handyman at home

How to Paint Over Varnish

Furniture and walls that have been previously painted with varnish have a stained surface. At some point, you may decide that you want to paint over the varnish. The stained surface is difficult to paint. Often, the paint does not adhere to the varnish and will easily peel off. It is possible to paint over the varnish by following these steps to prepare the surface before painting.

  1. Clean the area you want to paint completely with some liquid soap. You can clean the area with a scouring pad while you clean. Clean as much waste as you can; You want the area to be free of dust.
  2. Check if that the room where you are going to paint is well ventilated. Make sure you prepare the floor of the surrounding area so you do not damage anything while cleaning or painting. You can cover the floor with painter’s cloth.
  3. Remove any accessories from the furniture you’re working with.
  4. Sand the area or piece of furniture with fine sandpaper. This will give the surface a texture so that the paint can adhere. Try sanding in the direction of the grain. Completely clean off any residue.
  5. Fill the scratches in the wood with a wood filler. Sand until it is dry.
  6. Clean the area or furniture you want to paint again with paint thinner or denatured alcohol. The surface must be clean and dull and these products will make that happen.
  7. Apply the first coat of paint. If the varnish is very dark and difficult to cover, you may want to apply 2 coats of paint. It is better to use a base coat over the varnish. The oil-based paint will create a good surface for the paint to adhere to.
  8. Paint the area you want to repaint or piece of furniture with oil or latex-based paint in the color you want. Apply as many layers as necessary with a brush to cover the varnish completely.


Skip the previous preparation and choose to remove the varnish from the furniture. This way you will be sure that the surface is well prepared to paint. Removing the paint takes more time and patience, but you will not have to worry about the paint coming off through the varnish below. You can buy different types of products that help you with this.

Things you will need

  • Paint thinner
  • Painting
  • Paint remover
  • Fine Sandwich
  • Multi-use cleaner
  • Scourer
  • Cloth
  • Brush
  • Oil paint
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