How to Paint Over Semi-Gloss Without Sanding: A Step-by-Step Guide

Bob Thomas


Semi-gloss paint is known for its durability and sheen, making it a popular choice for various surfaces in homes.

However, when it's time for a fresh coat of paint, you might wonder if you can paint over semi-gloss without sanding.

The good news is that with the right preparation and techniques, you can! 

In this article, I'll guide you through the steps to successfully paint over semi-gloss paint without sanding.

Let's dive in!

Quick Summary

To paint over semi-gloss without sanding, follow these steps: 1) Clean the surface, 2) Apply a deglosser, 3) Prime the surface with a bonding primer, 4) Paint the surface using a high-quality paint, and 5) Add a protective topcoat if desired. Following these steps will ensure a smooth, long-lasting finish.

Clean the Surface

Before you start painting, it's crucial to clean the surface thoroughly.

Use a mild detergent mixed with water and a soft cloth or sponge to remove any dirt, grease, or grime.

Make sure to rinse the surface with clean water and allow it to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Apply a Deglosser

A deglosser, also known as a liquid sandpaper, is a chemical solution that dulls the glossy finish of the paint, making it easier for the new paint to adhere.

Apply the deglosser according to the manufacturer's instructions, using a clean cloth or sponge.

Make sure to wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area.

Allow the deglosser to work on the surface for the recommended time before moving on to the next step.

Prime the Surface with a Bonding Primer

A bonding primer is specifically designed to adhere to glossy surfaces without sanding.

It creates a solid foundation for the new paint to stick to.

Apply a coat of bonding primer, such as Zinsser's Bondz or KILZ Adhesion, using a high-quality brush or roller. 

Make sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations for drying time and application methods.

Paint the Surface

Once the primer is dry, you can apply your new paint.

Choose a high-quality paint that is compatible with the bonding primer.

Use a high-quality brush or roller to apply the paint, using even strokes and maintaining a wet edge to avoid brush marks or roller lines.

Apply at least two coats of paint, allowing the paint to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions between coats.

Pro Tip: When painting over semi-gloss, use a high-quality, short-nap roller to achieve a smooth and even finish.

Add a Protective Topcoat (Optional)

Depending on the desired finish and durability, you may want to add a protective topcoat.

This step is optional but can enhance the appearance and longevity of your paint job.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for applying the topcoat and allow it to dry completely.

Risks and Considerations

While painting over semi-gloss without sanding can save time and effort, it's essential to be aware of the risks and considerations involved.

Here, we outline some potential issues and factors to keep in mind during the process.

Insufficient Surface Preparation:

Failing to properly clean and degloss the surface can lead to poor adhesion of the primer and paint.

This may cause peeling, chipping, or bubbling in the long run.

Ensure that you thoroughly clean and degloss the surface before applying primer and paint.

Incompatibility of Products:

Using incompatible primer, paint, and topcoat products may result in poor adhesion or unexpected reactions between layers.

Always check the compatibility of the products you're using, and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Health and Safety Concerns:

Deglossers contain chemicals that can be harmful if not handled correctly.

Wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area when using a deglosser.

Additionally, consider wearing a mask and protective eyewear to minimize exposure to fumes and dust.

Inadequate Drying Time:

Rushing the drying process between primer and paint coats can lead to an uneven finish or compromised adhesion.

Allow each layer to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Uneven Paint Application:

Using low-quality brushes, rollers, or incorrect techniques can result in brush marks, roller lines, or an uneven finish.

Invest in high-quality tools and take your time to apply the paint evenly.

Environmental Factors:

Temperature and humidity can impact the drying time and the overall finish of your paint job.

Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for ideal painting conditions and avoid painting in extreme temperatures or high humidity.

Incomplete Coverage:

Applying too few coats of paint may result in the semi-gloss finish showing through the new paint.

Ensure that you apply at least two coats of paint, or more if necessary, to achieve full coverage and a uniform finish.

By understanding and addressing these risks and considerations, you can successfully paint over semi-gloss without sanding and achieve a smooth, long-lasting finish.

Troubleshooting Common Issues 

Despite careful planning and preparation, you may still encounter some challenges when painting over semi-gloss without sanding.

Here is a troubleshooting guide to help you address common issues:

  1. Paint is not adhering to the surface:
  • Make sure the surface has been properly cleaned and deglossed.
  • Ensure that you are using a compatible primer and paint.
  • Check if the surface is too cold, hot, or damp, which can impact adhesion.
  1. Peeling or chipping paint:
  • Reassess surface preparation and deglossing steps.
  • Apply an additional coat of primer and paint to improve adhesion.
  • Avoid using incompatible or low-quality products.
  1. Bubbles or blisters in the paint:
  • Allow the paint to dry completely, then sand down the affected areas.
  • Clean the surface thoroughly and apply a new coat of paint.
  • Ensure you're painting in ideal environmental conditions.
  1. Brush marks or roller lines:
  • Use higher-quality brushes and rollers to minimize marks.
  • Apply paint in thin, even coats and maintain a wet edge while painting.
  • Practice good painting techniques, such as using the "W" or "M" pattern.
  1. Uneven or patchy finish:
  • Apply additional coats of paint to achieve uniform coverage.
  • Use a primer with better hiding capabilities.
  • Ensure proper drying time between coats.
  1. Drips and runs:
  • Remove excess paint from brushes or rollers before application.
  • Apply paint in thin, even coats to prevent buildup.
  • If drips or runs have dried, sand them down and apply a fresh coat of paint.

