Staining Over Previously Stained Wood: Top Tips for the Best Wood Staining Results

Wood staining presents one of the most efficient and commonly used ways of beautifying and protecting wooden structures.

Admittedly, it’s interesting to stain over bare wood, but what happens in the case of a previously stained wood? Is staining over previously stained wood possible? Let’s find out…

Yes! You can and should stain over stain. It is, in fact, very easy to apply stain over previously stained wooden surfaces.

You won’t have to do a lot, especially when applying darker stains over the lighter ones.

You can even mix two different stains if you want to develop a custom finish for your structure.

One thing to stress while staining is patience.

With that, you will be able to get all your steps right, from choosing the right stain to getting an excellent final finish.

This post will discuss stains, types of stains, applications, pros, cons, and many aspects of this fantastic wood finish. Keep reading for more on the subject.

What Is Wood Stain

Wood stain is, in other words, a particular type of paint used to color wood. It has colorants suspended and or dissolved in solvents. 

Wood stains offer a lot to wooden structures.

Other than beauty, wood stains protect your structure from destructive elements such as water, UV radiation, etc.

Types of Wood Stains

Here are the different types of wood stains that you can use for your various projects.

Oil-based Wood Stain

Wood surface stained with the Best Semi Transparent Deck Stain for Old DeckThe oil based wood stains are arguably the most popular stains on the market.

This fact can be attributed to their deep penetration and reliable durability.

In most cases, the oil based stains contain linseed oil plus varnish.

Linseed oil is a non toxic natural oil with virtually the best preservatives you can offer to any wooden structure.

It works perfectly with different wood finishes or paints.

Note: Oil based stains can be thinned using mineral spirit:

In manufacturing oil-based stains, a solvent referred to as “petroleum distillates” is the most used.

Alternatively, you will find some oil stains with aliphatic hydrocarbon, a mineral spirit used as a solvent.

When applied to a wooden surface, an oil based stain takes about 2 -3 hours to dry to touch.

So, if you are looking to add a second layer to your stain coat, you must wait up to 3 hours between the coats.

If you intend to add a different wood finish to your surface, wait 10 or 12 hours. Allow your wood stain to dry at room temperature for the best results.

If you use the wood surface with just the stain as the last coat, you must allow the stain to cure.

The curing time of wood stain is about 72 hours or more, depending on the prevailing environmental conditions.

Here are some of the advantages and the disadvantages that come with the use of wood stains:


  • Offers even finish
  • You can customize the stain
  • Wood stains offer deeper Penetration
  • High durability is guaranteed


  • They come with a slow drying Process
  • The stains are susceptible to molding

Water-based Stains

If you are looking for the best stain to help solve your mold and mildew problems, it has to be the water-based stain.

Most homeowners prefer water based stains, especially for interior projects.

These stains have a faster drying time than their oil-based counterparts. 

They contain no dissolved chemicals, making them safe for the environment.

Note: Water based stains can be applied by brushing or using a cotton rag.

Brushing has been the most apparent method of stain application over the years, so it is crucial that when you stain by brushing, you stay careful so that you don’t overbrush the product. 

These stains dry very fast naturally and could lead to the visibility of brush strokes if you fail to pay close attention to the entire process.

One drawback of water based stains is that they don’t penetrate deep into the wood as oil-based stains, so you will need to apply more coats to attain the best color coat possible. 

When wet, water based stains are water soluble making them easy to clean with the help of water and soap.


  • These stains are fast drying compared to the oil paints
  • They are easy to clean with water and soap
  • These stains are non toxic
  • They are easy to apply


  • They are not good for exterior surfaces

Gel-based Stains

Image of the best finish for walnutGel stains are thicker than oil and water based stains.

They eliminate the need to be careful about the brush strokes, making them perfect for wood finishing.

You should apply the gel-based stains with a rag for the best results.

Depending on how you rub the formula into the wood, you will get the color. 

This finish comes with a good adhesion making it easier to hide defects in wood that can lead to blotchiness with other stains.

Like their oil-based counterparts, you can clean the gel stains using mineral spirits.


