Can I Paint Over My Stained Deck?

Image of wood deck. So, Can I Paint Over My Stained Deck?Most homeowners prefer staining over painting their wooden decks. That’s because decks experience a lot of foot traffic, and stains hold up better to the pressure than paints. Additionally, stains still bring out the vibrance and uniqueness of the wood’s grain while protecting it against rot and other weather-related problems. I’ve had clients who have wished to revamp the look of their decks years after staining, and the question each frequently asks is, Can I Paint Over My Stained Deck?

Yes, you can paint over a stained deck. However, ensure that you clean and prepare the surface well enough for the paint to adhere properly. You also have to use a quality primer to ensure that the paint stays on for longer. The preparation process involves cleaning, sanding, priming and eventually painting the surface.

If you go the painting way, ensure that you follow the right procedures to get the very best out of your time and money. Patience is key in ensuring that you get a perfect finish. So, you need to take your time. Keep reading this post to get more insight on the topic.

How to Paint Over Stained Deck?

Steps involved in the painting of stained wood are as follows:

Step 1: Clear the Deck.

  • First, unplug all electrical appliances on the deck and move them into the house or place them on your lawn. Turn off the power to all electrical outlets on the deck to avoid the risk of electrocution as you work.
  • Next, cover the foliage around the deck with a plastic tarp to prevent damage from paint or any other product you’ll use for the project.

Step 2: Clean the Deck

  • Next, put on some protective gloves, then sweep away all dust and large debris using a bristled broom. Fill up a pail with some water, then add 1½ cups of Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) to make a cleaning solution.
  • Dip a stiff-bristled brush into the cleaning solution, then scrub the surface of the deck. Clean the deck plank by plank scrubbing in the direction of the wood grain to ensure that you don’t miss any spots.
  • If you do not have TSP on hand, you can use a solution of vinegar and water to clean the deck instead. Pour some water into a bucket – ¾ way full – then top it off with some white distilled vinegar. Pour the cleaning solution on the deck, then use a hard-bristled brush to scrub off the grime.

Step 3: Rinse and Let It Dry

  • Hose down the deck with a garden pipe to remove all the cleaning solution and loose grime and dirt. If you used the vinegar-water solution, rinse the surface with plenty of water to protect the plants and grass around the deck against damage from the vinegar.
  • Let the deck dry completely before moving on with the project. The amount of time your deck will take to dry will depend on the level of humidity in your area. But, to be safe, I recommend waiting at least 24-48 hours before proceeding.

Step 4: Sand the Deck

  • It is vital to sand the deck before applying any product to it. This way, you will rough up the surface for it to take the paint better. Start with 60-grit sandpaper for the first round of sanding, then use 80-grit sandpaper for the second round. Remember, you are not sanding the surface to remove the stain, so do not use too much pressure, or you will end up making the surface uneven. 
  • Clean the deck with a damp tack cloth after sanding to get rid of the sanding dust because it will interfere with the adherence of your painting products.

If manual sanding seems like too much work, you can opt to use a liquid sander instead. This product will degloss and rough up the surface like manual sanding but without hard work and sanding dust.

Step 5: Apply a Coat of Primer

Apply the first coat of primer, then let it dry properly before applying the second one. Applying two coats of primer will ensure more protection for your wood and better adhesion for the paint. Work in the primer with a foam roller or a foam brush to ensure the best results.

Step 6: Paint the Deck.

  • Grab a new foam roller or foam brush, then use it to apply at least three coats of oil-based paint. I recommend using oil-based paint on your deck because it lasts longer than latex paints, and it offers maximum protection because the deck experiences a lot of traffic.
  • Apply thin coats of the paint, allowing 6 hours of drying time between coats. Applying several thin layers is better than slathering on thick layers because it will take longer to dry. As the paint dries, inspect the surface to ensure no paint clumps or bubbles. If any bubbles are present, remove them before they dry into the paint.

Step 7: Seal the Paint.

