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Will Deck Stain Cover Paint? How to Stain Over a Painted Deck

Everyone’s deck needs a touch-up now and then. If your deck paint is peeling and needs a new coat, you might be deciding whether it would be better to switch to a lighter deck stain instead. Unfortunately, because of the nature of deck stains, going from paint to a stain will require a bit of work.

Deck stains will not cover deck paint. To stain over a painted deck, you will first have to remove any current paint from your deck, either by using a deck stripper or by sanding the surfaces of your deck boards. Once the paint has been removed, you can then stain the deck.

Despite the extra effort, it will take, you can successfully transition your deck from painted to stained. This article will discuss how to stain over a painted deck, the benefits of painting versus staining, and how to apply paint over a stained deck instead.

Can You Stain Over a Painted Deck?

In short, you cannot stain over a painted deck without first removing all the old paint. This is because deck stains do not function the same as deck paints.

Deck paints are designed to create a layer on top of your deck boards. This protects your deck from moisture and UV exposure, which will break down the fibers in your deck over time. Paints come in many different colors, but almost always require a primer to be laid down first.

Like wood stains, paint needs to be reapplied every so often. However, paints can last for much longer than deck stains, if applied correctly. Good paint can last you for up to 5-8 years before wearing out. 

On the other hand, deck stains are designed to soak into the boards of your deck. Wood stain will also form a coating to protect your deck but will bring out the natural beauty of your wooden deck, rather than forming an opaque covering over it.

Like paint, you will need to reapply the stain to your deck every few years. Yet re-staining a deck does not require a primer or even the same level of sanding or surface preparation that paint would need.

Because paint forms a layer that sits on top of your deck boards, a stain cannot be applied over an already-painted deck. With paint forming a barrier to the wood, the stain will not be able to soak into the boards of your deck and won’t be able to create a protective shield for the wood.

What Lasts Longer? Stain or Paint?

As a general rule, the paint will last for longer than stains. Paint is more effective for blocking UV rays from your deck, and so the wood underneath will last for longer. However, because it creates a protective coating, the paint will trap water more easily than stains. Water causes your deck to warp and expand over time, which causes the paint layer to begin to peel.

Stains do not last as long as paints and will have to be redone every few years in order to protect your deck. An excellent stain should last you for three to five years. 

Wood can only hold onto stain for so long. Stains do not block UV rays as efficiently as paint, and over time, you will begin to notice that your deck is becoming less waterproof. Once the water starts soaking into your deck boards rather than sitting on top of the wood, you’ll need to stain again.

CoatingAverage Life
Stain3 Years
Paint5 Years

The upside of staining your deck is that, although stains won’t last as long, they provide better protection for your deck than paint. Paint traps moisture within a deck over time; conversely, stains soak into the wood, creating a seal that prevents water from getting in.

Many people agree that fading stain is easier to deal with than peeling paint. The maintenance of stain is much easier to handle, even if you have to apply more often.

Both stains and paints are excellent options for people trying to protect and improve their deck. While paints will last longer before needing to be redone, they will hide your deck’s natural beauty. Stains need to be reapplied more often but form a complete seal for your deck boards.

Here’s a quick video discussing some differences between paint an stain.

How to Stain Over a Painted Deck

If you have a painted deck, but would like to switch over to a stained deck instead, there are a few steps you must undertake to make sure you apply your stain correctly.

Remove Any Remaining Paint From Your Deck

Remove any furniture from your deck beforehand, then pull out your deck stripper.

Make sure that you buy a deck stripper that works on paint, such as Dumond SmartStrip Advanced Paint Remover (link to Amazon), which has the added benefit of being eco-friendly.

Apply your stripper to the painted surface with a roller or brush, and leave for the length of time directed by your stripper before getting out your scraper and removing the paint.

If you do not want to use a stripper, you can sand down your deck instead. It’s a good idea to sand your deck, even if you use a stripper because this will help remove any roughened wood or remaining spots of paint from your deck. 

Here’s a helpful video showing the sanding process in action.

If you don’t need to strip or sand your deck, you could simply clean it and move on. Some cleaners will kill nearby plants though so be careful. Check out our Safe Deck Cleaners article for more info.

Consider the Type of Stain to Use

Deck stains come in many varieties, but you’ll want to consider the opacity of your stain. Transparent stains maintain the natural beauty of your wood but provide less protection from UV rays. Solid stains are almost like paint and provide good protection for your deck. However, they conceal the wood and might need to be sanded off like paint does.

Stain Your Deck

Choose a day that won’t be too hot and won’t rain. Stain dries quickly but needs time to soak into your deck. Try to find a time to stain when your deck is not sitting in direct sunlight.

There are several ways that you can go about staining your deck. Paint pads (link to Amazon) will be the fastest, most straightforward method, as they apply stain more evenly than rollers or sprays, and are much quicker than brushing your entire deck by hand.

For a quick glimpse at best practices for staining a deck, check out the video below:

Once you are finished, allow the stain to dry for at least 24 hours before using your deck.

If you’re feeling uncomfortable about doing this job yourself, or just want an extra hand. I would look into HomeAdvisor Decks to find local professionals that could help. I’ve been able to find some good companies on there.

Can You Paint Over Deck Stain?

We have seen that stains cannot be applied over deck paint because paint prevents the wood stain from soaking into the boards. But if you are trying to do the reverse, and paint over an already-stained deck, you are in luck. Painting over stained wood is much easier than staining over paint.

To paint over stained wood:

  • You will need to clean your deck
  • And sand down the wood in preparation for painting
  • If the stain has faded, you may not having anything to sand away
  • In that case, pressure washing can help give you a clean slate to work with
  • Though the paint is excellent for hiding flaws in your deck, it is still better to sand down or clean the wood beforehand to allow the paint to get a better grip on your deck boards

Once your deck has been prepared, apply your primer. It is extremely important to put down a primer first, or your paint coats will be uneven. Allow the primer to dry before putting out your paint.

Now, you are ready to paint. As with stains, you want to choose a good day to paint on, when there is no rain forecast, and it’s not too sunny out. 


Unfortunately, staining over a painted deck requires a bit of work. Because stain needs to soak into the wood to form a protective coating, it needs direct contact with your deck to be effective. 

If you are tired of having a painted deck and would like to allow your wooden deck’s natural beauty to show through, you’ll have to remove any paint from your deck before you are ready to apply your stain.

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