I am having trouble painting Padauk wood. Can you help me find the right oil primer? How long will it take to outgas?

Asked by camilla marvel
Traverse City, MI

The wood in question is very hard and oily (Paduke, they say) and apparently needs an oil primer. Latex primer (used by the first painter) scrapes right off. What to do with wood that's painted like that? Next painter used an acid bath on wood, but that chips, too. This is a nightmare! I am very chemically sensitive. I can be out of the house for the winter, but is that enough time to allow the primer to outgas? I will use no-VOC paint over it.


Rick Goyette

Answered by Rick Goyette

Pawtucket, RI

Emerald Dream Builders

October 12, 2010

I was intrigued by your question and decided to do some research. Not having any experience with this type of wood or with paint that peels away after application, I found it quite interesting. Why had I never heard of this?

What I found is that your wood is a very rare species typically used for carvings, flooring and sometimes cabinetry.

  • The actual name of the wood is Padauk and its origin is either Africa or Asia.
  • The natural state of the wood is extremely oily as you have described.
  • There is a litany of postings about this species of wood on woodworking forums across the Internet, and it appears to be a very rare but beautiful wood.

One point of note up front is that Padauk is listed as a toxic species of wood that causes nasal and skin irritation or worse. It is listed on this toxic wood chart.

High VOC finish required

Your original question is about the offgassing timeline for oil-based primers. However, I would recommend that you remove the cabinetry or custom built-in fixture that is made of padauk from your home.

Based on my brief research, the wood will almost definitely require high-VOC finishes.

  • For most, this is not a problem -- especially with a winter out of the house.
  • However, given your extreme chemical sensitivity, I believe this is the best option.

If this is not possible, I recommend contacting a green professional woodworking or custom furniture business. The average painting contractor will not have experience working with this species of wood. Many will try, but it sounds like you have already experienced the trial and error without a good solution.

Best of luck on your project!

Tagged In: home air quality, natural wood finish

Do you have a question about greening your home? GreenHomeGuide invites you to Ask A Pro. Let our network of experienced green building professionals – architects, designers, contractors, electricians, energy experts, landscapers, tile & stone specialists, and more – help you find the right solution.