Hello my friends! I’m excited to announce that today marks the 1 year anniversary of Quick-Tip-Tuesdays on the SI Blog! WOW – time flies when you’re having fun! You may have noticed I didn’t include Q-T-T in the post title. I figure we all know what Tuesdays are about around here – so from now on I’ll just get right to it. 😉One of the most common questions I get asked is “Should I wax or poly?”.
The conversations sound something like this: I’ve painted a piece of furniture and it looks amazing… now what? How do I protect my restyled piece? What’s the most durable topcoat? Will wax hold up under heavy-duty use or extreme weather conditions?
Here’s an email I recently received from Lisa. (Thanks so much for sharing Lisa!)
I JUST came across your blog like 2 days ago and it’s great. Thanks for all you do. I would love to paint this table and chairs, and I’ve been reading on your blog different ways to go about it. I have 3 small boys and there is no point in buying a nice table because they will destroy it.
I have painted dressers with chalk paint before so I’m leaning towards spraying the table and chairs with that. But I feel like the wax will not give enough protection. This kitchen table will be spilled on, banged on, and sprayed and wiped with Lysol at least once a day.
Is there a top coat that will give it the protection it needs from every single day big family use? Or is this wishful thinking? Any help is MUCH appreciated.
Hi there Lisa!
This set would look amazing painted up!…very nice. For high traffic tables and chairs I like to use a non yellowing Polycrylic or Polyurethane topcoat. Many water-based brands are easy to work with and environmentally friendly.
A few of my favorites are Varathane, Minwax and General Finishes. All of these brands come in flat, semi or gloss sheen.
Poly sealer/topcoat will ensure your high traffic furniture is protected because it cures to a super hard finish. Seals to prevent dirt, grease, scratches, stains etc. It’s also easier to clean… great for your boys. 😉
Have fun with your project and enjoy your week.
Don’t let this email to Lisa give you the impression that I don’t use wax. I DO! And I use A LOT of IT – on MANY if not the majority of my chalk painted and milk painted pieces!
But here’s MY take on using wax or poly:
With the growing popularity of chalk and milk painted furniture, wax has become a SUPER POPULAR topcoat. Why? Because both chalk and milk painted furniture is porous in nature – wax easily absorbs into the surface.
When the wax hardens, it seals the painted surface with a lovely natural looking soft sheen. The sheen can then be controlled by additional buffing. And some gorgeous effects can be created by using dark wax, white wax, or metallic wax finishes!
Having said this, my preference for HIGH TRAFFIC items such as dining sets, children’s furniture or even kitchen/bathroom cabinets is POLY.
I also prefer using poly products to seal latex/acrylic or enamel painted pieces because they are NOT porous is nature!
The brands I use most often are Varathane Diamond Finish, Minwax Wipe-On Poly, and General Finishes High Performance Topcoat.
These polycrylics and polyurethanes cure to a super hard finish and protect against grease, dirt, and stains. Also, a poly topcoat has a more forgiving cleaning process. Once fully cured, ‘regular’ cleaning products can be used unlike waxed surfaces. For waxed pieces, a slightly damp cloth is recommended for cleaning – and depending on use, reapplication of the wax may be required a few years down the road.
With all the different brands and various opinions on wax and poly, it can be confusing on which topcoat to use on painted furniture. To keep things simple, I use wax on chalk painted and milk painted pieces (unless they are high traffic items!) and poly products on everything else!
If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below! And please chime in with YOUR opinion(s) on using wax or poly? When you wax. When you poly. And why! As always, I love hearing from you and learn so much from your comments!
Catch last week’s Q-T-T here – and if YOU have any ideas or tips you would like to share on the SI Quick-Tip-Tuesday-Series, send me an email!
Enjoy your day and have fun with your next project!
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Oh my gosh I so needed to find this post…so 4 or 5 years ago I painted my kitchen cabinets with ASCP and did a clear and dark wax. I have loved them up until these last few years. More or less it’s because I have had a few areas where the paint has not stuck no matter what I do. I am wanting to repaint them but want a smoother finish no wax. I love the versatility of how easy chalk paint is to use but am wondering if anyone has ever painted there cabinets with it and did a poly over the top and if so how did you get the smooth finish? Any tips or tricks would be appreciated.
I recently painted an old coffee table using light grey chalk paint with a whitewash on top. I’m very happy with the results! I absolutely don’t want the piece to yellow at all. What wax do you recommend?
Thank you for all of the info. I have painted a bench with latex paint and used a dark wax to antique it. I love the look and now intend to do the same with my dining table and chairs. SO if I am reading correctly, I need to also poly over the wax, right? Thank you for your time!
Hi Erin! No! 🙂 Wax can be applied over poly but it’s not recommended to apply poly over wax.
I know this is a slightly older post, but I’m repainting our antique kitchen table and am trying to choose between a water and oil-based poly. I was originally going to pick oil for durability (I have toddlers), but the table will be a very light/pale yellow (almost off-white) and I don’t want it to darken, AND I’m doing the entire project indoors and like that water-based doesn’t smell and dries faster. Do you think it will still be durable enough? Constantly using coasters, etc. isn’t much of an option with kids unfortunately so I need something reliable. Thanks so much!
Hi Hayley! I avoid oil-based topcoats because of the odour, clean-up and amber effect on white. I find a non-yellowing water based poly to be very durable and effective. 🙂
Great, thank you! I finished my water-based poly almost a week ago and so far have been very happy with it.
