known species of pine in the world! It is usually white or pale yellow in color but can also appear to look blue or gray.

It is lightweight and straight-grained. Pine is great for a variety of indoor and outdoor woodworking projects as it resists both shrinking and swelling.

What are the Different Types of Pine Wood?

Pine wood is cut from evergreen trees and is often considered ‘the material of choice’ for all kinds of construction work.

There are four main types of pine wood. Let’s take a closer look at these types below.

1. Southern Yellow Pine

Just as the name implies, this is a type of yellow-colored wood.

Its density and strength make it ideal for a variety of construction and do-it-yourself projects. It is often used to make boats and floors.

It is the least expensive of the four types of pine wood and looks best when finished with a dark red stain or brown stain to give it that ‘weathered’ effect.

2. Northern or Eastern White Pine

This white-colored wood is too soft for home or building construction but ideal for furniture, carpentry, or other crafting projects.

It is chosen for its ability to resist shrinking, splitting, swelling, and warping. It looks best when finished with polyurethane or clear varnish to allow the natural beauty of the wood to ‘shine’ through.

3. Blue Pine

This type of pine has a bluish hue that can also appear to look brownish or grayish in color. It is caused by a dark fungus that lives on the wood. It is very strong and well-known for its high load-bearing capability.

Finishing this wood can be challenging, as it tends to retain that blue color even after staining. Staying true to its natural pigment is key, so finishing with a clear lacquer or varnish works best.

aged blue painted grunge wood texture background

4. Deal Pine

This type of wood is native to Europe and Northern Asia and comes in both red and yellow varieties.

It has a very distinctive ‘knotty’ grain, which makes it ideal for doors, wall paneling, and furniture.

Like most other types of pine wood, it is best finished with a clear varnish or polyurethane to protect its surface and allow the natural beauty of the knotty grain to show through.

What is Pine Wood Used For?

Pinewood is strong, durable, and versatile. It is used for a number of indoor and outdoor woodworking projects.

Indoor items (such as furniture, wall paneling, and floors) are usually finished with a clear lacquer or varnish after a pre-sealant has been applied and given time to dry.

Outdoor needs (such as window frames, decks, and patio structures) usually require the pine to be pressure-treated (or latex-painted) in order to protect the wood from outside elements, including wind, rain, and sun damage.

Is Pine Good Wood for Furniture?

Pine Wood is great for furniture, as its soft nature makes it easy to design and carve during the building stage.

It is strong, shock-resistant, and takes stains well, as long as you remember to seal it first! It is often used for dining room tables, bedroom sets, or any other type of ‘solid’ furniture piece.

For these, a wood veneer (or thin, decorative covering usually of a different, finer variety) is sometimes used to cover or finish the surface. Otherwise, a standard brush-on polyurethane varnish is typically used.

When finishing pine wood, the choice between oil-based and water-based polyurethane is crucial as it affects the final appearance and durability of your project. Learn more about Oil vs. Water-Based Polyurethane to make the best choice for your pine wood projects.

What is the Best Way To Finish Pine Furniture?

YouTube video

The best way to finish pine furniture includes four main steps. Let’s review these steps in more detail below.


Begin by sanding the pinewood fist using a random orbital sander with a variable-speed setting.

Be careful; pine, although easy to sand, is also easy to damage. Set the sander on low and gently move it across the wood surface until it is smooth, without ‘bearing down’ on it.

Next, use a hand sander to remove the tiny circular swirls left by the random orbital sander. Remember to always sand with the grain. Once completely sanded, clean away any remaining dust or debris with a tack cloth or vacuum.


Pinewood absorbs stains at different rates and amounts because it has both softwood and hardwood features.

This can cause the stain or varnish to appear blotchy or uneven. To avoid this, always seal the wood first using clear shellac. Allow the sealant to dry completely (for at least one hour) before applying any paint or stain.


A brush-on gel stain is great for pine wood. Clear finishes work best, if possible. Use long, smooth strokes (with the brush) to apply the product properly.

Wipe off any excess stain using a clean cloth or short-bristle brush, especially in the corners. Once complete, allow the wood to dry thoroughly (for a minimum of five hours or more). 


