So...paint over stain over paint?

eam44July 24, 2014

This is a cross post from the paint forum. There's not much activity over there.

I tried to stain a vanity cabinet that had been previously painted, thinking I could sand enough of the surface away to make it work. I was wrong. Now I have a cab with one coat of stain primer and one of blotchy stain, and I have to paint the cabinet. My questions are:

How long must I wait for the stain to dry before I attempt to paint it? I primed and stained yesterday and the stain still stinks.

Can I just prime and paint, or do I have to sand again, then prime and paint?

Thanks for the info.

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If the stain hasn't dried, you may have to see if you can remove the residue with mineral spirits first. Any job has to start with a clean dry surface, with enough tooth to grab the paint.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:59PM
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Go buy a jug of Citristrip. It will take off all the finishes and get you to clean wood, no more sanding required. Then you can stain or paint. Your choice.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 1:39PM
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I'm with Terri - that stuff is magical.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 1:43PM
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Yes, you'll have to strip it now. To try and completely sand paint off a painted cabinet, that is a tremendous amount of work and near impossible to get it completely off.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 2:02PM
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Thank you all so much. Citristrip it is.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 8:17PM
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CEFreeman taught us.
1: Slather on thick
2: Press plastic bags onto it and leave it overnight. (If the layers aren't to thick, a few hours will work.
3: Scrape with a plastic putty knife with the grain.
4: Water and green scrubbie. (I used a blue one.)
5: Let dry at least over night before stain or primer/paint.

So easy.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 8:35PM
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Yeah, all the surface paint was removed, and the surface sanded, but when wood has been painted, I've read it cannot absorb stain. That's what happened here. Now I just want to clean up the surface to prep for paint.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 9:43PM
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Well I just stained a coffee table that had been spray painted in black then red on the edges and the top of it chalkboard paint. The person I bought the table from just sprayed on the layers.
I was able to remove all the paint and a good portion of the original cherry or mahogany stain. And then stained it. No problems with the new stained look at all.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 10:10PM
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That's heartening. I would love to be able to stain, but if you look at the side of the vanity, you'll see the edges that I sanded a little deeper took the stain, but the main body of the wood really didn't. It all looked like clean, raw wood until I stained it, no trace of paint to the naked eye. I can't even tell you how many hours I spent prepping.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 10:26PM
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The Citristrip should be your answer. I'm sorry your efforts were wasted so far.
Chin'll be okay.

Citristrip requires little to NO sanding. So the only thing to do, is follow the steps above and be amazed. ;)

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 12:32AM
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Eam44-sorry about all the lost time, I so know the feeling! I haven't always been successful with my staining projects, even though I think I do everything right. Some turn out, some make me crazy and I end up painting over (after light sanding). Post pictures please of your progress, I'm thinking about trying out citristrip too and am very curious. Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 8:00AM
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Thanks ob2b and terri! I just bought the Citristrip and will keep you posted. Fingers crossed. Remind me to tell you my horror story on staining my banister...

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 9:57AM
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Wait, what? You plan to paint it now, not stain it?

If you wait for the stain to dry (a few days, most likely, but read the can), all you have to do is prime, then paint.

If you want to re-stain it, then yes, you will have to remove the original *paint* completely. I don't think Citrus-strip will remove stain completely, though. Stain soaks into the wood whereas paint sits on top of it. I've been refinishing wood for a few decades and my experience has been that stain has to be sanded off if you want to get rid of it completely.

A good primer will cover it, though---if painting is what you want to do.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 10:08AM
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Last year I took a stained desk and tried gel stain. It didn't work for me, so I stripped it with 3M Safest Stripper. I don't know if it's as good as Citristrip, but it's along those lines. It got everything off, including the old stain. The only sanding I did at that point was to knock the grain down afterwards because it will be raised for sure.

Then I stained with General Finishes oil stain. Easy and satisfying. Of course, if you'd rather paint it, proceed that way. But a clean wood presents lots of wonderful options you couldn't imagine before.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 10:27AM
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If you keep applying Citristrip, it will pull all the stain out. I just used it until. I could get everything looking even, since I was staining dark.

