Choosing the Right Paint to Cover Stains on Commercial Properties

Have you maintained your commercial building’s appearance recently? It can help attract customers and enhance your brand’s reputation. A well-maintained building can also help boost your employees’ morale and productivity.

Covering stains with paint can be challenging due to issues like stain bleed-through and uneven coloration. A damaged underlying surface can cause adherence issues. Stains from substances like water, grease, or mold can also be a problem. This article will help you choose the best paint solutions specifically designed to cover stubborn stains.

Understanding Stains in Commercial Settings

Types of common stains found on commercial properties

  • Water stains – They often appear as discolored patches on walls or ceilings, resulting from leaks or condensation.
  • Mold – Black or green spots typically grow in moist, warm areas. They pose health risks and can cause structural damage.
  • Grease – These stains are slick and can be stubborn to remove. They are usually found in kitchens or dining areas. 
  • Graffiti – Spray paints and markers used to deface property. They vary widely in substance and color.

Factors contributing to staining

  • Environmental – Weather conditions like rain, snow, and sunlight can cause or exacerbate staining. Moisture is particularly influential in mold growth.
  • Accidental – Spills or improper cleaning can leave stains, especially in high-traffic areas.
  • Vandalism – Deliberate defacement, such as graffiti, contributes to staining in commercial properties.

Why are some stains tougher to cover than others?

  • Material and porosity – Porous surfaces like concrete and wood absorb stains deeper, making them harder to clean and cover.
  • Stain composition – The stain’s chemical makeup (e.g., oil-based, protein-based) may use specific cleaning agents to break it down effectively.
  • Age of the stain – Older stains are set more firmly into the material, making them more challenging to remove or cover.
  • Environmental exposure – Stains exposed to environmental factors without protection can become more ingrained and resistant to treatment.

Paint Types Suitable for Stain Coverage

Breakdown of paint types used for commercial properties

  • Oil-based paints – These are durable and recommended for high-contact areas. They provide a smooth, glossy finish and are excellent for wood and metal surfaces.
  • Latex paints – These water-based paints are the most common choice for walls and ceilings. They are easy to use, dry quickly, and are environmentally friendly.
  • Acrylic paints – They are latex paints with added acrylic to improve durability. They are great for exterior and interior surfaces. They also offer excellent color retention and resistance to weathering.
  • Alkyd paints – Alkyd paints are synthetic resin paints. They offer superior adhesion and a hard, durable finish. They can be used in areas requiring rigorous cleaning.

Advantages and disadvantages of each paint type in terms of stain coverage

Oil-based paints

  • Advantages – Excellent adhesion; high resistance to staining; great for covering imperfections.
  • Disadvantages –Drying time takes more time; it is more prone to cracking and yellowing; it has strong odors; and it requires solvents for clean-up.

Latex paints

  • Advantages – Easy application and clean-up; dries quickly; flexible finish that resists cracking.
  • Disadvantages – Less effective at covering oil or grease stains; can swell the grain of wood.

Acrylic paints

  • Advantages – It combines the durability of oil-based paints with the easy use of latex and has good stain resistance.
  • Disadvantages – More expensive than standard latex; may require multiple coats for deep colors.

Alkyd paints

  • Advantages – Excellent durability and stain resistance; very good for high-traffic areas.
  • Disadvantages – Requires solvents for clean-up, slower drying times, and strong odors.

Specific paints formulated for stain-blocking

  • Oil-based primer paints – These paints are used as a base coat to prevent previous stains from bleeding through. They’re especially effective against water, smoke, and grease stains.
  • High-build latex primers – These primers can handle tough stains and prevent them from reappearing. They offer good coverage and seal porous surfaces to provide a uniform base.
  • Shellac-based primers – These primers have superior stain-blocking properties against severe stains and odors. They dry quickly and can be painted over with latex or oil-based paints.

Preparing the Surfaces for Optimal Coverage

Importance of surface preparation for effective stain coverage

Surface preparation is crucial in every paint project. One of its benefits is effective stain coverage. Proper preparation ensures that the stain won’t bleed through the new paint. It also provides uniform coverage for the paint, making it durable. 

Step-by-step guide on preparing different surfaces

1. Cleaning

  • Wood – Have a wood cleaner or a mixture of water and mild detergent. Use it to remove dirt, grease, and old finishes. Then, rinse the surface thoroughly with clean water.
  • Concrete – Use a concrete cleaner to remove oil, grease, or soil. Scrub with a stiff brush and rinse thoroughly.
  • Metal – Use solvents (like mineral spirits) to remove grease or rust from the surface. Scrub off rust with a wire brush or sandpaper.

2. Priming

  • Wood – Apply a wood primer to seal the wood and enhance the adhesion of the stain.
  • Concrete – Use a concrete primer to help the stain penetrate more evenly.
  • Metal – Apply a rust-inhibiting primer.

