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Painting & Decorating

My staircase has been transformed from varnish to white gloss. however, i'm wondering if the painter and decorator has done it properly?

I have a staircase and landing which was finished in a dark varnish. I hired a painter and decorator to paint it white. In his quote he said he would "rub down all woodwork, apply one coat of Dulux trade wood primer, then undercoat, then gloss to the woodwork".

Halfway through the job, I questioned him as they hadn't rubbed down the varnish to remove it all. He assured me that it would be absolutely fine and they had rubbed it down lightly. Effectively the varnish colour and glossy sheen appeared to remain in the parts they hadn't done at that point. When asking the chap, he told me that they would paint the white, then rub that down which made it easier.

They finished a week ago, and yesterday my four year old son threw a toy car which hit the woodwork and some paint has chipped off and the wood slightly dented (I would obviously expect some damage to the paintwork). However, the old varnish is showing through and it reignited my original fears

Am I expecting too much, or should he have rubbed it right down to the bare wood?

Fortunately, he's only just given me the invoice, so I haven't paid him yet giving me some leverage if he hasn't done it properly. However, I don't want to be unfair if he has done it properly and I'm expecting too much.

Many thanks.

11 Answers from MyBuilder Painters & Decorators

Best Answer

1,Thoroughly wash the surface with mineral spirits and a rag.

2,Fill any indentations or nail holes with wood filler, following the instructions for the particular wood filler that you chose.

3,Lightly sand the surface with a fine grade sandpaper until all the glossy surface of the varnish has been removed from the surface.

4, Hoover the area and clean the dust from the sanding on the areas to be painted with a tackcloth.

5,Prime the surface with oil-based Zinsser primer.

6,Wait for the primer to dry completely.

7 Apply 2 coats of dulux trade undercoat.

8, Apply 1 to 2 coats of dulux trade gloss.

I hope this helps.



Answered 15th May 2011

If the spec was to just prime undercoat and gloss then yes i agree with the other decorators the shiny varnish should of been removed as normal wood primer will not adhere to the varnish.What i would of done is degreased all surfaces using a cloth and metherlated spirit then use zinsser BIN Primer Sealer which is designed to stick to glossy,varnished surfaces without the need for sanding which saves all the hassle of alot of horrible dust around the home. It also seals in the knots which might start to bleed through if the timber is sanded back to bare wood and just primed.Its a bit more expensive than your normal paint but well worth it in the long run.


Answered 14th May 2011

spot on JP Kernick, you wouldn't need to strip any varnish if you use a couple of coats of shellac based zinsser, followed by a good coat of acrylic undercoat then your finish coat and the job will be done in half the time than stripping, sanding etc etc etc. Your gauranteed an early finish with Zinnser haha!!


Answered 15th May 2011

I have to part agree with KB plastering... It seems the basic prep hasn't been done to form a "key" for the undercoat and gloss to stay on, It don't need to be sanded right down to bare wood as the first coat of stained varnish would of soaked in to the wood, but the sheen to the varnish should of been rubbed right back to form a good key... its the same prep work if your painting over a glossed surface, a good rub down first, otherwise anything on top will peel off!
You should try and see if the new paint can be peeled right off.. hand rail is the best place, if all layers come away in one go then the proof is there, not rubbed down!!


Answered 11th May 2011

i have seen this time and time again, you cannot paint on varnish surfaces without loads of prep.I agree with brushstokes you have to rub it down so it is flat ,no gloosy finish at all . Another option is to strip off varnish with nitro-mors or heat sometimes this is less labour intensive option.
Loads of cowboys in this trade it annoys me everytime.


Answered 16th Dec 2011

hi ...sounds like he has cut corners ..need to sand the varnish off as it acts like a seal and the paint wont adhere properly ,,and like you stated the paint will just come off as soon as anything touches it ,,i would not pay him {her} ..until its done properly ..sanded back to remove all varnish coat of primer and a coat of gloss ..something like your staircase with so much traffic needs to be done PROPERLY especially with kids in the house ...good luck


Answered 11th May 2011

It sounds like the prep work hasnt been done well, as the others said should have been completley sanded down.
Well done for not paying him yet, but there is a difference regarding his quote stating rub down, which is a bit different from completely sanding.


Answered 12th May 2011

Go with what brush strokes south west says , spot on- cant get better advice than that!


Answered 28th May 2011

all giving good advice and i agree with country house too many think its an easy trade


Answered 26th Mar 2012

I agree with what k b plastering said , the varnish should have been stripped off prior to painting.


Answered 11th May 2011

80 % preparation , 20% decoration - simple !!


Answered 15th Apr 2017

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