I still get this question a lot. “Do I need to strip and sand down furniture before I paint it?” I’m always happy to share the good news. “NO, you don’t”! Honestly, if that was the case, I would never have this job I love so much. Stripping and sanding down a piece to raw wood is a job for super-heroes, and I am not one.
The real tricky question is, “do I need to strip and sand down a piece if I want to re-stain it”? Until recently my answer would be, YES. And the reason is simple. Different from paint, stains are mostly transparent so you won’t be able to fully cover the previous finish or any damages, scratches or imperfections if you don’t prepare the wood properly to receive the new stain.
A couple of years ago I discovered gel stain, which is basically a thicker, strongly pigmented type of stain. Gel stain has been around for many years, but only recently I found out that there were people applying it on top of previously stained pieces without fully removing the previous finish. That intrigued me. It took me a while to have the courage to try it myself. When I finally did and learned what worked and didn’t work when doing it, I decided to share the process with you.
I refinished this buffet a couple of months ago in a navy blue and purple mix and a stained top. Since the piece was in such good condition, I decided I would not sand the top down to restain it.
Before you read my step-by-step instructions below, watch this short video tutorial, in which I show you how I did the whole process and also talk about the mistakes you should avoid if you decide to try it on your next project.
These are the supplies I used. This list includes a few affiliate links, which means if you buy an item through one of these links, I receive a small commision. There is no additional cost for you.
- Sandpaper (220, 320 grit)
- General Finishes Gel Stain
- Foam Brushes
- Clean, lint-free rag
- General Finishes Water-Based Top Coat
I started by sanding the top lightly, first with a 220 grit then wit a 320 grit, to make the surface smooth. It is important to sand in the same direction of the grain, or the sandpaper scratches will show through the stain.
I removed the sawdust with a mix of water and vinegar.
Next, I applied a coat of gel stain using a foam brush.
I immediately removed the excess of stain with a rag and waited about two hours before applying another coat of stain. I applied three coats of gel stain in total.
After the third coat of stain, I waited until the next day to seal the top. I also used a foam brush to apply the top coat.
I applied three coats of General Finishes Top Coat, sanding between coats with a very fine sandpaper (320).
If you are comfortable using a paint sprayer, you could also use it to apply this kind of top coat.
Here is how it turned out!
How is your experience with stain? Do you have any tips for me? I’d love to hear about it.
Thanks for reading!
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