Front Porch Refresh Progress (Plus, Do Haint Blue Porch Ceilings Work?)

After writing Friday about how I wanted to take advantage of pretty weather to do some front porch maintenance before the weather causes too much damage to my porch, I woke up Saturday morning to absolutely gorgeous weather and decided that that was the day to get started. I thought it would be smart to start at the top and work my way down, so that meant that the first project would be repainting the porch ceiling.

When I painted it back in the summer of 2018, I didn’t take the time to prime the wood before painting it. I know better than to do that with raw wood, and yet, I did it anyway. And within that first year, the knot holes started showing through, and it just continued to get worse over time. So here’s what the ceiling looked like on Saturday before I got started repainting it.

See all those knots and streaks? It was looking pretty bad.

So I headed to Home Depot to get some primer and paint, and instead of using my favorite Zinsser oil-based Cover Stain, I decided to try out Zinsser BIN shellac-based primer. I’ve never used this before, but I’ve seen other DIYers use it and recommend it specifically for covering stubborn knots that keep showing through painted surfaces.

I almost backed out and just went with my favorite primer when I saw the cost. This shellac-based primer cost about $75 for a gallon, whereas my favorite oil-based primer was $35 for a gallon. So this is more than double the price. But when I saw that the label specifically says “seals knots”, I decided to go for it.

To apply the primer, I used a 6-inch roller with a 3/8-inch nap.

I’ll be honest here. Initially, I was not impressed with this primer at all. I had hoped to just prime right over the ceiling, and then paint it. But as soon as I rolled that primer onto the first board, I watched as the primer started to separate over the knot holes. That was irritating.

So I got up on the ladder and felt the knots, and they were all smooth, hard, and shiny, like a hard candy. So basically, I was priming over hardened sap, and the primer didn’t want to stick to those hardened shiny sap. I was irritated, because this was specifically labeled for priming over knots, and here it was, separating over the knots. I’m about 99% sure that my favorite oil-based primer wouldn’t have separated over the knots like that.

I debated taking the primer back and exchanging it for the oil-based, but I decided to press on. But it wasn’t going to stick to those knots without some prep work first. So I had to sand every single knot on the ceiling (and there were a lot of them!) before priming.

Once I did that, the primer went on just fine. It’s very different from what I’m used to, though. The oil-based primer that I love is the consistency of paint. This shellac-based primer is the consistency of whole milk, which seemed very strange to me. But after sanding the knots, it did go on very nicely, and it covered the knots just fine.

I did two coats of the primer, and then let it dry for about an hour before painting. When I painted the ceiling in 2018, I ended up mixing my own blue to get it just right. And unfortunately, I didn’t have any left over to take for a color match. So I just had to look at the paint swatches and use my best judgment.

I ended up selecting Behr Air Blue, but I think it’s a little too dark.

Here’s how it looked after I finished the first coat.

I didn’t get to the second coat because I decided to do a whole lot of caulking before doing the second coat, and that caulking took me the rest of the day (and I’m still not finished with it). But before I do the second coat, I think I’m going to add some white to lighten the color just a bit.

That’s where the ceiling refresh stands as of this morning. Today is going to be another beautiful day, so I’ll get the ceiling finished today and move on to some other porch projects.

Now let’s talk about “haint blue” ceilings for a second. Do you have a blue porch ceiling? It’s a tradition in the southern part of the United States (the region known as the Deep South) to paint a porch ceiling “haint blue”, and the original purpose was for superstitious reasons. The color was said to ward off evil spirits. But over time, people have noticed that blue ceilings on a front porch seem to ward off spiders and wasps.

So is this true? Do “haint blue” ceilings really work for this purpose?

Well, I haven’t conducted any actual scientific studies on it. 😀 And according to Wikipedia, there’s no proof that blue porch ceilings ward off spiders and wasps. Wikipedia says:

The use of haint blue has lost some of its superstitious significance, but modern proponents also cite the color as a spider and wasp-deterrent. However, the color has not actually been scientifically shown to stave off bugs. The associated repellent effect may stem from the use of milk paint containing lye, which does act as an insect repellent.

Well, I don’t have any scientific data, but I do have my own personal experience with it. Before I painted our porch ceiling blue, we had wasps on our front porch constantly. I’d remove one wasp nest, only to have another one show up a few days later. I was constantly having to , run, duck, and weave to avoid wasps diving at me as I’d try to get into the front door.

