Painting over previously painted or stained woodwork can be quite the project. There are several steps that need to be taken to ensure a quality finished product. The first decision to be made is whether to do it yourself or hire a professional contractor. A great deal of money can be saved by doing it yourself, but it can also turn into a nightmare with less than satisfactory results. Here are some general guidelines to consider when undertaking this project.


Older woodwork may have layers of paint or varnish that you may need to remove before you can paint. If you leave these layers alone and just paint over them, you can end up with uneven surfaces. Proper preparation before painting old wood helps you achieve professional looking results. Old wood may also have areas where the paint has peeled off the surface. To prevent the loose paint from causing new paint to flake, you should use a hook scraper, putty knife or sanding tool to remove the loose paint. If the old wood surface is covered with many layers of paint and varnish and you would rather remove all of them, you can scrape the layers down to bare wood.


The old wood may have holes, gaps or deep scratches from its many years of use. You can hide these imperfections so that they don’t show once you finish painting. Wood epoxy fills any depressions in exterior and interior wood to raise them to the level of the rest of the surface. Apply as much wood epoxy as necessary to raise the depressions slightly higher than the rest of the surface to allow for sanding.

Sanding and Cleaning

Sanding provides a surface that is even enough to look good after painting and coarse enough for new paint to adhere to it. Sand the old wood until the finish seems dull. Sanding produces dust, which may make it difficult for new paint to stick. As such, you should wipe the old wood surface with a mixture of 1 cup bleach, 1 cup trisodium phosphate (TSP) and 2 gallons water. Let the wood air-dry before you apply primer. Cleaning kills any mold and mildew in the old wood. Avoid using a power washer to minimize damage to the wood.


Before painting, apply primer to the old wood surface, whether it is indoors or out. Primer helps paint stick and improves the coverage, so you can dramatically change the color of the old wood if you want to. Using alkyd primer also helps the wood last longer because it contains preservative resins. You should allow the primer to dry completely before applying paint to the old wood surface for proper coverage and adhesion.

 A fresh coat of paint can bring any woodwork back to life. However, it takes more than just slopping on a coat. Proper preparation is very important and finish coating takes a certain level of skill. In many cases, the logical choice is to hire a professional painting company that has the knowledge and experience to give your project a beautiful look.