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Painting Over Varnish

What is the least intensive way to paint over varnish?

By Randi from Williamsburg, KY


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July 5, 20050 found this helpful

My sister bought a really nice house but for some reason the kitchen cupboards are made of plywood. In an attempt to make them look good, they've been varnished too many times-and each coat is THICK. She wants me to help paint them-I think they should be stripped first, she doesn't. Does anyone have any experience with painting over varnish? What kind of paint did you use? If you stripped it, did you put on a sealer and then paint?

Also, there is one cabinet that is laminated-how does one paint over that? Please help!!

Elisabeth from Milwaukee

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April 12, 20110 found this helpful

TSP bought at Lowe's or Home Depot should be used first. Just mix specified amount in water and scrub surface. Do this a few more times to make sure it's gone over well. Make sure you rinse it off well and follow the directions using rubber gloves. When dry, apply Kilz primer which comes in a few choices. You will need to apply extra coats before you can paint. This will cover up the wood nicely. We used this process on old panel walls before painting over it and had no bleed through.

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April 14, 20111 found this helpful

You do not have to strip the cabinets BUT, you do need to sand them well and as Lorelei said, use TSP to clean them. You could also use a liquid sander. Then I would use the best primer there is which is made by Zinser. (not sure if I spelled that right) but any home store has it and will know what you mean. Then paint it after all that is dried.

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April 14, 20110 found this helpful

I painted over a varnished piece of furniture very successfully by leaving it out in the hot sun. I have the advantage (?) of living in a country with very hot summers so that the sun would bleach out the varnish. After a few days, I painted over it with no problems at all. Hope this helps.

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April 17, 20110 found this helpful

I painted over every door in my condo, all were varnished, that's 9 doors on both sides, and 6 that are part of double sliding or bi-fold doors of which I only did the visible side, plus the interior surface of the two doors going outside.

I used a power sander just to scratch the surface, but not to remove all the varnish, then 1 coat of Zinsser's Bullseye 123 Primer, and then 3 coats of semi-gloss paint. I don't know how long ago that was, at least 10 or 12 years ago--and they still look great. There are just a few tiny nicks which I can touch up with leftover paint.

It's the best thing I did to this place, the doors were very dark and made the condo look very dreary. Now they're a creamy white and brighten every room. I left the trim the way it was a medium stain.

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April 17, 20110 found this helpful

What is TSP? I live in Europe and might be able to get it if I know the full chemical name.

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May 5, 20170 found this helpful

Tri sodium phosphate

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May 12, 20170 found this helpful

Tri Sodium Phosphate

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April 19, 20170 found this helpful

Zinsser cover stain is an oil base primer sealer and "bond" coat and is my go to product for all questionable substrates on interior painting also as a rule can not paint latex over oil thats where the zinsser comes in as it is oil base and an exellent base coat for latex even though it breaks the rule (latex over oil) it is made for that


The other note depending on the surface you may want to clean first with tri sodium phosphate commonly known as TSP as a cleaner for greasey areas perhaps around the door knob but not entirely neccesary and a third recco would be a light scuff coat with sand paper depending on how far you want to go but again not necessary with the zinsser cover stain (primer sealer bond coat) another product would be called willbond but havent seen that product around lately and if i remeber correctly would be used for such things as painting paneling,,,,,,,, zinsser cover stain primer stain blocker seal coat works exellent,,,, may want to open a window as it is an oil product and dont think you will succeed with any latex primers

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