Can You Stain Over Stain? (Benefits & How To)

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

Re-staining refers to the process of applying a new coating of wood stain over a surface that has already been stained. So, can you do it?

You can stain over stain to refresh or alter the appearance of a stained surface. But, both wood stains (old & new) must have the same solvent (water or oil).

The existing finish shouldn’t be sealed with a waterproof or moisture-resistant sealer as the new coating won’t stick over it.

You must apply 1-2 coats of primer between the old and new finish if the old wood stain coating has a darker color shade. This is done to prevent bleed-through.

Can You Stain a New Color Over Old Stain?

Can You Stain A New Color Over Old Stain

You can stain a new color over old stain, but you must apply multiple coats to prevent bleed-through. The old coating will bleed-through if the new coating has a lighter or deeper color shade, but applying multiple coats will prevent that.

To get a lighter color shade finish, sand (or remove) the dark finish, apply 1-2 coats of primer, then apply a lighter color shade coat.

The dark-shaded finish will bleed through if you apply a light wood stain coat directly over it. The darker the existing finish is, the more coats you need to prevent bleed-through.

You can apply pigmented wood stain over a stained surface without having to remove it. Pigmented wood stains have enhanced colors (with more pigments) and aren’t as transparent as regular stains. So, you can apply them over stained wood to change the color without removing the existing finish.

However, if the existing finish is also a pigmented wood stain, you must remove or sand it before changing its color.

Do You Have To Remove Old Wood Stain Before Re-Staining?

You don’t have to remove old wood stain before re-staining. A wood stain finish doesn’t have a glossy or moisture-resistant layer that repels new coatings. A new wood stain coating will directly stick over an old stain coating.

You must remove the old wood stain coating only if it is sealed or painted over, or if it’s wet, sticky, or peeling off. A sealed finish will have a glossy and moisture-resistant topcoat that will prevent a new coating from sticking.

A wet, sticky, or peeling-off wood stain coating will prevent a new coating from sticking over it. It’s recommended to remove it first and then apply a new coating. To remove wet, sticky, or peeling off wood stain, use a paint stripper.

The new coating will turn stick (or tacky) and peel off if you apply it over a sealed finish. But, if the old wood stain finish is even, has no bumps, and isn’t sealed, then you can apply a new coating directly over it.

How To Stain Over Old Stain?

To stain over old stain, do the following things.

  1. Prep Your Work Area.
  2. Remove the Old Stain (Optional).
  3. Sand the Surface.
  4. Apply Paint Primer (Optional).
  5. Apply the New Stain.

The tools you need for this project are listed below.

  • A paint stripper
  • New stain
  • Rags
  • Medium and fine-grit sandpaper
  • A large drop sheet
  • Paintbrushes
  • Painter’s tape

1. Prep Your Work Area

Prep Your Work Area

First, prep the workspace. Start by placing a large drop sheet on the floor to prevent spills.

Next, find out the type of the old stain. You must know if the old stain is oil-based or water-based. To know its type, damp a rag with rubbing alcohol and wipe the coating. If the stain comes off, it’s water-based. If the stain doesn’t come off, it’s oil-based or sealed.

2. Remove the Old Stain (Optional)

Remove The Old Stain

If the stain is oil-based or sealed, you must remove it before re-coating it. This is because a sealed oil-based stain will prevent a coating from sticking. If the stain is oil-based (not sealed) or water-based, you can skip this step.

To remove an old wood stain:

  1. Apply a paint-stripping compound over the surface
  2. Wait a few minutes.
  3. Scrape it with a paint scraper.

3. Sand the Surface

Sand The Surface

Before applying a new coating, sand the old stain coating. To sand it, start with medium-grit sandpaper and finish with fine-grit sandpaper.

Sanding will remove imperfections and bumps from the surface and create an even layer for the new wood stain to stick. After sanding, remove the dust from the surface.

4. Apply Paint Primer (Optional)

Apply A Coat Of Stain Primer

If you want to change the color shade of the old stain, you must apply a primer. A primer will prevent the old coating from bleeding through. However, a paint primer will prevent the wood grain from showing too.

For water-based stains, use a water-based or latex primer. For oil-based stains, use an oil-based or enamel primer. Let the primer coat dry fully before staining it.

5. Apply the New Stain

Apply The New Stain

To apply a new stain over an old stain:

  1. Use a paintbrush, foam roller, or sprayer. If you use a sprayer, use a spray shield to prevent overspray.
  2. Apply 3-5 coats of wood stain (depending on how deep you want the finish to be).
  3. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one.
  4. Don’t sand between coats.
  5. Allow the last coating to dry fully (cure) before using the surface.
  6. Seal the finish to increase its durability.

If you want to get a darker finish, seal the finish with a Gel stain or use it instead of a regular stain. If you want a lighter or transparent finish, use varathane or polyurethane. Polyurethane has a clear coat that makes the color shade of a finish look lighter.

Which Types of Wood Stain Can You Re-stain?

The types of wood stain you can re-stain are listed below.

Can You Apply Oil-Based Wood Stain Over Water-Based Stain?

You can apply oil-based wood stain over water-based stain as it has a dry texture finish and not a glossy finish that repels liquid.

But, the coating must be dry, clean, and sanded before applying oil-based over it. If the surface isn’t dry or clean, the finish will turn sticky.

Can You Apply Water-based Wood Stain Over Oil-Based Stain?

You can’t apply water-based wood stain over oil-based stain because it has a glossy finish that repels liquid, including stains.

So, if you apply it, the stain won’t stick and the finish will turn tacky. You must remove the glossy layer of the finish first, and then stain over it.

Can You Re-stain Deck Stain?

You can’t re-stain deck stain as it’s formulated with additives that make its finish moisture and weather-resistant. Its finish is hard and impermeable, so a new coating won’t penetrate or stick over it.

You must remove the existing finish before re-staining it.

Can you Re-stain Stained Concrete?

You can’t re-stain stained concrete as its finish is formulated with etching (or acidic) additives that aren’t compatible with most finishes. You can only re-stain it with an acidic or water-based stain.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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