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How to paint over wood stain

When it comes to painting over wood stain, you may encounter problems that can make it seem like a daunting task. Stained wood is often sealed with a protective varnish, and paint does not adhere well to the glossy surface. Stripping off wood stain is time consuming and may cause surface damage with the wrong products. Unsealed wood stain can bleed through and ruin your paint job. However, with a few items from your home improvement centre, painting over wood stain can be done in several easy steps.

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  1. Fill a large bucket with warm water. Add 1/4 cup of TSP per gallon of water. TSP products are found in the cleaning section of a hardware store. If you prefer, a TSP-substitute can be used. Krud-Kutter is another alternative. Wear gloves before handling the solution. Use a sponge to wash away grease, oil and dirt from the surface. Allow wood to completely dry.

  2. If the wood appears to be varnished or has a glossy coat, lightly sand entire surface with sandpaper. Do this by hand or with a hand sander.

  3. Wipe the wood surface with a clean rag moistened with water. Make sure all the fine sanding particles are removed.

  4. Apply an oil-based primer with a paint brush. Use a roller brush on flat surfaces. Some primers that can be applied over wood stain are Kilz Original and Zinsser Cover-Stain. Allow primer to dry.

  5. Use a paint brush or roller to apply a latex-based paint of your choice. Satin enamel will provide a matt coverage, while semigloss will give the wood a nice sheen. High gloss may be used on heavy traffic surfaces, such as kitchen cabinets. Allow top coat to thoroughly dry.

  6. Apply a second coat of paint. Allow several hours for paint to set.

  7. Tip

    If you are painting over stained redwood or cedar, use a stain-blocking primer to seal the stain and prevent it from bleeding through. Zinsser B-I-N and Kilz Premium are two good examples of stain-blocking primers.


    Overexposure to fumes from primer and latex paint can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and vomiting. Make sure your work area is well-ventilated. Avoid prolonged skin contact as these products may cause irritation, dryness and dermatitis.

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Things You'll Need

  • Large bucket
  • TSP (trisodium phosphate)
  • Gloves
  • Sponge
  • Medium to fine sandpaper
  • Clean rags
  • Oil-based primer
  • Paint brushes and/or rollers
  • Latex-based paint

About the Author

Tanya Soraya Ruys is a published author who writes about home improvement, interior design, alternative medicine, culture, film and social media. She is currently working on her master's thesis in film and creative writing at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif.

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