It is vital to seal the paint with a clear liquid sealer to protect it from harsh environmental elements. Sealing the paint will ensure its longevity, and it will offer extra protection for the surface underneath. Use a water-based sealer because the oil-based products tend to yellow the paint over time.

Can I Paint Over Stain Without Sanding?

You can paint over stain without sanding by using a liquid deglosser instead. Liquid deglosser, also commonly known as liquid sandpaper, is a chemical solution used by painters to permanently degloss and roughen up old finishes before applying a fresh one. Most homeowners consider this method to be much faster and easier than manual sanding.

Even though liquid sandpaper works perfectly, I still recommend manually sanding your stained wood to make the surface more smooth and even. Using sandpaper to scuff the surface will remove any bumps which would make it look uneven.

Additionally, sanding will help open up the wood grain to make the surface better for the paint to stick. If you paint on a stained surface without sanding, you will likely end up with a rough finish, and the paint might end up peeling or cracking after a few months.

Can You Paint Over Stained Wood Without Priming?

I do not recommend skipping the primer before painting over stained wood because you will end up with a patchy paint finish. Also, paint sticks better to a primed surface than on bare wood. A good quality primer has high solids content that will fill up the grains in the wood, giving you a smooth surface to paint. Additionally, the binding agent in primers is more adhesive than that of paint, so it clings to wood better than paint.

If you do not seal your stained wood with a primer, the first coat of paint you apply will be blotchy. The reason is that most bare wooden surfaces absorb paint and other finishing coats very unevenly. Applying a second coat of paint may fix the flaws on the first coat, but because you skipped the binding undercoat, your color will start to peel off in a year or less.

I recommend using an oil-based primer or shellac to seal the stained surface before applying paint to it. Shellac is excellent at blocking stains, and oil-based primers protect wooden surfaces better than their water-based counterparts.

Do I Need to Remove Stain Before Painting Deck?

You do not have to remove the wood stain before painting your deck if the finish is still in good condition. If the surface looks flaky or patchy and some parts of the wood absorb moisture, it means that the stain is slowly wearing out. But, even in this condition, you can still clean, sand, then prime your deck for painting without removing the old stain.

However, if you want to start your project on bare wood, follow the following procedure to remove the stain:

  • Start by cleaning the deck with warm, soapy water. Next, pour some chemical stain stripper into a metal container, then use a natural bristle brush to apply it in even thick layers on the deck. If your deck is large, apply the stripper in small areas of about one square foot at a time.
  • Let the stain remover sit for about 30 minutes, or as instructed by the manufacturer, to break down the stain properly. Once the remover begins to bubble, scrape away the stain using a plastic scraper or a putty knife. If you use a sharp scraper, you risk damaging the wood. For areas with stubborn stains, use steel wool to rub it off. 
  • Wipe away any remaining chemicals using a damp towel, then let the surface dry for 24 hours. Next, sand the deck with medium-grit sandpaper using enough pressure to remove the residual stain without damaging the wood. Wipe away the sanding dust, then sand again using a finer 180 grit sandpaper until the surface is smooth. 
  • Finally, vacuum away all the sanding dust, then wipe the deck with a damp towel to reveal your beautiful wood.

Can You Paint Dark Stained Wood White?

Yes, you can paint dark stained wood white. Most homeowners shy away from using white or any light paint to color dark stained wood. Their biggest worry is that the stain may bleed through the paint and ruin the finish. However, you can use a light-colored primer to provide extra blocking so that the stain does not show through the white paint.

After sanding and cleaning your dark stained wood, apply a white or light gray primer instead of regular clear primer. The lightness of the primer will cover the dark wood providing you with a light-colored blank surface to paint.

Also, make sure that the primer you use is compatible with the type of stain you used on the wood. If the stain on the wood was oil-based, use an oil-based primer and if it was water-based, cover it with a water-based primer too. 

If you do not have a light-colored primer in your workshop, worry not because you can use your white paint to give the primer a light tint before applying it to the wood. Do this by adding a little bit of the paint to the primer, then stir it thoroughly.

Ensure that the paint and primer are of the same type before mixing them to avoid wasting the product.

