Can You Paint Over Polyurethane? A Simple Guide For Beginners

Most wooden furniture has a polyurethane finish. The big question is, can you paint over polyurethane? The answer is yes.

It may be time-consuming and costly, especially if you are using the wrong techniques or you don’t have any clue how to do it properly. However, there are ways to do it right the first time. With proper planning, you’ll be able to update and improve the look of your wooden furniture at home.

In this article, we’ll give you some tips on how to successfully paint over polyurethane without getting a headache.

How To Paint Over Polyurethane

Painting over polyurethane requires patience, time, and effort. You’ll have to prime, sand and use oil-based paint in order for your paint to stick to the finish of your wooden furniture. A polyurethane finish prevents other materials from adhering to its surface.

The first time I handled this situation ended up in a disaster. I skipped some of the steps and didn’t know how to handle a paintbrush correctly. Technically, I failed to prime the surface before I applied an oil-based enamel paint on my wooden table.

The result was a newly painted furniture with cracked paint and uneven finish. I just wasted my time, energy and money. Since I don’t easily give up on challenges, I redid the entire thing.

I stripped off the paint and repeated the process but I made sure that I followed all steps correctly. I also practiced my brush strokes before I started painting. Thankfully, the result was amazing and the transformation was quite impressive.

This is the main reason why I decided to write this article. Hopefully, this guide will help you avoid the same mistakes I did.

First, here are some of the materials you’ll need:

  • Oil-based primer/sealer
  • Oil-based paint
  • Cotton rag
  • Tack cloth
  • Paintbrush
  • 220 to 400-grit sandpaper
  • Sanding block or power sander
  • Trisodium phosphate solution
  • Grease-cutting detergent

1. Prepare the polyurethane finished wooden furniture.

Place your furniture in outside your home or in a well-ventilated room.

2. Apply the trisodium phosphate solution.

Use a cotton rag to apply the solution on the surface of the wood. Wipe off all signs of dirt, oil, and grease from the surface. Scrub the stains to remove it. Then let it air dry.

3. Sand the wood.

Use a sanding block or a sander to scrub the wooden varnish until the surface becomes dull. Start with a 220-grit sandpaper for rough finishes and thick varnish.

Clean the surface with a tack cloth to get rid of all the residue. Wipe all areas. Make sure there are no signs of dust left on the surface before you start applying your primer.

4. Apply a primer.

Start painting in gentle and even strokes. This will prevent you from creating blotches on the surface.

Make sure you apply it on all areas. Allow the first coating to dry before you proceed with the next layer. After you apply the second coating of primer, leave the furniture to dry overnight.

Once it’s fully dry, sand it again until the surface becomes smooth. Make sure you even out the rough surfaces.

Your paint will not stick well to a polyurethane treated furniture unless you prime it. An oil-based primer is your best bet since other types of paint primers are not compatible with a polyurethane finish.

5. Apply the paint.

Paint the surface with an oil-based paint. Follow the same directions on how you applied the primer. Use even and long strokes when brushing the entire surface. Allow the first coat of paint to dry. Then apply the second layer or more depending on your preference.

An oil-based enamel is an ideal type of paint for polyurethane treated wood because it is resistant to tough conditions.

Useful Tips

Before you proceed with your painting job, here are some useful advice you should follow.

  • Prepare your painting job in a well-ventilated place. Since you’ll be using strong chemicals, you should do your project outside your home where the air is fresh. If you don’t have available outdoor space, make sure you open all your windows for proper air circulation.
  • Use protective gear at all times. Wear goggles or any protective eyewear. Use a pair of gloves to protect your hand from the toxic chemicals and rough materials.
  • It is highly recommended that you wear a respirator. You’ll be inhaling toxic fumes from your paint and primer. A mask will protect your lungs from the chemicals. The strong chemical fumes can sometimes cause dizziness and nausea.

  • Do not work under extreme temperature. Most of your materials contain flammable and combustible materials. Do not smoke or work near heating tools. Always keep your materials away from heat and fire.
  • Similar to heat, avoid working during rainy weather. It’s best to work on a sunny day. A damp environment can affect the curing process of your paint. It can ruin your entire painting job and create cracks on the surface. The best temperature to paint over polyurethane is when the weather is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Dispose of your materials properly. Do not pour your paint and solvent down the drain or leave it in the trash bin. You should properly store and deliver them to your local garbage facility.
  • These materials contain harmful substances that are bad for the environment. It is your responsibility to dispose of it correctly.

  • Use a spray gun. If you want a professional look, you may opt to replace your brush with a spray gun.
  • Use an acrylic paint. Since oil-based paint takes longer too dry, you may alternatively use a 100% acrylic paint.

Final Thoughts

Painting your wooden furniture on your own has its advantages. It saves you from expensive labor costs. You don’t have to hire a professional help to refurbish your old wooden chair.

As long as you know how to paint properly and follow the steps above, you’ll certainly do a fine job of painting. Polyurethane treated furniture shouldn’t hinder you from taking on this painting task.

It’s simple and easy to do. Plus, you might just find yourself having fun while doing it.

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