That’s great new Hayley! I love getting updates – so thanks. 🙂
Hi. I have been refinished a lot of furniture and I like to use a white chalk paint. I’m having trouble figuring out what to seal it with. I have used minwax poly, rustoleum triple matte, Waverly clear wax, and I just can’t find something that doesn’t yellow! I like it to be a matte finish so poly just isn’t for me. What product do you recommend using on white chalk paint that won’t yellow
Hi Brittany! A poly which states NON-YELLOWING right on the label (and they do come in flat or satin finish) is the best – bet but they are more challenging to find! I loved Varathane’s Diamond Finish which came in a non-yellowing formula but it’s getting harder and harder to find. I found this one (which I’m going to try) but couldn’t say if it works or not. If you’re not into using poly, a clear wax always gives a nice clean finish on whites.
Hello! I ran across this article while trying to decide if I want to add a top coat to my recently stained guest room doors. I was trying to decide if a wax would make sense. After much reading, I’m leaning towards not finishing them just leaving them stained. In reading about wax, it appears there isn’t a good way to remove it later so if there were scratches we couldn’t restain. Also since these are in the guest room, I think they will see very little use so seems not necessary. Your thoughts?
But the real reason I am writing is regarding your poly coats options. I have some latex painted built ins that again see very little use – used for decorative purposes only. I painted them when we first moved in, but never finished them (but had intentions to). I used a flat paint, because that is what I love, but they are getting marked up a bit so I was thinking it was time to repaint and poly them. So this post is actual perfect for my next project! Of the polys, do you recommend one over the other for painting shelves? Or do they all dry about the same? If they dry the same, is there one that application wise makes more sense? My final question is regarding drying time – how long would you recommend waiting before using the shelves again? I know with painted items alone they say 2-4 weeks to cure.
Now on to reading more of your blog and signing up to follow. Thanks so much!
Hi Jen! Thanks for the follow and signing up…welcome to the SI Blog! A future option for doors is a stain which has a built in finish because yes, wax can be a pain to remove. I really like General Finishes Topcoats, Varathane brands. Minwax is also good. When painting shelves, furniture ect, I like to use enamel paints. Sherwin Williams All Surface Enamel is my go to. It’s so durable and easy to clean even if not top coated! – a thought for future projects. And yes, dry time depends on a variety of things, temp, humidity, paint/topcoat application etc, but to be safe I would wait 3-4 weeks. Here’s a dry time/cure time guide you may find helpful. 🙂
Thank you so much! I will have to look into both for future projects.
I’m about to paint an old dining table with Waverly inspirations chalk paint (celery) any input on the paint, do you like it, is it good paint? Also I heard if you use a water base paint that the topcoat must also be water base? True or false? I’m so nervous to start this project not knowing what I’m getting myself into. Is minwax polycrylic a good topcoat to use?
I’ve never used Waverly Chalk Paint so I’m not sure. It’s my preference to use a water based paint AND topcoat but the answer is false – you can mix the two. Here’s a good General Finishes video which explains how. And yes, Minwax Poly is good. I’ve used it many times. Good luck with your table Elizabeth! Be bold and dive in. I’m sure it will turn out amazing. 🙂
Tracey & David Schneider says
I used Annie Sloan chalk paint to paint a kitchen chair. I used a coat of clear wax going back over with dark wax in some areas. I have a whole set of chairs to go. Since this is a high use family kitchen chair I’m regretting waxing. Can I use a poly sealer over this waxed chair? Which kind should I use?
Hi Tracey & David! The rule of thumb is wax over poly but not poly over wax. The reason being is when applying a water based product (poly) over a wax based product (wax), it usually doesn’t hold up well. If only one chair is waxed, you could consider stripping the wax off by sanding and/or mineral spirits, and then poly the entire set if that’s your preference.
Joleen Ann Williams says
I have a similar question to this and would love to know what you would do….I painted my kitchen cabinets with chalk paint and know I want to seal them with poly.
My problem is that I want to add depth and character to the look and love the results of using dark wax (been searching pinterest and youtube).
You just said that it will not work well to put a coat of poly on my cabinets if I am going to wax them first. What are my other options to give the paint depth and character before I apply the top coat of poly?
Thank you in advance because I have been spending so much time searching and searching for the answer to this question….
Hi Joleen! Another way to add depth and character on kitchen cabinets is by using a dark glaze. Very easy to do over chalk paint and can easily be top coated with poly. Having said that, if you LOVE the look of dark wax, maybe give it a try. Just keep in mind, it’s a little more challenging to clean/keep clean, and will eventually need to be reapplied down the road.
I own several antique pieces with chipping paint (possibly with lead paint). I have 2 small children and want to make sure I safely seal the surface, but at the same time keep the charm of the furniture. What should I use as a sealant? Also, in some areas where a lot of paint has chipped off I would like to add some new paint. How should I go about this?
Thanks so much for your help,
Hi Simone! Zinnser makes a product to stop/seal peeling called Peel Stop Clear Binding Sealer. A good choice if you don’t want to sand the lead paint and still want the original chippy-antique-patina. 🙂
Hello Denise! A few questions for you! I have a piece that is originally white. I will be using Allie Sloan’s Graphite(black), I want to distress the chalk paint to show the white…when would I do that? Befor the poly, or after? (May be a stupid question). Also, how long after applying the chalk paint should I wait to apply the poly?