Clear topcoat finishes, such as a thin layer of satin varnish or polyurethane, work great on pine wood.

Two layers of a brush-on variety will protect the surface while enhancing the beauty of the piece.

Lightly sand any imperfections that remain after applying the topcoat. Do this using a very fine sandpaper and then gently dust off the surface to reveal a smooth, polished finish.

How to Treat Unfinished Pine Furniture

Unfinished pine wood is gaining popularity in the design industry for its weathered look and rustic appeal.

Remember, because it is softwood, it can be damaged easily (and is prone to discoloration and cracking) if not properly treated.

To treat unfinished pine furniture, follow these five simple steps below:

  • Unfinished pine is susceptible to cracking and shrinking from extreme heat and moisture, so keep the wood in a cool, dry place.
  • Use a clean, dry cloth and gently dust the unfinished pine at least once a week to keep dirt from mixing with moisture and embedding into the wood grain.
  • Then, use a clean, damp (never wet) cloth to remove unsightly dirt or oil, but only as needed.
  • Apply a thin layer of wood oil with a clean cloth on areas where the pine appears to be overly dry and possibly cracking.
  • Finally, use furniture wax to protect unfinished wood further. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly as specified.

While discussing finishes, it’s important to consider the safety of the products you’re using. For example, many woodworkers wonder about the toxicity of certain oils, such as tung oil. It’s crucial to choose non-toxic options, especially for items that will be inside your home. Is Tung Oil Toxic? Find out more about this and make informed choices about the products you use

How to Finish Pine Outdoor Furniture

Applying a finish to deck or patio pine furniture is essential to protect the wood from outdoor elements such as wind, rain, and sun damage and give it a clean, bright look.

The best finishes for outdoor pine furniture include latex or oil-based paint, a gel stain, or polyurethane (followed by a varnish topcoat).

Here are the six simple steps (for paint or stain finishes) include the following:

  • Set-up the work area. Place a tarp down on the driveway or in the garage. Be sure to set up the work area in a space with plenty of air circulation.
  • Choose your finish. Gel stain or oil-based paint works great for pine wood unless it has been pressure-treated. If so, then choose a latex paint finish instead.
  • Sand the wood. Sand the surface area of the pine with fine-grit sandpaper to smooth any imperfections in the wood and to help the finishing product adhere to the surface better.
  • Prime the wood. Spray a thin, even layer of primer over the sanded wood. Allow it to dry for at least thirty to sixty minutes.
  • Finish the wood. Apply two (or even three) coats of paint or stain to the pre-treated wood, brushing along the surface using long, smooth brush strokes. Be sure to let each layer dry completely (thirty to sixty minutes) before applying another coat. 
  • Seal the wood. When the last coat of paint or stain has dried, apply an even layer of varnish or sealant to the wood surface. This will give the piece a smooth, glossy finish. Be sure to allow ample time to dry completely, sixty minutes or more.

For more information on using untreated wood outdoors, see our post can untreated wood be used outdoors for more untreated wood options.

Here’s How To finish outdoor pine furniture using polyurethane:

  1. Set up the work area. Be sure to work in a well-ventilated area with plenty of fresh air circulation. Place a tarp on the ground to protect your garage floor or driveway.
  2. Prep the wood. Apply a smooth, lined layer of polyurethane to the pine surface. Allow time for the product to dry, at least twenty-four hours.
  3. Coat the wood. Apply another layer of polyurethane using long, thin strokes. Let this second layer dry for another twenty-four hours.
  4. Finish the wood. Apply a third layer of polyurethane to the wood, again allowing it to dry completely.
  5. Smooth the wood. When the last layer of polyurethane is dry, cut away any bumps on the surface with a utility knife and lightly sand the entire surface with fine-grit sandpaper.
  6. Seal the wood. Re-apply the polyurethane again for a fourth protective layer that will preserve the wood for up to three threes!

Read more on how long does polyurethane take too dry and the differences between water and oil based polyurethanes.

How to Finish Pine Floors

Pine wood floors look beautiful in a home, provided they are properly installed and finished.

They are often chosen over hardwood floors for their pliability, durability, and affordability. However, unlike hardwood floors, pine floors do not come pre-finished.

