Painting Techniques for Wood Cracks

by Chelsea Fitzgerald
Preparing the wood surface helps ensure a professional-looking job.

Preparing the wood surface helps ensure a professional-looking job.

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Tiny or even deep cracks in wood can give a piece of furniture or a wall a rustic or country-style look. If this is desirable, it's perfectly acceptable to leave the cracks and to paint over them. But many people prefer to fill in wood cracks. The correct preparation results in providing a flat surface for paint that gives new life to the wood.

Cleaning the Wood

Grime, dust and other debris prevent paint from adhering well to a wood surface. Purchase TSP or similar wood-cleaning product from a hardware, discount or home supply store. Mix it in a bucket with water according to the directions on the label. Use a cleaning rag or sponge to wash the wood. Rinse the area well with clear water and allow it to dry thoroughly before continuing.

Scraping the Wood

Old paint and other finishes may result in the wood surface looking cracked or chipped with age and repeated exposure to moisture. Eventually, these painted sections start to peel off, thus affecting the look of the wood. Use a stiff putty knife to scrape off any cracks in the paint or chipped places in the finish. Move the putty knife at different angles if necessary to smooth the wood. Lightly sand the wood with a 180-grit sandpaper to smooth it, then dust the surface before continuing. This provides a smooth surface for the new coat of paint.

Caulking Wood Cracks

Purchase a latex acrylic caulk that you can paint over. This is perfect for long, narrow cracks in the wood. Hold the caulk applicator at a 45-degree angle after cutting a fine tip off the end of the applicator. Squeeze out a stream of caulk that fills the crack and protrudes slightly above the wood. Wipe away any excess caulking with a damp rag wrapped around the end of your index finger. Check to make sure any caulk residue is gone from around the crack. if not, wipe the surface again. Inspect the cracked section to ensure the area is now flush with the surrounding wood. If not, add more caulk and wipe away any excess. Once the caulking is complete, allow it to dry according to the directions on the label before painting the wood surface. This method is particularly helpful around joints and seams in the wood.

Wood Putty for Deep Cracks

Using wood putty to fill in deep or irregularly shaped cracks is an excellent way to give a level surface to the wood. It's available at discount, home supply and hardware stores. Use a flexible putty knife to apply a quality wood putty -- it should have the texture of paste. Press it into the deep crack with the putty knife until the surface is level with the rest of the wood. Allow the putty to dry thoroughly before painting the surface.

Paint Choice

Oil-based or quality latex paints both work well on wood. Latex paints clean up quickly with soap and water and take less time to dry than oil-based paints. The oil-based paints have a stronger odor that tends to last for a few days. If you're painting indoors, this is an important consideration.

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