No such thing as a stupid question Breana. 🙂 I distress my furniture before I apply poly. I also like to wait 24 hours (when possible) before applying my topcoats. Hope this helps and have fun. 🙂
Yvonne Ketterman says
What do you recommend for wood stained surfaces? Such as a nightstand. I came across 2 Ethan Allen Country French nightstands. The sides and legs are painted and in perfect condition. I sanded the tops which are stained wood and restrained them but I’m not sure whether to wax them or use a urethane or poly finish?
Help! Do you have any suggestions?
Hi Yvonne! For stained tops on night tables I like using a water base poly – but it’s really personal preference. Wax or poly will work nicely on nightstands.
Bonnie W Blinson says
First off, I’m so thankful to have found you! I am going to enjoy reading your blog very much. For now, my question is, I’m using a Lowes Brand of Furniture Paint. So far I love the finish but not the color. It’s not as dark as I’d like. I plan on using a poly finish because it’s on a dining table that will take a lot of use. If I use an antique media over the paint can I then poly. or should I just get the paint darkened before I poly? Your help will be greatly appreciated…
Hi Bonnie… welcome! 🙂 It depends on the antiquing method and/or look you’re after. Dark wax is a no-go because poly should not be applied over wax. A dark glaze or dark wash will work, and then apply poly. These methods will darken the color AND the look. If you want a clean look (not antique or wash) the easiest would be to darken the paint and apply another coat – then poly. I rambled a bit so I hope this makes sense and helps. 🙂
Mallory Perry says
I have painted a china hutch with annie sloan chalk paint in old white. Minwax polycrylic yellowed on a tester spot, so that is out! My next option was either wax (miss mustard seed or annie sloan) or general finishes flat finish.
I like the idea of wax because of its soft finish but I like the idea of poly for its durability. But I don’t know if I will need durability for a china cabinet? I will have children in a few years and most likely at least one boy (husbands side is all boys for generations).
What do you think? Wax (annie or miss mustard) or general finishes?
Hi Mallory! First off, good on you that you did a test spot! You just saved yourself a lot of time and frustration. In most cases, cabinets and hutches are not considered high traffic pieces of furniture. I’ve painted A LOT of china cabinets/hutches and most of the time – I protect/topcoat with wax.
Jamie Wingo says
Hi!!!! I found your blog when I googled information on whether or not I could use poly over chalk paint.
I’m new to all of this chalk paint business…my friends got me hooked!!! I’ve only tried Annie Sloan chalk paints, all in their recommendations, of course.
I love using this paint because you don’t have to sand or prep the furniture much (if at all!). I have four children so the prep time needed for other paints isn’t always available to me. However, I don’t really love the “feel” of chalk paint with wax when finished. I would rather have smooth, glossy or semi-glossy, easily wipeable surfaces! As you can imagine, those surfaces are much easier to clean and are more durable in my crazy household.
My question is this: during my search for a product I could use to finish out my chalk-painted pieces with the gloss I prefer, I found a couple other bloggers who mentioned that chalk paint will “crackle” using poly. Have you ever had this happen? Can you explain what can be done to prevent it? I’d like to do more pieces (and my front door!) but I’m afraid of ruining them with any crackling.
Hi Jamie! I’ve poly’d over a lot of chalk painted piece (diy recipes and brand name) and have never had a crackling problem. I also know other furniture painters that prefer poly over wax and have never had an issue. This is not to say it can’t happen though. Some contributing factors can be temperature, if the poly is applied too soon, or the poly is applied too thick. But if you wait until the chalky paint is 100% dry and apply your coats as directed, I’m sure you’ll be happy with the more durable finish. 🙂
Hey there…I love your posts, so informative and inspiring. I’m in the process of painting kitchen chairs in Annie Sloan graphite and plan to poly. I’ve been recommended GF High Performance and Varathane Triple Thick in Crystal Clear (two different recommendations). Which would you recommend out of these two (can’t find the Varathane Diamond). I plan on using the Satin finish. Thank you!
Hi Melissa! I’ve never used Varathane’s Triple Thick but I do love Varathane products – I use the Diamond topcoat often. GF – you can’t go wrong. If you do go with the Triple Thick, I’d love to hear how it works for you!
Thanks…do you think I need to work about the yellowing factor on the GF at all, in terms of changing the graphite color? Last question, do you sand between coasts?
No, when working with dark colors, you really don’t need to worry about the slight yellowing that may occur. Even if it does, it will not be noticeable. And yes, for a really professional finish, I sand very lightly in between each coat of poly and then leave the last coat unsanded. Good luck. Great project. 🙂
Hi Denise, I painted some pine furniture a while back now, had all good intentions to wax them and never got round to it. All pieces are now very marked and scratched (also due to having a 3 year old). I’m about to begin painting my dining room table and chairs in an off white/cream colour, with the top left in the natural wood. What would be best to finish them so they don’t get ruined like my other pieces, I’m thinking wax isn’t going to cut it?… and can I use the same finish on the bare wood as the painted surfaces? I’m also going to sand down the other pieces slightly and repaint and wax them while I’m at it! Would wax be enough or should I use something harder wearing for those too? Thankyou! I’m a complete novice when it comes to this 🙄
Hi Lauren! Sorry to hear about your marked and scratched pine furniture – frustrating I know. For high traffic items. like a dining set, I prefer using poly. It never needs to be reapplied, it protects the wood from scratches etc, and it’s super easy to clean. What I’ve been doing is giving the top of dressers/tables a poly topcoat, and waxing the body. An example is this pottery barn look-a-like buffet here. But yes, you can use poly on wood and paint. Good luck with your projects Lauren. 🙂
Thankyou so much, will try again…. hopefully with more luck this time. If the paint is very light in colour am I best using a non- yellowing poly?… if so is there one you find better? Thanks again!! 🙂
Yes, a non-yellowing poly is best. I really like this Varathane Diamond Finish – Non Yellowing but as I understand it from other readers, it’s sometimes a challenge to find is other countries.