Lacquer is a finish and not necessarily a stain.

Lacquer is popular among woodworking enthusiasts and professionals because they are easy to apply to allow for the completion of the project within no time.

The lacquer type of wood stain comes with a speedy drying time, and that’s because it has volatile organic substances called xylene and ketones.

Usually, it takes a lacquer stain just about 15 minutes to dry.

This formula has a strong, pungent smell, making it important that you keep the area properly ventilated and use appropriate nose masks for breathing protection. 

Lacquer provides a quick and easy way of finishing wooden surfaces.

One of the limitations of lacquer stains is that they tend to develop air bubbles.

So, if you are looking to solve this, consider adding some lacquer thinner to the formula.


Like lacquer, the varnish is not necessarily a stain. It can be described as a clear film-forming finish. 

Technically, varnish is a broad term that refers to any wood finish that forms a transparent film when dry.

Lacquer, shellac, and polyurethane are considered varnishes. When it comes to cleaning varnishes, the solvent you will use depends on the formula you apply.

Wood Stain Safety Tips

  • You must have your protective clothes on during the application of wood stains, and these clothes need to cover your legs and arms.
  • Ensure that you are always wearing rubber gloves during the application of any finish.
  • Ensure that you have your water, mineral spirits, or any other solvent you intend to use for cleaning closer to your working station.
  • Ensure proper ventilation around your working area, as some of these formulas contain volatile organic compounds.
  • Read the label on the cans and containers of the stains to ensure that you strictly conform to the manufacturers’ instructions and directions of use.

How Do You Stain Over Existing Stain?

Staining over existing stain takes a different dimension from applying stain over a bare wood surface. The steps involved are:


The first thing you are supposed to do, especially if you intend to stain your previously stained deck, is to inspect the deck’s condition.

Pre-assessing your deck would allow you to repair any possible broken segments before going further with the subsequent steps.

It would be best if you considered replacing rotten wood on your deck. Fill all the cracks and splits on the deck surface using a wood filler

Go ahead and hammer all the Nail heads that might have popped up to the deck’s surface.

Also, check for all the deck boards that might be warping and have them replaced or fixed.

Once you have inspected your deck and rectified all the flaws, decide whether you want to restrain it using the same color stain or have it changed.

Considering the choice of color is individual, you will have to have the surface properly prepared for the new stain and ensure adhesion.

If you are working on a smaller deck, you can scrub the surface using your hands. 

Also, you can use a power washer in case the deck is a big one. 

Power Wash

There are different pressure washers in the market. Some of these pressure washers come with an optional detergent feed as a built-in component.

Therefore, it will be vital to rinse over the surface properly before moving forward.

If you are using this kind of pressure washer, you should fill the container with a deck cleaning agent per the manufacturer’s instructions.

These detergents are great at doing away with traces of dirt and mildew from the surface of your wooden structures,

Allow the chemicals to soak into the wood before you can go ahead and use the power washer to rinse the chemicals away from the surface of the wood. 

If your wooden deck has stayed for several years without restaining, you might want to consider the second round of treatment.

Manually Clean

The manual cleaning involves mixing a deck cleaner and water solution as per the instructions by the manufacturers and applying with the help of a stiff brush.

Work in sections and rinse the areas using clean water.

The most important thing to do after cleaning is to ensure that the surface dries completely before you can consider the subsequent processes.

If you apply water-based stains, you can allow the surface up to 2 days to dry.

In oil-based stains, give your surface about three days or for the surface to dry.

Note: You can use a sprinkler test to determine if your wooden surface has dried and is ready for the stain.

When you sprinkle some water over the surface and realize it is sipping into the wood is dry and ready for staining.

If bubbles are coming from the water sprinkles, the wood is not dry and must be allowed more days to dry.

You can also use a wood moisture meter to determine the water content inside your wooden structure.

Choose Your Stain

This is another crucial point of the whole process. You must get it right with your paint selection.

It would help if you had exterior wood stain for decks, available in either a solid stain or semi-transparent deck stain

The semi-transparent stain is translucent; this stain adds color to the wood’s surface while allowing the natural beauty of the wood grain to show through the finish.

