How to Paint Over Wood Stain


When it comes to painting over wood stain, you may encounter problems that can make it seem like a daunting task. Stained wood is often sealed with a protective varnish, and paint does not adhere well to the glossy surface. Stripping off wood stain is time consuming and may cause surface damage with the wrong products. Unsealed wood stain can bleed through and ruin your paint job. However, with a few items from your home improvement center, painting over wood stain can be done in several easy steps.

How to Paint Over Wood Stain
(Sarah Vantassel/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Large bucket
  • TSP (trisodium phosphate)
  • Gloves
  • Sponge
  • Medium to fine sandpaper
  • Clean rags
  • Oil-based primer
  • Paint brushes and/or rollers
  • Latex-based paint
Step 1

Fill a large bucket with warm water. Add 1/4 cup of TSP per gallon of water. TSP products are found in the cleaning section of a hardware store. If you prefer, a TSP-substitute can be used. Krud-Kutter is another alternative. Wear gloves before handling the solution. Use a sponge to wash away grease, oil and dirt from the surface. Allow wood to completely dry.

Sarah Vantassel/Demand Media
Step 2

If the wood appears to be varnished or has a glossy coat, lightly sand entire surface with sandpaper. Do this by hand or with a hand sander.

Sarah Vantassel/Demand Media
Step 3

Wipe the wood surface with a clean rag moistened with water. Make sure all the fine sanding particles are removed.

Sarah Vantassel/Demand Media
Step 4

Apply an oil-based primer with a paint brush. Use a roller brush on flat surfaces. Some primers that can be applied over wood stain are Kilz Original and Zinsser Cover-Stain. Allow primer to dry.

Sarah Vantassel/Demand Media
Step 5

Use a paint brush or roller to apply a latex-based paint of your choice. Satin enamel will provide a matte coverage, while semi-gloss will give the wood a nice sheen. High gloss may be used on heavy traffic surfaces, such as kitchen cabinets. Allow top coat to thoroughly dry.

Sarah Vantassel/Demand Media
Step 6

Apply a second coat of paint. Allow several hours for paint to set.

Sarah Vantassel/Demand Media

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Tips & Warnings

  • If you are painting over stained redwood or cedar, use a stain-blocking primer to seal the stain and prevent it from bleeding through. Zinsser B-I-N and Kilz Premium are two good examples of stain-blocking primers.
  • Overexposure to fumes from primer and latex paint can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and vomiting. Make sure your work area is well-ventilated. Avoid prolonged skin contact as these products may cause irritation, dryness and dermatitis.


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