Over ten years ago, these dark, espresso stained end tables were a big buy for my new little apartment. The whole place was white from the walls and trim to the tile floors and ceiling. So, the brown provided a great contrast. I had a whole retro thing going, because I found a warehouse with discounted surplus hotel furniture. It was Florida – everything was 80s neo-art-deco. Now, the tables are still sturdy. But, they are super scuffed from several moves, a house fire, a basement apartment flood and the trials of everyday life. While I’ve seen some great projects with chalk paint that don’t require sanding, the deep stain on these made me revisit the old-fashioned way of transforming furniture. So, I learned how to paint over stained wood.

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How to Paint Over Stained Wood

Painting over stain starts with understanding the original materials. Most wood stains are made from oil, resin or alkalyd. They are often sealed with a resin or polyurethane.

You can’t just take a topcoat paint and put it on that resin. It will bubble or smear. To get the best finish, you’ll need a physical bond and a chemical bond. That’s where the primer and sanding come in.


TIME REQUIRED: 2-3 Days with Drying Time



  • Paint Brush (I used a small sable brush and a foam brush.)
  • Sandpaper (I used 100 grit.)
  • Rags
  • Drop Cloth



Refinished and old tables

Once you gather your supplies, you’ll need an area that can remain undisturbed for a few days. This one takes a lot of waiting to do it right.

1. Sand the Tables

Start by sanding the table in slow circular motions. The goal is twofold. First, you want to smooth over any areas that may have been nicked or dented over the years. Second, you want to rough up the sealant. This way the primer can actually sink in for a strong bond.

2. Wipe Clean

Using a damp rag, wipe off any residue and dust. The surface should be perfectly dry and clean before you apply the primer.

3. Paint First Coat

After you test the primer in an inconspicuous area, add your first coat carefully. It will be pretty thin and you will see the stain through it.

Don’t worry about streaks. As long as the layer is thin, you’ll get a nice smooth finish by the end.

4. Paint 2nd and 3rd Coat

Add a second and third coat by following the directions on the primer can. Typically this is 30 minutes to an hour between coats. If it feels tacky, wait a little longer.

Also, if you have any drips or thick spots, sand them flat between coats.

5. Add Touch-ups

Before adding the topcoat, look for small areas that might need a touch up. Apply thin amounts of paint to these areas to make sure everything is smooth.

6. Paint Topcoat Color

Now that your primer is perfect, it’s time to add the topcoat. I opted for a simple white. However, you can add any color to the top. Just make sure you pick something compatible with your primer.

7. Consider Sealing

If you want a good seal, you can use a polyurethane or a wax. It just depends on the wear and tear you expect for the piece.

8. Dry for 7 Days

Before you start using the table, try to let it dry for 7 days. This allows the maximum time for the paint to bond and harden.

Old End Table Transformation

Although I love quick changes, I’ve been burned by repainting furniture too fast in the past. That’s why I was really careful to prep these pieces properly before I applied paint over stain. As a result, I have a bright white change.


I’m slowly working to transform my old living room pieces to update my home. Stay tuned for more projects in the future by following my Insta.