Do you have a piece of wooden furniture that you would like to revamp? Perhaps you bought a wooden piece but feel like repurposing it, or you can paint over the stain?

You can paint over stained wood; however, it must first undergo some processes. The stain can be oil-based or water-based. Therefore, you must determine the kind of stain before painting over it. Once you figure out the stain type, you can prepare the wood based on the stain type on its surface.

Oil-based stains require more work than water-based stains. This is because oil-based products contain more chemicals, thus, making it more challenging to cover up.

Try doing it properly while painting over stained wood, as you could have adhesion issues with the paint if it’s not correctly done.

Painting Directly Over Stained Wood

Although you can paint over stain directly, I wouldn’t recommend that. The surface of the wood requires some preparation work before you can paint it. First, determine if the wood has a varnish layer and what stain type was initially used.

Wood varnish makes the wood appear shiny and adds a protection layer to wood surfaces. This protective layer can make a new paint coat adhesion to any surface difficult. Thus, you must remove the varnish.

In addition, you will have to determine what stain type is on the wood. Oil-based stains require more work than water-based stains. Oil-based stains contain more chemicals that are hard to adhere to wood properly. Painting over oil-based stains requires the removal of the chemicals on the wood.

In situations whereby you can’t remember what stain you used on wood or, perhaps, you are refinishing a wood furniture piece you recently purchased, know that oil and water never mix, and with this, you will be able to know what stain you used on the wood.

Since oil and water don’t mix, if you previously used an oil-based stain, it will repel any water. To test this theory, sprinkle water on the wood’s surface. A formation of little beads indicates that the stain is oil-based.

However, you might still be unsure after carrying out the test. If that happens, you can use a deglosser, the safest option.

Painting over Stained Wood

As I mentioned, you can paint over stained wood; however, it is not highly recommended. Applying your paint directly on a stained wood/surface likely experiences adhesion issues. Each stain type has its impediments, which I will explain.

1) Water-Based Stain

Water-based stain is a lot better than oil-based stain in this aspect. This is because the paint is also water-based; thus, they are perfect for each other. However, it’s still better to prepare the surface before painting it, as you might still experience adhesion and seeping issues with water-based paints.

Stain finishes on wood can act like any other stain, so wood preparation is essential.  An example is when there is a water leak. When such happens, the water can stain the wood or wall.

Without water preparation work, painting over stained wood can be challenging. The stain on the wood makes it fore difficult. Stains created by water damage require cleaning, sanding, and priming before you can paint them.

2) Oil-Based Stain

If you paint over oil-based stains, it’s best to prepare the wood. If you don’t know what stain type it is, try to find out. Using water-based paint on the oil-based stain will give an imperfect result as the paint will not adhere to the wood.

Since oil repels water, oil-based stains will repel water-based paints. However, if you are lucky to get beautiful work despite their differences, be prepared for another round of work and expenses. I’m sure this might confuse you, but I will explain it.

Since oil and water repel each other, using water-based paints on oil-based stains will have an aftermath, even if it initially gives you a good result. What is this aftermath? If the water-based paint adheres to the wood, it will probably peel within weeks. It could take a little longer if lucky and probably peel within months.

You can paint over oil-based stains using water-based paints. However, doing so means taking a considerable risk, as the stain may bleed through the paint. Asides from that, the paint may not properly adhere. Therefore, it is best to prepare the wood before painting it.

How to Prepare Stained Wood for Paint

To ensure proper adhesion and prevent bleeding, preparing stained wood before painting is essential.

Before preparing your wood, determine what stain type is on the wood. Oil-based stains require more work before you can paint over them.

The steps for preparing each stain type are similar. The differences begin at the sanding stage. Surface sanding is usually done for water-based stains, whereas oil-based stains require a deglosser.

The table below explains the materials you will need to prepare each stain type for painting.

Clean washclothClean washcloth
Face maskFace mask
Microfiber clothsMicrofiber cloths
Wood fillerWood filler
Face maskFace mask

The table above shows the materials you must prepare for each stain type before painting. The materials for each are similar. However, you will need three extra materials for an oil-based stain: a deglosser, a respirator, and gloves. Below are the steps involved. Kindly read through.

Step 1: Area Preparation

Gather materials and cover the furniture before painting. Use a tarp indoors or outdoors.

Step 2: Hardware Removal

This step should follow after preparing your area. Try to remove any hardware from the wood. Examples of such hardware are knobs, hinges, handles, and any other material that can cause disturbance or create a barrier when painting the stain.

It is best to remove this hardware before cleaning or sanding the wood, which is why it is considered the second step in preparing stained wood.

Step 3: Wood Cleaning

Using a microfiber cloth, clean the wood to remove any debris. Afterward, clean the surface with warm soapy water and a clean washcloth. Before proceeding with the next step, allowing the wood to dry would be best.

Step 4: Wood Repair

Some individuals may choose to do this step last, but I will encourage you to do this step before sanding and deglossing the wood. It lets you spot damage better once the wood’s surface is clean and debris free.

Repair any scratches, holes, or other damage on the wood using a wood filler. Instructions will be there to guide you. After applying the wood filler, allow it dry. Once it gets dry, you can sand the surface again. I will explain how to sand the wood after this step. You might have an uneven paint layer if you don’t sand the wood’s surface.

