Painting over varnish

Any advice for the proper way to paint over varnished wood? I want to paint the spindles and risers on some stairs but do I sand them down or strip the finish before the primer/paint? TIA.
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Scuff sanding is enough, enables the primer to grab onto surface.
On Thu, 18 Dec 2003 13:18:15 GMT, Gerald O'Brien

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Thanks for the advice. I think I was secretly hoping to find a technique that didnt involve sanding! But I know it makes sense to not just bite into the varnish but to adhere to the surface of the wood. Thank you again.
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I recently paint old varnished bathroom cabinets that really needed some attention. I sanded them well, mostly to rough up what varnish was still sticking to the wood, then painted first with Kilz primer. Then my top coat paint would stick and stay nice looking.
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kilz primer has shellac in it, which is what allows you to paint over varnish. you could try shellac straight.

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Charles Spitzer wrote:

Shellac has little to do with painting over varnish. Most primers, whether oil or water base, can be used over varnish if the surface is properly prepared. Some folks think you can slap Kilz on anything, and it will hold the house together forever. Kilz, and all other primers, require a clean, deglossed surface (free of dust, mildew, grease, etc.) Sand. Clean. Prime. Paint. I would not be anxious to put paint on turned spindles, but if you must I would use oil base semi-gloss enamel over a suitable primer. Kilz is wonderful for tough jobs, like stains and wierd surfaces (metal, formica, etc.), but the shellac base primer is tough to apply because it dries quickly. Any standard primer suited for the paint you choose will be fine. If the varnish isn't thick and/or glossy, you can probably smoothe it much more easily by using coarse steel wool around the spindles than by using sand paper, especially if they are turned. Be sure to remove the dust, regardless of what you use. Vacuum then tack cloth :o)
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I have a house where all the woodwork was varnished and the prior owner painted over it all without priming. Now it is all peeling and cracking. So far, the only paint that has seemed to hold is Bin.
Does anyone know if it will hold the prior coat down for years, or should I just strip everything and start fresh? (Urgh!)
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looking woodwork. Just clean the old surface, lightly scuff with steel wool, and prime and paint over that. Unless an actual chemical reaction occurs between old and new finishes, cracking and peeling, in my experience, is usuallly due to the old finish not being clean. 40 years of floor wax, cooking fumes, smoke, oil furnace residue, etc, doesn't hold paint well.
Standard disclaimer- I'm no expert, just going by the projects I've done or witnessed over the years. YMMV.
aem sends....
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