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Can You Paint Over Stain? “It’s not THAT Complicated”

Can you paint over stain? Any stain? Yes! These days all the realtors you work for ask you if you can paint over stain: cabinets, floors, trim. It’s like a mantra. We all love wood, but sometimes you do what you gotta do: paint. Luckily, you don’t need to strip the varnish or polyurethane off!

I’m tired of reading oversimplified advice. It gives me the twitchy eye.

Searching to see if you can paint over stain people tell you ‘sure go ahead’. What about the clear coat? What about stain bleeding through and what about primers?

You should ask a pro who has done it dozens of times: yes, painting over stained wood is not rocket science, if you prep right. Below you’ll see how to paint over stained wood in 5 steps.

Can you paint over stained wood without sanding? Yes, but you still MUST DE-GLOSS or your paint will all flake off. Scared yet? Good.

If sanding is too hard (I get it), use a very toxic liquid known generally as Liquid Sandpaper. You MUST wear a respirator with a chemical filter and you must ventilate the whole house.

Tip: we professionals like to use sandpaper in the wide-open spaces trim because that goes very fast… and we use the Liquid Sandpaper in the tight corners: you have to de-gloss the entire surface for the primer to bond properly. More below about de-glossing both ways.

Spaying trim? Fine. If you have to spray, you should wear a respirator. It’s a complex world to figure out, but I have explained it with my top respirator pick in this post. Some people seem to prefer the big dog, the full face mask respirator which protects the eyes too. Safety first.

Quick Summary of Important Points

  1. Prepare the wood. If necessary, wash with my first choice cleaner to remove oils and dirt: TSP works too but it’s harsh
  2. Fill holes and then de-gloss/sand the wood
  3. Prime with stain-blocking primer. My favorite for the toughest cases is alcohol-based BIN (quart). Here is a gallon. (Other primers below.)
  4. Repair with filler and/or caulk
  5. Now you can paint!

Most people want to know…

Is it OK to paint over stained wood?

Yes, painting stained wood is not hard. Just follow the rules on how to paint stained wood carefully.

If you are painting interior stained trim, read this. For all of this work, make sure you have all your painting tools you need.

A one-minute video at the end of this post explains the basic problem: all stains bleed. This special type of paint primer stops the bleeding.

What kind of paint do you use on stains in wood or in walls?

You can paint over any kind of stain with kind of paint as long as you do the right priming procedure. It’s pretty much the same for all stains. If you don’t use the right stain-blocking primer, water stains come from wood tannins and they will bleed through every coat of latex paint. Good stain killing primers are described below: this is the key. My favorite paint for trim is in #5 below. The bleeding could take years so do it right the first time.

If you want to lighten or darken a stained wood, scroll down all the way down.

How to Paint Over Stained Wood in 4 Steps

Prepare the area for painting over stained wood: all expanded below

  1. Fill holes and then de-gloss/sand the wood
  2. Prime with stain blocking primer
  3. Repair with filler and/or caulk
  4. Now you are ready to paint over any kind of stain!

– Gather your things –

Lay down drop cloths and clear a wide working area. If you’re painting a floor, empty the room. In all cases, an old or plastic-covered table is very helpful here to use as your work base. Remove to remove hardware such as knobs, hinges, door latches, etc.

In small pieces, it can be helpful to insert a hook or screw in the empty holes (use the same diameter so you don’t enlarge the hole). This will give you a handle for moving when you have wet paint, and for hanging while drying.

  • Number the doors/parts and keep track of where they come from. Photos help. Not all parts are interchangeable. We use a pencil to number the item in a hinge cut-out or someplace unseen, then cover that pencil with some painter’s tape. We label the same number near or on the location where it came from. This gives you freedom from having to track every piece.
  • If the item is greasy, wash with TSP to remove oils and dirt (oils will gunk up your sandpaper: not so good).
  • Don’t like TSP as it’s too nasty? I know. Simple Green is the best and it is great in the kitchen too.
  • Any dings or cracks? Use wood filler and let dry. For large holes or for items that get hard use, use Bondo.

1. Degloss or sand the wood before painting: KEY POINT

We start with 120 or 150 grit (see this variety pack of sandpaper). The numbers? Higher=finer.

For shiny coatings over the stain, the amount of sanding that the wood requires will depend on the state of the wood and the type of stain and varnish used.

  • Deglossers like this Klean Strip are the most dangerous chemical we use: you really MUST ventialate the entrire house and have chemical gloves and a respirator. I would recommend the full-face respirator which protects eyes and lungs from organic vapors when using this substance. Often, I use the half mask described in my explanation about respirators plus my top pick). A good respirator is a very good thing to have around for many reasons. Think of the zombie apocalypse.
  • Deglossers evaporate incredibly fast—like a senator when environmentalists are in the building! Read the instructions very carefully and ventilate your house for hours afterward. The fumes will harm you and your pets, but it far easier and faster than sanding! Ventilate the whole house for a long time until the smell is totally gone.
  • In some cases, the stain may not be varnished and the primer may have no trouble adhering to the wood. In this case, you will only need to sand the rough spots. Professionally, we de-gloss it all.
  • After sanding with 120/150, you can hit it lightly with some 220 grit for a very smooth surface.

2. Prime the wood with stain killing primer

Regardless of stain color, you need a stain-blocking primer. One of my go-to stain blockers is Kilz Premium. It’s water-based and heavy stains may take 2 coats.

