Paint Over Stain: The Proper Techniques to Make Your Paint Job Last!

Homeowners often ask, "Can I paint over my existing stain?" or "Can I apply stain over my existing paint?" The answer to both is yes, but each requires extensive prep of your home's exterior or you will end up with a big mess.

Paint vs. Stain
Painted House Exterior vs. Stained House ExteriorOne benefit of the staining process involves its ability to penetrate, providing protection while enhancing the natural beauty of surfaces with complementary stain colors. Paint, on the other hand, coats surfaces to provide protection; the beauty comes from the paint colors, which cover the surfaces.

Painting Over Stain
Most woods stains call for a protective finish as part of the process, such as varnish, enamel or lacquer. To properly paint over stain, you must remove the stain's glossy finish so that the paint has a surface to which it can adhere.

For best results, hire a professional painter who will sand down the entire area to be painted and clean up the resulting dust and debris; left-behind dust and debris diminishes the paint's ability to adhere and also results in an unsightly mess in the coats. Your painter will next apply a primer to prevent the color of the stain from seeping through and to help the paint adhere; darker stain colors require primer tinted in the same shade to properly cover up their appearance. Your painter also may sand the primer coat and clean the surface again before applying the paint, which will be oil-based for best results over a stain. He will finish the job with a second coat.

Staining Over Paint
If you do decide to switch from paint to stain, you also will have extensive prep work to do, or have done by a professional painter as recommended. The only difference in prep involves primer; stain typically does not require it.

Choosing Between Paint and Stain
Sticking with one or the other product offers the best results and the lowest maintenance. When deciding between the two, consider the following:

Benefits of Paint
  • Paint comes in thousands of colors, while stain colors can be quite limited in comparison.
  • Paint comes in multiple sheens, whereas stain comes only in a flat sheen.
  • Paint provides more uniformity in coverage than stain does.
Benefits of Stain
  • Stain allows the beauty of a surface to be seen, in terms of both color and texture.
  • Stain costs less per gallon than paint, which can greatly affect the total cost of the project.
  • Stain typically does not require a primer.

A professional painter can walk you through additional pros and cons of each product and help you decide which will work best for your home. For example, if you have textured siding and shingles, he likely will suggest a stain to allow the natural color and surface to serve as an architectural element of your home's exterior. If you want to hide flaws in your home's exterior surface, your painter likely will recommend paint to create that uniform look and feel. Where you live also can factor into your decision regarding the best coating for your home's exterior, as weather will affect how long a particular product will last and how well it will fare in your area's climate.

Once you decide on a product, your painter also can help you choose paint or stain colors if necessary, including applying samples to your home so you can see exactly how it will look at different times of the day. The expertise and skill of a professional painter proves invaluable for such an important job as the appearance of your home's exterior.

This post is a part of our series on Exterior Painting tips.

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