How to preserve a tree branch

How to Treat Tree Branches for Indoor Use // Cleaning Branches for Decor

This post will teach you how to treat tree branches for indoor use. Learn how to clean and remove bark from branches, as well as how to finish branches for decor and crafts to ensure they look wonderful and last.

How to Treat Tree Branches for Indoor Use

I’m back from vacation 🙁 But I am really excited to get back to my projects list. Consider this post an appetizer for a post I have coming up later this week on how to make a cat tree out of a real tree!

I was starting to put together the cat tree post when I realized that it was going to be really long. So I decided to break out the part about how to treat tree branches for indoor use, specifically how to clean, strip, and finish the branches, and make it its own post.

Besides, stripping and finishing branches is something that I think a lot of people might be interested in. Not just those of you who want to build a real kitty tree.

Using tree parts for home decor is beautiful, cost effective, and not too hard. Check out my post about my DIY tree stump side table and this post on a lovely stained stump with wheels! 

I also absolutely love these tree branch drawer pulls by Kelly over at Design Asylum. The possibilities are endless, and if you’re lucky, you can get the materials you need to create these awesome projects for free.

When I started researching how to treat tree branches for indoor use, I was overwhelmed with the many different approaches. I had just pulled some branches from off the ground in the woods.

We weren’t even sure what kind of tree they were from, although we had some guesses. We also weren’t sure how long we had to let them sit out because we didn’t know how long it’d been since they’d fallen off the tree and what kind of conditions they’d been in since then.

So consider the steps I followed below to be only one approach. I’ll provide some additional tidbits on other approaches I read about but didn’t use along the way. 🙂

  • Branches and a dry space
  • A paint scraper—like this one here.
  • Small hand-held saw—see one here—and a miter saw (not completely necessary, but we needed to trim some thick branches down).
  • Assorted sandpaper—I used 100 and 150 grit depending on the spot.
  • Minwax Stain in Natural and Rust-Oleum Ultimate Polyurethane in Satin.

Here are the steps to clean branches for decoration.

(Remember to wear a mask and eye protection while sanding and working with wood, and wear an appropriate mask while working with paints, stains, and finishes. Follow the directions and warnings from your particular brand. Do not use any tools without proper training, precautions, and supervision from a professional. Read my full terms of use here.)

Step 1: Find a suitable branch

We foraged the woods behind my parents’ house and found two great branches that were already on the ground. I’d read that you had to let the branches dry out for a while—upwards of a year, even. So I thought it would be best to find something that had already been drying out on the ground.

We also didn’t want to hack up any trees that were still growing when there are plenty of fallen sticks and branches to choose from. Not knowing how long it had been detached from the tree was a risk we were willing to take. 🙂

After cutting the branches, we brought them into my dad’s workshop, which has baseboard heating, to dry out for 2 more months. We guessed the pieces we had were pretty dry since they did have some cracking, but we wanted to be sure. If we’d thought they were newer branches, we would have let them dry for longer.

Step 2: Remove bark from branches

After about 2 months, I started scraping the bark off. This is a very important step that a lot of people skip when bringing tree parts indoors. You need to scrap the bark off because there could be bugs living under it!

In fact, I found guide a few little guys while I was scraping. Bugs have a purpose, but I don’t want them living in my home 🙂 The bark will eventually fall off anyway, so it’s best to take it off at the start of your project.

There are lots of ways to de-bark trees. The ease with which you can remove bark depends on many factors, including what type of tree it is, how dry the wood is, and even what time of year it is. So it’s hard to provide an estimate.

Unfortunately for me, my bark was not easy to remove—and it looks like that’s the case for many people if my Googling is any indication. But don’t worry, the results are totally worth the time and frustration!

While I read that a lot of people use a draw knife and even a pressure washer to remove bark, I used a paint scraper. It was my dad’s idea, and it worked really well! It just took time and elbow grease, and it was extremely messy.

Step 3: Sand and polish the branches

After I’d scraped all of the bark off, I cried of happiness that the miserable process was over and grabbed some sandpaper. I used 100-grit sandpaper on some of the rougher spots.

Then I gave the entire piece a good, thorough sand with 150-grit sandpaper. I was truly amazed at how well sanding polished the piece. I did all sanding by hand since the branch was a bit curvy and bumpy—just seemed easier.

Step 4: Stain the branches

After cleaning off my work space and wiping down the branch with a dry paper towel, I used a chip brush to apply a generous coat of stain. Minwax Stain in Natural really helped to bring out the wood’s character.

I didn’t even wipe off the excess stain—I just left it to soak into the wood for about 24 hours. Like I said, my pieces were pretty dry, so the stain soaked right in. (I also have a whole post about how to stain and finish wood if you’re new to the process!)

