Stain Over Paint: Can You Do It and What Is the Best Technique?

How to Stain Over Paint

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Here’s a question that often comes up in DIY circles – “Can you apply stain over a painted surface?” The answers here are often mixed, not least because most craftsmen don’t see any advantage to trying to stain an already painted surface.

The question still persists, though, so it’s time to answer it head on.

This guide will highlight several instances in which applying stain over paint may be a viable DIY job. At the same time, this guide will outline occasions when applying stain over paint isn’t worth the effort. With this information, you should be able to efficiently determine if you can make a productive DIY job out of staining a painted wood or concrete surface in your home.

Can You Stain Over Paint on Wood and Concrete?

When it comes to wood and concrete surfaces, you can apply stain over an existing layer of paint. However, there’s a more pertinent question at play here. Rather than asking if you can perform this procedure successfully, you should instead be considering whether staining a painted surface in your home is even worth it.

For some DIYers, this procedure may be worth the effort. Specifically, those looking to create a “distressed” appearance on the surface of their wood fixtures may able to make the most of a stain-over-paint treatment. On the other hand, those looking to create a consistent, durable stain coat over their painted wood or concrete surface may find their results less than satisfying.

Regardless of what end result you are shooting for, you may be more interested in whether or not a stain-over-paint treatment will work in your specific situation. Here are three of the most common implementations of stain over a painted surface, both indoors and outdoors.

Can You Stain Over Paint on a Deck?

Yes, you can. However, doing so will not have the same effect as applying stain and then later painting over the deck wood. This is because deck stain (which is typically made to tolerate all-seasons outdoor conditions) is designed to absorb into the wood upon which it is applied. Your stain will be unable to do this if the deck in question already has a consistent layer of paint upon it.

That being said, stain can be applied to a wood deck that previously had paint upon it. However, some amount of effort will be needed in advance in order to remove all of that paint from the deck’s outer surface. Given how much work this entails, it is not a recommended course of action.

Can You Stain Over Painted Cabinets?

Typically, an indoor wood stain would be used to alter a wood cabinet’s exterior color (often towards a darker, richer wood hue). In order to achieve this result, indoor wood stains usually contain colorants that interact with the wood it covers. If it is applied to a painted surface, this process cannot take place. Worse yet, it may actually damage or alter the painted surface beneath.

Some homeowners actually prefer this altered appearance because it partially resembled the effects of aged wood. As a result, they still choose to stain a painted cabinet. If you choose to do the same, all hardware including knobs and hinges should be removed first. Also, special attention must be paid to ingrained patterns in order to ensure even application.

Can You Stain Over Painted Concrete?

In a theoretical sense, yes, you can apply concrete stain over a painted concrete floor or wall. However, that stain will not take hold of the painted surface at all, leading to a suboptimal coating that may not protect the painted surface beneath. As such, a stain-over-paint procedure is not recommended for most concrete structures.

That being said, you still have the option to remove the old painted surface and replacing it with a stain coat or two. Doing this will require you to remove all of the old paint by hand, which can often be accomplished with a strong power washer.

How to Stain Over Paint: A Step-by-Step Guide

In case you read through the above and still decided to go ahead with the procedure, below is a step-by-step description of the process.

Step #1: Wear PPE

If you choose to apply stain over a painted surface in or near your home, you should begin by properly equipping yourself wit personal protective equipment (PPE). Because this job will likely require removing some amount of paint, this should include a face mask or respirator. In addition, it is recommended that you wear gloves, head covering, and eye protection to prevent paint chips from settling on your skin or in your eyes.

Also, as its name suggests, wood or concrete stain will leave your clothing permanently marked if it soaks into it. As such, it is further recommended that you wear clothing that you do not mind dirtying.

Step #2: Clean and Prepare the Surface

Your next steps will depend on whether you are choosing to stain over a painted surface or remove a paint coating before applying a stain. For the former procedure, begin by wiping your entire work surface clean. If you are working with an outdoor surface, this may even require power washing to remove ground in dirt and debris. Once this is done, you can move on to the next step.

However, if you are instead planning on removing the old surface paint, you’ll want to procure fine grain sandpaper or a wire brush. Use these items to scrub the painted surface until as much paint as possible is removed. This may also require you to use some paint remover, which should always be used carefully. Once the paint is removed, its chips should be cleaned up and any paint removed used should be cleaned away.

Step #3: Apply Stain

Once your work surface is prepared, you’ll begin applying your stain of choice.

If you are doing this on a fixture with intricate corners or edges, a small foam brush should suffice for this purpose. However, a large roller brush may instead be suitable when trying to cover, for example, a large concrete floor.

Work slowly and methodically to ensure full coverage.

Step #4: Allow Drying and Repeat Application

After the first coat of stain dries, you may choose to apply a second coat.

This helps fill in coverage gaps and provides a more reliable, durable surface overall.

How Can You Stain Over Paint for Antique Look?

Yes, you can stain over a painted wood surface to achieve what many see as an “antique” or aged finish.

In fact, this is one of the most worthwhile reasons to perform a stain-over-paint procedure. One effective technique for achieving this look can be seen in this video.


Staining over a painted surface may not be for everyone.

After all, it is not the most effective way to utilize wood or concrete stain. However, if you are looking to achieve a certain aesthetic style, it may help you achieve the precise look you are going for. In the end, your best bet would be to test out this process in a discreet location to see if it appeals to you.

Either way, the benefits, drawbacks, and best practices for apply stain over pain should now be clear to you. Be sure to take what you’ve learned here with you when deciding on your next big home DIY project.