HERE’S HOW TO STAIN OVER AN EXISTING STAIN | 12 TIPS TO HELP YOU ACHIEVE A PERFECT STAINED FINISH FOR YOUR FURNITURE AND STAINED WOOD PROJECTS | YOUTUBE TUTORIAL
Hi sweet friends! Do you have an existing piece of stained furniture that you’d love to restain but don’t want to strip off the old finish? Or maybe you stained a piece of furniture and thought you picked the perfect stain color/shade but then realized it wasn’t what you wanted. Did you live with it? Or decide to sand it down and start from scratch? I’ve had both scenarios happen and I’ve learned that re-staining furniture isn’t much different than dying my hair. I’ve been blonde, strawberry-blonde, streaked-blonde, red-head, black, and brunette so I know what I’m talking about. 😉
Like any good hair stylist will tell you, you can apply a dark hair color over a light color, but not light over a dark. To go from a dark shade to a lighter shade, you must strip and remove the dark shade first. When it comes to furniture and wood, staining over stain works exactly the same way and today I’m sharing 12 Tips for Staining OVER an EXISTING Stain!
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE RESTAINING WOOD
Even though it’s possible to stain over an existing stain there are a few things to watch for and keep in mind.
#1. Condition of the Original Stain
Just like painting wood, the original condition of the base and original stain will affect the new stain. If it has any water damage, cracking, peeling, or worn-away color spots, stripping it and starting from scratch is recommended. For example, the table in the pic below was NOT a good candidate for staining over the existing stain. You can see the existing stained finish is in really poor condition. I did end up stripping it and you can see the full before and after here.
#2. Stain Compatibility
The new stain you are applying over the old stain should be compatible. For instance, if it’s an oil-based stain, apply another oil-based stain. If it’s a water-based stain, apply another water-based stain. Incompatible stains can lead to poor adhesion or blotchy and uneven finish. If you’re unsure how to test if an existing stain is oil or water-based, check out this article here.
A total stripping of the finish is NOT required, but even so, a little prep is needed for a professional finish. A good cleaning to remove any oils, dirt, or dust is a must. I like to use my handy White Lightening mixed with a little water in a spray bottle which is a TSP substitute. A light scuff sanding to rough up the existing finish will allow the new stain to adhere better.
#4. Test First
I always test in an inconspicuous area before applying my stain over the stain. This lets me see the ‘new’ color and shade the stain will create. Keep in mind it will NOT be the exact shade or color that is depicted on the can because you will see some of the old stain finish coming through.
I’ll add the other 8 tips below but first here’s what happened with these road-rescued tables! [Updated June 27/2023]
Today, while trying to turn two dirty scratched road-rescue tables into “Country-Charm”, I chose Peacan Minwax for the tops. Once applied, I decided I wanted to stain the tops much darker. What I didn’t want was the hassle of stripping and sanding all the wood over again.
I was feeling adventurous so I applied Dark Walnut Minwax stain over the already stained Pecan wood. It worked beautifully!
STAINS I USE & RECOMMEND
The end result didn’t turn out the exact shade/color which is shown on the Dark Walnut Minwax label, but, somewhat warmer due to the golden tones of the Pecan underneath. Seeing as I’m not trying to get an exact match to any existing furniture, no biggie… and I quite like the warm tones coming through.
THINGS I’VE LEARNED FROM RESTAINING WOOD
#5. Dark Stain Over Light Stain
Staining over stain is easy and works beautifully if you’re applying a dark stain over a lighter stain on the wood. Remember, it’s the same principle as dying your hair! This rule applies to oil-based stains, water-based stains, and gel stains.
#6. Mixing Stains
You can mix 2 or more stains together to make DIY custom stain color and shade. So long as you are mixing the same type of stains. eg water-based with water-based, oil-based with oil-based, and gel stains with gel stains. You do NOT want to cross-mix stains!
#7. Be Aware Of The Undertones
Once you become aware of stain color(s) undertones, you can mix and create gorgeous results! Warm-toned stains (stains with yellow or red undertones) work great to slightly warm up cooler-toned stains. For instance, if you have a table with a grey-stained top and you want to create a warm wood look, you would pick a stain with red or yellow undertones. This also works in reverse. Recently I curb-shopped this 2 in 1 table which had a very red warm base. To create a cooler/richer tone, I gel stained with a Black Gel Stain.
#8. Know Your Topcoats
It’s not advisable to stain over polyurethane or any other protected finish such as wax, varnish, or shellac. Removing the topcoat before staining (when using a traditional stain) is a must because it has nowhere and nothing to absorb into. (unless working with Gel Stains – see tip #9 below)
Here’s why. Last summer I tried touching-up scratches on a head & footboard by applying a matching cherry stain over the finish. Big mistake! After applying it, it did help camouflage the scratches but; the end result was horrible. Regardless of how many times I tried wiping it down, it felt tacky to the touch and rubbed off on my hands and clothes every time I was near it. Oil-based stains will sit on top of a finish and be oily to the touch rather than sink into the wood as they are intended to.
#9. How To Restain Wood With Gel Stains
Gel stains can be applied over an existing finish with just a light scuff sanding. This is because Gel Stains are topical and don’t penetrate the wood as traditional stains do. They work more like paint with the ‘look’ of a stain by sitting on top of an existing finish. I have a full tutorial on How To Apply Gel Stains Over an EXISTING Finish here.
I totally transformed my French doors using a gel stain – WITHOUT stripping them down! You can see the before and after in the image below. I also have a full video tutorial in the post if you click on the image.
HOW TO APPLY A STAIN OVER ANOTHER STAIN
Once I’ve prepped, picked my stain color, and tested it to make sure I like the results, now comes the FUN PART! I make sure I mix the stain thoroughly, then using either a shop towel, foam brush, chip brush, or applicator pad, I apply a nice light even coat in the direction of the grain working in smaller manageable sections.
#11. Wipe Off Excess
Once I’ve applied the stain as above, I let it sit for a minute to absorb into the wood (depending on the brand’s instructions) and then I wipe back the excess in the direction of the wood grain and move on to the next area. I prefer using these shop towels to wipe back the stain, but a clean lint-free cloth works just as well. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions on application, dry time, and recoat time.
Once the first coat is dry, it will look slightly different than when the stain was wet. I like to take a look and see if it requires another coat to get the finish I want and like. You can recoat repeating steps 9 and 10 as many times as necessary to get the look you’re after.
BONUS #13. Topcoat and Protect
Once the project is dry and looks fabulous, I recommend top coating to protect all your work. I like to spray my topcoats but brushing them on works just as well.
[Updated June 27/2023] Also, I just want to add safety first! Remember to work in a well-ventilated area and follow all safety precautions mentioned by the stain manufacturer. Using appropriate protective equipment and ensuring proper disposal of used materials is super important! I don’t typically work with traditional stains anymore as I find the Gel Stains are SO MUCH EASIER to work with. For the lighter-stained projects I do, I prefer working with these Water-Based Stains. Easy clean up, no smell and they give beautiful results as well!
Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on How To Stain Over Stain | 12 Tips on Youtube. If you have any problems viewing it below, feel free to watch it on my Youtube Channel HERE. Our #siyoutubefamily is already a community of 39.2K so don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t done so already! So exciting, thank YOU! 🙂
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s tutorial and it will help you with all your staining projects!
LET ME KNOW OF ANY TIPS YOU HAVE WHEN RESTAINING WOOD OR ASK ANY QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE… I ALWAYS LOVE HEARING FROM YOU. IT MAKES MY DAY! 🙂
Happy furniture painting and staining my friends!
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