How many coats of primer? How to know if you should apply one or two: The rule is that one coat will block most stains from coming through the topcoats of paint. However, after you apply it, if what you see is more brown than white, (assuming the stain was brown), just hit it again. If you don’t, you may be ok, but if the stain can leech into the topcoats, it will come through all your coats! So be safe and do the insurance coat. If the stain bleeds into your paint, you’ll have to do that extra coat of primer and then MORE top-coats. So you see now: it may be unnecessary, but if in doubt, do it. Read an article about coats of paint and primer.

In many cases, the stain you are going over will need to be sealed with a good stain-blocking primer like this Kilz. It is suitable for many, or in most cases. But some nasty stains can bleed through some primers so…

Use the best: If you don’t want to take chances on having the stain bleed through a water-based primer, go with the nasty: BIN alcohol-based white shellac—the Rolls Royce of primers, but very nasty. Shake/stir very well every 10 minutes as the solids settle out fast. Add rubbing alcohol if it gets too thick. See my post about mold paint and these primers: we leave a brush in the can forever, and just drag it out to ‘spot-prime’. Yes, nasty, but I don’t want to waste a brush every time I need a quick spot.

There is a different BIN “shellac” but it’s water-based and not as good at blocking stains. But the alcohol-based is difficult to work with as it dries very fast and gets gummy. This water-based “synthetic shellac” is very good, just not as good.

  • Doors: spray them in the garage if possible, but if not, you have to roll/brush one side.
  • Read this if you are painting plywood floors you need a good primer. Plywood can be tricky business. See below *.
  • Wait for the primer to dry: The waiting time depends on the type of primer used and the humidity of the air and the temperature of the room. Plan to wait at least an hour or two, although it may take less time.
  • Sand between coats and clean up the dust: this is the difference between an “okay” job that is a little rough and gritty and an excellent professional job. Careful not to rub primer off edges. A spray can of BIN (the alcohol-based ‘good stuff’) helps here if you goof and need a quick spot: it’s super-fast drying. Don’t breathe it.

More on sprayers in #5 below.

3. It’s caulking time (yes, after the primer)

When wood is stained or natural, you don’t see the cracks between pieces of wood that exist in the joints naturally. But when you paint wood, they stick out like a sore crack.

They should be caulked after the primer also: caulk bonds poorly to porous surfaces (but it’s not the end of the world if you caulk unprimed wood).

Also, sand your primer before you caulk because you cannot sand dried caulk! And dust sticks to unpainted caulk. It must be painted.

Use a quality “painter’s caulk”, and in most cases, I use a non-silicone caulk. Silicon is for bathrooms, but it may seem better (and for wet areas, it is). But silicone is usually overkill everywhere else, plus it’s more difficult to use and it stinks.

Wipe the excess caulk with a ver7 wet, fine weave rag (cloth diapers or flannel sheets are great here, not terry cloth-too rough). Remove excess water. Let it dry completely which may take overnight.

  • Wipe all dust: tack cloths are nice here, but a damp cloth works fine: just don’t proceed until your wood is bone dry.

Read more about how to use a caulk gun here. Linked posts there teach how to load a caulk gun etc.

4. Painting at last

Apply the primer that you chose (above) for your situation. Sand lightly between coats with 180 or 220 grit or finer, avoiding the caulk. Careful when sanding the corners and edges because it’s easy to accidentally remove your previous coatings.

  • Hate brush strokes? Get a perfectly smooth finish by spraying.
  • Big job? This is when it would be worth buying a home sprayer.
  • Cabinet doors: set them in a store-bought spray booth I got as a gift: nice, thanks, Sis. Perfect for a garage or shed, hanging small items from hooks in the screw-holes. Woodwork could be sprayed if the surroundings are carefully masked. Read a blog about that.
  • Oil paints like the trusty Rust-oleum rust paint (not just for rust!), will leave little to no brush strokes: but they are much harder to work with and of course, there are the deadly fumes. Benjamin Moore’s Advance is a water-based alkyd that dries much slower than latex and this causes the brush strokes to flatten out almost entirely. It is also difficult to work with but not nearly the hassle of oils. (Ben Moore website).
  • Tip: too much paint in the door hinge cut-outs and hardware spots causes re-hanging difficulties. Consider masking them, even if brushing. Apply carefully where the hardware will go.
  • Pro tip: we use a roller to apply paint to big areas, just like a wall, then ‘tip it out’ with a brush tip: much faster. Even cabinet boxes are worth doing this way.

Sprayers—recommendations for different budgets:

Brushing: Every coat of any primer/paint you apply will have brush strokes visible in the end, so you want to apply a full even coat and sand lightly between coats. You won’t get a ‘factory finish’ unless you spray, just take your time and accept imperfections.

Read about DIY airless sprayers here. I have also written about small low-pressure sprayers “HVLP” sprayers some of which can spray latex. Finally, there are now handheld airless sprayers that spray at about 2/3 the pressure of the big ones, but use a 1-liter cup of paint. They can all easily shoot latex.

Can you paint over stain on furniture?
All the same rules apply to paint over stain on furniture.

