/ / No! You Don’t Have to Sand Before Painting Over Stain

No! You Don’t Have to Sand Before Painting Over Stain

Are you thinking about painting a piece of stained furniture or cabinets and are dreading the sanding process? The truth is you don’t always have to sand before painting!

Literally, I’ve painted countless pieces of furniture and cabinets over the past 20 years and have RARELY sanded anything before painting.

Guess what? If you properly clean the surface and use the correct primer, you can avoid sanding altogether. I promise! 

It’s time to tackle painting that stained piece you have been avoiding because you thought you had to sand! 

There’s a great solution that is tried and true, so you don’t have to sand. 

Avoid stripping, sanding and the mess 🙂

All the items you can paint without sanding or stripping:

  • Furniture
  • Cabinets
  • Paneling
  • Fireplace Mantels and Surrounds
  • Wainscoting / Trim Moulding

Yes, the paint adheres and won’t chip with normal wear and tear!

My Paint Passion and Knowledge

For 20 years, I’ve tackled a lot of cabinet and furniture painting! To add to that, I worked for Valspar Paint for 5 years, I learned a lot about paint and painting in general.

It included learning how to make paint and gaining The Master Painters Institute – Architectural Coating Technologist Certification. Here’s the proof 🙂

Gotta love rocking the glasses with the eye protection. Sexy…

Porch Daydreamer Making Paint

When I say I know something about how to paint really anything, I hope you believe me. 

My passion and knowledge runs deeper than average!

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Post contains hand selected products, with affiliate marketing links throughout {full disclosure here} 

Painting Over Stain Without Sanding

Below are 7 paint projects I’ve completed over the past couple of years, where I painted over stain WITHOUT sanding!

My hope is you will see how confident I am in not sanding before painting, so you feel that you can do this on your own.

Something that is important to note…in all of these projects the surfaces were in almost perfect condition before I paint.

If you have an unsound surface that is chipping and peeling, then you will have to sand it smooth first BUT not sand off the finish completely. 

proper preparation is key when Painting over stain

What am I doing before painting to make sure the paint adheres without sanding?

  1. Cleaning the cabinet or furniture thoroughly with a de-glosser or degreaser.
  2. Using a BONDING PRIMER prior to painting

When I am painting a piece of furniture or cabinets I clean with chemical cleaner, which is the most important step. 

It is REALLY IMPORTANT to use a chemical cleaner because there is likely a greasy residue that has built up over time.

Oil and grease from hands and cooking just naturally builds up on surfaces overtime. 

Why to use a chemical cleaner prior to painting over stained furniture:

  1. Produces more “grip” for the primer to adhere to prior to painting.
  2. Degreases the surfaces and softens it slightly taking down the gloss so the primer will adhere. 
  3. Doesn’t remove the finish or create a mess!

You’ll get the best adhesion of primer following cleaning with a chemical cleaner.

That means  that the final painted finish will be more durable, not chip, peel or scratch. Good right?

Best Primer to Use Over Stained Furniture

My favorite and the one I’ve used the most of course will be from Valspar.

You will see it mentioned throughout my paint projects and I wrote an entire post about Valspar Bonding Primer for you to enjoy!

What makes a bonding primer special?


It creates a rough surface over glossy surfaces like: polyurethane, varnish, tile, glass, oil based paints, lacquer, etc.

Bonding primer also seals water stains and even stain bleed through.

Plus it only requires ONE coat and blocks general stains and a mildew-resistant finish!

Here is what bonding primer is ideal for:

  • Cabinets
  • Tile
  • Trim
  • Doors
  • Glass
  • Metal
  • Drywall 
  • Wood
  • Masonry 
  • Paneling


Here are multiple bonding primers that get great customer reviews:

  1. Valspar Bonding Primer
  2. Sherwin Williams Extreme Bond Primer
  3. Kilz Adhesion Primer
  4. Benjamin Moore Stix Primer

Use the brand you prefer, but Valspar Bonding Primer is what I used on ALL of my projects and the one I stand by. 