Holly Euverman says
Hi – just discovered the Varathane Diamond Wood Finish (also in Canada, from Home Depot) – and am in love. Seriously, dangerously head-over-heels in love with the stuff…I use it over raw chalk paint and the result is a lovely lustrous (sp?), deep color. I prefer the matte finish on my homemade tobacco-black chalk painted pieces now more than my beloved Minwax dark finishing paste (shocking but true)…added bonus is the feel of the finished piece, silky smooth! It self-levels, I sand v lightly in between 3 coats and the result is uh-may-zing. Good luck!
I’m really glad I came across your site! I was so excited to paint my dining room table that I started using it before I applied the poly finish! Now I have all these stains on the table….grease, even water…should I repaint? Do I have to sand it down again? Thanks!!
Hi Celia… love your enthusiasm… but oh nooo! 🙂 If you apply your topcoat now, these stains will be visible – and sometimes even enhanced when a topcoat is applied. So yes, sanding down, or giving it a lighter sanding and using a stain blocking primer will do the trick.
I have painted my dining table in flat black latex (which actually has a chalk look interestingly enough). Based on high traffic, kids etc. you sold me on poly for the finish. I was curious what you used on the black table in your post. That would give me an idea of what a particular finish looks like. I would go matte or semi-gloss. And do you have a recommendation between different water-based poly options for this application? Thanks!
Hi Alissa! Hmmm, this table was refinished so long ago I don’t remember if it was top coated in satin or semi. It was Varathane Poly though! Varathane and/or General Finishes work beautifully. 🙂
I’m confused! I painted a dining room table and waxed it. Can I put a protective clear sealant over it if it has already been waxed?
Hi Mylisa. Unfortunately not. Nothing should be applied over a waxed topcoat.
Novice DIYer here! What topcoat do you recommend over white latex paint to avoid yellowing? It is for a child’s dresser.
Hi Heather! I would recommend a ‘non-yellowing’ poly (be sure it states non-yellowing on the label although they are getting more difficult to find) or a wax like Annie Sloan’s Clear Wax.
Kristi Flowers says
I have applied a wax to a dresser and I am now thinking I should apply a top coat for additional protection. Can I apply a top coat over wax?
Steve Williams says
Hi, I just came across your blog and would like your opinion. We just refinished our mantel over our fireplace and painted it white with Valspar Cabinet Enamel ultra-white paint. We have applied several coats, light sanding between each, in order to get the finish we preferred without brush marks. Someone recommended I apply Minwax Polycrylic protective finish in a clear semi-gloss. Others have said it really isn’t needed for this application. What is your feelings on this? We also plan to use this same paint to paint a vanity and linen closet. Thank you very much for your opinion.
Hi Steve! Just my 2cents but I wouldn’t apply a poly. Although I’ve never used Valspar’s Enamel brand, most good quality enamels (I like Sherwin Williams’ brand) wont’ require a topcoat with normal/light use. Also, Minwax Poly does and can slightly yellow over whites and light colors.
Steve Williams says
Thank you very much, Denise.
Im just in the process of finishing an upcycle project on a pine table. I have applied Clear matt varnish on the top of the table, it doesnt feel all that smooth and I wonder if it might be an idea to apply a layer or 2 of wax to finish it off. Also would varnish alone even be enough to protect the table top?
Hi Dylan! Unfortunately, wax over an uneven topcoat won’t be much help. But the good new is varnish (alone) is definitely enough to protect your table top. A light sanding between your coats of varnish application should even it out nicely.
I tried to look through the comments to see if this was already answered so sorry if it was. What finish do you think is best for an outdoor piece that is DIY chalk painted?
Here’s a post I wrote on painting outdoor furniture with diy chalk paint. Hope it helps.
Emily Jones says
I read this post and I went ahead a tackled by dinning room table. I have 10 chairs and the table. I used a velvet finish paint In black and thinned it. It was amazing! I went to go buy The Wipe on poly. I have had horror stories with the the final part of a project and ruining it in the end with a top coat.At the store I felt pressured by the paint guy and was told to use a poly acyrilic . In the can, satin finished. I got the high dollar brush and it was awful. Bubbles everywhere. Streaks. I had to re sand it off and paint a coat again. I hand wiped it on the other chairs. They look ok, but I see streaks on the flat parts and seats. I’m so sad! It wouldn’t let me smooth it anymore. The table is done with the paint. Should I switch to something else, leave it with no wax or polyethylene? How do you apply clear coats without bubbles and streaks. I used a clean cotton cloth, I had a nice paint brush. I’m bummed and love love love how the paint looks but I need it to be protected. Help!!
