Can You Stain Over Paint? (Everything You Need To Know)

Regardless of how durable paint is, it will fade after a while. When this happens, can you stain over the paint?

You can stain over paint but this is usually ideal for small-scale tasks and quick fixes. To stain over paint for a large-scale project, you’ll need to strip the paint first.

If you apply stain over paint directly, the stain will not stick very well. This is because the stain will not penetrate the wood as it’s supposed to leading to weak adhesion.

Also, the finish will give a rustic old appearance. Since the stain doesn’t penetrate the wood, the colors will not be absorbed which makes them fade quickly.

What Happens If You Put Stain Over Paint?

When you stain over paint directly, the stain doesn’t adhere properly. The weak adhesion causes the stain to get damaged quickly especially if the stain was used outdoors and exposed to the elements. The reason for the weak adhesion is the design of the stain.

Stains have a different design from paints. While paints are designed to adhere to and stay on the wood, stains are designed to penetrate the wood. Some wood stains like Danish Oil soak into the wood grain deeply. So wood stains are ideal for unfinished wood since the stain can penetrate the wood grain.

If you stain over paint, the paint wouldn’t allow the stain to properly penetrate the wood grain. The paint coating will serve as a barrier to the stain. This means the stain wouldn’t stick to the wood.

Since the stain doesn’t stick well, it will be easily affected by moisture and heat that can cause the paint to blister and peel off.

Asides from this, the finish that you get will also look dull. Wood stain needs to penetrate the wood so the color can be set. Since the stain can’t penetrate the painted wood properly, there is nothing for the color to soak into which means it will air-dry.

This will make the finish look dull and rusty. However, you should remember that all of these only happen if you stain over paint directly.

To properly apply stain over paint, you can’t do so directly. You’ll first need to remove nor sand the paint first. This will abrade the paint creating pores for the stain to soak into when applied. This way, the stain will stick well and the color will come out bright.

Related Read: Can You Paint Over Stain?

Types of Stains You Can Use Over Paint

Types of Stains You Can Use Over Paint

Gel Stain

You can use gel stain over paint. When it comes to staining already-painted wood, the best stain to use is gel stain. This is because unlike other types of stains, gel stain is a topical wood stain meaning that it doesn’t have to penetrate the wood to stick well. Gel stain is even considered to some as a sealant since you can put it over paint.

Gel stain also has good coverage. So, one coat is sure to cover a large area which means you will use less gel stain. Good coverage also means that gel stain will cover holes, cracks, and imperfections in the surface.

However, you should ensure to wipe off the excess gel stain to prevent the finish from turning sticky. This is because gel stain has a gooey or jelly flow that takes a long time to dry. So if you don’t wipe off the excess gel stain, the finish will turn sticky.

Related Read: Stain vs Paint

Wood Stain

You can only use wood stain over paint if you properly scrape and sand the paint first. This is because wood stain is designed to fully penetrate the wood.

Wood stains are commonly called wood dye since the stain penetrates the wood so well that the color completely changes the natural color of the wood.

So if you put wood stain over paint without sanding first, the wood stain will not penetrate very well.

Deck Stain

You can’t use deck stain over paint except you remove the paint first. This is because deck stains will not stay on the paint. Deck stains need to penetrate the wood to stick properly and create a coating that will protect the deck from the elements, foot traffic, and weight.

If you use deck stain without removing the paint first, the stain will not dry and will turn into a sticky mess in a few days. If you walk on the deck, you’ll be removing wood stain particles from your shoe.

Lacquer Stain

You can use lacquer stain over water-based and latex paints. Oil-based paints will need to be stripped and sanded before lacquer can stay on the surface.

Now, let’s check out how to stain over paint in 5 simple steps.

How To Stain Over Paint (In 5 Easy Steps)?

To stain over paint, you’ll need a few tools and supplies:

  • A drop sheet
  • Sandpaper
  • A soft brush
  • A paintbrush (preferably, a synthetic-bristled brush).
  • Paint Mixer
  • A bucket
  • Paint stripper (optional)

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

  1. Test the stain
  2. Strip or sand the paint
  3. Mix the stain
  4. Apply the stain

Now, let’s go into detail.

1. Test The Stain

Test The Stain

The first step is to prepare your workspace. Start by placing a large drop sheet or nylon on the floor around the object to be stained. The drop sheet will prevent paint splashes and dust from falling to the floor.

Then, test the stain on the paint by applying the stain directly to a painted area of the wood. You should apply the stain on a concealed area of the wood so if there is any fault, it wouldn’t be obvious.

This step is to know if you’ll need to remove the paint or if light sanding is required before you can stain. In some cases, this step also helps you to know if you can apply the stain directly over the paint.