Unlike the semi transparent stains, the solid stain ‘covers’ the wood, hiding the wood grain.

When the wood grains are hidden, the natural beauty of the wood is compromised.

The existing deck stain on your wooden deck should determine the type of stain you settle on for restaining.

Apply the Stain

Apply wood stain using a brush or rags, depending on the stain you are using.

Oil based stains are best applied using paintbrushes, while water based stains can be applied using rags.

Ensure that you apply the stain in the direction of wood grains. In water-based stains, you may have to apply several coats to attain the right color.

Also, oil-based stains have a deep penetration, making them the best finish for exterior projects.

Here’s a Video On Staining Over a Stain:

Do I Need to Remove Old Stain Before Restaining a Deck?

There are cases where you will need to remove old stains from the surface of your deck before you can restrain it. 

Suppose you have a solid stain previously applied to your wooden deck and are looking to restain the deck with a lighter stain or a different type of wood stain like the semi transparent ones.

In that case, you must remove the previous stain before going ahead with your restaining work.

Can I Restain a Deck Without Stripping?

Yes, there is a way to restain your wood deck without necessarily stripping the existing stain.

At this point, all you need to do is to clean your deck thoroughly using a power washer.

Once you have power washed the deck, rinse it and allow it between 24 to 48 hours of drying time.

After the wood has dried and you have verified that using the sprinkler test or the wood moisture meter, you should apply the same stain color from the same manufacturer.

Can You Pressure Wash Stain Off a Deck?

Yes, pressure washing has proven to be an effective way of removing deck stains from the deck surface.

Pressure washing presents a faster way of stripping a deck finish; however, it calls for serious care to avoid damaging the deck.

Ensure that you have a pressure setting of 1500 psi to remove the stains.

Even as you clean with the pressure washer, you’d want to be keen and not hold the nozzle closer to the wood.

Usually, a distance of about 3 inches from the surface of the wood should be enough to get the job done.

Ensure that you are washing in the same direction as the wood grains to avoid inflicting damage to the surface of the wood.

Can You Sand Off Stain?

Yes, you can sand off stains from the surface of your deck. To effectively sand the previously stained wood, start by using medium-grit sandpaper.

Once you have sanded all the surfaces using the above grit sandpaper, follow it with a progressive increase on the finer sandpaper grits.

This progressive increase in the finer grit of the sandpaper will help remove most of the color left by an old stain. 

If you are applying a new stain, it should still be able to mask any residual color from the previous paint.


Deck staining has been with us for several decades and seemingly is here to stay. Deck stains come with so much to offer to our wooden structures. 

Deck stains offer beauty to wooden surfaces and protection against different damaging elements such as water and moisture. 

Semi transparent deck stains, for example, are opaque but still help enhance the natural beauty of wood through the wood grains.

Oil stains are significant for exterior surfaces, while water based stains offer so much for interior projects, mainly because they are non-toxic. One question, however, is…

Can You Stain Over Stain?

Yes, you can stain over stain. However, you must follow the necessary procedures to get it right with your staining project.

You must prepare the surface for staining by assessing and correcting damages, also clean with the pressure washer, rinse and allow the wood to dry.

You can choose to apply stain without sanding, but that will mean you use a similar color to the previously applied one.

If you are looking to change the stain, it would be best to sand and prime the surface before applying the different stain types to your surface.

As I conclude this post, I hope that you got some insightful tips to help you go about staining over your previously strained wooden surface.

If you are with a question that you would like to share with me, please do so in the comment section below. Meanwhile, I hope you had a good read! 

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

2 thoughts on “Staining Over Previously Stained Wood: Top Tips for the Best Wood Staining Results”

  1. I accidently used interior oil base stain on my outside deck. Can I put outside oil base stain over it to make it waterproof or do I need to strip off the interior oil base stain first? I am putting it on Sun wood which is 33 years old and still looking good.

    1. Don’t strip the entire stain, once it dries properly, sand it and you will be good to apply the exterior oil based stain.

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