Interior finish for a timber frame
My wife and I just completed a saltbox timber-frame home. The beams are eastern white pine with pine decking and a pine ceiling. The timber-framing company applied #261 Dubno Primer Oil (by Livos of Germany) to the pine. Now that the frame and pine decking is complete, I would like to apply a finish coat that will last for a lifetime. Can you recommend a natural-color finish coat? Is a paste-wax product good for providing long-lasting protection and luster to the pine? What specific products do you recommend?
Scott Young, Fredericton, None
Victor DeMasi, a painter in Redding, Connecticut, replies: When dealing with interior pine, remember that the color will darken with age when left exposed to natural light. This desirable aging can be enhanced by oil-based products that turn amber slightly after they are applied. Many wood aficionados find this ambering a beautiful but still natural look.
For a natural, nonambering finish, I would use one of the new satin luster water-based varnishes. My top choice is Diamond by the Varathane Company (Flecto, 1000 45th St., Oakland, Calif. 94608; 800-635-3286). I’ve used this product for years. It is now my choice for a clear finish on all surfaces, including floors and furniture, and I’ve even used it as a protective, nonyellowing finish over faux finishes. The Diamond finish has no objectionable fumes during application, it causes very little ambering on wood surfaces, it’s easy to clean, and it gives a beautiful, handrubbed look with a single coat. Several coats produce a deeper, more varnished appearance.
Personally, I prefer the slightly ambered look that comes with an oil finish and would choose the antique luster polyurethane made by McClosky Paint (Valspar Corp., 1191 Wheeling Road, Wheeling, Ill. 60090-5794; 708-541-9000), or satin polyurethane made by Last-N-Last (Absolute Coatings, 38 Portman Road, New Rochelle, N. Y. 10801; 914-636-0700). Each looks hand-rubbed and provides a durable surface. Be sure to test any finish material in an inconspicuous spot to be sure it adheres to the Dubno oil.
Wax has a mystique all its own. Wax finishes have been out of vogue in recent years. There are few experts on wax finishes and very little reliable information for the lay practitioner. I don’t recommend wax finishes to my customers for several reasons. First, they are labor intensive and therefore expensive to apply, especially for large areas. Wax finishes require maintenance and present a major refinishing problem if you ever want to go over the surface with a different finish in the future. Wax finishes do change color with age, and the finishes I’ve already mentioned imitate a hand-rubbed wax finish with much less effort. As a final word of caution, lifetime finishes, such as the one you are seeking, are a myth. All of these finishes require at least some maintenance over the long haul.