* If you are doing plywood floors, there is an important step not mentioned here about primers. It is covered in this post all about painting plywood. The key point is that you cannot use just any primer. Most SPF woods (spruce, pine, fir) have resins from tree knots that bleed through a simple primer without much sealant or stain-blocking quality. Buy the good stuff above or what is mentioned in the above plywood post.


Finished paint over stained dresser

Ask me anything on any topic! Please use the comments below.

Video: all stains bleed

78 thoughts on “Can You Paint Over Stain? “It’s not THAT Complicated””

  1. Hi Brad! I am repainting a previously “solid” stained deck floor with a new solid stain. The current color is quite dark and we are using a lighter color. We are using BM solid stain. I got
    Mixed advice on whether or not a need a primer, in order to get an accurate color (SW dark solid stain will impact the lighter BM solid stain). Will I also need a primer to ensure better adhesion?

    Also I’m seeking the best type of tool for application other than a sprayer. I’m an amateur.

    Thanks in advance! I appreciate your site.

    • The one sure thing is to do a test spot. Put on your new stain in 2 coats (will be at least two to cover the dark) then let dry well, then see if you can scrape it off easily with your fingernail. If it’s bonding: no primer needed.
      Still, a primer coat never hurts. If the old stain and new stain don’t adhere fully, find a ‘bonding’ primer.
      Tools? easy. Go to my tools page. Spend the extra to get Purdy and the good roller. Roll and brush in square sections. Try to keep a wet edge. Don’t do it in direct sunlight and check the weather forecast.

  2. Please help! Stupid me used exterior oil based Cabot moonlight mahogany stain on my unfinished wood stairs into our finished basement INDOORS!!!! Now i am scared that i am poisoning my family with exterior oil stain chemicals indoors!! It smells. Once it dries will it continue to poison my family indoors?! I know it has been less than a day since i painted… How can i safe my house and family? How can i seal the stairs that i stained with exterior stain?! With what? What can contain the harmful chemicals of exterior paint? Is it even possible?! I am terrified… Why did i not think of it BEFORE i did it?!!!! Please please help with advice.

    • Ok, yes it’s bad but not that bad.
      Children are of course more vulnerable.
      Open any basement windows and maybe put a fan on the stairs. Higher heat will speed up the offgassing process.
      Seal off the stairs with plastic at the door perhaps and remain upstairs until this is over, and keep the entire house ventilated.
      IF you don’t smell the stink, you are ok.
      It will take a couple of weeks at least. Just be patient and let the smell vanish.
      When the smell is gone you are ok. No real need to seal the steps.
      Read my post on exterior paint indoors also.
      It’s not like mustard gas so don’t panic. It’s not good, but things could be worse. At least it’s not your main living area.
      Always good to hire a painter :).

      • Thank you for your reply! I ended up using Zeissner BIN advanced water based sealer (2 coats) to seal most of the smell. At this time i only smell little bit of the sealant smell, no smell of stain. Next time I will be more careful.

  3. Hi brad,

    I have a fence I am painting. One section is previously painted and I’m color matching it. My plan is to pressure wash, lightly sand and then paint. Good idea or no? Was going to use acrylic latex paint. Primer necessary? The other section that id like match the same has been previously stained with a lime green color(looks pretty fresh). If it has not been sealed can I get away with pressure washing, sanding and then applying a stain blocking primer then painting? Do I need to de gloss that section. Thanks for any information.

    • Yes, you have it right. If it’s rough-cut wood you won’t really be able to sand so after the washing dries, spot prime the knots with BIN or any exterior shellac-based primer…that is the one with alcohol, not the ‘synthetic’ shellac.
      Then any exterior primer over the rest of the wood. No need for shellac except on stains that bleed through like knots.
      De-glossing only matters when you put any paint over old oil paint. You did not say it was oil, but if so, yes you need sanding or deglassing.
      Stain? Is it transparent/semi/ or opaque? Cannot be sure of all this advice since I cannot see it, but don’t worry if you use quality products.

      • To follow up the stain is virtually transparent. Not sure if the paint is oil based or not and I was going to use a 2 in 1 primer/paint from Behr. The section with stain is rough cut and the the painted section is smooth. I just want end results to look as close and professional as possible.

        • I would never use a Behr primer. THey don’t do the research BM or SW does. I’d say to roll the entire surface with the shellac I mentioned (brush into corners), then roll again with your top coats. You might look at sprayers, but don’t put a shellac based primer in a sprayer: way too much work to clean. I dont’ even spray oil…but for your final coats it would be the thing…. if you have a big project. Maybe you have lots of time on your hands? then just brush/roll.

  4. Hi Brad,
    I have stained some common board wood with a dark espresso oil based paint. I need to paint on top of that stained wood with a water based paint and I’m afraid the stain will eventually bleed thru. I wanted to know if I could spray the stain with shellac first and then if it would be ok to use water based paint. Thank you

    • Hi. When you say spray, I’d question that, but yes indeed the shellac is the thing. But what is shellac? You can find clear that is like a wood gloss, but what we do before painting is use shellac in a stain-blocking primer, and let me warn you it’s nasty, nasty. Did I mention it’s nasty?
      You want BIN or Kilz that is the SHELLAC based. That means it cleans up with alcohol or acetone, not water. you can get confused because there are both types, water and shellac based primers. The water-based is not worth trying. It does not really work, at least not like the big boy’s.
      Spray? You must have hundreds of square feet, right? And spraying shellac is something I would not do unless it was several rooms or a whole house.
      Just buy the roller and brushes you see on my tools page, which are costly and which you will have to throw away after you are done as the shellac dries fast and hard. But dollar store brushes and rollers shed. Don’t go cheap.
      Good thing you caught me right after my morning coffee. Anything else? Please?
      ha ha
      Good luck

  5. Hi Brad,
    I am going to paint stairs that I think are stained as when I try sanding it doesn’t remove the colour. The stain is not glossy but also is not Matt so this is why I think the previous owner stained them, they have gone an orange colour (cheap wood stairs were installed) What is the best primer to use on wooden stairs?
    I am looking to paint them and then put a runner on them.