Here is bonding primer applied to a large carved stained armoire, so you see what it looks like when applied.

Primed Armoire

Bonding primer is not designed to COVER and the stained surface will show through.

Typically you only need one coat, but you can apply two if needed. 

It will look blotchy and rough, but it’s doing its job locking in the stain and creating a rough surface so the paint will adhere to it.


The adhesion occurs after your final coat of paint fully cures…typically in 7 days.

Bonding primer acts like peanut butter between two pieces of bread making them stick together.

That’s the best analogy I can give you 🙂

When to Sand, Before Painting? 

There are times that I will recommend sanding before painting.

It depends on how glossy the surface is that you are painting.

When I say “sanding” I mean ROUGH UP THE SURFACE…not sand it off.

When you should rough up the surface by sanding:

  • Laminate
  • Melamine
  • Varnish
  • High-Gloss Finishes
  • High foot traffic areas like floors, stair treads and risers

Just use a medium grit sand paper to “rough up the surface” and remove ALL traces of dust with a tack cloth or a damp microfiber cloth

Then apply the bonding primer.

Before Stained and After Paint Projects

Here is a great sampling of the projects I’ve completed painting over polyurethane and stain.

What you can see is that dark stains were really popular 11 years ago, when I purchased this house. 

Paint is the cheapest and most impactful makeover there is!

Cabinets: Paint Over Stain

Click each link to be taken to additional details and or tutorials for the individual paint projects.

For your convenience, I’ve listed the general products used but colors and process are in the linked posts 🙂

Powder Room Vanity Paint Makeover

Products Used: Valspar Bonding Primer. Behr Premium Plus Ultra Semi-Gloss Paint + Faux Finish Glaze. No top coat.

before after painted stained powder room vanity no sanding

Office Cabinet Paint Makeover

Products Used: Valspar Bonding Primer. Valspar Cabinet Enamel Semi-Gloss. No top coat.

before after painted stained office cabinets no sanding

Master Bathroom Vanity Paint Makeover

Products Used: Valspar Bonding Primer. Valspar Cabinet Enamel Semi-Gloss. No top coat.

before after painted stained bathroom cabinets no sanding

Furniture: Paint Over Stain Projects

Master Bedroom Furniture Paint Makeover

Products Used: Valspar Bonding Primer. Valspar Cabinet Enamel Semi-Gloss. No top coat.

before after painted stained large armoire entertainment center no sanding

Products Used: Valspar Bonding Primer. Valspar Cabinet Enamel Semi-Gloss. No top coat.

before after painted stained bedroom nightstands no sanding

Products Used: Valspar Bonding Primer. Valspar Cabinet Enamel Semi-Gloss. No top coat.

bombay chest painted over stain

Stair Risers: Paint Over Stain

This was a project I long avoided, but knew it would be a great change!

Guess what? In this project I tried to prep with something other than a bonding primer and had a major FAIL.

Luckily, Valspar Bonding Primer saved the day so read all about the project here. 

How-to Paint Stair Risers White


Products Used: Valspar Bonding Primer. Valspar Signature Semi-Gloss Paint. No top coat.

Can you believe how the white risers changed the look of the foyer?

Now all of the pretty blues pop!

Chalk Paint: Furniture Makeover

Guess what? On this project I avoided sanding and priming altogether!

It’s by far my FAVORITE paint makeover and the first time I used chalk paint.

Dining Room Credenza Paint Makeover

Products Used: Valspar Chalky Paint. Minwax Polycrylic Clear Matte Top Coat.

before after painted stained dining sideboard console credenza no sanding

Most projects were simple updates, but my office looks like you aren’t in the same home! That was a massive makeover and painting the cabinets changed everything.

