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

Over time, wood stain starts to look old and varnish. So, can you apply another stain coating over it?

You can apply wood stain over old stain. But, the old stain shouldn’t be sealed and must have the same solvent. For instance, you can’t apply a water-based stain over an oil-based stain. But, you can apply an oil-based stain over a water-based stain. 

Also, the new coating must have similar color shades to prevent bleed-through. If you apply a new coating with a different color shade, you must apply up to 3 coats to prevent bleed-through. 

Staining a New Color

Can You Stain A New Color Over Old Stain

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

If you want a lighter color shade, sand (or remove) the dark finish first, apply a primer, and then apply the light coat. If you apply a light stain coat directly over a dark stain, the dark coating underneath will bleed through. The darker the existing coating is, the more coats you need to prevent the bleed-through. 

You can also put a pigmented stain over an old stained surface. Pigmented stains have enhanced colors and aren’t as transparent as regular stains. So, you can apply it an old stain and change its color without having to remove it. However, if the old coating is also pigmented, you must remove it. 

In simple terms, you can change the color of a stained surface but the new coating shouldn’t have a lighter color shade. That’s because the old coating will bleed through.

Don’t Remove The Old Stain Before Re-staining

You don’t have to remove the old stain coating before re-staining it. That’s because a stained surface doesn’t have a glossy appearance that repels a new coating. So, a new wood stain coating will stick over an old wood stain. 

However, if the stained surface is sealed or painted over, you must remove the finish. That’s because a sealer will prevent a new coating from penetrating the wood and sticking. If the wood stain can’t penetrate the surface, it will turn tacky and won’t stick. 

Also, if the old coating is sticky, wet, or peeling, you must remove it before applying a new stain coating. That’s because the wood stain coating won’t stick over a peeling or sticky finish. To remove it, use a paint-stripping paste because the stain penetrates the wood deeply and is hard to remove it. 

However, if the old wood stain coating is even, has no bumps, and isn’t sealed, you can apply a new coating directly over it.

How To Stain Over Old Stain?

Staining over old stain is easy. Here are the tools you need:

  • 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. 

Different Types of Stain

Oil-Based Over Water-Based Stain

You can use an oil-based over a water-based stain. That’s because the water-based stain has a dry textured finish and not a glossy finish that repels liquid. However, 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. 

Water-based Over Oil-Based Stain

You can’t apply a water-based over an oil-based stain. That’s because oil-based stains have 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. 

Deck Stain

You shouldn’t stain over an old stain deck. That’s because stain decks are formulated with additives that make the finish moisture and weather-resistant. So, its finish is hard and impermeable, meaning a new stain won’t penetrate it or stick over it. 

If you apply a new stain over an old deck stain, the new coating won’t stick and will turn tacky.

Stained Concrete

You must remove the concrete stain before applying a new coat of stain. That’s because concrete stains are formulated with etching (or acidic) additives so the stain can penetrate the hard concrete material. So, you shouldn’t use regular stain over it as they aren’t compatible. You can only stain over it with acidic or water-based stains. 

Final Words

You can stain over an old stain but they must be compatible and have the same solvent. Also, if you use a stain with a lighter color shade, you must apply more coats to prevent bleed-through. 

Tony Adams
Tony Adams

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,

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