    • If I can tell what you mean, it’s wood with no varnish/clear coat. But you have to be sure so see if water soaks in fairly quickly.
      If it’s just stain and no varnish, use STIX primer. It’s a Ben Moore brand, Insulx.
      A runner is an excellent idea on painted steps, good thinking.
      If there is a varnish of some sort, you have to de gloss it all before the Stix for best results.
      Good luck

  6. Hi brad,
    So i am going for a farmhouse look. I sanded down the old color of my dining table and added 1 coat classic gray stain, miniwax brand. I also got the mini wax, Wisteria color at 15% light. I plan on adding this on top of my newly stained top of table. Will this be ok? Its been only 2 days.
    Im going for a beautifuñ, mix that will be light just as i plan it to be..

    • Hi. Well, I can’t see it but this sounds like a matter of choice. The one sure thing that always holds true is that the more stain you add, the darker it will be. That is also dependent on how LONG you let the stain sit before you wipe off. The best advice, no matter what you want, is to do samples in a hidden spot. Since you have time and can be patient, take a few days and do many combos. that’s what I do.
      Good luck!

  7. Hi. I’m working on an antique vanity. I’ve stripped and sanded. I have the oil based zinser primer already and want to know will I be able to apply benjamin moore advance over it or should I use a different paint. Does the paint also have to be oil based?

    • No, it will be fine with Advance. The key thing to a good look with this paint is to sand very well. The paint levels very smoothly and will show lumps in the dry primer, but it’s easy to sand the primer you mention. Go for it, should be great. In general, primers can be covered with anything, but I assume somewhere there must be exceptions, but not in normal interior painting. Stir the primer very well. Best not to shake as it introduces air bubbles that might dry and show later.

  8. Hi Brad,
    We have a large (25’x50’) heated room built on the back of our early 1970s bungalow that use to house a swimming pool. We removed the aging pool last year to make more living space. The ceiling is unfinished tongue and groove cedar that is water stained in some areas from pool splashes and also from roof leakage (from previous owners time). We have replaced the roof on this addition and now would like to paint the interior ceiling a light colour (white/off-white/cream) to brighten the area and cover the staining which on a few boards is significant. Any suggestions on the best way to proceed to cover the stains and ensure paint adherence on the old wood? Thanks, Janet

    • Super easy. I mean the know-how. My part. Super easy. Your part: not so easy.
      First, was had a thought that maybe the roof was fine but it was moisture from the pool collecting on the wood and appearing to be a leak? In any case, you solved that.
      All this will refer to the top 3 products on this page.
      So to block the water stains, you simply need a stain-blocking primer. Now, be careful because if you use a primer that claims to block and does block some or all of the stain, if the primer is not a good, top, quality…you may have water stains bleeding thru in the future years. It can take years.
      So what I would do is seal it with the best stain blocker I can afford which is an alcohol-based primer. Now, think carefully, it is very, very, very nasty stuff, and you must have a respirator. (see my post on that).
      Because it’s a ceiling… oi vey, the drips. If it was water-based, ok, in the mouth in the hair…bad enough. But alcohol-based, that is SHELLAC-BASED in the face… what a mess.
      But I would do that.
      The next level down would be an oil-based stain blocker but still very high quality.
      Then after that some joe shmoe water-based stain blocker. You could try, but you may be disappointed. Even the great ones like ben moore and s.williams primers may let water stain in wood bleed thru.
      So go with what you can bear. I have this primer in stock so I’d do a test to see what bleeds thru after a week. You probably don’t. … so maybe oil is your best bet. Prime Lock Plus is in fact probably enough.
      Get good tools and keep them from drying out until you are sure you are done. You should only need one coat of primer. Lay it on heavy. Calculate your area and then add extra primer in your cart so you can apply liberally… like Obama. ha!

  9. Hi Brad! We are going to paint the exterior of our cabin that has half logs that were stained with an orange-brown oil based stain. We want to paint it navy blue and would like to use latex if possible. What recommendations do you have? We would prefer not to use any toxic chemicals as we are near a lake and do not want to pollute the area.

    • Well, the most important thing is to test in spots.
      Test for bonding and for color bleeding through whatever primer and paint you choose.
      You did not ask my opinion, but I’m an opinionatied guy! so here it is: don’t paint.
      Know that stain does not chip and need re-staining the way paint does.
      I would re-stain darker or same color, or just a wood preservative.
      Less maintenance. but maybe you like scraping paint or you will in 5-10 years. Not me.

      If you paint, go with a high bonding primer like Stix, then any exterior paint you like.