Hi Emily! I’ve never had any luck applying poly with a cloth either. I love the Wipe-On poly for protecting hardware, but refuse to use it on my furniture because I can NEVER get an even looking finish. I only use poly’s from the can! To prevent bubbles and streaks when applying my clear coats, I use this foam brush (4″ for larger projects but they also come in smaller sizes) and I am very careful not to over brush the poly. The key to a perfect topcoat is to mix (not shake) the can of poly because you don’t want any air bubbles forming, then apply with a dense foam brush, spread the poly out quickly and evenly and then don’t fuss with it!
Deana Gilmore says
Is there any reason I shouldn’t use the spray on polycrylic? I am finishing a small student size desk for my son, and I know wax isn’t going to cut it. I waxed the sides and legs of the desk but want a better top coat for the desk top. I bought Minax water based Polycrylic “crystal Clear Finish Ultra Fast-Drying” in the Clear Satin, but no one has really discussed using a Polycrylic from the can.
Also, I know the wax deepens the chalk paint (mine is the Napoleonic Blue). Will the polycrylic also deepen it or will it now be mismatched from the sides and legs of the desk?
Personally, I don’t use spray can poly but I have heard others having nice results. Wax does deepen paint colors slightly more than a poly topcoat but it most cases it’s just fine. If you’re worried, test the spray can poly on an inconspicuous area on the back to make sure it matches for you. 🙂
How many coats of poly do you recommend? I’m doing an off white entertainment center and need it protected because of the tv, dvd player, xbox, etc. in and out. The off white paint happens to be a semi-gloss. Should I do the poly also in semi?
Hi Shelly! I like to apply 3 coats of poly but you can apply more if you want to build it up. As for sheen, you can pick whatever you like – it doesn’t have to match the sheen of the paint used.
what is that, almost thick waxy looking feeling top coat that you see on a lot of the distressed painted imported Indian furniture? I have attempted to paint a table this was and i don’t like how the top coat just seems like it can be picked at and peeled away…..
Hmmm, I’m not sure what thick waxy top coat you’re referring to Demi, but it does sound like sanding it off would be beneficial before painting!…especially if it’s so thick it can be picked and peeled away!
I have a kitchen table that is in great shape except the top is worn. I was thinking of using chalk paint on the top and leaving the legs and chairs alone. They are a light maple color and I was going to do the table top in a antique white. What do you recommend to protect the table from warm plates and spills. Also I see lots of pictures of tables with painted legs and chairs never with a painted top. Do you think this will look good?
Hi Mady! Hmmm, I’m not sure what it would look like however, you can always paint the top – and if you’re not fond of the the look, then go ahead and paint the body also. As for topcoat, my preference is poly (non-yellowing if you’re using an antique white) for durability.
I bought a bedrooms set furniture (cherry wood) and painted it with SW Oil based paint. I also used an oil based primer. As I am using one of the furniture pieces as my vanity I am scared makeup residues will stain the paint. Therefore, I bought some wax top coat to protect the furniture (oil based.) My question is do I am using the correct product? Reading this blog got me a little worried and confused with so many different options.
Quick question, chalk painted my coffee table and want to poly the top of it. I want to put dark wax over the graphite chalk paint. Do I do before poly or after? Also, do i need to apply clear, then dark and then clear again like on other pieces I haven’t used poly on?
What did you end up doing? I have a kitchen table and the base is painted in Graphite chalk and I want to darken it and get a shine. Did you poly first or use dark wax first?
What can I use on my kitchen table to make look primitive My table is painted black but it does not look right If I use minwax dark walnut on it will it make it look primitive and will the minwax be enough to protect it
Valerie Searles says
Hi. I refinish furniture as a profession (small- home-based decorating business.) I didn’t have formal training but have learned through trial and error. I’ve done lot’s of different types of furniture over the past 7 years and never have run into a problem I can’t resolve until now. I don’t know how familiar you are with gel-stain and poly. I’ve recently completed 2 kitchens (one using Java gel stain and the other a mahogany color). Now I’m on my third project, a dining room table. (Using Java again) The gel stain is great. The problem is, i absolutely can’t figure out how to apply the oil-based poly (semi- gloss) without leaving steaks. I’ve tried everything but wiping it on. (Rolling/brushing with high quality brush/ using foam brush and i even tried spraying- sanding between coats with steel wool- sanding with 400-sanding with 320-not sanding. I’ve tried thinning the poly…I talked with paint stores/ minwax- general finishes…etc.) The spraying I’m sure would be great if I could figure out how to get the right combo of pressure/material output but time is an issue and i don’t have time to figure that out atm) I’ve now gone back and re-sanded (by hand) until the top layer smooth and showed minimal scratching. Still getting streaks in the finish. I’m so frustrated at this point. I’m weeks over due at finishing this table & chairs b/c of this problem. Do you have any suggestions? My last thought is maybe i should use a high gloss instead of semi. Would that still show lines? I guess in all my time refinishing I’ve never had to seal a painted (essentially) piece. Usually do wax on posing and poly on stain. I thought about switching to water-based but i don’t have time to wait for the oil-based to cure first. Wondering if i do use high gloss and it doesn’t leave streaks will the underlying layers still show? Also looking into buffing out a topcoat. Have no experience with that…again..would the previous streaky layers show? I would love your advice. Help! :/
Hi there Valerie! Sorry for the late response. It seems some of my readers’ lengthier comments are landing in spam. Anyway, I hope you’ve found your solution. Shooting the poly through a spray gun is a great way to eliminate brush strokes but there is a bit of a learning curve involved if you’ve never used a sprayer. As for switching to high gloss – a rule of thumb I always keep in mind is high gloss amplifies imperfections and matte/flat conceals them.