3. Sanding

  • Wood – Sand the wood along the grain using progressively finer sandpaper (coarse to fine). It will create a smooth surface.
  • Concrete – You might require sanding for very smooth or polished concrete to allow better primer and paint adhesion.
  • Metal – Sand to create a rough surface for better primer adhesion. It is crucial if the metal is very smooth or has been previously painted.

Recommended products and tools for surface preparation

1. Products

  • Cleaners – Trisodium phosphate (TSP) for heavy-duty cleaning or Simple Green for eco-friendly cleaning.
  • Primers – Zinsser Bulls Eye for wood, KILZ Concrete & Masonry Bonding Primer for concrete, and Rust-Oleum Rusty Metal Primer for metal.
  • Stains – Choose depending on the type of surface and desired finish (e.g., Minwax for wood, Behr for concrete).

2. Tools

  • Brushes – Use natural bristle brushes for oil-based stains and synthetic brushes for water-based stains.
  • Sanders – Use orbital sanders for large wooden surfaces, hand sanding blocks for small areas, or fine finishing.
  • Cleaning tools – Use stiff brushes, rags, and possibly a power washer for outdoor concrete surfaces.

Techniques for Applying Stain-Covering Paints

The painter is painting a 3d wall

Best practices for applying paint for complete stain coverage

  • Preparation – Clean the surface thoroughly to remove dirt, grease, and residue. It ensures the paint adheres well and the stain does not bleed through.
  • Priming – Use a stain-blocking primer before painting. Primers prevent stains from showing through the paint. An oil-based primer is often more effective for heavy stains than a water-based one.
  • Application – Apply primer and paint evenly, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended drying times.
  • Technique – Use long, even strokes to apply the primer and paint. Doing so helps achieve a more uniform coat without leaving brush marks.

Tools and techniques for different types of paints and surfaces

  • Brushes – Use synthetic brushes for water-based paints and natural bristle brushes for oil-based paints. Brushes are ideal for small areas, corners, and details.
  • Rollers – Rollers provide a quick way to cover large, flat surfaces. Use rollers with different nap lengths depending on the surface’s texture (short nap for smooth surfaces, long nap for rough surfaces).
  • Sprayers – Paint sprayers are great for quickly covering large areas or uneven surfaces. They can handle water- and oil-based paints but require more preparation and cleanup.
  • Surface considerations – Smooth surfaces generally require thin, even layers of paint. Textured surfaces might need thicker paints. They might also be tools that can reach into crevices (like rollers with a thicker nap).

Tips for dealing with particularly stubborn stains

  • Multiple coats – Apply several coats of primer to ensure that stubborn stains are fully covered. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next coat.
  • Special primers – Does your surface have stubborn stains like water damage, smoke, or ink? Consider using a shellac-based primer. It blocks stains and prevents bleed-through.
  • Testing – Test the paint and primer on a small, inconspicuous part of the surface to ensure the stain is completely covered. Do this before painting the entire area.
  • Ventilation – Ensure good ventilation when working with more intense primers and paints. This is especially true for oil-based or shellac-based ones, as they potentially emit strong fumes.

Maintenance Tips to Prevent Future Staining

Strategies for protecting painted surfaces from future stains

  • Use high-quality paint – Use stain-resistant paints that provide a more robust and easier-to-clean surface.
  • Apply a protective finish – Apply a clear coat or varnish over the painted surface to further protect against stains and scratches.
  • Use sealants – Kitchens and bathrooms are usually prone to moisture or staining. Use a sealant to protect the paint from water damage and stains in those areas.

Routine maintenance tips to extend the life of paint and maintain aesthetic appeal

  • Regular cleaning – To prevent dirt buildup, Clean painted surfaces gently with a soft cloth or sponge and a mild detergent solution.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals – Use gentle cleaning solutions designed for painted surfaces. These solutions can remove stains without causing surface damage.
  • Inspect regularly – Check for signs of peeling, cracking, or fading. Detecting these issues early can help you address them before they require a significant repaint.

Quick touch-up techniques for accidental staining

  • Immediate action – Quickly clean spills and stains with a damp cloth to prevent them from setting into the paint.
  • Touch-up painting – Keep some of the original paint for minor touch-ups. Use a small brush to apply paint only to the affected area, blending it into the surrounding area.
  • Magic erasers – Use a magic eraser gently on minor scuffs or marks. Test it in a discreet area first to ensure it doesn’t damage the finish.


Painting over stained surfaces can be challenging, depending on the stain type and severity. It requires the right tools and adequate prep work to help you get rid of unwanted marks on surfaces. Spotlessly clean walls can make your commercial building welcoming to your clients and employees.

For your convenience, hire only qualified painting contractors in the Bay Area to handle the job. Custom Painting, Inc. makes your residential and commercial buildings look their best inside out. For a free consultation or estimate, call us today at 925-294-8062 or complete our contact form here.