      Good luck

  10. I messed up and looking to see how to fix the mistake!
    I used latex paint over stained wood- I know it was an oversight. I was painting the baseboards and thought “oh this would look great white and smacked the paint on it”. Immediately but too late realized it is stained wood. Now I have white paint on it that is not sticking properly but also is on there. Is there any thing I can do to fix or remedy the mistake???

    • I think you need to scrape it asap while it is still soft. Then probably an electric sander which will have the added benefit of sanding the varnish which will allow your primer to stick better.
      Yes, use a primer, not latex paint first, then paint. I like STIX from Ben Moore, but there are many good bonding primers.
      I think with elbow grease you’ll be ok…and smarter.

  11. Hello! I’m refinishing a nightstand. It’s made out if cherry. I had originally planned to paint the base and stain the top. I don’t like the stained top and have just decided to paint it all white. The top has several coats of stain, but no top coat/poly. Am I OK to use an oil based primer then my paint (not oil based)? Thanks!

  12. I used minwax gel stain in coffee for the top (only) of my antique vanity. I am unhappy with it because now matter what and how much waiting I do, there are still sort of haze streaks in a couple of places.
    I feel I have had it with gel stain. Can I paint a matching oil based paint over it?

    • I know what yo mean. For some reason, this gel thing is the fad.
      I would not try to go over it. I have a pressure washer and here is what I would do…and if you do too, take it outside and blast it.
      If not, soften it up with its solvent (paint thinner? water?) and then scrape all you can off.
      Sand, clean and go with a stain with the same base… mineral spirits or water etc.
      Test your new stain for bonding, but if you get the old top down to to the wood, that’s best.
      Keeping it wet for a long time to soften the old gel is the key.
      Good luck!

  13. Hi Brad…came across your site as we’re trying to figure out why our old doors are still bleeding through (a lot!) after 3 coats of BIN shellac. They were white, but chipping lead paint so we stripped off the lead paint and then primed. Even after several coats of the shellac based primer, the doors are more pink than white. Oddly enough, the old white paint we stripped off had NO bleed through. I can’t imagine what they used. Any suggestions for how to fix this?

    • Bin shellac that is alcohol based or water based? they have 2 types. The waterbased is not as effective.
      What could they have used? You have me there.Lead? Did you wear a respirator and clean up well. I hope so!
      Read my post hear on lead if you have any doubts.
      One coat of alcohol based Bin should have done it.
      All I can say is to strip it down to the metal, wood or whatever it is… or get a new door.
      Sorry I cannot help more.

  14. Hi, Brad. Stupid me, I prepped the stained trim and two doors with sanding and cleaning grease off. Opened my can of paint and “primed” it with Stix. Got done and realized I had opened the wrong can and had used Advance finish paint. Can I sand the Advance with a fine grit after it is good and dry and apply the Stix or will I run into bonding trouble? Short of trying to strip it all off what will be the best way to do this? Thanks.

    • Oops. You may be ok. When it’s good and hard try to scrape it off with your fingernail. If it is hard to get off, you got lucky with the bonding.
      If not, scrape it all and power sand etc… then Stix. Hope you don’t have to go through that.
      Only 2 doors tho.
      Good luck.

  15. Hello, so I bought a pergola that I thought was natural wood, but come to find out it is a stained cedar wood. I want to know if i am able to paint it white and if so how do i go about doing it. Thank you

    • If just stained, you could prime with PrimeLock and paint. But if it has any other coating, you’d have to strip that off or sand well then prime. I cannot really tell you … have an old pro painter look at it in person. Good luck.
      ps, not a young painter!

  16. Hi, My questions are this. We have a cedar deck. Never been painted or stained untill recently.
    The floor of the deck is a color of stain we don’t like. The railing is STAINED white. I thought he was going to PAINT,,, the railing. It looks like it was just primed, not finished. Don’t like the look. So what we want to do is stain the deck and railing a darker stain. What do we need to do to put a dark stain over the WHITE stain on the railing.The floor that is stained can we just put a darker stain over that?? Any comments would be helpful.
    Thank you!

    • I think it might be possible, altho you will not have the same look as if there was never any white.
      Here is my advice: take some wood that is the same age and type. Put some white on some and not on others. Let dry.
      Then coat all with what you are planning. There will be your result.
      Always do testing until you are sure of the result: terrible to get into it and be stuck.
      Good luck,

  17. Hi Brad. Thank you for a very informative post. This has been very helpful as I tackle painting stained wood in a few remaining areas of my built in 1989 house. I have had 3 different painters paint over stained trim over the years and I don’t think any of them followed this process, I’m guessing this because the white trim chips and scrapes very easily. My question is, what process do you recommend for fixing this? Should I sand the now white trim, and following the same process you outlined for prepping to paint over stained wood or do something else? Thanks for the help! Unfortunately I am not in a financial position to hire another painter to do this job.

    • Of the 2 main problems in painting over stain and other weird stuff, bonding and bleeding, it seems you are talking about bonding right? That the paint is chipping easily.
      In that case, yes, start over in those areas like new. Sand, great quality bonding primer (Stix is the one for me) and lightly sand between coats.
      The problem will come: the paint keeps chipping in the areas you have not re-done. I would probably set up a bucket with my go-to tools for when you see a chip that bugs you. I’d keep the old brush in the primer and paint cans and the dropcloth, scraper, everything handy in one place and stay on top of the touchups.