Hello I just finished painting a antique desk. I used chalk paint (Rustoleum chalk paint). However, I am not sure what to use to protect the desk; polycrilic or wax?
Either or will work nicely but you may want to take into consideration how often this desk will be used. For high traffic items, poly is a great durable easy to clean choice. Lower traffic, wax is amazing. You can also combine the two. Eg – what I’ve done on some pieces is give the top (high traffic area) a few coats of poly – but then wax the body. It’s all personal preference and there is really no right or wrong Mar. 🙂
Katie Perry says
I plan to paint my smaller circle breakfast nook table and four chairs with Amy Howard’s One Step Paint in a Gray color. I purchased her matte sealer but am looking to return it for a cheaper one that will protect the wear and tear this piece will get. What would you recommend for my table and chairs? I noticed you have multiple recommendations in this post but I am not sure if one is better than another for this kind of paint.
Katie, I’ve never used Amy Howard’s One Step Paint so I’m unsure. If it’s similar to other chalky/mineral paints, a water based poly should work nicely for a high traffic table.
Hello- I didn’t read your blog until AFTER trying to repair/paint the top of my kitchen table. It has a wood/veneer top and the dark brown finish/color was chipping off. It looked like a beat up table and it bugged me- wouldn’t have company over for dinner, due to this issue. 🙁 So, I lightly sanded it and a applied an oil based primer. Then I painted the top (with a small roller) dark brown paint (Behr semi-gloss). The table looks so cheap now- ugh. No character at all. I can email you a photo of the before and after, if that would help in understanding what mess I’ve created! Would you suggest painting it an off-white color topped with a Varathane Diamond Finish and then apply a dark glaze to give it some character?! It has grooves from one of the table to the other end and a groove that borders the table top. Any help you can offer me will be greatly appreciated. Thank you 🙂
There are SO many techniques that can be applied to a table top – it really depends on what look your after Shelley. If you’re not happy with the brown painted top, off white with dark glaze will certainly provide more contrast and interest. And if the veneer has some grooves/texture – glaze works extremely well! You can also recreate the look of wood grain using the brown paint as the base. I recently ordered a faux wood grain roller which I plan on trying on a living room table to create a wood grain. I’ll be sure to post and let you guys know how it works in case any of you are interested in trying too. 🙂
Michelle Houle says
Hi Denise – I painted some wooden dressers black (going for a “Pottery Barn” look) and finished with 3 coats of Minwax Polycrylic, sanding between every paint & Polycrylic coat. I’m frustrated that I still ended up with fine brush marks. Can I “buff” the pieces with something, to even out the surfaces a little more? What products & or techniques would you recommend?
Thank you in advance, you are very helpful (your messages above) to so many people!
Thanks Michelle! 🙂 Unfortunately there’s no product (that I’m aware of) to buff out brush marks after a piece is complete. A good quality brush, sanding between coats (as you did!), watering down the paint slightly or adding a paint extender like Floetrol are all ways to reduce/eliminate brush marks while working on your piece.
Michelle Houle says
Ok, thank you for your prompt answer. I bought some Minwax Paste Finishing Wax in Dark and a wax pine brush, to attach to a drill and I’m going to try it on ONE of several drawer-fronts. If it helps, then I will do the rest of the two dressers. If it messes it up, then I’ll need to start over on one drawer. ?
Terri Rose says
I am painting my kitchen cabinets with chalk paint and I want to seal it now, should I use poly acrylic or polyurethane? and also what gloss finish do you recommend for kitchen cabinets?
Water based poly is my preference and probably what most people gravitate to because of easy clean-up, less smell over the oil based polyurethanes etc. As for the finish/gloss – that’s really personal preference. All poly’s are durable and easy to clean so I would just pick the one you like the looks of. 🙂
Terri Rose says
TY for quick reply
I am doing this now and using water based polyurethanes…..I can tell it will be very durable, but oh the streaking!!! ugh. I am using a semi gloss. I do not have time to spend on making it look perfect because we close on this house is 2 weeks, but I need to do something to make it look a little better. It seems like the more I try to help it looks worse. The painting was definitely the much easier step in this process!
Sorry to hear about the streaking Lorri. Streaking is often caused by the application tool and/or temperature/dry time. Experimenting with foam brushes (or if brushes are not working at all) maybe a spray poly. I know most people don’t have access to a spray gun, but they do sell spray cans of poly that work nicely.
Julia Macias says
Too bad GF doesn’t make a non-yellowing top coat… Thanks for letting me know. I tried to buy the Varathane’s Diamond Wood Finish Poly Non-Yellowing, but Home Depot or Lowes don’t carry it. Any suggestions on where I can find it?
I really appreciate your advice and that you answer everyone’s questions so quickly. You’ve been a great help!!!
Hmmm, I do get mine from Lowes and/or Home Depot so I’m not sure. Maybe try Amazon or Lee Valley or Canadian Tire (if you’re Canadian).
Amber Shubin says
I am also trying to find Varathane’s Diamond Wood Finish Poly Non-Yellowing and not having any luck. I don’t see it listed on the Varathane site, either. Does the can look like this one? rustoleum.com/product-catalog/consumer-brands/varathane/crystal-clear-polyurethane? It doesn’t say non-yellowing on the label, hence my concern. (I used GF on ASCP Old White and it is very yellow – so I want to repaint and restain.)