I can happily report that ever since I painted the ceiling blue, we haven’t had one single wasp nest on our front porch. Not one. And I didn’t use milk paint with lye. I just used regular ole latex paint.

So from my own personal experience, I do think there’s something to the idea that “haint blue” porch ceilings ward off wasps. And now that I think about it, I don’t remember seeing any spider webs on our front porch, either.

I don’t know if it’s just coincidence that we used to have wasps and the occasional huge spider web before the blue ceiling, and then after the blue ceiling, there haven’t been any at all. Maybe, possibly, it’s due to some other factor. But just from my own experience, I can tell you that I’m a big believer in “haint blue” porch ceilings to keep spiders and wasps away. I’d love to know your experience with it.

Anyway, back to the front porch progress. Yesterday, I decided that before I move on with more painting, I really needed to just get everything clean. The porch hasn’t had a good cleaning in years, and everything was coated with dirt and grime. So I got out my pressure washer and cleaned all of the walls, columns, trim, windows, door, sidewalk around the steps, etc.

I also decided to see if the pressure washer would work to remove the existing finish on the porch and steps to prep them for the new stain/sealer that I’ll be using. And it worked wonderfully! Here’s a look at how the steps and porch looked before with the very worn and ugly finish…

And here’s what it looks like as of this morning after pressure washing yesterday evening. It still wasn’t completely dry by this morning, but it looks so much better already!

In fact, I really love this light, more natural color. I had purchased Dark Walnut stain and sealer to use, but now I’m not sure if I want it that dark. Although I do love the dark contrasting with the white trim, so I don’t know. Maybe I’ll stick with the Dark Walnut. Ugh! I can’t decide! 😀

I feel like the pressure washing saved me a huge amount of sanding. And I’d much rather use a pressure washer than a sander! It’s so much more satisfying and fun to pressure wash.

I’ll still have to do some sanding, though. The pressure washer did a great job at removing the dirt and what was left of the original finish, but it raised a whole lot of the wood fibers, which you can see here…

And you can also see it below. But sanding everything to remove those should be quick and easy.

And then it’ll be ready for a fresh, new coat of stain and sealer. But first, I need to finish up the painting. I’m still working from the top down, so it will have a couple more days to dry before I stain. I just hope we don’t get any rain in the meantime!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. I would want to use Tung oil on the wood if I were you. It is expensive but if you paid 75 for paint, you might want to look at it. I put six coats of Tung Oil on my dining room table. My daughter spilling orange juice on the varnish was damaging. Now she can spill all she wants and it just wipes up!

  2. I really like that deeper blue color! My back patio used to have a light blue ceiling but I’m not sure it helped with the wasps. It’s been off-white for a couple of years now and we haven’t had wasp issues.

  3. I hate painting/working on ceilings! We screened in our front porch this last year so no more fighting with mud daubers — hooray! Good for you for jumping right in the refresh while the weather is good. You’ll knock this out in no time and then it will feel so good to have a beautiful front porch again.

  4. I love a haint blue porch ceiling. Just so you know, this tradition started with the Gullah Geechee near Charleston and spread through the south. In their traditions, haints, aka ghosts, can’t cross water so ceilings were painted blue to mimic water. Unfortunately blue doesn’t really deter bugs. The original paint contained lye which does deter bugs. Any bug deterrence today is probably due to paint smell and will eventually stop working.
    Also, I hate tell to tell you at this stage but it usually take 3 coats of BIN to block knots. I typically cover everything in 2 and just the knots in a 3rd coat. I’ve even resorted on small furniture projects to a couple of coats of clear nail lacquer over the BIN.

  5. Kristi, I am CONSTANTLY amazed as I read your posts with your energy and perseverance. Just sanding all of those knots must have been such a pain! You were having to reach above your head and put pressure on each one as you sanded, right? Weren’t you exhausted just after doing that job? And you still put on two coats of primer, one coat of paint, and pressure-washed the rest of the porch! That would do me in for a week!

  6. I wish I had the “Zip in my Do Da” That you do! I love to sew, paint, and refinish. But it takes me a month to do what you do in a day! I have to admit I am almost 70 (I have no idea how that happened!) But still! you even have time to blog about what you have done. I want to be you when I grow up!!