Tip: Before painting your dark stained wood white, make sure that you fill all the cracks and holes in the wood first. They may not be visible because of the dark stain, but the light color will make them stand out.

Can You Paint Over Outdoor Stained Wood?

Yes, you can paint over outdoor stained wood to make your projects last even longer. Outdoor furniture, wooden fences, wooden sidings, etc., get exposed to UV rays, heavy downpours, and other harsh elements. Because of this, they need the extra protection that paint provides on top of the stain finish.

The key to a long-lasting outdoor paint job is choosing the best exterior paint for your wooden surface. Below are some pointers to guide you as you shop for paint.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Paint for Outdoor Stained Wood.

  • Durability

The most important factor that woodworkers look for in exterior wood paint is durability. You need to keep in mind three main sources of potential wear in exterior wood when choosing paint. These are:

  • Water damage – Outdoor projects get constant exposure to rain and snow. And even though wood is durable, it will rot or grow mold when exposed to moisture for a long time. To protect your wood from water damage, choose latex or acrylic paints for your project. These products create a colorful waterproof layer that easily resists rain and snow damage.
  • Ultra-Violet Radiation – Constant exposure to sunlight and UV rays can cause paint color to fade fast. So, choosing a product designed to maintain its color even with regular exposure to UV rays is important. If you choose a low-quality paint, you may have to reapply the color every few months to maintain the integrity of the wood and the beauty of your project.
  • Physical wear – Many exterior woodwork projects will experience their fair share of physical wear without proper protection. Home areas like decks are prone to scratching, scuffing, and fading from the constant foot traffic they get. It is best to choose strong latex or enamel paints to protect such areas. These products cure into a tough, protective layer that can easily resist scuffing for long periods.

Lawn furniture or wooden handrails don’t require much protection, but you’ll still use them regularly. Opt for latex or acrylic paints to protect them because they can remain intact even when you use the furniture regularly. For exterior wooden decorative pieces, use any waterproof exterior paint because they do not need much protection.

  • Intended use

Even though you may be working on a large percentage of wood, some projects require you to use other materials like metal or concrete for connecting wood pieces or for decorative purposes. If you are handling such a project, it is best to purchase exterior paint compatible with multiple surfaces to avoid problems.

  • Type of finish

Exterior paints always include a distinct finish ranging from matte to metallic. The type of finish you choose is entirely dependent on how you want your project to look when finished.

  • Level of Volatile Organic Compounds.

Paint and varnish manufacturers often include VOCs in wood products. These compounds release harmful fumes as the products cure, and they aren’t safe for the environment either.

Most waterproofing paints used on outdoor wood projects contain high amounts of VOCs. 

However, some companies have managed to maintain minimal levels of VOCs in their products.

So, if you are concerned about the impact of your work on the environment, consider buying exterior paint with low VOC content. But, be aware that even though these products are eco-friendly, they offer less protection for your wood than those with higher VOC levels.

  • Dry time.

No matter the type of paint you choose, you will have to allow each coat to dry before exposing your project to water or physical pressure. Each paint often has a unique drying time – some take longer to dry while some manufacturers produce fast-drying products.

The kind of paint you select is contingent on how much time you want your project to take. If you want your project to run faster, opt for the fast drying brands, but any exterior paint will do if you have enough time on your hands.

What Lasts Longer On a Deck Stain or Paint?

Wood stain will last longer on a deck than paint. The reason is that wood stain seeps into the wood grains while paint products sit directly on top of the wood. Hence, the constant traffic experienced on decks will likely crack or peel paint faster than wood stain.

Even though deck stain lasts much longer, painting your deck will do a much better job covering imperfections on your wood. It will also provide better protection than stain. Now that you know which one lasts longer, below are more pointers to help you decide whether or not to paint or stain your deck.