Step 5: Finish to protect

At this point I was giddy with excitement about how good the branches looked. I finished them off with two coats of Rust-Oleum Ultimate Polyurethane in Satin because I wanted to bring in a bit of sheen while providing further protection for the branches.

This is a water-based polyurethane that dries much faster than an oil-based one. I also really love Varathane water-based polyurethane in matte. I used it on my daughter’s dollhouse bookshelf, our cat house side table build, and our DIY plywood planter because I didn’t want much shine on any of these pieces. You can see it’s a beautiful, understated finish.

Left: Stain dried; Right Top: First coat of poly on; Right Bottom: Drying poly

And here are my treated branches finished…

You can see that the pieces have just the right amount of sheen for what I wanted. I wanted them to look polished but not super shiny and fake, and I think the water-based poly in satin really achieved that look.

They do look a but shinier in person—this was hard to capture in photos. If you want them to look like these pictures, I’d err on the side of caution and go with a matte water-based formula. You can always add a layer of satin on top of the matte if you don’t love it.

You can see the cat tree made out of a real tree build that these branches were finished for as well! And I also did a post about how the tree held up years later because I get a lot of questions about it. This is probably my favorite project of all time.

Also, while making the cat tree, we have to level off the branches. After all this work staining and finishing the branches, I couldn’t bear throwing out scraps we had to cut off. So I made a tiny faux succulent planter out of one of the branch pieces. It’s a cute and easy DIY!

Pin my tips about how to treat branches for indoor decoration and crafts!


  • Branches and a dry space
  • Minwax Stain in Natural
  • Rust-Oleum Ultimate Polyurethane in Satin.


  • A paint scraper
  • Small hand-held saw
  • miter saw
  • Assorted sandpaper


  1. Find a suitable branch. Ones that are already laying on the ground are best because they have already started to dry out. Note that is best to let them continue drying out for at least 2 months if you are wanting to use them indoors.
  2. Remove all the bark from the branch using a paint scraper.
  3. Sand the branch to remove any rough spots using 100 grit sandpaper. Then, using 150 grit sandpaper, sand the entire branch.
  4. Wipe down the entire branch with a dry paper towel to remove all the dust and debris.
  5. Use a chip brush to apply a generous coat of stain. No need to wipe off the excess stain, leave it to soak into the wood for 24 hours.
  6. Finish the branch with 2 coats of polyurethane in satin to protect it and you're done!

How to Treat Wood Branches for Home Decor

A few months ago I redesigned our daughter’s bedroom closet area in my own One Room Challenge™. Click here to see that final reveal post. I removed the doors and turned her little crowded closet area into an open closet with a pretty curtains framing the new space. For a curtain rod, I decided to use a branch I found on one of my daily walks with our pup. It was the perfect rustic heading and added some contrast and this girly space. Even though I’ve used small branches in some of my DIY projects, I’ve never used such a large piece of wood that would become a permanent fixture in our home. So I needed to do some research.

Using branches for home decor is beautiful and cost effective. And after I did some research on how to prepare wood branches for home decor, I realized it wasn’t that difficult. I was a little bit overwhelmed however, at how many different approaches there were. So the steps I’ve outlined below is only one approach – if you do additional research you’ll find lots of other ideas and options. But this approach worked best for me and the results look great.


  • Branch(es) and a dry space
  • Paint scraper – I used this one
  • Small hand-held saw or bow saw
  • Sandpaper – I used 120 grit
  • Minwax Polycrylic Protective Spray, Clear Semi-Gloss or other protective finish


STEP 1: Get a good branch. I found it was best not to cut any branches off a tree but instead, find one already on the ground. This way, the wood has started to age and dry out. I take our dog for walks in a big wooded area behind our neighborhood. I found several branches that were already on the ground and I dragged 2 of my favorites home. I quickly selected the branch I wanted and the other one became our dog’s new chew toy. I had to keep in mind that my branch was being used as a curtain rod. It needed to be a certain length with a little curve to it but not too much. But the biggest challenge was that each end of the branch needed to be somewhat equal in diameter so it could fit on the rod brackets. This was a little tricky and even though I came pretty close, I needed to sand down one of the brackets a bit so it could hold the thicker end.

STEP 2: I trimmed off any extra branches with my bow saw (you could also use a hand saw) and then cut my piece of wood down to the size I needed for the closet.

STEP 3: Next, you have to let your branch dry out. Freshly cut branches can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to completely dry out. Since mine had already been on the ground, it had already started drying but it was hard to figure how much longer I needed to let it completely dry. So I brought my branch into our garage and let it dry for another month. The branch piece was already pretty dry but giving it a little extra time couldn’t hurt. I also read that you don’t want to force direct heat onto the branches to speed up the drying time. This can make the wood crack and warp. So a little patience and planning is needed.

