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Painting Over Varnish

Category Painting
Preparing a varnished wood surface properly before painting is important. This guide is about painting over varnish.
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August 29, 20170 found this helpful

It is often recommend that you sand any surface thoroughly prior to painting it. Painting over varnish without sanding is not a best practice but it can be done.

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By 0 found this helpful
January 8, 2018

How do I prepare to paint a floor that has been painted and coated with a varnish or polyurethane? It is in a historic building and the floors switch between cement and wood, but all were painted this way.

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January 8, 20180 found this helpful
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The only way to actually do this and preserve the history of the floors and the building is to strip the floor with wood stripper. You must take off the old coat of varnish on the floor so you can sand them down, refinish them, stain and varnish them again. This is quite a large job and you'll need to go to the hardware store and get some varnish stripper to apply on the floor first.

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Afterwards, to remove the varnish this take a scraper or something flat. The floor then needs to be sanded

If this is a historical building, I would do the job correctly to restore the floors and the value of the building. Normally, you should be able to rent some equipment to help with this job to make it a bit easier to do.

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By 0 found this helpful
April 12, 2011

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Anonymous
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

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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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By 0 found this helpful
September 11, 2011

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 JS

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September 11, 20110 found this helpful

Why not ask the pros at your local paint store. They deal with these questions all the time.

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September 11, 20110 found this helpful

Thanks for the most obvious fox. But I would rather take advice from others who have done it first hand than go to my paint store and end up with products that will end up being as much as trim after it's all said and done, and FYI: I don't post on here very much but when I do, this is what you will see. I'm asking for friendly hands on advice. What do you use it for?

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September 12, 20110 found this helpful

I guess I would rather ask pros than get advice from people that probably were using a trial and error method, and got a finish that they liked, but you might not like. From what I have seen on some of the home decorating shows on TV you either have to sand or use a primer.

Just because you ask for advice at a paint store doesn't mean you have to buy the recommended products. Just say you have to consult your significant other and thank them for the advice. Then you can go purchase similar items at a discount store.

All in all you will have to buy some products, if you sand, you will need to buy the paint, if you use a primer, you have to buy the primer and paint. With sanding you have to buy the sanding equipment(paper and some kind of block to put it on, to make the sanding easier). Sanding is harder and more time consuming than using primer.

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September 12, 20110 found this helpful

If you don't want to ask anyone, just go look at a can of Kilz and see what it says about sanding and priming. From what I remember you don't have to do either, but I haven't used it in a few years.

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September 13, 20111 found this helpful

Well, if you want another answer. Paint will not adhere to the shiny substrate. You need to scuff the surface for the paint to bond. You don't need to use sandpaper but you can buy a product from 3M called Scotchbrite. It is a nylon pad impregnated with either a silicone carbide or aluminum oxide mineral. Grey is the silicon and red is the aluminum product.

The difference is the silicone cuts finer. You can fine this product at auto part stores, big box stores and paint stores. I don't use Klix as I have found it difficult to cover with a top coat. I have used it a few times but found after several top coats the white still is visible through the top coat.

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September 13, 20113 found this helpful

A product called "gripper" (similar to kilz) actually allows paint to adhere to slick surfaces, even glass.

Yes, the obvious is sand to give a "tooth" to the wood. There are liquid sanders also.

Ask if the clerk is an experienced painter at your local big box store for advice.

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September 13, 20110 found this helpful

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.

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January 31, 20150 found this helpful

I am painting some chairs which are either varnished or stained. The coating is really light and goes back to the wood in most places easily, but some areas are harder to sand back. Do I have to take the entire varnish off or can it just be heavily sanded so it is rough?

By Tracey

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February 27, 20120 found this helpful

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.

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October 20, 20140 found this helpful

I have the same problem. I'm using Annie Sloan Chalk paint on wood and the varnish is bleeding through.

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June 9, 20160 found this helpful

Steps to paint over kitchen cabinets after varnish is stripped and sanded

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By 0 found this helpful
June 12, 2016

Can I use Valspar high hiding primer on slightly sanded, varnished stair spindles before I paint?

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July 25, 20130 found this helpful

Can I use water based varnish on previously petroleum based varnished floors? The drying time is the main factor in this regard.

By Lynn

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July 27, 20130 found this helpful

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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May 6, 20130 found this helpful

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

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December 25, 20140 found this helpful

Have you tried contact primer which according to SW does not need sanding and sticks to any smooth surface?

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January 13, 20120 found this helpful

What is the best way to paint over varnished doors and doorways that are very dark?

By Shir from Sydney, Australia

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January 20, 20120 found this helpful

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.

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April 12, 20110 found this helpful

Our home was built in the early 70s. The wood was finished with high gloss varnish and now we want to paint over it. What is the least labor intensive way to prepare the high gloss surface? Thanks.

By Bert Hill from Frederick, MD

Answers:

Painting Over Varnish

There is a petroleum based product (lots of fumes, you have to work with every window open) called Liquid Sandpaper which is supposed to "cut" the gloss so one can paint over shiny finishes, but I've tried it and didn't find it very good. I only mention it because someone is bound to suggest it. If you do try it, get the small container first and try it on one small area. If you are talking about cabinets you can have the fronts stripped relatively inexpensively at a stripping facility.

It would help to know if the varnish was traditional or polyurethane. I don't know how you remove polyurethane. There must be products out there.

The problem is people used to use oil based paints and I think you can paint over oil based paints with an oil based enamel, but most enamels are latex now, which are much cheaper, but can peel off oil paint surfaces. I am referring to old varnishes as well.

I would consult a paint store. Not the small department in a large store that sells groceries. A paint only store will have your answers and tell you what your range of choices are. (03/22/2010)

By PENNY K

Painting Over Varnish

Take the time to do the job right the first time. We tried to do it a quick way and are now having to strip everything off to do it right. It's going to take more time, energy, and money than initially doing the project correctly. (03/23/2010)

By susan

Painting Over Varnish

One time I simply painted over the varnish with a quality semi gloss paint and it looked really cool because it had a crackly appearance after it dried, so maybe you could do a test section and see if you like the look before going all out with varnish removal. (03/23/2010)

By Ann

Painting Over Varnish

Wash it down with TSP (Home Depot) and sand all over so paint will adhere. BTW, there is no "easy" way to repaint cabinets and have the job look good or have the paint stay on. Take your time, do it right and you'll be happy with the results. Take shortcuts and you'll be sorry. Varnish (several coats) after painting. (03/23/2010)

By anne

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March 21, 20100 found this helpful

How do I paint over a varnished and marked table?

By Mellie from UK

Answers:

Painting Over Varnish

There's a product called TSP that is found at Lowe's or Home Depot. Add to water, wear gloves, and scrub and rinse; let dry. This helps to dull the finish and you can then use a primer before painting over. May need to repeat TSP usage before priming. (02/12/2010)

By Myrna

Painting Over Varnish

There is a product called "Liquid Sand" found in the paint department that dulls the shine on varnished walls or furniture so paint will adhere to the surface. It should work for the table and/or cupboard doors. Sanding them down and wiping well to remove dust would be another alternative method. Good luck. (02/16/2010)

By Donna

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February 11, 20100 found this helpful

Can I paint over varnished wood?

By Sandy from Buffalo, NY

Answers:

Painting Over Varnish

Yes, wash the area to be painted to remove old dirt and grime. Then scuff up the surface with fine sandpaper so the paint will be able to adhere to the old surface. Not scuffing the surface can have the new top coat peel off. (01/12/2010)

By Deanj

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January 12, 20100 found this helpful

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?

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December 24, 20080 found this helpful
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