Can You Stain Over Old Stain? (How-To)

Over time, the stain on a surface will become old and begin to develop swollen bumps. When this happens, can you apply a new coat of stain over the old stain? Here is the answer to that.

You can stain over stain but you need to ensure the old stain wasn’t sealed with a top coat. If the old stain was sealed, you’ll have to remove the sealant before you can apply a new stain coating because the sealant will repel the new stain coat.

Also, the new stain coat has to be compatible with the existing stain. If not, the new stain coat will not stick or perform well. You also need to ensure that the color shade of the old stains is not too dark to prevent bleed-through.

There is much more to know about staining over old stains and this post digs right into the topic. So let’s dive in.

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. However, you need to ensure that the color of the old stain is not darker than the new stain.

If you put a light new stain over a dark old stain, there wouldn’t be much difference in the finish. This is because the dark color of the old stain will tint the light shade of the new stain. This will make the new stain coat have a darker appearance.

The reason for this is that all stains are designed to be transparent so the wood grain can show in the finish. Since stains are transparent, putting a light stain over an existing dark stain means that the finish and the wood will have a dark appearance.

If you want to have a light stain color, you need to strip down the dark stain first then use a primer coating before the light stain coat can be applied. You can also put a dark stain coat over an old light stain. This is because the old coat has a lighter shade and as such can’t affect the shade of the dark new stain coat.

You should also know that you can put a pigmented stain over an old stain. Pigmented stains have enhanced colors and aren’t as transparent as regular stains. So you can put a new color of pigmented stain over an existing stain without stripping the existing stain first. But if the existing stain is pigmented, you need to strip it first.

In simple terms, you can put a new color over an old stain but the old stain shouldn’t be darker than the new stain. If the existing stain is darker, you should remove it first so the finish doesn’t appear darker. But you can put a dark stain over a light stain without removing it first.

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

You don’t have to remove old stain before re-staining as long as the old stain wouldn’t affect the adhesion, performance, or color of the new stain. You should only remove the old stain if it was sealed with a top coat or if the shade of the old stain is too dark for the new stain.

When you want to re-stain, most painters will advise you to remove the old stain before you apply a new stain coating. This is to allow the new stain to stick and perform well. However, you don’t have to remove the old stain before re-coating.

For instance, if the new stain to be applied has the same color as the old stain, you don’t have to remove the old stain. All you need to do in this case is to clean the old stain so the finish can come out smooth.

But if the old stain was sealed, you need to remove it before re-staining. This is because the sealant will prevent the new stain from penetrating. Since the new stain can’t penetrate, it wouldn’t stick well and the finish will become very tacky. Also, if the old stain has a darker shade than the new stain, it’s better to remove the old stain to prevent bleed-through or a dark finish.

You should also remove the old stain if it’s defective. For instance, if the old stain is bumpy, wet, or peeling, you should remove it. This is to prevent the imperfections in the old stain from affecting the finish. To remove an old stain, you have to use a paint stripping paste since stains penetrate deeply and it will be difficult to remove the old stain using any other method asides from stripping it.

Now, let’s check out how to stain over stain.

How To Stain Over Old Stain? (5 Simple Steps)

To stain over old stain, you’ll need the following tools and supplies:

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

Here is a quick rundown of how to stain over stain:

  1. Prep your work area
  2. Remove the old stain (optional)
  3. Sand the surface
  4. Apply a coat of stain primer
  5. Apply the new stain

Now, let’s get to work.

1. Prep Your Work Area

Prep Your Work Area

The first step in staining over stain is to prepare the work area. Start by taping a large drop sheet on the floor beneath the item to be stained. The drop sheet will collect debris, dust, and stain that fall to the ground. This prevents stains and damages to the floor. After, put on a pair of work gloves and breathing protection.

You should also find out the type of old stain that was used on the surface. This will determine how the rest of the task goes. To find out the type of stain put water on a cloth and use the damp cloth to wipe the old stain. If the stain comes off, the stain is water-based. If the stain doesn’t come off, it’s an oil-based stain. If the stain coating is shiny, it means that the stain was sealed.