Amber, I don’t use the spray can poly’s so I’m unsure if you can get these in the non-yellowing formula. The Varathane I use is on the right in the very last picture in this post. (the last pic with the GF, Minwax Wipe-On, and Varathane) It’s the Varathane Diamond Wood Finish and right on the label under “Crystal Clear” is says “Non-Yellowing”. I buy it from HomeDepot.
Amber Shubin says
Thank you for the response. I am wondering if it has been discontinued as I can’t find it anywhere. The link should have gone to this product, which seems to be the only thing close. homedepot.com/p/Varathane-1-qt-Clear-Satin-Water-Based-Indoor-Polyurethane-Case-of-2-200241H/202057137 Anyway, I will keep looking! Thanks again for the tips.
Hmmm…maybe only HomeDepot in Canada carries it?!
Merry Lu Zeller says
Great article. A bit off topic but do you have an article on how you did the image transfer on top of the dresser in the four picture collage? The one just below the letter?
Thank you much,
Hi Merry! The image transfer on this dresser is actually decoupaged tissue paper and the method is the exact same as this decoupaged napkin tutorial. Hope this helps!
Victoria LeMair says
I have a dining table to refinish, that has a unique, textured veneer (damaged & seemingly irreplaceable). I’d love to repair it and stain the top to showcase the veneer (& paint/dark wax the rest). I’m considering molding the pattern into a Quickwood/gel stain repair. Am I nuts? Other ideas?
If I give in and strip the veneer from the top and paint the entire table (prob 1 color for the top; a 2nd for the rest), would it look odd to poly the top for durability, but wax the rest for effect?
Hi Victorial. I’ve never had much luck staining repaired veneer (so it looks perfectly even and uniform) but that could be because I don’t have the patience for it. You could try your repair, and if it doesn’t turn out like you envisioned, strip the veneer. You may find a beautiful (and stainable) wood underneath and if not, then paint it. As for topcoat, I’ve used a poly on top wax on the bottom numerous times and it looks amazing.
Ally Van Iten says
Thank you so much for all your information! I am so glad to have found this resource. I just finished painting an armoire with the Annie Sloan chalk paint. I would like to seal it with poly, but ALSO add some of the Annie Sloan dark wax on the wood detailing (i.e. a few corners and floral cuts). What do you think about using both, with ample dry time in between? Poly first and then once it hardens, try the wax? Thanks in advance!
Hi there Ally. Yes, you can wax over poly, however the dark wax may not be as prominent as it would directly over the painted surface.
I just painted my kitchen table with Valspar chalk paint. I used stain after distressing the edges. I just put a clear wax on it and am now worried about cleaning it. Any suggestions or ideas?
A wipe down with a damp cloth should do the trick Misty. Avoid harsh cleaners or furniture polish because it will ruin the finish. For scuffs or stains, adding a little more wax and rebuffing usually does the trick. Wax is durable and very forgiving but to maintain your table, I always recommend using coasters and placemats for hot/wet items.
Julia Macias says
Have you ever used ‘General Finishes High Performance Topcoat’ on painted furniture? I’m looking for the most durable top coat for my white dining table and I was going to use the Varathane’s Diamond Wood Finish Poly Non-Yellowing you suggested, but I came across the General Finishes Products in a country store yesterday and was wondering if you have ever used them or know of them.
I use GF products and HP Topcoat ALL the time Julia… wonderful products and super durable! But, they don’t have a non-yellowing poly, so applying on stark white paints is hit or miss. I used their Flat out Flat topcoat on this china cabinet and it slightly ‘warmed’ in spots right away. The cabinet was painted in the GF new Chalky Paint and was ‘antique’ looking anyway, so no big deal… just added to the look. But for a white piece I want to stay perfectly white – I prefer a non-yellowing.
I’m painting the furniture in our nursery – dresser, changing table, and crib with chalk paint. I went through and did 2 coats and it looked like I had full coverage. We then went through and did a clear wax finish, but now there are a lot of areas that have “bleed through” (I can see the wood underneath). I was wondering if you think I should go through and mineral spirit the whole set, do another coat of paint and then finish with a clear poly once finished? If I go that route, how long does it need to set before items can be placed on the furniture? I’m running out of time with baby coming. I’m now thinking the poly finish would be better since kids are bound and determined to be rough on furniture. Thank you for your help.
Hi Shaina! Yes, to remove wax mineral spirits and/or sanding will do the trick. My concern is your bleed through tho. If you just add another coat and then poly, you may end up with the exact same results. I would suggest using a primer to stop the bleed through. Or if there are just a few blotchy problem areas, spot fix with a few coats of shellac before painting. Here’s an article on dry and cure time you may find helpful. And congrats on your new baby! 🙂
Julia Macias says
I am painting a dining table and am planning on using a Polycrylic or Polyurethane topcoat. I have done some research on different ones and there were some negative comments from people saying the Minwax one dried too fast and ruined their project.
Have you experienced that any one of these topcoats dry too fast and make it hard to use for someone not very experienced? I want to make sure to buy one that will be very easy to use…
Thanks so much,
Hi Julia! The only Minwax that I’ve had issues with (on larger surfaces like table tops) is the Minwax Wipe-On Poly. I love this Wipe-On for small surfaces/knobs & handles, but for whatever reason, I can never get a perfectly smooth finish on larger surfaces. Along with Water Based Varathane products, I do use Minwax Polycrylic on projects (and I’ve sprayed and brushed it on) and always get beautiful results. Aslo, if you’re worried about fast drying, maybe stay clear of Mixwax’s Fast Drying Polyurethane products. Hope this helps. 🙂
Julia Macias says
Thank you so much for your fast reply! Yes, that did help.
