Painting poplar

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Forum topic by Purrmaster posted 03-06-2014 06:35 AM 3040 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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915 posts in 2327 days

03-06-2014 06:35 AM

Hi guys. I’m going to be doing my first project that I paint. I’m making a simple outdoor bench out of poplar. My only painting experience is painting the house with my folks. Which consisted of slathering on latex paint with a brush.

I’ve read some stuff online that says poplar is difficult to paint. Is this true? What problems crop up, if so?

My “plan” so far was to simply brush on an oil based primer (probably the exterior version of Kilz or something) and then brush on an exterior latex paint for the top coat. This bench doesn’t have to look beautiful and perfect but I also don’t want to do a crap job.

Suggestions, please?

Thanks in advance.

14 replies so far

View Whiskers's profile


389 posts in 2261 days

#1 posted 03-06-2014 07:06 AM

Poplar isn’t really hard to paint. I’d go all latex though and not bother with any oils. Give the wood a fast sanding with 80 grit to insure you got plenty of roughness to bite into. A note on primers, I’ve used them all. Killz is a great product, but expensive, so I reserve it for where it’s rep is needed, covering a stained surface. Killlz is about $17 a gallon. Glidden makes a perfectly adequate primer that does just as well on clean surfaces for $11 a gallon and is sold at Walmart. Stay away from the cheap generic primers though, they are junk. You won’t save money if you have to go 2 coats and use twice as much. On the paint though, The cheap Walmart paint is surprisingly excellent, at least in the interior selections. I haven’t used their exterior but it all made by Sherwin Williams so is probably fine. Stay away from the big box paints like Valspar and Behr, Overpriced crap and the Valspar in particular won’t stick to even a perfectly primed surface. Also, My big rule in painting, Always TWO coats of paint, ALWAYS. If you go to WalMart, find their rejects area, these are cans that people had mixed and than returned cause they bought too much, or the wifey hated it. Sometimes you get lucky and find the purrfect color for 50% off.

One final note, If you see something called floor or porch enamel, it requires a little special TLC but would be great for benches and the like. Thing is despite its name and intended use, it surprisingly delicate. First off, it don’t like to stick well at first, You need to put a coat of plain exterior/interior coat down first as a intermediary to get things to bind. 2nd, you can’t use the “thing” for several days as the paint has to cure like epoxy. Best if you use that stuff to paint when you know the weather will be good for a few days, Paint it in the sun and than forget about you new built “thing” for a few days. Let the sun cook it. Than you have something truly indestructible and weatherproof.

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389 posts in 2261 days

#2 posted 03-06-2014 07:36 AM

I have seen some interesting rants on different brands of paint and thought I would put my own real world side by side comparison of what I have worked with for those who may not be as experienced. Most of my work is with interior paint, but I have used the exterior versions and the same observations apply.

The 2 big name brands I have experience with are Glidden and Sgerwin Williams. Both are excellant paints. Walmarts in store brand of paint is Sherwin Williams, and KMarts is Glidden. Not sure if KMart still sells paint since so many of those stores have chaptered 11 away, including the ones near me, but you can get your paint for about half what the paint stores charge by going to these retailers and you will not see any noticeable difference in perforrmance.

I will start with Sherwin Williams/Walmart paint. Frankly there is not a lot to say about it. Its paint. You roll or brush it on and let it dry, and your done. It is everything you think about when you think paint. No surprises.

Now Glidden/KMart is a little different, and this is where the love/hate relationship tween the two comes in. See Glidden paint is thicker, and has a gelatinous consistency to it. Some people hate this for various reasons. It handles a little differently in a roller or brush, and it tends to want to lay down a little heavier, which means that you may use a little more paint per coat than SW, but it going to cover better, especially over stains, dirt or a drastically different color. You should be okay with either though cause remember, Always paint TWO coats. The gelatinous consistency of this paint makes it give a superior finish over SW when painting rooms with either pastel or kitchen enamel finishes with a roller because of the way they tend to lay down (they call this leveling) extremely smooth. The converse of this can also apply though. If you want a flat finish, and your drywall still has some of it’s rough texture, the SW paint may be superior cause when it levels it will level to the surface it applied rather than lay down filling in and smoothing. Over time all paint will smoothen a wall with successive coats as it fills into the rough areas. All paint will do this but Glidden will do it faster. If your walls haven’t smoothed out yet, and you want a flat finish, than you might prefer the SW over Glidden. This is a personal preference choice though, not something worthy of debate as to better or worse.

Leveling is the trait of paint that causes it to spread after it is applied by brush or roller so there are no longer any brush marks or little peaks and pits.

Valspar – Overpriced junk that wont stick to nothing.

Behr – Overpriced, only used it once, not impressed. I do not have anything particularly bad to say about it but why spend $25 a gallon for a can of yuppie name paint when that $8 Walmart stuff does just as good.