STEP 4: After the wood had fully dried out, I started scraping the bark off. This is a very important step that a lot of people skip when bringing branches indoors. You need to scrape the bark off because there could be bugs living in it. Some people like the look of the bark and use chemicals to ward off the bugs but I wasn’t taking any chances. I read that some bark can be very difficult to remove. I used a paint scraper and luckily, the bark on my branch came off pretty easily.

STEP 5: After I got most of the bark off, I used 120-grit sandpaper on the entire piece to smooth out any rough spots and give the piece a nice even look.

STEP 6: I cleaned the branch with a dry towel to remove any dust. Then I strayed a generous coat of Clear Semi-Gloss Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish. I wanted to bring in a bit of sheen while giving the branch a little protection. I just discovered this acrylic polyurethane in the spray version and I love it. It’s easy to apply and dries fast. And since it’s acrylic based, it doesn’t have the yellow tint that comes with most oil-based polyurethanes. You can also stain your wood or even paint it. But even just the clear coat of poly brought back some of the beautiful wood tones and color depth that was lost when I scraped all of the bark off.

I hung my new curtain rod with some old white wood brackets I had. They were used to hold a 2″ wood rod so they worked well for this branch. And the curtains had a rod pocket design so they fit well on the branch. You could also hang them with curtain rod clip rings like these.

Like I mentioned before, I did have to trim and sand an edge of one of the brackets so the branch could fit but you can’t tell when it’s hung and it supports fine.

I love the natural feel the curtain rod branch brings to this space. And the bonus is that it cost almost nothing. I only had to buy the can of polyurethane – and I’ve got plenty left over for future projects. Maybe another branch idea?

Visit my Pinterest board here for some other inspiring ways to use tree branch in home decor.

Have a wonderful day!

How to use tree branches in the interior: 7 ideas - Decor

Autumn is a special time of the year. The first couple of months give creative people the opportunity to decorate their home with colorful leaves, pumpkins, acorns, and even branches. We shared with you the ideas of 8 autumn master classes, and today we decided to consider a topic that we have not touched before: how to turn ordinary tree branches into stylish decor.

We've found seven inspiring ideas you might like.

Vase decoration on the table

The use of natural materials in decoration is a classic. Flowers and leaves are a more romantic option, but branches are stylish. Such vases are able to decorate the room in a Scandinavian, loft and eco-style. Branches of a natural color picked up on the ground (we advocate that trees should never be broken, there are plenty of branches in any forest and park) do not look as interesting as painted ones. Choose a color for branches depending on the color palette of your interior. The most stylish and often chosen colors are gold, silver, white and black.

Decorated lamp

During one of our visits, we noticed an interesting lamp in the bedroom. Zhenya, the mistress of the house in Vnukovo, said that during a walk she picked up a bunch of branches, painted them white and attached them to an ordinary lamp with a string. The result is a stylish hand-made that adds a bit of shabby chic to the modern bedroom.

Here's another way the branches can decorate lamps.

And in this chandelier, a branch is used as a base on which light bulbs are attached. The eco-style element perfectly complements the modern interior, making it closer to nature.

Panel of twigs

This method requires more energy than simply making a “bouquet” of branches in a vase. First you need to come up with a composition, for example, a bird or an index sign, and then proceed with the implementation. Here is a master class on creating a seahorse panel that can decorate an interior in a marine style.

Branches in floor vases

Unlike the first item on our list, in which we considered table vases, floor vases are more spectacular in nature. Long branches in a transparent vase replace any other decor, drawing attention to themselves.

Storing jewelry

In one of our articles, we looked at many ways to store jewelry, but for some reason this one was bypassed. It is worth choosing a branch with a stable trunk and many branches on which you can hang earrings and bracelets.

Wall decor

Painted branches with many branches can be a great decoration. Just look at these examples! The main secret is that the branch should be of a contrasting color to the wall. If the wall is dark, then let the branches be light or with a metallic sheen, but if the wall is light, then the branches of a natural brown color or dark ones will do. Be sure to think over the lighting of this wall installation, because it is thanks to it that such an unusual solution for wall decor looks impressive. Spot lighting on the ceiling or a garland wrapped around a branch can serve as a backlight.

Branch headboard

This option could well fit into our selection of "15 unusual headboards by the beds." The most important thing in this case is to process the branches well so that they do not crumble on the sleeper's head, and also to strengthen them properly so that they do not move when the mattress moves.

And for those who don't want to do anything with their own hands, we have prepared a collage with wonderful things that you can buy.