Step 5: Sand/Degloss the Wood

Things differ in this step depending on the stain you are painting over. For water-based stains, surface sanding is similar to a regular painting project. Oil-based stains differ from this as they will require something more heavy-duty.

For water-based stains, sand the wood with 150-grit sandpaper. It will be health beneficial and protective if you wear a face mask while sanding this project.

The sanding helps rough the surface and enables the paint to adhere better. Ensure to sand in the same direction as the wood grain. Sanding against the wood grain is risky, as it could cause damage to the wood’s surface.

For oil-based stains, using a deglosser is necessary. A deglosser is sometimes called liquid sandpaper, a heavy-duty solvent that is a harsh chemical.

Use soap and water to clean the wood’s surface. It ensures the removal of all of the chemicals. Using sandpaper will help if you clean up all the dust with a vacuum and microfiber cloth.

Can a Deglosser Replace a Sandpaper?

Yes, it can. You can use a deglosser instead of sandpaper. It performs the same actions as sandpaper without enduring the stress of scrubbing the wood.

Now, liquid deglosser is toxic and should not be used lightly. Liquid deglosser is a harsh chemical; therefore, wearing gloves and using a respirator is necessary. Using liquid deglosser on water-based stains is often unnecessary, as sandpaper can perform this exact function.

However, for a large project, you can use a deglosser. This is because a deglosser takes lesser time than sanding, depending on your project’s size. In addition, deglosser is water-based; therefore, cleaning it off your paint brushes is easy after completing your project.

Paint Type to Use over Stained Wood

However, you can use any paint type to paint over stained wood. It doesn’t dispute the fact that latex paint is the best. Whatever paint you use will determine the style and look you prefer on the wood. For a clean and smooth finish, I recommend using latex paint.

Latex paints are fast-drying and lower in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) than oil-based paints. They also provide smooth finishes.

For a better result, I suggest you choose chalk paint

As this paint type helps provide a matte finish. However, you will need to seal this paint type with polyurethane. Sealing it with polyurethane will help prevent scratching. In addition, polyurethane will give a shiny look to the furniture.

Alkyd-based paints are great for wooden pieces. They dry hard and rigid, adding a protection layer for the wood. They are perfect for holding up to scratches and long-term use.

How Can I Paint Over Stained Wood?

As I mentioned earlier, you must prepare your wood before painting it. You can follow the steps previously explained to prepare your wood. After preparing your wood, kindly follow the steps below to paint it over the stained wood.

  • Prime the wood using a water- or oil-based primer, depending on whether it is water- or oil-based. However, oil-based primer works for both oil-based and water-based stains.
  • Your paint must have the same base as the primer, and try applying a primer when concealing dark stains.
  • Let the primer dry. The primer type determines the time it will take for it to dry. There is always a label to guide you on how long the primer will take to dry. Ensure to read it carefully. Examples of primers you can use are Zinsser Cover Stain and INSL-X-Prime.
  • Afterward, paint the wood and allow it to dry according to the paint’s label. You can apply a second paint coat if necessary. The best colors for painting over stained wood are Rust-Oleum’s Chalked Paint and Rust-Oleum’s Latex Paint.
  • After the paint dries, you can apply a clear coat or varnish. Using a clear coat is not compulsory; however, it will help protect the wood from scratches and minor damage.
  • Once your project gets fully dry, you can replace any removed hardware.

Stained Wood & Waterproofing Quality

Many stains have a waterproofing ability, giving wood a glossy and smooth finish. The waterproofing additive can make it hard for paint to adhere to the wood’s surface. If your stain is waterproofing, it is necessary to sand the wood vigorously. You can also use a deglosser.

Is a Primer Necessary to Paint Over the Stain?

Generally, using a primer when painting over stained wood is highly recommended. Since paint doesn’t adhere well to the wood, a primer will help increase the paint and the wood bond.

But cover up the initial stain so as not to have it seep through the fresh paint’s coat.

Chalk paint may be the only type not requiring priming before applying it on stained wood. You can test a small area of chalk paint on the stained wood. If there is no bleed-through after eight hours, you can paint without priming.


Although painting over wood is possible, it is not highly recommended. This is because the paint must sand down to adhere to the surface better. If you don’t prepare the wood, your paint may adhere to the surface; however, it won’t last long. It is best to prepare the stained wood before sanding it. Once you prepare the stained wood, you can use whatever paint type. I hope you found this article helpful. If you did, kindly share it with others. Good luck with your next project!


What is the best way to paint over polyurethane?

If you are painting over polyurethane-treated wood, it is best to use acrylic and oil-based paints, and an essential step is to clean the surface using a wet cloth. Afterward, use fine-grade sandpaper to gloss the surface. Lastly, apply the paint and primer using long, even strokes.

How can I paint over dark wood?

You can paint over dark wood by adding two shellac primer coats and three paint coats. Afterward, seal the paint with a satin wax. The last step ensures a decent quality, long-lasting finish. Proper furniture preparation and good quality shellac primer application are essential when painting over dark stained wood.

How can I lighten my stained wood?

You can lighten your stained wood by using wood bleach. Wood bleach is the only effective way to lighten the wood’s color after you strip it off all surface coatings. Sanding also helps lighten wood in several cases; however, this only applies to surface soil or grime. In addition, sanding helps lighten wood only if there is no deep discoloration penetration.