Can You Paint Over Varnished Wood?

Image of vanished wood

It’s human nature to want a change! So it won’t be a surprise if you want to change the look of your varnished wood through painting.

Therefore, can you paint over varnished wood?

Yes, you can paint over a varnished wood! Let’s all jump at the opportunity to revive old wooden surfaces with finishing like varnish and stains through painting.

The varnish is a thick and clear protective coat applied to protect and add an extra shine to surfaces. It is suitable for wooden surfaces like tables, floors, doors, etc. You may want to change the look of any of these surfaces using paint, but the varnish always seems like a hindrance because the color won’t stick.

The good news is that you can paint over varnish, but you have to follow a particular flow of tasks to prepare your surface correctly and guarantee a flawless finish. Keep reading for full information on how to revive your old varnished wood with paint properly.

How To Properly Paint Over Varnished Wood

Preparing The Surface

  • First, clear the surface. Get rid of all hardware on the surface. These could be metal trimmings or knobs, handles, etc. Then use a clean rug and your regular household cleaner to clean the surface you want to paint. If there is anything stuck to the wood, use a scouring pad to scrub it off, wipe off the debris then let the wood dry.
NOTE: Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the packaging of your cleaning product.
  • Fill up all cracks and other imperfections in the furniture(If any) using putty filler and a scraper or a putty knife. Wood putty is a creamy paste that woodworkers use to level out any imperfection in wood to ensure that you have a smooth and even surface to paint. Professionals recommend using a scraper that is wide enough to cover the cracks you are filling so that the putty goes onto the timber flat. Let the putty dry before proceeding.
  • Sand the wood using fine-grit sandpaper to even out the surface. You may use a sander to make the task effortless or use sand by hand to reach all the tricky spots. You don’t have to remove the varnish altogether. Just etch the surface enough for the primer to stick appropriately.

If you are working on a large surface, sanding may be tiring and time-consuming. In this case, you may have to use a de glosser. A deglosser/liquid sandpaper is a chemical that removes varnish. It takes a considerably less amount of time to prepare a surface for refinishing. Just paint or spray the deglosser on to the wood, let it sit for the allotted time then wipe it off.

  • Wet a clean rag with water, then wipe off all the dust and debris to ensure that they do not get trapped under the paint. Any dust caught under the paint will make the finished work look uneven.

Applying the Primer

After preparing the surface, don’t jump straight to the color; instead, apply a primer first. Primers, though expensive, will save you a lot of repaint money in the future. They are the foundation of your paint job and ensure that your color lasts longer and looks better. 

In addition to that, primers seal porous parts in wood and prevent any previous stains or color from showing under your fresh coat of paint. For a perfect finish:

Choose The Right Primer for you.

There are three main types of primers, Oil-based primers, latex primers, and shellac primers. All three types of primers work well, but most painters swear by oil-based primers.

Oil-based primers have been the standard primers for decades. These primers work with both oil and latex paints, making them very versatile and usable on a wide variety of surfaces. 

You can use a paint roller to make long even strokes if you are working on a large surface. You can also use a paintbrush for any areas that are hard to reach with a roller. Just make sure that it is the ideal brush for the type of primer you are using. 

Let the product sit and dry for a while before applying the paint.

Apply the Paint

With your wood perfectly prepared and primed, you may now apply the paint. 


So, if you were wondering if it is possible to paint over varnish, the answer is yes. Even though possible, the task requires precision. Follow the steps listed above to revive that old piece of furniture in your home and turn it into something amazing.

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