I can't wait to hear what you think of the process!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 11:09AM
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Spunky and linelle, I did want it stained a dark walnut, but you see the issue with the first attempt - stain is not going to penetrate the side without a lot of additional sanding. That splotchy mess came after stripping (I used Safest Stripper the first time) and sanding down (80 grit, followed by 120, and 220) to visibly clean wood and using a pre-stain primer. I don't know whether the Citristrip will do anything at all, but it's on and can't hurt at this point I suppose. It has already reduced the awful stain smell anyway.

I'm not going to try stain again. I did my homework, did everything right I think, except I ignored the age old truism not to try to stain previously painted wood. I tried, I failed, now I'm just interested in getting it done.

Here's what it looks like in process.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 11:11AM
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Hmm.... And the "not with a bang, but with a whimper" award goes to... the stain on my vanity.

Citristrip says it strips paint and varnish, so I'm not sure why I was hopeful that it would strip off stain. The stain is certainly lighter in appearance in places but overall, not much change after six hours of glad wrap incubation. I scrubbed the vanity down with a stripper sponge. The directions say to follow up with mineral spirits which I haven't done because I don't own any.

Ah well, I can revisit this tomorrow. Thanks for all your input.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 5:12PM
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Well we need to send CEFreeman over to help..I'll send her this way. But a am going to go out on a limb and say this may need a "24 hr" incubation.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 6:03PM
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Yep, terri's right - and it does need to be scrubbed. The scraper should have taken off globs of stain-colored goo, but scrubbing with a plastic scrubby and water (you don't even need mineral spirits) will make a world of difference.

It's more difficult for you, since it's in place - I did my table in the driveway, and sloshed it down with a hose. I toweled everything dry when I was done.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 6:14PM
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spanky_md, you would be incorrect. A 2nd coat of Citristrip has always sucked the stain right out of the wood for me. and boy do I have experience. We're taking gorgeous raw wood under 100 year old stain, paint and finishes. Raw as the day it was made. I even used a dead flat matte varnish to finish them because I wanted the raw wood look.

The trick is that you can't spot strip. And you have to leave it on and leave it alone. ALONE. You have to do the whole panel. Because the Citristrip will continue to work on any stain left, leaving a blotch where it took more out of one place than the other.

EAM44, if you read their website and all the traffic back and forth here, you'll see you neutralize stain with WATER not mineral spirits. MS can reqliquify any stain right back into the wood. MS is an old habit from evil, flesh-eating, unnecessary strippers. Again, why add another bad chemical when you go to all the trouble of using an environmentally friendly one?

Why don't you put the stuff on and just leave it alone. You still have nothing to lose. The hardest thing is not peeking or fussing with it. 8 hours is a start, but there's a reason you can leave it on for up to 24 hours, which is so it can eat through whatever finish is actually there.

You can never successfully stain over paint or anything over any type of seal coat, that's soaked into the wood. Ok, sure. Unless you use gel stain, which is essentially paint, anyway.

Once you peel back the plastic, use a plastic scraper to squeegee the goo down off the piece. Then, with the grain of the wood, use water. Your floors look like plywood -- which my kitchen is -- so I didn't freak too much about water on it. I did put a baking pan underneath to catch the majority of it. You'll be amazed to see what continues to come off the wood.

All that said, If you've truly going to paint it, anyway, after drying overnight (and since this is inside, I'd put a fan in there) lightly smooth the grain, then prime well.

I strongly recommend an oil based primer being your very best bet with whatever is on your cabinets at this point. That residual stain could easily bleed through any paint you choose. I'd use Zinsser or BIN. NOT KILZ. Kilz is for drywall, not wood. Then you could antique it after, or even striate it and make it a pseudo wood grain-ish thing. I'm not saying fake wood grain, but there are methods.

This is a nice piece. I can see why you wanted to try all this first.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 2:32PM
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CEFreeman, ok--I stand corrected on Citrus-strip stripping stain! Thanks for the heads up. I have used it on a lot of painted and varnished stuff but I guess not stain.

Still---if she's gonna paint, there's no need to strip all previous finishes off. Just sand until smooth, use a good primer, and then paint.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 9:44PM
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Hi CEF. Thanks for weighing in. I used CS everywhere and scrubbed it off with water and a stripping sponge. The bottle recommends following up w MS. I haven't done that. Honestly the fumes in the powder room are so bad I've had the light and the exhaust fan on for 30 hours and I can't go in there without a mask.