View RockyTopScott's profile


1186 posts in 3713 days

#3 posted 03-06-2014 01:51 PM

Oh I so agree on the Valspar comment!

-- “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” ― Thomas Sowell

View Rb12's profile


80 posts in 2462 days

#4 posted 03-06-2014 05:24 PM

I find poplar super easy to paint. Most any time my wife wants cabinets or furniture that will be painted I will use poplar or at least edge the plywood with poplar. I think it takes paint really well. I usually use a coat of primer (water based) and then two coats of high gloss topcoat. The best results I have found result from spraying the paint, but it comes out pretty good with a roller/brush combo too. There is no mistaking that spraying it makes it look the best though.

I also agree with the above post about the brands. Can’t stand Valspar, find Sherwin williams to always do what it is supposed to; provide a good coat of paint.

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2327 days

#5 posted 03-06-2014 08:19 PM

Thanks for the replies!

All the paint will be coming from Home Depot, probably. I think they have Glidden. I’m surprised to hear about the Behr paint. I’ve used their interior paint before and it works well. But I’ve never used their exterior paint.

I once had the chance to use an alkyd enamel paint (Rodda) on some doors. It was supposed to be very tough when cured. The downside I found is that it took an eternity to fully cure. I also found it difficult to apply. In that it didn’t seem to level out very well.

I was frankly surprised to read articles saying poplar was hard to paint. I’d read elsewhere that poplar took paint very well, probably better than pine.

On a slightly related note I did try some stain tests on the poplar with some stains I hand on hand. The results were largely poor. With the possible exception of Watco black walnut Danish oil.

View woodchuckerNJ's profile


1305 posts in 1868 days

#6 posted 03-06-2014 08:27 PM

Poplar is a paint grade lumber, so I see no difficulty painting it.
I agree with you on the oil based paints, it will last longer.

Prime, make sure you get the bottoms primed and painted. If it’s going to sit in the grass or soil, use finish epoxy on the feet.

Poplar is not a very good outdoor wood. So be sure you seal everything you can. If you can paint before you assemble.

-- Jeff NJ

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915 posts in 2327 days

#7 posted 03-07-2014 12:46 AM

I’m taking a look at Consumer Reports last report on exterior paints (June of 2013). I should add I worship at the altar of Consumer Reports.

They rather like Behr paint. The favorite in satin sheen is Behr “Premium Plus Ultra Satin Enamel.” Premium Plus Ultra? Really? How many superlatives can one product have in its name?

I’d like to use latex paint for the topcoat. I’m seeing some paints that say they have “built in primer.” I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that and I’m going to use a dedicated primer underneath the top coat.

I’ve read some sites that say I should sand the primer coats. I confess I’ve never done that with house paint. I’ve sanded lacquer based primers from spray cans (old Krylon and Duplicolor).

I’ve never heard of finish epoxy. Could you please elaborate?

View Rb12's profile


80 posts in 2462 days

#8 posted 03-07-2014 02:13 AM

Behr is not bad, just expensive. Often I end up buying it out of convenience.


View NiteWalker's profile


2738 posts in 2811 days

#9 posted 03-07-2014 04:24 AM

Poplar is super easy to paint.
BIN is the best primer on the market IMHO.
I spray my paints (not from the borgs) so I won’t be much help in that dept.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View woodchuckerNJ's profile


1305 posts in 1868 days

#10 posted 03-07-2014 04:28 AM

its a thinner epoxy. you can use a west epoxy with a slow hardener… it’s not as thick.
same resin, just a different hardener. The term finish epoxy because it is used for finishing, coating hulls etc. Not bonding.

-- Jeff NJ

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915 posts in 2327 days

#11 posted 03-07-2014 06:30 AM

I’m afraid I don’t have spray gear so it’ll have to be brushed.

Is that epoxy similar to what is used with fiberlgass sheets? I know that in high power model rockets (I build the smaller ones) the body is often reinforced with fiberglass sheets covered with epoxy.

View Planeman40's profile


1330 posts in 2995 days

#12 posted 03-07-2014 05:02 PM

The problem with painting outdoor wooden furniture is the rain and weather makes the wood expand and contract enormously. This makes cracks in the paint and moisture gets under the paint and the paint begins to peel off and the furniture looks awful. My choice would be an outdoor wood stain like for decks. Not much in the way of color choice so you might have to mix and tint the stain.


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2344 days

#13 posted 03-07-2014 05:11 PM

My favorite furniture paint of all time is General Finishes Milk Paint.

It’s not really milk paint, but a latex / acrylic formulation. GREAT STUFF!

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2327 days

#14 posted 03-07-2014 05:35 PM

The ravages of outdoor weather is one of the reasons I want to paint it. For greater protection. That’s also a reason I want to use latex paint. It’s (supposedly) more resistant to cracking and more flexible.

Making sure I cover every square millimeter with paint is foremost on my mind. It’s going to get two coats of primer and two coats of paint.

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