HOW TO PAINT VARNISHED WOOD 101: A complete guide by Painters in Austin

How to Paint Varnished Wood?

Can you paint over varnish? The shortest answer is: yes, you can. Doesn’t matter what it is, varnished doors, furniture, staircases, cabinets, trims and so on. Just roll up your sleeve, prep for the task and be in a creative mood. We, at Painters in Austin are here to help walk you through the process complete with the how to's that'll make your job easier! Keep reading to find out more!

Varnish wears out over the years and makes the imperfections even more noticeable and annoying. When you give the wood a new coat of paint, you don’t only make an aesthetic decision. You also provide color, dust protection and enhance the durability of your furniture. So, if you got this attitude of creating a happy and eco-friendly living area, you will often have to paint your finished wood.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty and start your furniture refinishing, make sure you pick up all necessary supplies and tools from the nearest hardware shop:

  • lint-free rag
  • detergent or household cleaner
  • safety goggles, mask, and rubber gloves
  • medium- to fine-grit sandpaper
  • the right primer
  • paint
  • a brush, roller, or a paint sprayer
  • wood filler
  • non-slippery, absorbing splatters, protective sheets.
  1. Give a quick clean of the varnished wood: Firstly, preparing wood for painting need some cleaning. A clean working surface will make it easier to remove the varnish and will assure that dirt, grease and dust won’t mix with the primer or paint. All you need to keep your surface dust- and pest-free is described with the following steps:
  2. Spray a household cleaner on a clean, lint-free cloth to remove any dirt and grime from the surface.
  3. Dust it off and scrub off any sticky grease stains, debris, old furniture polish or residual until you see they are entirely removed. For hard-to-remove spots, try wiping them down with trisodium phosphate (TSP).
  4. Remove the damp cloth immediately after you cleaned the varnished wood. The varnish is not waterproof, so avoid extending the interaction time between the wood and wet rag. Before going on, let the surface dry for a few minutes.
  5. Fix and fill in any small surface imperfections: When you have your varnished woodwork crystal clean, you can get a better and precise notion of its condition. Now, you can have a look at your old piece of varnished wood and ask yourself.
  6. Remove varnish from wood the right way: We know it’s tempting to add paint directly over the varnish. If you have ever asked yourself “Can I paint straight over varnished wood?”, the short answer is no. The problem is that paint won’t stick well when you paint straight on a varnished finish.
  7. Apply primer paint for wood: Do you really need to prime wood before painting varnished surfaces? Generally, you can paint wood without primer if the painted surfaces are intact and in good condition. Plus, you may not waste your time in priming the varnished surface unless you are switching between different types of paint or making a drastic color change. A first-class primer is an extra measure of safety. And it will help you meet your expectations of the durability of your paint.

What is the best primer for varnished wood?

  • Stain-blocking primer. If you don’t want to see even a sign of tannin, grease, and stains, the stain-blocking primer will do the perfect job for you. Don’t hesitate to use it when you have sanded a surface down to bare wood. A stain-killer primer will prevent the wood resins causing ugly dark blotches. It’s an excellent choice to use on pieces exposed to high humidity.
  • Shellac primer. When you are in a real hurry, shellac primer is an excellent choice and a fast-drying option. Consider its application when you have to deal with severe odors, stains and wood surfaces exposed to exterior conditions. The only downside is the quite messy (and smelly) job you have to deal with. For those of you with no experience, shellac can leave marks, making the surface difficult for sanding and painting.
  • Oil-based or water-based primer on varnished wood? Generally, it’s up to you. Mind that wood, even when painted, is porous. So, don’t be surprised if the water-based primer raises the grain. Though, don’t be afraid of this. You’ll only need to wait a bit more time until it gets fully dry. Then, lightly sand every coat you apply. Yet, the effect of oil – based primer is an excellent bonding surface (even if the smell is truly awful).
  • The color of the primer matters. When wood elements or furniture are white or in any pale color, the white primer will create an excellent foundation. In the case of painting varnished wood in a darker shade, tint your primer to get the closer color to your paint.

Call Painters at Austin today to get started with finding the perfect paint finish for the exterior and interior of your home. Get a free quote for any of our services- and sit back to watch the magic happen