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Can you paint over stained wood in 2023? | Painting Tips With the Pros

Paint Over Stains

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Introduction: Can You Paint Over Stains in 2023?

In my 20 years of painting, a lot of people have asked me if it’s possible to paint over stain. And the simple answer is yes, painting over stained wood is possible.

My name is Paul and in this blog post, I’m going to try and make it short and succinct to let you know the different types of stain and how to Paint Over Stained Wood. The approach to prep, priming and the painting of each stain is slightly different, and I’ve got a couple of tips that will probably help you out.

The first idea is that not all stains are the same. So what I’m going to introduce you to is what stains are. There’s what they call transparent stains, semi-transparent stains and solid stains. 

 

Types of Paint Over Stains: Transparent, Semi-Transparent, and Solid

Solid stains are very much like a paint in aspect that they have a full color, and they sometimes look like paint. However, they are a stain.

So, clear stains, on the other hand (aka – transparent stains), are stains that you apply to wood to get a certain look.

There are water based and oil based stains available on the market. And painting over water stains is not much different than painting over oil based stains – both need a high quality primer.

And then once you have that nice amber or reddish tone, or black tone or brown tone, or whatever tone you want of that wood, you then apply a polyurethane coating on top of it and that polyurethane coating acts as a protection to protect the stain.

So those are the two primary different types of stain – stain that you would use as a protective coating that has pigment or stain that has no pigment or very little pigment, in which you need a protective coating in order to coat it.

I mentioned this because it’s very important to understand these two parts, because if you wanted to paint over say a deck that was stained semi-transparent or solid stain, you can absolutely paint over a deck or cedar siding cedar shingles a fence that was once stained.

You can absolutely paint over stained wood and it’s a pretty straightforward process. However, if you’re ever dealing with furniture or cabinets that you want to paint, the staining process might be a little bit more delicate, and that’s what I’m here to talk to you about. So I’m just going to show you this quickly–as i mentioned before, we have transparent stains right here.

This what you want when you want to get the color of the wood brought out. Semi-transparent stains generally have a little bit more pigment in it. They take away from the wood grain so you can’t see the wood grain that much, however, it still preserves a little bit of the wood. And then you have what they call “solid stains”. Solid stains, as I mentioned, generally look like paint.

They have solid pigment, but they act like a stain and that they absorb into the actual wood. So here’s a perfect example of what a clear stain would look like on furniture. They used a light honey finish or a light cedar finish, and then they top coated it with a shiny clear coat, like a Helmsman minwax or a Varathane coating in order to get that to preserve the longevity of that stain.

So, if you are planning on working on kitchen cabinets or that kind of furniture or any kind of interior work, you might want to consider putting a polyurethane coating over top of your stained coating, just in case if you want to give it a little bit of shine, and you want to give that durability.

However, it’s not always necessary and I’ll show you in one minute because we’re going to go into inside my RV and I’m going to show you how I painted my kitchen cabinets and all the drawers and everything. You’re going to love it!

So the first thing you want to consider is if it exterior or interior. If it’s exterior and just painting over a siding fence or like for example this deck here that I’ve done, it’s all cedar and it’s all solid stain.

Now I could go ahead and paint this and the process would be very similar to the interior. You have to clean it thoroughly to make sure there’s no mildew, no mold, no dirt, or no grime.

The second thing you need to do is give it a good sand. If there’s any loose and flaking paint then you’ve got to sand that down and prepare the surface ready for paint.

Now, depending on whether it’s an acrylic or it’s an oil stain mat it does matter, and so what I would recommend is always putting a primer – you can get an acrylic primer or an oil-based primer.

Oil-based primers tend to hold a little bit better they tend to be a little bit more resilient – a little bit more bulletproof. They do work once you prime the wood then you can paint over stains on the wood with two coats.

Whether you’re painting your siding or your cedar shakes, or your fence or your deck, you can paint it.

So that’s the general process for painting over top of stain on exterior. You can use a sprayer, roller, brush you can use a lot of different applicators. But generally speaking you can you can paint over stains. Now my tip for exterior is you can either wash, sand, prime and then two coats of paint with an acrylic latex. Or you can just use a solid stain.

So if you had a semi-transparent stained deck or a clear stain siding or cedar shakes, instead of going to the whole conversion of using the primer and paint you can actually just use a solid stain over top of that stain. And it saves you the primer coat and saves you pretty much 50% more time because a solid stain acts as a paint and primer in one in a way, so you can save a lot of time.

However the finish may not look the same, so you can either primer and paint or you can top coat it with a solid stain and it looks very similar to a paint over stains. Now the only difference with interior work is that if you’re going to be painting kitchen cabinets or furniture you’re going to want to be a little bit more delicate in how you prepare it, because it already is in a nice finish.

And what you want to do is get rid of that glossy look. You won’t find any flaking paint, but what you want to do is clean it first and foremost. Wipe it down with a degreaser or with a cleaner and then you want to get a light 120-150 grit sandpaper and sand it down so that you eliminate any kind of shine. As you can see in the video above, there’s a little bit of shine on the side, there’s a little bit of shine on the top. You really want to get rid of that shine so that it’s a dull sheen and then you want to apply a good primer.

After the primer, you can apply two coats of paint. Now depending on the color, you might need three coats of paint over stain. It doesn’t really matter, it’s up to you and how you want that finished look. You can spray it, you can roll it with a little mohair roller or a thin nap, and that’ll come clean. Like I said, if it’s furniture or any kind of kitchen cabinets, you could always top coat it with a clear coating – like a polyurethane coating that will help preserve and keep it a little bit more durable and give it that nice furniture look.

We’re going to take inside the RV and I’m going to show you what I did. My wife wanted the RV to be painted. Now keep in mind everything in here was the same as that stand (polyurethane finish) so let’s take a look. So here we are in my RV, we renovated it and you can see all the cabinet doors.

All these cabinet doors, all these drawers – everything in here looked like those steps and those steps have a nice sheen to them and they’ve been coated with Polyurethane, and my wife really did not like that so we went ahead and painted everything in this RV. Now it took a lot of time, wiping clean, taking the doors off, etc.

And because we wanted to get new hardware for it, we had to sand and primer both sides of the doors. And then we coated it 3 or 4 coats with a white paint – because white paint doesn’t cover very well.

Anyhow, we didn’t bother going with a polyurethane coating over our cabinets and we used Sherwin Williams Emerald enamel which is an enamel paint. It worked really good and if it ever gets scuffed up, we can simply touch it up and if it gets dirty we just wipe it clean.

So hopefully this blog has helped you understand the differences between stains and if you want cupboard style finish coating or whether you’re just going to be painting the exterior of your house the prep is pretty much the same. You can paint over stained wood.

However interior staining like this takes a little bit more work, and it’s a little more detail involved because you’re dealing with a polyurethane coating that you have to sand down first and then apply an oil primer. And then how many coats you want and if you want to be like us, you can leave the paint coating with a nice satin finish or you can go ahead and coat it with the polyurethane coating.

The only last tip I’ll give you is that once you coat it with a polyurethane coating, you can’t just simply touch it up with the paint or stain product – as you’s be touching up on top of the polyurethane coating.

So there’s a lot of pros and cons with this, in fact it’s a quite deep conversation. Speak to your local painting professionals at your paint stores or contact us at 1-866-724-6818 if you need more advice, because truly every project is slightly different and your project is probably unique.

I hope this has been an educational moment for you about stains and yes, you can paint over stains.

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