Painting Over Polyurethane | Can You Paint Over Polyurethane?

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The polyurethane coating is great as it ensures sturdiness & durability to the wooden furniture. This special coating helps to prevent the furniture from damages over time. However, this coat might be a problem for you if you love customizing your furniture with color. 

The varnish & glossy surface of polyurethane doesn’t allow the paint to adhere properly. That’s why you may ask – can you paint over polyurethane in a way that lasts? Unlike other wooden surfaces, the process of painting over polyurethane is different.

Procedure of painting over polyurethane
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Can You Paint Over Polyurethane?

Long story short – yes, you can paint over polyurethane by sanding the surface & using primer properly. Avoid directly applying the paint; it won’t work. Follow this article, & learn the step by step process of painting over polyurethane. 

How Do You Paint Over Polyurethane?

You already know it’s possible to paint over polyurethane. However, proper preparation needs to be done before applying your paint to your beloved furniture (coated with polyurethane). In this segment, you’ll know what you should have to paint over polyurethane & a complete guide to implement them. 

Things You’ll Need To Get Started.

Unlike other wood furniture, you’ll need extra preparation to paint over the furniture with a polyurethane coating on it. With that said, collect these products I’ve listed below to get started with the painting task.

  • Lint-free & Clean Cloths
  • Wood Filler
  • Fine-Grade Sandpaper
  • Liquid Sandpaper
  • Paintbrushes
  • Oil-Based Topcoat
  • Oil-Based Primer

How To Paint Over Polyurethane: A Complete 6 Steps Guide 

After collecting the products listed above, you can easily paint over polyurethane. Follow the steps below & you won’t mess up painting your wood furniture: 

1. Clean The Surface First

You must clean the surface before you start painting. It’s even more important to do a quick clean up with cloth & mineral spirit with polyurethane. By doing so, you’re keeping the furniture safe from any unexpected chemical reaction. 

2. Use The Wood Filler

Over time wood furniture can develop cracks & chips. Don’t paint over them as it won’t last for a longer period. Use the wood filler to fill up cracks & other damages to the wood furniture. 

Roughen The Surface Using Sandpaper

Sanding is important when we’re talking about painting over polyurethane. The main purpose of sanding is to make the surface rougher so that paint can easily stick to it. Also, you can use sandpaper to dissolve the varnish’s gloss surface.  

However, you can use two types of sandpaper based on your preference. These are – Fine Grade Sandpaper & Liquid Sandpaper. I personally prefer the fine-grade sandpaper as it feels easier to use. 

Prepare The Surface With Oil-Based Primer Coat

The surface is one step behind to get showered with paint. Use the oil-based primer coating on the surface as it helps the topcoat to adhere properly. Primer also helps to disguise the filler areas. Last, let it dry overnight. 

Apply First Coat Of Oil-Based Topcoat

Finally, it’s time for the actual painting. Take your wooden furniture & apply the first coating of topcoat onto it. Just like the primer, let it dry overnight. 

Clean The Surface Again

After applying the first coat of oil-based topcoat, clean the surface again. Besides using cloth & mineral spirits, lightly sand the surface too using fine-grade sandpaper or liquid sandpaper. 

Apply Second Coat Of Oil-Based Topcoat

After completing the cleaning process, the surface should be ready for the second coat of oil-based topcoat. Apply the second layer/coat of topcoat & keep it alone for at least 72 hours. 

By following these steps, you can paint over polyurethane too. Keep reading if you’re new & want to know about the necessary precautions while doing this job. 

Precautions While Painting Over Polyurethane

It will help if you are cautious painting over polyurethane. If you’re new to painting, I highly recommend following this segment about the precautions while painting over polyurethane.

Safety First

Keep in mind, oil-based paints are mostly flammable. A little carelessness can call huge damage to your life. That’s why to take the safety measures seriously & use gloves, eye protection & dust mask while working. 

Follow Manufacturers Guideline 

Reading the labels might be a boring task for anyone. However, it’s important to know the remedies & proper caution for them. The easiest way of keeping yourself safe & well-educated is to read & follow labels along with the manufacturer’s guidelines. 

Get Proper Working Space 

Don’t work in an isolated room. As I stated above, paints can be highly flammable, so a well-ventilated working space is a must. You can even work outside too. 

Should You Paint Over Polyurethane?

You shouldn’t paint over polyurethane without preparing the surface properly. The paint won’t stick for a longer period of time if you paint directly over polyurethane. With that said, don’t paint over polyurethane without proper preparation. 

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ

Can You Paint Over Polyurethane Without Sanding?

Unfortunately, you can’t paint over polyurethane without sanding. The glossy varnish won’t let the paint adhere properly. That’s why you need to roughen the surface through sanding before applying paint. You can use both types of sandpaper – Fine Grade Sandpaper & Liquid Sandpaper for this purpose. 

What Paint Will Stick To Polyurethane?

No paint will stick to polyurethane before it’s primed & sanded. According to experts, after properly preparing the surface with an oil-based primer, you can use oil-based paint as it’s the best fit. However, you can use water-based paint too. 

Does Deglosser Work On Polyurethane? 

Yes, Deglosser works on polyurethane. The glossy surface of polyurethane doesn’t allow the paint to adhere properly. Deglosser can play a great role in removing the glossy finish of polyurethane & let paint stick properly. 


I hope this article was helpful enough to satisfy your query regarding painting over polyurethane. If you wish to paint over polyurethane, follow the step by step process I’ve mentioned above. 

Please be cautious while doing this painting task. Don’t forget your mask while sanding the surface as the polyurethane varnish is slightly toxic. Also, use gloves & goggles for enhanced safety.

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