  18. I’m turning into a desk and painting it grey. Because the piano is 100yrs old I have no idea what kind of stain it is but used zinsser 1-2-3 primer before I knew more about primers and even with two coats, the primer is basically reddish pink because of the bleed through. Should I sand the primer off if possible and use a different primer? OR can I just prime over the first primer? What primer should I use?

    • Ok, you can save this. First, test your gray and check the bleeding. It may not bleed. Primers are different, so you may be ok as of now. If the stain bleeds into your paint, sand the primer well with 80 grit sand paper or so…–just smooth, but no, not off, and put the alcohol-based Kilz, not the water-based Kilz on. One coat, and then test. You’ll probably be fine with one. This Kilz is the very best there is.
      All these coats will build up so sand lightly between coats to keep it even and smooth–150-220 grit for in between coats.

  19. Hi I want to paint my black wood kitchen table white, it has a slight gloss to it, do I have to sand it first,(which I don’t want to do), or can I make sure it’s clean and just prime it and then paint it? Thanks

    • I know sanding is a drag, but a quick light sand just to scuff up the old finish will greatly improve the bonding.
      Use STIX primer for the best bonding. If you just refuse to sand, use the liquid de-glosser, but that is very toxic stuff.
      Then yes, clean very well and prime and paint.

  20. Great info – BUT – I want to put porch paint over my stained porch IF I don’t have to strip all the stain (Olympic Elite Semi-Solid Red Mahogany). I was going to use KILZ Porch & Patio Floor Paint, but of course there is a blurb on the can about stripping previous stain, then priming, then painting. The only reason I’m even thinking about paint vs. stain is that you can touch up/ repaint over paint without having to strip it all off. I am DONE stripping decks – FOREVER. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Removing anything like this is misery, I agree. Well, it may be the case that the label is telling you to strip to protect themselves. With a good bonding primer, I would think the paint you want to use is going to be fine.
      I cannot see your deck and I don’t even know if it’s solid or transparent or somewhere in between, but here is what I would do in most cases.
      I’d get my grinder. I put it on this post (and others if you read more). This post also has the ‘how to’. I’d use the paint removal pad listed with it, and I’d take off all that will come off. Then I’d use STIX It’s formulated for bonding. That first coat is so important. After that, whatever deck paint you like is fine. I like Tough Shield by Ben Moore. I don’t like re-coating and it’s expensive but in the end, less work.

  21. We have some 26 year old Uwarre outdoor furniture made with 1″ pressure treated North Carolina pine. They’ve been outside in Austin, Texas their whole life. The original paint was intentionally rustic “white”. Over time some green algae/mold appeared on some areas. I scrubbed that off, waited till it was bone dry, then primed and painted with rustoleum spray paint. The spray paint is flaking off now. I did not sand away all of the original paint, just what wasnt sound.

    Recently I applied some oil based stain on part, but it looks weird. Can I use some more rustoleum spray paint over the stain? It’s all about the same color, so I’m not concerned with bleed thru. A rustic finish would be ideal, but if it has to have complete coverage, that’s ok too.

    • Hi. Well, what to do now? The way to begin SHOULD have been to use maybe high water pressure to get all the old stuff off then a really good bonding exterior primer, such as Ben Moore’s Block Out.
      That is what I would still do at this point: try to get it all off. Buy or borrow a pressure washer and blast it well…spread cloths all around because paint chips will really fly away.
      Then that primer and any exterior paint you want.
      No to the spray cans. That paint is just not going to bond.
      Best of luck!

  22. I have a house with mostly redwood stained wood. A part had to be rebuilt several years ago and in spite of our best efforts they used redwood paint. Need to paint rest of the house now and guess I will have to use paint. Since I am using same color, do I need primer? And do I have to sand all the walls?

    • Yes a light sanding on the old stain, just to rough it up a bit and remove any splinters sticking out… Then a very good exterior primer… Ben Moore’s Block Out will stop the stain from coming through. However, since you will only paint Redwood color forever (right?) maybe the stain that WILL come thru most exterior primers might not matter. It might make the new paint a little blotchy though.
      How could a painter not use what you told them to? It sounds like a legal issue. Consult a lawyer and see what your position is.
      Anyway, don’t skimp on the primer costs: it’s key.

  23. just a note of appreciation. Im a painter and have painted in Australia, Holland, Ireland, Spain…in my experience the most difficult thing is to try and transition into a new country is finding new products and materials, the method usually remains the same more or less. Ive just moved to Chicago and this website has been invaluable in being able to establish what my go to products will be which is so crucial for the whole process – from clients consultations to execution of the job. Just want to say a big thank you its been a great resource for me and one that i will continue to use! Thanks Brad!

  24. I just bought 14 used chairs from a used restaurant equipment store. Some are stained and something have a clear finish on them. What is the best way to get them ready to paint? I plan on painting them black. What is the best type of paint to use?

    • Hi. Stains? I guess you mean wood stain, not grease etc. I cannot see them but I think the way to go is probably paint stripper, sanding, priming with STIX or the best stainblocking primer PrimeLock depending on how much stain is left. Stain may well bleed thru the STIX, but never the PrimeLock. Then for paint, go with Advance. Another pop option is chalkboard paint, with a urethane over that. Chalkboard paint evens out like a spray, but it’s flat of course. Then gloss over that looks great and will last.
      Last option? Sandblast which is quick and just a rental away.
      Good luck,

  25. I am painting hardwood floor. Has some water stains from shampooing previous carpet. Initially we scuffed a little then cleaned. Afterward primed with Behr 436 water based primer. Stains are showing through coat of paint. I Dont plan to sand wood down! What primer will effectively block water stains? Oil based necessary?

