Can You Stain Over Painted Wood?

Photo of a wooden platform painted white.
Wood is an exceptionally strong and durable material, used in the production of furnishings and flooring, for use both indoors and outdoors. In order to withstand the test of time and increase the aesthetic appeal of this organic material, a finish must be applied with options including either paint or stain. Paint offers the greatest versatility with unlimited color choices to match any decor, and can be easily applied over stain, but can you stain over painted wood? The short answer is yes, but before you begin, consider these tips from the pros at Five Star Painting.

Wood Stain vs. Paint

Paint roller in light brown paint.

Your choice of coverage depends on a number of factors including application, intended use, and individual preference. Paint offers an unlimited number of color choices and can easily cover flaws or blemishes within the wood, while stain helps to highlight its natural beauty for a more rustic flair. When properly applied, both materials help to seal and protect the natural grain and may help to prevent damage or fading. The pros and cons of each include:



  • Faster drying time
  • Enhances natural wood grain
  • Variety of options for color and opacity


  • May require more prep work to hide flaws
  • Maintenance includes periodic sealing and restaining



  • Unlimited color choices
  • Hides a multitude of flaws
  • Consistent, even finish


  • Longer drying time
  • Outdoor surfaces such as decking require periodic refinishing
  • More labor-intensive to reverse the process of stain application

How to Prepare a Painted Wood Surface for Staining

Whether you've grown tired of the look of your painted deck or furnishings, or simply want to restore the natural beauty of the wood, the time you invest in preparing the surface will determine your satisfaction with the finished product. Consider the following tips, which outline this labor-intensive process to ensure the successful completion of your project.


  • Scraper
  • Chemical paint stripper
  • Strong detergents such as trisodium phosphate (TSP)
  • Drop cloths
  • Water
  • Scrub brush
  • Clean rags
  • Waterproof gloves
  • Goggles
  • Wood brightener
  • Sandpaper
  • Water or oil-based stain
  • Applicator
  • Sealer

Step One: Remove the Paint

The method used to remove old paint will depend on the condition it's in and how many layers of paint lay below the surface. Begin by using your scraper to remove the paint from a small section to determine the best solution. Scrape as much paint as you can from the surface, using a combination scraping, chemical strippers, and sanding to reveal the bare wood, or consider leaving a bit of paint behind to give the wood a unique patina.

Step Two: Clean the Wood

Person in boots power washing wooden deck.

Prior to staining it's important to clean the wood to remove any stains or mildew and eliminate graying, and perform any necessary repairs. Scrub the surface using a stiff brush and the cleaner of your choice, or for larger areas use a power washer. Allow the wood to dry thoroughly before proceeding to ensure the stain adheres (this can take several days for exterior surfaces depending on the climate and weather).

Step Three: Apply the Stain

For outdoor surfaces such as your deck, perform one last sweep to remove dust and debris. Apply the stain according to the directions on the label with consideration for the following:

  • Stir before applying for consistent coloring
  • Apply a second coat for a more intense finish
  • Seal the surface for maximum protection

For a professional finish trust the experts at Five Star Painting for all your interior and exterior painting needs. Complete your backyard makeover with more outdoor patio ideas, to make the most of your outdoor living space.