2. Remove The Old Stain (Optional)

Remove The Old Stain

If the stain is oil-based or was sealed with a top coat, you need to remove the stain before you can re-stain. This is because oil-based stains and sealants will prevent the new stain from penetrating or sticking well.

If the stain is water-based, you don’t have to remove it unless the water-based stain has a darker shade than the new stain that you want to apply.

To remove the old stain, apply a few coats of a paint stripping compound on the old stain. Then wait for a few minutes for the paint stripper to absorb the stain before scraping all of it off the surface.

3. Sand The Surface

Sand The Surface

After removing the old stain, you should sand the surface first with medium-grit sandpaper. Then finish off with fine-grit sandpaper to smoothen the surface.

You should also sand even if you didn’t remove the old stain since sanding also helps to clear out debris. After sanding, ensure to vacuum dust from the surface. Then you can use painter’s tape to demarcate the surface if necessary.

4. Apply A Coat Of Stain Primer

Apply A Coat Of Stain Primer

Though stains don’t usually need a primer coating, applying at least a coat of stain primer will improve the smoothness of the finish. Ensure to use a stain primer that is compatible with the new stain.

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

5. Apply The New Stain

Apply The New Stain

The final step is to apply the stain. You can do this using a paintbrush, foam brush, or spray gun. If you’ll be using a spray gun, ensure to use a spray shield or cardboard to prevent overspray.

You can apply up to 5 coats of the new stain depending on how deep you want the finish to be. Since stains penetrate, ensure to leave enough time between coats for the stain to penetrate and dry properly.

If you’ll like a dark finish, you should seal the stain with gel or use a gel stain. If you want a light or transparent finish, pick an oil-based stain like Varathane. You can also thin the stain to achieve a lighter finish.

Different Types of Stain You Can Stain Over

Here are some types of stain you can stain over:

Oil-Based Stain Over Water-Based Stain?

You can put oil-based stain over water-based stain because water-based stains don’t have a natural glossy top layer or paint chemicals that will repel the oil-based stain.

However, you need to ensure that the water-based stain is completely dry before you can put an oil-based stain over it. If the water-based stain isn’t dry, the oil-based stain will not stick properly. This is because the water in the old stain will be separated from the oils in the oil-based stain.

If you put oil-based stain over water-based stain that isn’t dry, the stain will not stick or dry properly and the finish will become tacky or sticky.

Water-based Stain Over Oil-Based Stain?

You can’t put a water-based stain over an oil-based stain. This is because oil-based stains have a natural glossy layer that will prevent the water-based stain from sticking.

Also, the oils in the oil-based stain will repel the water-based stain since oil and water aren’t compatible. To put a water-based stain over an old oil-based stain, you need to remove the oil-based stain first with a paint stripper.

Stain Over Stain On A Deck?

It’s generally not advised to stain over stain on a deck. This is because deck stains are usually formulated with additives to make the stain coating moisture and weather resistant. Also, deck stains are usually very hard and impermeable meaning that a new coat of stain wouldn’t penetrate the deck stain.

If you put stain over deck stain, the new stain wouldn’t penetrate or stick properly. Also, the finish will become very sticky and it would take very little effort to wipe or remove the new stain.

To stain over stain on a deck, you need to strip down the old stain first so the new stain can adhere properly. You should also know that if you are staining over stain on a deck, it’s better to use an exterior stain since the finish will be outdoors and exposed to the elements.

Stain Over Stained Concrete?

You can stain over stained concrete but you’ll need to sand the old stain first to allow the finish to come out smooth. You should also know that the type of stain used on concrete is acid stain.

The stain is formulated with etching (or acidic) additives so the stain can penetrate the hard concrete material. As such, you shouldn’t use an oil-based stain over stained concrete as the acidic compounds in the old stain can react with the chemicals and oils in the oil-based stain. To stain over stained concrete, you should use an acidic stain or a water-based stain.

Final Words

Overall, it’s possible to stain over stain. You just need to do the right prep work and ensure to use a stain that is compatible with the old stain. As long as you follow the right steps, the new stain will stick and perform well. Also, remember to remove the old stain if it is oil-based or was sealed with a top coat.

Leave a Comment