Pros of Painting Your Deck

  • Paint is easy to maintain. When you choose to paint your deck, you will not have to deal with the hassle of refinishing the wood anytime soon. If you do thorough surface preparation and use quality products, your paint coat can last for years before needing a repaint.
  • You enjoy several color options. There are several paint color options to choose from if you choose to paint your deck.  You can choose a color that matches the rest of your home’s exterior or choose a different color that complements the rest of the exterior colors.
  • Paint hides flaws in the wood. If you have an old weathered deck, you may not want to display all its flaws for all to see. Paint will mask the permanent stains or fill up tiny cracks, thus bringing back the beautiful look of your space. 

Cons of Painting Your Deck.

  • Paint can trap moisture in the wood. Builders lay the wood used to make decks horizontally. Because of this, the paint lies on the surface, which might cause water to pool in certain areas of the deck. After a certain period, the wood beneath may begin to rot, and eventually, the paint on the wood will start to crack and peel. 
  • Paint masks the natural wood grain. When you use paint to finish your wooden deck, you mask the beautiful grains that make your wood unique. So if you love the natural brown woody look, you may regret painting your deck.
  • The paint is almost permanent. If you choose to paint your deck, you are most likely to keep painting it in the future. Transitioning from staining your deck to painting is an easy task. However, changing from painting to staining your deck will require more work and will incur more expenses hence the need to repaint all the time. 

Pros of Staining Your Deck

  • You choose how much wood grain shows through. Unlike painting, staining your deck allows you to choose how much or how little wood grain shows through the finish. The different stains allow you to choose how opaque the finish looks— from clear to solid-colored.
  • Quality stains protect the wood grain. A quality stain will seep into the wood grain and seal it. This way, it prevents water from penetrating your deck and causing rot or mold.
  • Staining enhances the natural beauty of specific woods. Some types of wood, such as redwood, cedar, or cypress, possess unique grains that stand out from most regular wood. If you paint over them, you cover the grain, but staining highlights the grains and makes the natural colors pop on your deck.

Cons of Staining Your Deck.

  • Stains don’t last. Unlike paint, wood stains do not last for a long time. On average, you will have to restain your deck at least once a year to maintain its look.
  • Staining highlights flaws too. As much as staining your deck highlights the natural wood’s grain, it also makes the cracks and damages on the wood more visible. Because staining products are thinner than paint, you cannot rely on them to fill in tiny cracks on the surface.
  • Some top-quality woods can’t hold stains. Some unique woods, such as tropical hardwoods, can make stunning decks; however, they do not hold stains well since they are very dense. If you must stain a tropical hardwood deck, use an oil-based penetrating stain. However, you should know that oil-based stains tend to yellow over time. I recommend applying a clear wood preservative in three-year cycles for these types of wood to protect your deck from damage by UV rays.

 How Do You Paint Over Stained and Varnished Wood?

Most painters apply a coat of clear varnish on wood after staining to lock in the stain and protect the wood further from harsh elements. However, if you want to change the appearance of your project, you may ask the question, how do you paint over stained and varnished wood?

Start by cleaning the wood with a general household cleaner. Rinse off the cleaner, then leave the wood to dry.

Once dry, use 180-grit sandpaper to scuff the varnish and remove its sheen. Next, use a vacuum to remove as much sanding dust as possible. Wipe the wood with a damp rag to remove any remaining dust, then allow it to dry.

Use a natural bristle paintbrush to apply a primer of your choice. Since the surface had varnish on it, you are free to use either an Oil-based or a water-based primer.

Let the primer dry as instructed by manufacturers, then apply a second coat if indicated.

Finally, apply the paint of your choice to the wood.


Staining is the most preferred method of finishing a new deck. Not only do the staining products protect the wood, but they also highlight the natural beauty of the different types of wood. However, after a period, many homeowners may want to revamp the look of their deck without applying more stains, hence the question,

Can I Paint Over My Stained Deck?

Yes, you can paint over your stained deck provided you prepare the surface correctly and use quality exterior painting products. Also, ensure that you protect any plants growing around your deck to avoid having an ugly-looking lawn after you finish the project.

Thanks for reading this article, and I hope you got answers to all the questions you had. If you have any more questions or tips to share about painting over a stained deck, feel free to reach out to us in the comments section below.