By identifying and addressing these common issues, you can improve your painting experience and achieve a smooth, long-lasting finish when painting over semi-gloss without sanding.

Personal Experiences

Last year, I helped my sister update her kitchen cabinets, which had a semi-gloss finish.

We followed these steps, and the result was fantastic!

The new paint adhered perfectly, and the cabinets looked brand new.

I highly recommend this method for painting over semi-gloss without sanding. 

Frequently Asked Questions Section (FAQs)

Q. How long should I wait for the deglosser to work before applying primer?

  A: Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the specific deglosser you are using.

Generally, you should wait about 10-15 minutes after applying the deglosser before wiping it off with a clean cloth.

Allow the surface to dry completely, which may take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, before applying the primer.

Q. Can I use a paint-and-primer-in-one product instead of separate primer and paint?

  A: While paint-and-primer-in-one products may work in some cases, it is generally recommended to use a separate bonding primer when painting over semi-gloss without sanding.

This will ensure better adhesion and a more durable finish.

Q. How do I know if my semi-gloss paint is oil-based or water-based?

  A: One simple method is to rub a small amount of denatured alcohol or rubbing alcohol on the surface with a clean cloth.

If the paint softens and comes off on the cloth, it is likely water-based. If the paint remains unaffected, it is likely oil-based.

Q. How many coats of primer and paint should I apply?

  A: Typically, one coat of bonding primer is sufficient for painting over semi-gloss surfaces.

However, if you're dealing with a particularly dark or stubborn color, you may need a second coat.

As for the paint, two coats are generally recommended for a smooth and even finish.

Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next one.

Sometimes even more coats are needed. 

Q. How long should I wait between applying primer and paint?

  A: Drying times vary depending on the specific products used and environmental conditions.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the recommended drying time.

Generally, you should wait at least 2-4 hours between applying primer and paint, but some products may require longer drying times.

Q. Can I use a paint sprayer instead of brushes or rollers?

  A: Yes, a paint sprayer can be used to apply primer and paint over semi-gloss surfaces without sanding.

Make sure to choose the appropriate settings and nozzle for the specific product and surface being painted.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions and guidelines for using the paint sprayer, and always wear proper protective gear.

Q. How can I dispose of leftover primer, paint, and deglosser?

  A: Proper disposal of these products is important for environmental safety.

Check with your local waste management facility for specific guidelines on disposing of hazardous materials.

As a general rule, never pour leftover paint or chemicals down drains or into the ground.

Allow leftover paint to dry completely in the can before disposing of it, and seal containers tightly before taking them to a designated waste facility.


Painting over semi-gloss paint without sanding is possible with the right preparation and techniques.

By following these steps, you can achieve a smooth, long-lasting finish that will transform your space.

So, grab your supplies and start updating your semi-gloss surfaces with confidence!

Suggested Products:

  1. Deglosser: Klean-Strip Liquid Sander Deglosser - This deglosser effectively removes the gloss from semi-gloss surfaces, providing better adhesion for primer and paint without the need for sanding. It is easy to apply and prepares the surface for a smooth and long-lasting finish.
  2. Bonding Primer: Zinsser B-I-N Bonding Primer - This shellac-based primer is designed to stick to glossy surfaces, ensuring proper adhesion when painting over semi-gloss without sanding. It also offers excellent stain-blocking properties and helps create a smooth, even base for the topcoat.
  3. Paint: Benjamin Moore Regal Select Interior Paint - This high-quality acrylic paint offers excellent coverage and durability, making it suitable for painting over semi-gloss surfaces without sanding. It is available in a wide range of colors and finishes, allowing you to achieve the desired look for your space.
  4. Paintbrush: Purdy XL Series Glide Angular Trim Paintbrush - This high-quality paintbrush is designed to provide a smooth and even application of paint, making it an excellent choice for painting over semi-gloss surfaces without sanding. Its angled bristles allow for precise control, ensuring a professional-looking finish.
  5. Paint Roller: Wooster Pro Doo-Z Roller Cover - This paint roller cover is made from a high-quality woven fabric that provides a smooth and even application of paint, making it suitable for painting over semi-gloss surfaces without sanding. Its shed-resistant design ensures a lint-free finish, helping you achieve a flawless result.
  6. Drop Cloth: Trimaco SuperTuff Canvas Drop Cloth - This heavy-duty canvas drop cloth is designed to protect your floors and furniture from paint splatters and spills while you paint over semi-gloss surfaces without sanding. Its durable and absorbent material ensures reliable protection throughout your painting project.

About the author 

Bob Thomas

A fully certified interior decorator and house painter , Bob Thomas brings immense expertise and knowledge amassed from many years of hands-on experience with residential, commercial and specialty painting and decorating projects of all sizes and scopes.

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