  7. I painted our house porch roof light sky blue and never had any wasp nests or spiders either. I had not heard about the “haint” part, but did know it was a tradition in the South to paint a porch ceiling sky blue. I like the lighter wood tone on your porch; can you just coat it with a clear sealer? Doesn’t it feel good to get that porch refreshed?

  8. Great progress on your porch. I think the lighter wood looks gorgeous especially playing off your coral front door. Plus it will show the dirt far less than a darker color does.

    My experience with a Haint Blue ceiling. I have a Haint Blue ceiling on our porch in MA. I have never had wasp nests or spider webs on the ceiling since I painted it from it’s initial white beadboard. I get both paper wasp nests and spider webs on my yellow house though. The wasps also build nests behind the shutters and even under the button tufted cushions on my porch swing! But nothing on the ceiling so it seems to work for that. We have no ghosts or evil spirits either 🙂

  9. OH, it looks better already! I know you will get this done quickly as long as the weather behaves, and it will be so much nicer for you as Spring is here! Some mulch, and flowers in your pots and you are good to go for the season. Stand back and admire!

  10. I know that this is a lot more expensive undertaking, but have you ever considered going the composite route for your porch? We had a wooden deck that we were constantly having to power wash and restain. We bit the bullet several years ago and remodeled the deck, going with a composite. We absolutely love it though we do need to do a spring power wash every year due to the snow we get. Our front porch is still wood and has been stained and painted so many times. We are going to bite the bullet on this and have it redone in composite. I’m not saying we’ll ever recoup the cost, but the pleasure of not having the constant maintenance makes up for it. You can get this in so many colors.

  11. I’ve heard that a blue ceiling outide makes outdoor critters “think” the blue is the sky, hence no nests or webs. I don’t know if wasps and spiders really have brains that work that way, but if they do, it would make sense. For the record, I was always told to keep my birds off the patio where my pool is because they think the blue of the water is sky. So, who knows?

  12. Painted inside of garden shed: ceiling haint blue, walls white, floors cadet blue. Primarily wanted to protect the surfaces from dirt & small engine drips with bonus of perky chore space. Interestingly have not cleaned out any spider webs, wasps, or even flies, boxelder bugs, Asian beetles. In 3 years of having the shed it was worth the effort.

  13. Whether or not Haint Blue is effective at repelling either wasps or haints, I would definitely use it just to keep the tradition and folk tales alive! 💙

  14. There is a color that the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island uses to keep the bugs off all their many porches and balconies. It is the same as Valspar 5007-9A. It used to be called “Grand Hotel Mackinac Blue”, but it’s “Inspiring Hue” now. It’s actually a light greenish color, instead of blue, even though they call it blue. I don’t have a porch with a ceiling, or I would try it!

  15. You might consider PPG’s Olympic Semi-Transparent Stain and Sealers – you can apply them to a dampish deck
    and they protect against mold and mildew in addition to what other stain and sealers attest to do.
    Also, make sure you’re not sealing up the cells by sanding with a grit finer than 80 grit…you want to open up the cells so the wood can accept the stain…
    The stain will last longer with better adhesion with 80 grit or coarser used…
    You might also use the Olympic deck wash – it removes mold and mildew before you apply the new stain and sealer…

  16. I used to be an assistant manager at a well known paint store, and we always recommended to people to stain their deck every spring to protect it from the scorching sun and again in the fall to protect it from the rain and snow. This will keep it from greying and peeling. Because you do it often just a quick coat with a roller is plenty enough. Hope that helps someone.

  17. Things are already looking better and you’re off to a great start! Quick word of warning, though. I would lean a sheet of cardboard in front of your glass door before you power wash any more. We shattered the glass on a door like that, when little pebbles went unnoticed and kicked up off the deck. Yikes! Lesson learned the hard way!

  18. Maybe the blue ceiling on porch ceilings look like the sky to them and that’s why they don’t build a nest there. I remember back when we had two cats and they didn’t seem to drink much. I told my husband one day that I wonder if they can’t see the water in the bowl because the bowl was either white or silver. It has been too many years. We ended up buying a water system that refilled the water as it emptied or after they drank. It made all the difference in the world.

  19. We always do a pale blue to mimic the sky. I have never seen a darker blue here in the South. Interesting choice.

  20. Interesting! Maybe wasps and spiders are repelled by blue but I think the lye theory sounds more scientifically probably. Lye is a disgusting poisonous toxin right?