When to Paint Cabinets and Furniture

Let’s talk about when to paint in general:

  • You can’t afford to replace it, but want a change
  • The look you want can’t be bought
  • Add light or color to an area
  • Create visual interest
  • Embrace a new home decor trend
  • Highlight carved details
  • Update an outdated piece

When to replace

  • You want a new look that can’t be achieved with paint
  • Your budget allows for a new purchase
  • The piece is beyond repair
  • An item is associated with a negative time in your life

When not to paint

  • It’s a family heirloom
  • An antique with value that would be lost by painting
  • Stain brings a rich warmth to your home decor
  • You love the beauty of stained wood more than a painted finish

Not everyone wants a painted finish and there are gorgeous pieces of furniture that it would feel like a sin to paint.

So don’t feel pressured to paint, if you love your stained pieces!

Like these paint projects? You may enjoy these posts:

My Favorite Furniture Paint and Why

My Best Paint Advice: 15 Common Questions Answered!

10 Year Before and After Home Tour with PAINT COLORS!

Please consider signing up for my weekly email newsletter and following me on Pinterest and Instagram for daily inspiration.

Until next time…

Porch Daydreamer


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  1. Hi Tracey:
    Thank you for sharing such great information. Is it okay to use a bonding primer vs. sanding over a shiny surface before painting? I want to repaint my mahogany dining table, which has a very shiny top and a few nicks.

  2. Hi Tracey,
    I LOVE your ideas and your story. I’m starting to update our 26yo home ( what were we THINKING, in the 90s?!) You say to sand if chipped paint… most of my Window trim and cupboards look like this… where the paint has peeled/ chipped off in small areas along the beveled edge Would I have to sand all these edges? Or will the primer do?

  3. Great information! I have trim in my sunroom that was originally primed & originally painted with oil base. Second time around latex. Now it’s time to repaint and i was wondering if the cabinet paint would work. Needs some sanding due to the dog! How should I approach this project?

    1. Hmmm, is the sunroom an exterior space? I’d recommend an exterior semi-gloss if it is. Cabinet paint is so expensive, so I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead a semi-gloss is the way to go for trim. I have a free paint sheen download project guide on my home page withe email sign-up that could be helpful!

  4. Hi there! I want to paint my kitchen cabinets which have polyurethane on them. In some spots, the polyurethane has come off due to over-cleaning. After cleaning with a degreasing chemical cleaner, can I still apply the Valspar Bonding Primer? Or will the uneven surface (some parts bare, some parts with polyurethane) be an issue? Thanks in advance!

  5. I was wondering what your thoughts were on paint sprayers. I want to paint kitchen cabinets and a kitchen table and chairs. Should I go with an airless paint sprayer or the HVLP?

  6. I can not find Krud Kutter anywhere – it has said sold out for awhile (at Home Depot)! Do you have another recommendation? We are ready to jump in and get out feet wet with a fairly large project. 🙂

  7. Have you painted your kitchen cabinets? If yes, we’re they stained and shiny? Mine are stained and I’m
    concerned the paint won’t hold up for 5-10 years. It’s just the 2 of us – no kiddos. Do you have a procedure for painting kitchen cabinets? Thanks!

  8. Tried this no sanding technique with the suggested vaspar bonding primer. Well, it was a complete fail and waste of money. After it was dried I could scratch it off with my hand. If it sound too good to be true then it is. I will go back to the way I’ve alway done it. Major disappointment!

    1. Did you scratch the primer with your finger nail? Or did you paint and the whole project failed? The proper way to test primer or paint adhesion is to lightly score a cross, apply painters tape over the score, and when you pull up if the primer stays it has adhered. If a surface isn’t properly prepared and clean that can cause issues as well. I have painted countless items with this bonding primer and NEVER had any adhesion issue.

  9. If I use the Valspar Cabinet Enamel Semi Gloss on an console table that I purchased from an antique store and has a shiny smooth finish over it, like the credenza in this post, do I have to sand, apply a primer, paint 2-3 coats and then a top coat? I will be using it for a TV Stand and I would like it white. True white.

  10. Hi Tracey
    On the paint projects would you let us know which were chalk painted and which were not, I had assumed incorrectly all were chalk painted. I know you like Valspar chalk are some Valspar flat latex? Thanks

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