On the collage: decorative golden branches, ceiling lamp, table with golden legs, table with metal legs, chest of drawers with appliquéd doors, perforated chair.


Add to favorites3 Plants are pruned in spring, summer and autumn (depending on the type and variety). Unnecessary branches can be given a second life and many useful things can be made from them. Take note of these ideas!

Many gardeners and horticulturists know that dry branches can be broken into smaller pieces that make excellent mulching material for plants. This mulch retains moisture and inhibits weed growth. But this is not the only way to use tree branches and shrubs in the country.

1. Beneficial Insect House

Some insects are great for pest control. And in order for living assistants to settle on your site, they need to provide suitable living conditions. The ideal option is a house made of natural materials, in which insects can hide from wind and precipitation.

Fill any wooden box with twigs left after pruning trees and shrubs, small logs of different diameters, bamboo sticks. Wooden objects need to be glued together and it is important to make sure that gaps form between them, in which insects will huddle. You can also make several holes in thick logs with an electric drill.

In such a house, it is better to make several tiers, separating them with wooden shelves.

2. Fence for garden and flower garden

You won't spend a penny on such a fence! Pick up branches of approximately the same size, lay them in a horizontal direction and fasten with a strong rope. Then install vertical supports (logs or thick branches) into the ground and attach the resulting fence to them.

3. Supports for climbing plants

From old straight branches, which are usually cut at the root, you can easily make a support or arch for vines: morning glory, clematis, honeysuckle honeysuckle, campsis, sweet pea, climbing roses and other plants .

4. Pine cough syrup

To limit the growth of pine trees, young shoots are cut off regularly. Of these, you can make a healing remedy that helps get rid of cough.

Peel young pine shoots from brown husks, cut into small pieces, pour into a jar (pine buds can also be added there), sprinkle with sugar (about 800 g of sugar is used per 1 kg of pine twigs) and rub with a pestle to let the plant grow juice. Lightly cover the jar with a lid and place on a sunny windowsill. Stir contents every 2-3 days. If the shoots float to the surface, sprinkle them with sugar on top. After a month, express the syrup into a jar sterilized with boiling water.

5. Colored pencils

Children will definitely like these unusual handmade wooden pencils.

You will need some colored leads (eg 4-5 cm long) and longer freshly cut branches (they should be as straight and level as possible). As well as a drill with a nozzle with a diameter slightly larger than the diameter of the stylus.

Using this tool, make a hole in the center along the branch and insert the lead into it. Then put the pencils in the oven, preheated to 40 ° C. When the wood is dry, remove the pencils and sharpen them.

6. Candlesticks

Cut thick tree branches into small pieces and make a hole in each of them for a candle. Designer candlestick is ready!

7. Hooks and holders

In the hallway, install thick tree branches into the wall shelf - their branches will perfectly replace hooks, which are convenient for hanging clothes, a bag and other things. And the branch fixed in the kitchen will turn into a holder for dishes, towels and other kitchen utensils.

8. Photo frames

Creating such photo frames opens up a wide scope for imagination. You will need beautifully trimmed twigs, a wooden base and a glue gun. If there is no base, you can try to twist the branches or simply fasten their ends with ribbons or ropes.

9. Decorative figurines

At any time of the year, various figurines can be made from twigs that will decorate the interior of a country house. You can also decorate flower beds with finished products, for example, plant a cute hedgehog among the flowers.

10. Flower vases and wreaths

Flowers in vases made of branches will look great on any occasion. Twigs are also indispensable for creating Christmas wreaths or Easter baskets.

11. Lamps

Eco-friendly lamps made of branches will become a real decoration of a country house. They can be painted in different colors and made the basis of the design. Or just decorate the lampshade with branches.

12. Wicker flower pots

It is not so easy to weave a planter out of branches, but look how beautiful it turns out. Worth the effort! By the same principle, you can weave a basket for fruits and berries. For the product, select branches of the same thickness and texture.

13. Kite

Did your child get bored at the dacha? Challenge him to make a real kite! For crafts, you will need 2 thin, even sticks, a light cloth or garbage bags, adhesive tape, fishing line, scissors and a tape measure.

Fold the sticks in a crosswise pattern, leaving about 15 cm on top. Secure the center with tape. Wrap the ends of the sticks with tape and make small cuts in them. Pull the fishing line through the cuts, reinforce it with tape again - the frame is ready! Then lay it on a fabric or polyethylene and circle around the contour, leaving room for the hem. Cut out and attach to frame. It remains to fix the fishing line to control the kite - and a pleasant leisure time is provided for the baby!

Agree - there are a lot of ideas on where to "attach" plant branches after pruning. We hope that our tips and your imagination will help you decide and next time not to throw away such valuable material, but to use it with benefit.

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