Preparing a varnished wood surface properly before painting is important. This guide is about painting over varnish.
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Here are questions related to Painting Over Varnish.
What is the least intensive way to paint over varnish?
By Randi from Williamsburg, KY
What is TSP? I live in Europe and might be able to get it if I know the full chemical name.
What is the best way to paint over varnished doors and doorways that are very dark?
By Shir from Sydney, Australia
By Frugal Sunnie01/20/2012
The very best way is to remove the doors and sand the varnish off. Then use a good primer, and paint the colour you want. The sanding removes the varnish that if left on could cause your paint job to peel and look nasty; the primer creates a paintable barrier-the paint goes on and stays on, but you don't have the paint soaking into the wood and causing you to need more than three coats to get good coverage.
Another, quicker way to paint a varnished surface, is to 'rough' the surface of the varnish with either a commercial product like TSP (labelled as a cleaner), or a homemade rougher like vinegar and water. Apply wearing protective gloves, and use a nylon scrubber pad.
Roughing the surface should break the chemical bond the varnish has with the wood, and makes it easier to paint over without having to worry about the new paint peeling. It doesn't always work, though, so the best thing to do really is to sand the varnish off and start with bare wood.
I've heard that it's possible to paint over varnish without sanding by using Zinsser BIN primer. Has anyone tried this?
By Janis T.
By Elaine S.10/14/2011
Yes I have done this. But I still think it is better to go over it with some rough sandpaper first. You don't have to sand that much and it makes the primer adhere better in my opinion. If you absolutely don't want to sand, they make a liquid sand that works very well. It is sold anywhere where they sell paint.
I've seen some older posts already about painting directly over varnished furniture, but it's not exactly the same problem that I have. I was just wondering, I have a small, mahogany corner shelf unit that someone forgot to move when we were oil-painting the door next to it.
It's full of white spatters, but I don't want to toss it if I can paint over it to hide the spatters. It's very hot here where I live, would it be a good idea to stick it outside in the hot sun so as to fade away the varnish before I paint it. Sanding it down is too difficult as it is full of carvings and swirls. Anybody have any suggestions?
By Cettina from Malta, Europe
Never heard of such a thing as liquid sandpaper but the concept seems exactly what I need. Thanks for the suggestion. I will go and see if such a thing is available in my country.
I have brown, I think varnished (it has a shiny coat on it, I assume it's varnish), trim in my bathroom. I want to paint it white and was hoping I wouldn't have to do any sanding before hand. Can I add Kilz or some type of primer to the area before I paint and avoid sanding?
By Shirley Darby09/13/2011
Any finish should be prepared before painting. Find some "liquid sandpaper" at your paint store, and follow the instructions exactly. 'Paso' is the best I've ever used, but it can be hard to find. Only one store in our city carries it. I haven't looked online.
I've already made the mistake of painting two coats of enamel over varnished cabinets. The yellow streaks still bleed through. What product can I use to correct this mistake without starting over?
By Jeff B.
I have hardwood window frames (mahogany). I want to paint them gloss white to smarten them up. What is the best way of going about this?
By Alan from Liverpool
My question is, should I paint the door first or varnish it first? Please offer suggestions, because the sun's rays are reflecting directly on our front door.
Can I use water based varnish on previously petroleum based varnished floors? The drying time is the main factor in this regard.
By Frugal Sunnie07/27/2013
If you use a water based application on an oil based surface you will have bigger problems than just a prolonged drying time. First and most important of those problems is that the water based application will not be able to form a bond with the oil based application - this will lead to peeling/blistering and will look awful.
Prepare your surface properly before attempting the water based application for long-lasting, high quality results. A bit of elbow greased effort now will save you a lot of elbow greased effort to repair the horrid mess of applying any finish to an improperly prepared surface, not to mention the amount of money you will save doing it right the first time!
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I want to paint my bathroom vanity and door. It is varnished and I want to paint over it. Since it is in the bathroom will the paint peel off because of the moisture in the bathroom?
Pat from Ohio
No need to use Kiltz, it isn't designed to adhere to slick surfaces. Zinsser makes a primer called Cover Stain. Valspar makes one called Glossy Surface Primer. They should both work on the varnish and the laminate. With either of these, it is still best to slightly rough up the surface with 60 or 100 grit sandpaper (wear a dust mask). There is also a product called Liquid Sandpaper that claims you don't have to use sand paper, but save your money and time and just use sandpaper. Clean with a solution of TSP, rinse very well to make sure you don't leave a residue (Jomax makes a TSP that you shouldn't have to rinse). Allow the surface to dry, fill any scratches or holes with spackle or wood putty. Once the putty is dry, sand it smooth, then prime. Both of these primers are oil based so they smell very strong, make sure you have the windows open and a fan pulling air out of the room.
Once the primer is dry, top coat with a quality high gloss or cabinet paint. High gloss paint will last longer and be more chip resistant than other sheen levels. You can top coat oil based primers with latex or acrylic paint. Always make sure that the primer is totally dry before applying the top coat. Use a low nap or foam roller to avoid brush marks where possible (high gloss paint is very thick and may leave brush marks if it dries too quickly). It is best if you can take the cabinet doors off and lay them out in a garage to do all this. This gives you the opportunity to really clean all the hardware. (06/29/2004)
I am wanting to paint over a banister around the stairs with a cream gloss. It is varnished brown at the moment. Is that possible without sanding?
I want to repaint my kitchen table that has varnish on it. I do not want the hassle of sanding and stripping.
I want to paint my old varnished wood cabinets with white enamel. I don't want to strip and sand. Can it be done?