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.

painted black and white chevron floor design - 15

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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    1. No, the one I use isn’t shellac based. I’ve never used that one, but I’ve heard people complain about it not blocking all stains and bleed through. I’ve never had that issue with the one I use.

  1. I had some tannins and even beads of what I assume are tannins come up when painting my cabinets. I ended up using a water based shellac and it stopped all the bleed through in its tracks.

  2. Glad that it was an uncomplicated fix, even though it did need to be fixed. One of the great things about you being willing to blog your home improvement and decorating life, is that so many get to learn from both your successes and your hiccups. 👍🏻👍🏻 Thank you!

  3. Kristi, this question is off the subject, but am going to paint my oak cabinets,I wrote the kind of paint down that you used to eliminate the grain, but it was so long ago , I cant find it, could you tell me again, I’m sure their are others who would love this info, thank you in advance

  4. Too bad, but not unfixable. I knew there could be a tannin problem with pine and other soft woods, but I didn’t know this could happen with oak.

  5. Krista,do u ever go in your beautiful studio and just stare and think ” this used to be that ugly little garage?

  6. Ugh! Sorry you had to go thru that, but very happy for you that it was a fairly easy fix. Will your studio floor do this as well? Since it’s a whitewash?

    1. Yes, the studio floor has some boards that are the same way, but it doesn’t bother me. Since a stained floor is expected to have a variation of colors and tones in it, it looks fine. It’s only really noticeable on the areas where the color is expected to be a solid white.

  7. Kristi, I love your blog, but especially love how you discuss mistakes/failures/whatever and how you work to remedy the issue.
    So many sites peddle incorrect information, I always rely on your advice. You have inspired me to paint my bathroom cabinets, hubby is shocked at why I would wan to do that.

    1. Yes, I paint all of my trim with Behr Premium Plus (not the Ultra) in Polar Bear in a satin finish. I can’t even remember the last time I purchased oil-based paint. If you’re really concerned about durability, I would suggest clear coating with General Finishes High Performance Topcoat in the sheen of your choice. (I prefer flat, which is actually more of a soft satin.) I’m considering doing that on my own trim because it’s just so durable and makes it very easy to clean. That’s what I used to topcoat my kitchen cabinets, and it’s amazing stuff!

  8. Arrgghhhh, I’m so sorry to hear about the tannin bleeding on your gorgeous chevron floor rug, but I’m pleased it was a somewhat relatively easy process to rectify it. You must go into your already beautiful studio, thinking how it was an ugly duckling and now it’s being transformed into a beautiful swan. I love all your work Kristi, but this studio might be up there with my all time favorite already. Well done……you are doing such an amazing job.

  9. Well, that had to be annoying and just added more work! Having to do over something that turned out beautifully the first time is really too bad—glad you’ve got it fixed!!

  10. Your artistic and creative talents and communication skills are absolutely amazing!

    Could you provide link to specific Zinsser Cover Stain, oil-based primer That you used. When I googled I get several different Zinsser products and want the ONE you use and like.

    THANK YOU for sharing with us your trials, fixes and beautiful yet functional triumphs!