If You Paint Your Hardwood Floor, Beware Tannin Bleed Through



A little over a week ago, I painted a black and white chevron design on the back entry floor. Before I painted that design, the floor had been wood filled, sanded and stained with one coat of white tinted wood stain. I didn’t do any other prep work before painting the floor because I thought it might be charming to see the wood grain through the white paint. At first, it looked great.

If you missed the post about how I created and painted that design, you can see it here…

I protected that painted design with one coat of clear polyurethane and was going to coat it three more times after I finished the whitewashing process on the rest of the floor so that it could all be clear coated at the same time.

But a day or two later, I started noticing bleed through on the floor. A few of the floor boards evidently had an abundance of tannins in them, and the dark color started bleeding through the white painted areas. Unlike what I had envisioned, there was nothing charming about this.

And as much as it shows it pictures, it was about twice as dark in person. It was very distracting and ruined the flow of the chevron design.

This definitely wasn’t the look I had in mind when I decided that some wood grain showing through the white would be charming.

So to remedy the problem, I re-taped the design, used some 150-grit sandpaper, and sanded the white areas.

painted chevron floor pattern with wood tannins bleeding through - repairing with sanding and priming

After vacuuming up the dust, I primed the white areas with Zinsser Cover Stain, an oil-based primer. Then I repainted the white areas with latex paint and polyurethaned it when I did the rest of the floor.

painted chevron floor pattern - block tannin bleed through with oil based primer

It’s been a few days now, and I haven’t had any more tannins bleeding through, so the Zinsser Cover Stain did the trick.

I’ve been using Zinsser Cover Stain for years now, and I’ve never had a problem with bleed through when I used the oil-based primer. I use it any time I want to paint wood — cabinets, furniture, etc. And unlike oil-based paint, oil-based primer can be topcoated with either oil-based paint or latex paint.

If you have a particularly stubborn bleedthrough problem, like a dark knot in the wood that continues to bleed through even after being primed and painted, it might be necessary to cover it with shellac first. But I’ve never had a stain or knot that the Zinsser Cover Stain didn’t take care of. I swear by the stuff!





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