To finish a pine floor (which is basically plywood that is purchased and finished from large sheets), you need to use stain, varnish, or oil.

  • For the best results, clean the floor first with a duster or vacuum to remove any lingering dirt or debris.
  • Apply two coats of stain (allowing each layer to dry completely).
  • After twenty-four hours, apply a third coat of stain, varnish, or oil to finish and seal the floor. Give the floor a final wipe-down when dry, and it is ready to walk on!

In woodworking, there are numerous types of wood, each with unique characteristics. For those looking to explore beyond pine, learning about other woods, such as Sheesham, can be another great choice. Discover what Sheesham Wood is here.

Best Way to Finish a Pine Wall

Pine wood paneling is making a comeback in interior design. It adds a warm, rustic elegance to any room without breaking the bank! The eight necessary steps for finishing a pine wall include the following:

Prep the room

Remove as many items as possible from the room and lay sheets down to protect the floor or carpet. Open the windows, if possible, or use a fan for ventilation and/or air circulation

Smooth the wood

Use a filler to smooth out any holes or imperfections in the wood. To do this, combine epoxy with a little sawdust and apply it to any gaps or cracks using a putty knife.

Sand the wood

Wearing a dust mask, use 200-grit sandpaper and rub the wood surface in the direction of the grain. Continue sanding until the entire surface looks and feels smooth.

Condition the wood

Apply a wood conditioner to the pine panels with a clean, dry, lint-free cloth. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions step-by-step for best results. Wipe off any excess conditioner before staining.

Stain the wood

Apply stain with a paintbrush in the same direction as the grain. Allow the first layer to dry completely (for at least eight hours) before applying a second coat. 

Seal the wood

Apply a thin layer of oil-based sealant to the pine panels, following the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Be sure to use long, smooth brush strokes in the direction of the grain. Let the product dry completely before sanding.

Sand the wood

Gently sand the surface with 220-grit sandpaper to remove any imperfections or excess sealant. Wipe down the panels to clean away any remaining dust or debris. Apply a second layer of sealant and let it dry completely.

Polish the wood

When the last layer of sealant is fully dry, polish the pine panels with a clean, soft cloth to reveal a bright, glossy finish.

While pine is a popular choice for many projects, it’s not the only option out there. If you’re curious about other types of wood, check out this post on the best wood for crafts. It can provide insights into different woods and their suitability for various creative endeavors.

Varnish vs. Shellac vs. Polyurethane

Varnish and shellac are two of the most commonly used pine wood finishes on the market today. Varnish is typically heavier than shellac and will usually require only one (maybe two) coat to finish.

Shellac can appear glossier than varnish but requires several coats to achieve that high-shine finish. A completed shellac finish is often smoother than varnish but not as durable. 

Polyurethane is similar to shellac in that it does not withstand heat and/or chemicals, as well as varnish.

It is meant for indoor finishes, just like shellac, whereas varnish can be used outdoors for protection from wood, wind, rain, and sun damage. Varnish is often the preferred ‘sealant of choice’, especially for pinewood finishes.

Speaking of woodworking projects, another common question among enthusiasts is about the versatility of different woods, like cedar. For instance, Can You Turn Cedar on a Lathe? This can be a fascinating exploration for those interested in expanding their woodworking skills beyond pine.


In short, pine is a ‘softwood’ that has both pros and cons when it comes to woodworking. The pros include that it is the least expensive of all wood types used for making furniture, it is great for re-purposing and creating rustic, weathered looks, and it is easy to mold and craft.

The cons include its susceptibility to dents and scratches, its ‘knotty’ nature that can cause stains to ‘bleed’ through, and its ability to mimic pricier woods (such as maple), putting other trees at risk from deforestation.

There are a number of ways to finish pine wood. The finish you choose depends upon what the piece is being used for.

Polyurethane and epoxy products, gel stains, oil-based or latex paints, and clear topcoats, such as varnish or shellac, are the best finishing products for pine wood. 

This article has outlined step-by-step finishing instructions for various pine wood projects, including outdoor furniture, floors, and wall panels. Now, all you have to do is purchase your supplies and get to work on your next DIY masterpiece! Good luck with your future woodworking endeavors!

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