    • Hi. You’ll overcome this easily. Just to say though, a better primer would have blocked it all.
      In fact, this primer is the one to use here but just on the spots where the stains are bleeding through.
      After all this, do sand lightly just to remove the ‘ticks’, but not for bonding reasons. Careful not to remove too much primer.
      Next, do a test spot with your top coat floor paint and let dry well. Then see how hard it is to scrape off.
      If it comes off witha fingernail, big problem. You have poor bonding between the primer and the wood. Then, yes, I’m afriad you need to remove all the primer.
      In fact, do this test before you hit the stains with the BIN, linked in this reply. If you have a problem, no point in spot priming just to scrape it off later. With Behr, you probably do not, will not have a problem.
      Did you sand the wood well? That is the main thing to do before primer. Some primers can bond to a floor that’s not sanded, but I would never attempt it. On a wall, maybe, but floors? Never.
      So, in summary, test the bonding now of your primer to the wood. Hope it does not flake off easily. Really push it: force it. If you are satisfied that it’s good, spot prime with BIN and paint.
      If the worst happens, prime with PrimeLock after sanding the wood very well with 80 or 100 grit sandpaper.
      Good luck…let me know if this is not clear and please let me know if all comes out well or not?

  26. Hi Brad!

    Our tenants did a horrible job gel staining our kitchen cabinets a dark brown. In some spots, it’s even flaking off. We want to paint the cabinets white – is this possible with the steps you’ve listed or do these cabinets need to be junked?


    • Hi. I cannot see them, so I cannot be sure…but I would not think they are junk just yet. Sand very well, starting with a rough grit…maybe 80, then again with maybe 120. Then try to wipe all the top level stain that is not down in the wood grain with some paint remover. Some removers are made for oils, some for latex, or just use the old-fashioned toxic stuff. One treatment should be enough…Then prime with PrimeLock and paint twice. It’s a lot of work, but you’ll get there with pizza and beer.
      Good luck.

  27. Hi Brad. I have a cherry dining table that I am refinishing. I took all the finish off using the different grades of sandpaper. I chose to use an oil based stain in clear on the table top. The cherry wood came back to life. Looks great. My next step was to make the base of the table black. I used an oil based black stain. After applying 3 coats with wiping and light sanding between coats, it still shows the grain of the wood coming through. I have not used any polyurethane yet. My question to you is, can I paint over the black stain with a black latex paint without having to prime it? I just want the black finish to not look so washed out. Also if I can switch to latex, would you still finish it with a polyurethane? I still have 8 chairs to refinish to black from natural cherry. Would love your input before starting that part of the project. Thank you.

    • Hi. Yes indeed, just sand lightly and use an oil based paint. Always do a test..let the test spot dry and see how it bonds. You’ll be fine.
      Also, more coats of black stain, or a blacker black or more opaque black, it you want to stay in the stain family. Opaque stain is pretty much paint.
      You can probably do latex, but again, test.
      Poly over either will be fine.
      Good luck!

  28. Hi – I have a cedar glider that sits on my porch. I have put stain/finish on it several times. The front exposed to the elements doesn’t retain the stain/finish but the back does. I want to paint it so I went over most of it with a palm sander to smooth it. The front was quite porous and dry but the stain /finish looks good on the back. Can I spray paint it and will the spray paint cover the back?

    • Hi. Well, I know nothing about gliders, but I’m guessing the lighter the better. If you just want protection and don’t care about looks, apply the Eco-Wood stain: it’s once in a life, but you have to accept one of 5 colors and then front and back won’t match..but you will never need to treat it again…for life. I think if you want satin to match, just keep doing the maintenance that you have been doing but be sure to use an exterior finish.

  29. Hi Brad, so I’m having to pain all of the stained trim in my new house(wife’s idea of course lol). I’m in between two primers right now that I want to use. PPG gripper or cover stain. I know gripper is water based and cover stain is oil based. I plan on sanding between coats like you said above. I’m not familiar with Gripper and I’m worried that it being water based it will not grip well to the trim. It’s a big job as I have to paint the walls and ceilings to so I want to do it right. What brush do you recommend to use for the primer application? I don’t want to go cheap but I also don’t want to go to expensive seeing as how I will more than likely just throw it away. Also if I use the cover stain will it be fine laying down BM advance paint over it?

    • Hi. We have a new post just about this. The primer you want is Prime Lock, an oil-based stain blocker. You really need the stain blocking or you will have wood knots etc coming through…possibly. You are right about sanding It is essential to sand well the first time, then between coats is important as well especially if dust lands on your wet paint. Please read the new post: I’ll email you soon.
      The products you want are:
      Prime Lock
      Purdy XL brush
      Advance or Regal are best for top coats. I explain in that post.

  30. Brad, I just purchased a whitewashed oak end table and it’s just too light to work . It will cost too much to insure it and send it back. Ir’d work if it was painted a lustrous grey. Do I have to sand this new finish? What about the Home Depot paint that will adhere to anything?

