To Stain or Not to Stain…

As we near the end of the tongue and groove pool house ceiling install, I’m trying to pin down the exact finish.  When new and protected, pine looks bright, but over time, with exposure to sunlight, it darkens and yellows.


That’s never been a wood tone I like, so stain is necessary to over ride those natural undertones.  As is the case with all of our material selections for this space, we want an interior look but need exterior grade finishes due to the splashing and possibility of humidity.

I started searching for an exterior oil based color that had a bit of both brown and gray, but wasn’t too dark.  Something along the lines of this:

Architecture and Interior Design

Sherwin Williams applied two store samples to a board as a starting point.  On the left is Weathered Gray, the center is Banyan Brown.


Weathered Gray was entirely too gray and read very cold, with blue undertones.  Banyan Brown was darker and still too yellow.  Neither were what I wanted, so I checked out Lowe’s and Home Depot.  Lowe’s had an Olympic color, Madrone, that kind of fit the bill.  Compared to the other two samples, shown on the right above, it was more of a blend.  To get a more accurate idea of the color, I selected a variety of scrap pieces to stain, creating a large sample.


Yes, it was better, but still looked a bit too yellow.  I wasn’t sold and neither was Ben, even when I held the pieces up against the ceiling and he viewed from below.

All along, my fall back option was to paint the planks white, while staining the beams.  It’s a simple and classic look, something especially crucial in this situation as this ceiling is completely inaccessible without scaffolding.  We also have painted tongue and groove throughout our home, so we know we like it.  Images like the following have only reaffirmed my belief.

Chappaquiddick Island
Carramore Lane
1800s Farmhouse Remodel

Photo by Bartelt

Most elements planned for this room will be simple and neutral, carrying the slate floors from the kitchen around the pool deck.  A shot of wood tone via the beams will add a tremendous amount of warmth and interest, without the feeling of a lower ceiling.  Add the flood of natural light through the windows, doors, and skylights and I’m picturing a private year-round oasis.

7 thoughts on “To Stain or Not to Stain…

    1. Hi Barbara!

      Yep, that can happen if you don’t use a good primer. We’ve used a Sherwin Williams oil based primer on our other painted wood and haven’t seen any bleed through yet. 🙂


  1. Have you ever weathered pine? Paint with strong black tea to put tanin in the wood, let dry, then brush on white vinegar that’s had 0000 steel wool dissolved in it. I love it!

    1. I’ve never used that method, but it sounds like a fun one to try!! This isn’t the best place to try that out because we have about 1000 square feet of ceiling, but I’ll keep that in mind. 🙂


  2. Man. Every few months I search “stained pine” on Pinterest. I was really hoping this post was going to solve my dilemma 🙂 I have horizontal pine paneling in a few rooms that I can’t bear to paint and I keep hoping I’ll find that magical post that says staining is easy to do and it turns out great. I don’t have a good area to test any spots so I’ve let myself sit in limbo. I’m half terrified I’ll start a lengthy process with terrible results! What’s on the walls isn’t sealed and has orange-d a bit. And so it has stayed as-is for the last 5 years.

    1. Hello KC!

      Oh man, I’m sorry to disappoint! I think it’s totally doable, but just tricky in our situation. Staining ceilings is tricky, but even more so when we have such a large area. If I were you, I’d look at Lowe’s for their Olympic stain color Madrone. It was definitely my front runner. Even if you don’t want that color, I’d look for something with about equal amounts of brown and gray to combat the yellow undertones pine has. As far as it being difficult, staining is pretty hard to mess up. Mask everything up and keep your leading edge wet so you don’t have overlap. I hope that is a decent help desipte a full tutorial. 🙂

      Thanks and good luck!

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