While stained wood pieces usually look great, there are times when one just needs to change their look in order to match a home’s general decor.

You can paint over stained wood. However, in order to do so effectively, you may have to take extra steps. This includes sanding and deglossing the item in order to make it easier for the paint to bond with the stained surface. Using a high-quality oil-based primer is also necessary in most cases.

Here is what you should know about painting over stained wood, and the specific steps that you need to take in order to get the best results possible.

FAQ’s woman works

Yes, it is a good idea to sand stained wood before painting it. This is because sanding removes the glossy layer that normally covers stained wood. It grinds it away and thus allows for better bonding between the paint and the surface.

However, sanding is not a must. This is so even in cases where the stained wood has been covered by an extra coat of lacquer or polyurethane. Why? Because instead of sanding, you can opt to use a chemical deglosser. Wiping the surface with the deglosser is usually enough to erode the glossy coat and hence giving the paint a better chance of sticking to the wood.

And in cases where the stain does not have an extra layer of protection, paint can still stick. That is, provided you apply an oil-based primer before applying the coat of paint.

What if it is freshly stained?

Yes, you can still paint over freshly stained wood. The only challenge will be that the stain color will be stronger than if it had aged, and so proper priming will be necessary.

Will I need a special primer first?

Yes, you will need a special primer in order to paint over stained wood.

The primer that you will need has to be able to stick to a stained wood surface. It also needs to be good enough to prevent the stain color from over-bleeding into the paint. And since stained wood surfaces tend to have some imperfections, a good primer should be able to hide these.

With a special primer, you can easily get away with not sanding the stained surface. This is because it will be able to stick to even the glossy layer that most stained surfaces have. In doing so, it will provide a more paint-friendly surface on which the subsequent paint coat will bond with.

Can you paint over stained wood

How to paint over stained wood

Getting high-quality painting results is easy when it comes to painting over stained wood. Here are the steps that you should follow.

Step 1: Clean it

Start the process by getting rid of any dirt, debris, cobwebs, and any other impurities that may be on the surface of the item. To do this, simply use soap and water to wash the surface. Let the surface dry, and once it does, you can then dip the tack cloth in a TSP cleaning agent and then use it to wipe off any greasy layers.

Step 2: Sand it

After the surface has dried, use the 150-grit sandpaper to slowly grind away the glossy coat that the item has. Doing this gets rid of the glossy layer while also exposing a more paint-friendly layer. There is also the fact that sanding can be used to remove tiny imperfections on the surface.

Step 3: Degloss it

While sanding is pretty good at removing the glossy coat, there are times when it is not enough. To make sure that there is nothing standing between the primer and the wood surface, it is always good to use a chemical deglosser. Using it right after sanding will ensure that you get rid of any of the remaining traces of gloss.

Step 4: Wipe it

Since the sanding process creates dust, you will need to get rid of this dust. A vacuum will come in handy in helping you to do so. And so will a tack cloth. Simply use either of them to completely rid the surface of any traces of dirt and dust.

Step 5: Prime it

Once the surface is clean, it is now time to apply the primer. Use the roller to apply it on flat surfaces and the brush to apply it onto hard-to-reach areas. When doing so, always remember that thin coats are always the best coats.

As far as the best type of primer to use, oil-based primers should be at the top of your list. And when you are done applying it, give it time to dry before moving to the next step.

Step 6: Paint it

After the primer dries, it is now time to apply the first coat of paint. Use a paint roller to apply it over the surface. Do so in the direction of the wood’s grain in order to get better results. And after you are done, give the paint enough time to dry.

It is only after it dries should you apply the next coat of paint.

Step 7: Finish it

Once you are satisfied with the paintwork, and after the last coat has dried, you should then arm the item with a protective layer. A coat of high-quality polyurethane usually does the trick and applying it to the surface thus advisable. Using paste wax is also an option that you can explore. However, neither of these are mandatory, especially if you are using high-quality paint for your project.

How to paint over stained wood white color

Materials needed to paint over stained wood

The following are the materials that you will need for this project:

  • Soap and water
  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • A chemical deglosser
  • A TSP cleaning agent
  • A high-quality paintbrush and roller
  • A high-quality primer
  • A protective finish
  • Tack cloths


Yes, you can use acrylic paint to paint over stained wood. However, in order to get great results, properly sanding the surface is a must. This is because failure to do so will lead to poor bonding between the acrylic paint and the surface, something that will then lead to premature paint peeling.

No, you don’t need to use a polyurethane primer in order to paint over wood. Any high-quality oil-based primer or shellac will do. Applying them with a foam roller or a brush over the stained wood surface is usually enough to provide a great bonding surface for subsequent coats of paint. It will also help with preventing the stain from overbleeding into the paint.

A Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) agent is a chemical that is normally used to clean surfaces before painting. It is a go-to cleaner for painters mainly because it is incredibly effective at getting rid of layers of grease and oils. As a result, it enhances the ability of paint to stick on a surface, something that normally leads to lasting paintwork.

Yes, you can paint over treated timber. All you have to do is to wait for it to dry. Why? Because wet timber cannot absorb paint as well as it should. And without the ability of the paint to get into the timber, it will simply end up drying on top of the timber. This will then lead to the paint peeling away prematurely simply because of the poor bonding that resulted from painting on wet timber.

Another thing that you should remember to do is to use a high-quality primer. Priming the surface with a good primer – before painting — will enhance the strength of the bonds between the paint and the timber. It will thus lead to lasting results.

If you don’t have the time to go through this process, or if you simply want guaranteed high-quality results, then letting a professional painter handle your painting project is advisable. An easy and convenient way of finding qualified experts with great reputations is to use HomeGardenGuides.com. It offers a free service that quickly matches you with the top voted local expert painters.

Using the website, you can get 3 estimates fast by real certified experts in your area in just 2 minutes. Here is how it works.

  1. You scroll to the top of the page and enter your Zip code.
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IMPORTANT: There is no obligation to hire. This is a free tool and service to be used at your pleasure.
When painting over stained wood, it is always important to remember to protect yourself. Covering your hands with protective rubber gloves and wearing a good respirator is a good place to start.

Timothy Munene
Author: Timothy Munene - Timothy is a freelance writer and an online entrepreneur.