I do use BIN, and I'll have to sand, if lightly, before I use it. No way on heaven or earth I will antique this or do a faux wood grain. I just want my powder room back! I'm starting to feel for people who don't have a lavatory on their first floor....

My plan is to use a high gloss navy/black like F&Bs Hague Blue. The top will be vitreous china, so white, and the floors will be China Black marble. My subfloor is plywood, and I'm not worried about getting it wet or messy. I'll do the floors last. Glad you like my vanity! All three bathrooms have essentially the same one in different sizes. They were all built on site. I have a love/hate relationship with them.

I'll definitely let you all know how it goes, with pictures. I'm very thankful for your input!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 9:51PM
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Make certain you get it really dry before you sand, then really smooth before you paint!
High gloss will show every single dust speck and God forbid you have cats! :)

BTW. What fumes? I use this stuff in my kitchen and in my MBR in front of the TV (on cardboard). No fumes there....?

I like your color scheme. It will be beautiful! Make certain you use a serious, BIN or Zinsser primer to block any bleed-through from finicky stain!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 11:40PM
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EAM44, do have an update for us?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 2:34PM
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Hi annkh. Still working on it. Since the Citristrip and a scrubbing with a stain removing pad, I've scrubbed/sanded with steel wool, then sandpaper 120 and 220 grit. The inside has received its second coat of high-gloss white latex paint, and the outside has been painted with an oil based primer. The fumes are horrendous, and someone has to tell me how to open that can of mineral spirits. The primer got very gloppy. I may need to sand a little before I paint. Tomorrow, hopefully, I'll be able to paint with a latex enamel. I'll post images then. Thanks for checking in!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 5:31PM
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CEF, the fumes have been awful. I attribute them to the stain primer and the stain, but it took several days of leaving the light on (to volatilize) and leaving the bathroom fan on before I could go in there without a mask. This oil based primer stinks to high heaven. That room smells like a petrochemicals lab.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 5:36PM
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The award goes to you for extreme persistence!
looks like you are getting there in the photo.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:03PM
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Looking good!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:07PM
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Probably too late for you, but for others reading this now and in the future, 3M makes a very affordable respirator that is both comfortable AND effective. I have the 3M 7500. With cartridges it's under $25, I think. I use solvents and spray adhesive all the time for work and finally got worried enough about my health that I broke down and bought one of these.

I never thought respirators were all that effective (and maybe they weren't, 30 years ago?). But DANG, I cannot smell a THING with this mask on. I mean seriously, I will be working along, la de da, no problem, and then I will take the mask off before leaving the room and the odor is overwhelming! I love it. I have kicked myself black and blue for not getting one years ago.

If you're going to do more than a little bit of work with solvents, get one. (No, i do not own 3M stock. I should.)

Here is a link that might be useful: 3M respirator

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 8:21PM
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WAHOO - what a difference! I keep waiting for the gorgeous tile that I know you're going to use somewhere, to pop up in this thread :)

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 8:38PM
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Hah - ob2b, you know me so well! The area behind the toilet was not tiled originally, just the vanity bs, but it will be soon! I'm working with the toilet to be sure I can accommodate the tile thickness. Pretty sure it will be no problem. Then it's paint the vanity, paint the ceiling and walls, door and trim, lay the floor tile and shoe molding, install the new vanity top, lay the wall tile/bs, install the toilet. Piece of cake :)

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 8:59PM
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Spanky, that's very helpful, thanks. I'll pick one up. I use so much personal protective equipment, you should see me with a mask respirator and safety goggles.... And I've gone through a ton of masks. Time for the real thing.

I also worry, with so much nastiness in the air, about absorption of chemicals through the skin, especially in summer when I wear less clothing. My hope is that primer will dry soon and the fumes will dissipate.

Thanks Terri and annkh. Persistence is a double edged sword! One woman's persistence is another man's stubbornness....

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 9:08PM
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I knew it! This is what I hear: paint blah blah. Floor tile ..then something garbled then wall tile and backsplash tile then just details. You know where my heart is:). Looking very much forward to your progress (and I definitely recognize how much work is in the other details, knowing they are not nearly as fun to plan but are equally if not more important to get right)

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 9:09PM
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Really good job.
You sure did give it a good go!
I really look forward to the final result.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 9:34PM
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