One more question. Do you have a preference, either the Water Based Varathane or the Minwax Polycrylic? I’m painting my wood dining table in white…
Since you’re painting in white, I would go for Varathane’s Diamond Wood Finish Poly Non-Yellowing. It states non-yellowing right on the label.
Julia Macias says
Thanks so very much, Denise. I will follow your advice and get that one.
Good to know it won’t yellow with time and that it’s easy to apply.
I am working on a breakfast table that we’ll be keeping on our screened in back porch. I’m painting it with different color layers of chalk paint and sanding in between each layer. I’ll be topping the table with wood that I’m tiling with Talavera tiles. I was planning to apply dark wax, but now I’m wondering if I should poly the table once I’ve painted it since it will be sitting on our back porch and exposed to the weather. Is there something special I should do to protect my table? Thanks!
Hi Mitzi! For outdoor furniture, my preference is an outdoor poly. I really like Varathane’s Water Based Diamond Outdoor Wood Finish (non-yellowing). It holds up to any outdoor elements really well.
Thats exactly the advice I was looking for. Thank you!
I’m a relative rookie. My wife tasked me with refinishing our tv stand, which subsequently led to refinishing a book case, a “butcher block”, and building a book case. I had never played with stains and tried for different effects – for instance, we wanted wanted a worn look to the tv stand so I applied a couple of extra coats of poly and then buffed it with 220. I am afraid I am headed down a rabbit hole!
My question is also about Wax vs. Poly as a follow-up. I refinished a butcher block shelf – stained the block and shelving in a red oak, sealed with a single coat of poly, and painted the supporting structure in black chalkboard paint. What I like about the chalkboard paint is that it has a bit of a dull appearance and really contrasts she sheen of the shelving. What do I do if I want to protect the paint but still want to preserve the dullness of the chalk paint?
Thanks! Look forward to following your site more regularly…
Hi Bill…welcome! If you’d like to maintain “a bit of the dull appearance” or chalkiness of your black Chalk Paint while providing protection, I would a) apply a wax… but do NOT buff to a high sheen or b) apply a flat poly. This will keep the contrast between your painted area and your red oak shelving. All great projects btw. 🙂
Do you ever use a spray on poly ? does it go on well or look bad?
I don’t use a spray on poly because I own a spray gun. However I know of other diy’ers who do buy poly in spray, and from their feedback, it works well. 🙂
I recently painted a coffee table in chalk paint and than finished it with the “chalked” top coat that they recommended at home depot. The top coat ended up removing some of the chalk paint and the table is now not looking too good. Could I sand down again and start all over? Also what “top” coat should I use or is the poly the best choice?
I’m not sure what ‘chalked’ top coat they recommended but how frustrating that your finish didn’t turn out as you expected. Is is possible to sand the topcoat off and then apply a fresh coat of paint. Let dry. Then decide if you would like to use a wax or poly. Wax is lovely on chalk painted finishes, but if this coffee table is high traffic, poly may be the better choice.
If I dark waxed a table, would I be able to apply poly over it, since it will be a high traffic piece?
No, poly should not be applied over wax Laura.
I just built my dining room table out of reclaimed doors. I sanded them, and then applied chalk paint and wax. Sadly I didn’t know that I needed 2-3 coats of wax so after people used the table there were marks from food and drinking glasses. I just repainted the table, added 3 coats of wax, and distressed it with coarse sandpaper. I am really worried that when we use the table it will result with the same marks. Can I apply poly acrylic? you replied “no” to the previous question, but why? Do I need to remove the layers of wax and just use poly?
The poly won’t properly adhere to a waxed surface Robyn. As an example, when you wax your car, it repels water. Same with applying a waterbased topcoat on top of waxed furniture – not recommended. The wax is best removed before applying a poly topcoat. Having said this, a wax finish can be very forgiving. Marks can be buffed out etc. You may decide to try using it as-is before putting in any additional work. x
Once the table top is painted with chalk paint can you just apply the poly after it drys or do you have to sand it first? Also is it better to use a brush or roller for the table top? Both paint and poly.
Hi Josh. I like to sand in between every layer of paint including the last (with a high grit) – and then poly. This gives a really nice professional finish. Brush or roller will work for your chalk paint but my preference for poly is a foam brush. When using a foam brush to apply a poly, brush on lightly and don’t overwork – and then it won’t create air bubbles.
I painted the top of my dining table with 2-3 coats of Annie Sloan chalk paint. Then I used 2-3 coats of clear wax. I let all dry well. The table is heavily used. We had friends over and used the table. Now, there are scratches, smudges and streaks all over the top. Is this because the wax needs to “cure” for 30 days to truly harden? If so, how do I fix at this point? Re-wax and wait 30 days? Or remove wax and use poly?
Yes Siana, wax requires at least 30 days (sometimes longer in humid conditions) to cure 100%. Re-waxing to buff out all the imperfections is an option. If you’re not pleased with the results, you can remove the wax with mineral spirits or sanding, and then apply a few coats of poly. For high traffic tables, poly does have the benefits of super easy clean-up, durability, and never having to re-apply.