After applying the stain, leave it to dry. Then check if there are any faults in the finish. If the stain takes too long to get dry, becomes tacky, gets lumpy, reveals blisters, or looks dull, you’ll need to remove the paint before going on with your project.

If the stain goes on fine and dries well after testing it, then you can go ahead with just light sanding.

2. Strip Or Sand The Paint

Strip Or Sand The Paint

After testing the stain, you’ll know if you need to remove or sand the paint. To remove the paint, use a paint scraper or a paint stripper. To sand the wood, use medium-grit sandpaper.

If you’ll be sanding the wood, you don’t need to sand the entire surface. Just sand down the stress areas of the wood. Stress areas are parts of the wood that will be used heavily. For instance, on a chair, a stress area will be the arms. On a table, a stress area will be the tabletop.

The stress areas are where the stain will start to fade or come off first . When you sand the stress areas, you’ll remove the paint there. This will make the stain penetrate and stick well so the finish can cope with heavy use without tearing off.

3. Mix The Stain

Mix The Stain

You’ll need to stir or mix the stain before applying it. This is to make every coat have the same consistency and color.

4. Apply The Stain

Apply The Stain

The final step is to apply the stain. You’ll need at least 2 coats of the stain. You should use a synthetic-bristled paintbrush to apply the stain. After, ensure to wipe off the excess wood stain so the finish doesn’t turn sticky.

Types of Paint You Can Stain Over

Latex Paint

You can stain over latex paint. But, you should only put water-based stains over latex paint. Since latex paint is water-based, it will be compatible with water-based stains.

To put an oil-based stain over latex paint, you’ll need to strip or sand the latex paint first especially if it’s exterior latex paint. This is because oil-based stains don’t adhere to latex paints so the latex paint has to go.

You should know that you can put gel stain over latex paint though gel stain is oil-based. This is because gel stain doesn’t need to penetrate the latex paint. As explained earlier, gel stain is more of a sealant.

Chalk Paint

You can apply stain over chalk paint as long as the chalk paint wasn’t sealed or waxed. Chalk paints are water-based paints so the stain will easily adhere to chalk finish. On a distressed chalk finish, a water-based stain will adhere properly since the paint has been sanded.

You should know that oil-based stains don’t do very well on chalk. Also, if the chalk paint was sealed or waxed, you can’t put a stain over it without removing the wax or sealant first. Wax can be removed with mineral spirits.

Polyurethane Paint

You can’t stain over polyurethane. This is because polyurethane is a clear plastic that will not allow any type of stain to penetrate or even stick to it. To stain over polyurethane, you’ll need to remove the polyurethane paint first. You’ll most likely need a chemical-based paint stripper for this.

Enamel Paint

You can’t apply stain over enamel paint because enamel paint dries hard. When the enamel paint is dry, it becomes very hard and usually glossy. The texture of the finish will prevent the stain from sticking or penetrating. You’ll also need to remove enamel paint before staining.

Acrylic Paint

You can put water-based stain over acrylic paint because acrylic paint is water-based and less likely to repel stain. Acrylic paints don’t do very well with oil stains so you’ll need to sand the acrylic paint first.

You shouldn’t put any type of stain over exterior acrylic paint because this acrylic paint is water-resistant and hard.

Types Of Paints Not To Stain Over?

The following types of paints shouldn’t be stained:

  • Exterior paints. These paints have additives and chemicals that will repel stains.
  • Sealants. These paints are usually hard and non-porous meaning that stain will never penetrate.
  • Metal paints. It’s generally not recommended to stain over metal or engine paints like Rust-oleum paint. These paints usually contain compounds like cellulose that will repel stains.

Can You Stain Over Paint Without Sanding?

In most cases, you can’t stain over paint without sanding first. The purpose of sanding before staining is to allow the stain to penetrate the wood and stick well. If you don’t sand before staining, you risk poor adhesion and premature peeling of the stain.

When you sand, you remove small pieces of the paint. You also create tiny gaps in the paint that the stain can sift through to reach the wood underneath. This will guarantee both paint adhesion and a bright finish.

However, you can stain without sanding if the stain doesn’t need to penetrate. For instance, gel stain can be applied on paint without sanding since gel stain is a topical stain.

You can also apply stain over paint without sanding if you are taking on a small-scale task or you need a quick fix. For instance, if you want to flip a piece of old furniture for quick cash, you can stain over the paint to make the furniture look attractive. But when you need a durable and smooth finish, you’ll need to sand before staining over paint.

Final Words

Overall, staining over paint is possible but to get good results, you’ll need to clean and strip or sand the paint first.

Remember not to stain over sealants, metal, and exterior paints because these paints wouldn’t accept the wood stain. Also, always use a stain that is compatible or has the same base as the paint.

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