    • Hi. If it’s an expensive piece, you could certainly try a paint claiming to adhere to anything: I have never heard of that… If you want to do it right, sand the finish with a medium grit sandpaper (about 150 grit), being sure to scratch it well everywhere, then apply BIN primer shown on this page. Then you are all set to apply whatever you like and it will definitely stick.

  31. Hi Brad, no I purposely stained it espresso (Siri doesn’t know it’s ES ha ha) in order to use a white laytex watered down paint over that stain so it will show through the paint. that’s the whitewash look I was going But now I realize the latex paint isn’t going to work good over the polyurethane that is in the polyshade stain. I haven’t applied that paint yet, it only has the poly shade espresso on it.

    • Ok, don’t. You need to research (ask a paint store) what will stick. The latex white certainly will not. Perhaps an oil-based white thinned down? No idea what I’m talking about… I always tell customers to take photos to the paint store and let them see… Good stores have good advice…find the old folks, not the young ones. Am I an age-ist? A-yep.

  32. I built a console table, various pines.
    1. I bought MW Polyshades (espresso) and stained the legs.
    2. I bought latex in off white to water down to use over the stained legs.
    3. light bulb went off!……whitewash latex over a stain that has polyurethane??
    Me Thinks not.
    4.. Now what is the easiest solution to this problem?
    5. I was thinking maybe I could use MW Polyshades in Pickling shade over the espresso, but it may not be white enough. Instead of having to strip the polyshade?

    • I’m confused by the products you selected. A dark stain and then white paint? So you changed your mind? Happens to the best of them… now you want to do a lighter stain over the white?
      Can you send me a photo? What is your goal? Now the stain?
      If so, strip the white off if you applied it (a citrus stripper).
      If you have now espresso, and held off on the white, btw, it’s not eXpresso for all of you Starbucks hacks reading this!! ha ha just kidding…it is ESPResso… and you want to go to a lighter shade (I don’t know Pickling), it’s going to be tough.
      Stripping stain means sanding and sanding down, down down. Rock Lobster!
      You could try a stripper on the espresso, but you won’t get much out.
      Let me know if I’m totally off.. but don’t argue about ESPRESSO. My ambrosia. My love. Ah.
      I’m getting crazy in the comments..try to behave in the posts!

      • Hi Brad, we have a cottage that has tongue and groove Knotty Pine. It looks very porous and also looks like it has never been polyurethaned. What do you suggest to cover-up this darker stain and the pine knots so we can paint it a nice white creamy color?

        • Hi again. It’s do-able for sure.
          First, do a test to make sure it has no sealer. Some sealers can be invisible, like me at a party.
          Put some water in a spot and see if it beads up. If it soaks right in, it has probably never been treated.

          Then to get ready for your paint, put on a high-quality bonding, stain-blocking primer.
          The knots will bleed thru most low-powered primers and then bleed into every coat of paint you put.
          So you get it on the first coat with PrimeLock which also bonds to the old surface and makes ready for the paint. Then sand well to get a smooth wall, and that may take some primer off so you’ll just touch up those spots, or do a quick 2nd primer coat in an extreme case.

          Then 2 coats or if you are lucky one. Go with Ben Moore Aura interior and you’ll cover the white primer with your cream color in one…
          or go down to a lower grade paint and do 2 coats. I’d probably prefer 2 final coats so you can catch any skips.
          PS do a test after the primer over a knot: make sure one coat of PrimeLock is enough. It should be but better to know for sure.
          Good luck!

  33. We built a bookcase with different woods, stained it, and do not like the outcome. There is no varnish over the stain. We now want to paint the bookcase. What steps to we have to take to apply a latex paint?

    • Thanks for writing. It’s easier because you did not varnish it… lucky you.
      Now, just use the BIN primer liked in the post above. This will seal out all the stain and wood sap (knots etc).
      It’s the nastiest stuff in a can, but is amazing. Have rubbing alcohol handy to clean up.
      Good luck!

  34. I just put a coat of Zinsser Mold Killing Primer over some (cleaned up but still visible) mold stains on my ceiling that are from condensation. In the past, using Kilz Latex Stainblocking primer, the same stains have come back. My question is, having done one coat of Zinsser and still seeing the stains through it, should I just apply another coat and hope it covers further, or should I now use the BIN that you refer to on top of my other coat? Any advice you can lend to help stop the stains showing through would be much appreciated! Thanks!!

    • Hi Bailey. The reason the stain is coming back is that there are different kinds of stain blocking primers for different problems. Your problem was clearly too much for the primer you used. Yes is the answer to your question, whether or not you should upgrade your primers to the nuclear powered BIN. I can guarantee you that nothing will come through, but you have to know that this is very nasty stuff. Your last resort short of changing wall board.
      Read my post on respirators and buy one! It’s good for bleaching the tub also! 🙂
      But this BIN is a shellac, it has an alcohol base, dries unbelievably fast and stinks to high heaven for about an hour. Open windows and protect your skin and lungs!
      The product you want is:
      Zinsser 00904 B-I-N Pigmented Shellac Primer-Sealer & Stain Killer, White, 1 Quart

      Buy a brush/roller you will throw away: sad but true, you cannot clean tools well enough to use again. Don’t go too cheap on brush/roller as bristles etc will fall out and stick on wall. Tip: I cut off the handle of an old brush and leave in the can! Disgusting later, but works over and over! Regular rubbing alcohol works to clean your hands/drips.


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