Can You Paint Over Stained Wood?

Yes, you can paint over stained wood. But to do it successfully, there are a number of things to be aware of before you get started. 

Read on to learn how to apply paint to stained wood:

How to Paint over Stained Wood

Follow the steps to paint over stained wood below for long-lasting results. 

  1. Clean the wood using a trisodium phosphate (TSP) cleaner or equivalent to take away grime, dirt, and other debris. Then, make sure to rinse the surface with water and let it dry.
  2. Remove any scratches, chips, or failures in the stained surface with a scraper or wire brush. 
  3. Sand the area using a 150-grit sandpaper so the paint has something to adhere to.
  4. Reclean the surface with a tack cloth to gather the remaining dust and debris. 
  5. Apply stain-blocking primer to the wooden surface to help seal it and prevent bleed-through. Use either oil-based or water-based primer, whichever matches the existing stain. Keep in mind that oil-based primers are usually used for projects that require a tight seal and are ideal for unfinished or bare wood in outdoor spaces. Water-based primers, on the other hand, are better suited for indoor areas due to low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Use this information to help you determine if the previous stain is oil-based or water-based.
  6. Wipe the wood again with a fresh tack cloth to get rid of any remaining wet spots. 
  7. Paint the area with latex or oil-based paint using a roller or paintbrush. Use latex primer and paint over a water-based wood stain or oil-based paint and primer over an oil-based wood stain. Apply even coats to small sections at a time and then let the paint dry before adding another coat.
  8. Wait for the paint to dry before using the surface or adding décor. Check the paint can label for paint drying time. 

Types of Paint Used Over Stained Wood 

When choosing which paint to use over stained wood, make sure it’s the same type as the stain you’re working with ― oil-based paint over oil-based stain and water-based paint over water-based stain.

Explore the table below to learn about each paint type and the stain best suited for it:

Paint Type



Primer Needed


Works for covering oil-based stains and suitable for use in high-traffic areas

Provides a durable, long lasting finish 

Oil-based primer 


Water-based paint to use over a water-based stain

Dries fairly quickly and is known to emit low odor and VOCs (volatile organic compounds)

Latex primer 


Water-based, fast-drying paint for use over a water-based stain.

Resilient to mildew and UV light and has low odor and VOCs

Latex or water-based primer

Oil-based enamel 

Creates a sturdy coating and opaque finish that is well-suited for doors, trim, and cabinetry. Use over an oil-based stain. 

Hardens for a long-lasting paint job that is also resistant to mildew and UV light

Oil-based primer

Oil-based polyurethane

Contains petroleum and mineral solvents; creates a smooth and hard-wearing coating for floors or other surfaces. Use over an oil-based stain.

Offers superior scrape and scratch resistance

Oil-based primer

FAQs About Painting Over Wood Stain

Can you paint over stained wood without sanding?

No, you should not paint over stained wood without sanding the surface first. Sanding the area helps the primer and paint settle into the wood and provides a longer-lasting finish. 

Can you paint over stained wood without priming?

No, you should not paint over stained wood without priming first. Primer helps to prevent stain bleed-through and ensures your paint job will last longer.

Can you paint over freshly stained wood?

No, you should not paint over freshly stained wood. The wood needs to dry completely, and the stain needs to be cured fully before applying any paint. The curing time for the stain to dry will depend on the type of stain applied (check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper drying time). 

Can you paint over stained wood without polyurethane?

Yes, painting over stained wood without polyurethane is just fine, and it will not affect your paint job. 

What kind of paint do you use over stained wood?

The paint used over stained wood is typically oil-based, latex, acrylic, oil-based enamel, or oil-based polyurethane. For example, latex paint is ideal when painting over water-based wood stain. 

Is it better to paint or stain old wood?

Whether you stain or paint old wood depends on the condition of the wood and what look you hope to achieve. For example, staining may be better to highlight the wood’s natural grain, while painting can help cover any defects and/or flaws.  

How many coats of primer to use on stained wood?

Typically, a single coat of primer is enough for stained wood that’s in good condition. Two coats, however, may be needed if the wood is in bad shape or soaked up the first coat quickly. 

Need Professional Painting Services?

While painting over a stained piece of furniture or other item may be in your DIY comfort zone, taking on a bigger painting project may require the expertise of a pro. If you have a painting project that requires a professional touch, the experienced pros at your local Five Star Painting® can help. Our painting experts work with state-of-the-art equipment to transform the interior or exterior of your home to give it a whole new look and feel. To get started, request a free estimate and get your next painting project started today!