If you want a clear finish on your painted wood surfaces, you must go for the very best clear coat for painted wood.
We all know that one of the greatest enemies to wood is water.
Once it penetrates through, the wood is susceptible to rot or mold.
That’s where clear coats come in, as most paints are not waterproof.
These transparent finishes are a thing of beauty with an unmatched first impression.
Other than their beauty and uniqueness, they offer protection during different seasons.
This article discusses these formulas extensively to help you decide on the best products you can choose for your painted woodworking projects.
So, keep reading as I unearth untapped features of clear coats for painted wood.
What Is a Clear Coat?
A clear coat is a kind of high end coating material in either water or solvent-based form.
Typically, these coatings use advanced cross-linking mechanisms.
The superior cross-linking mechanism gives them superior bonding characteristics.
As a result, clear coating benefits all forms of substrates, including metals, wood, and more.
List of the Best Clear Coat for Painted Wood
Below are the clear finishes discussed in the order of merit.
Please review each to decide on the ones that will fit your preferences, budget, and skills.
1. DEFY Extreme Exterior Wood Stain, Crystal Clear
Looking for a premium touch for your painted wood? Well, get yourself the DEFY Extreme Wood Stain.
This formula has what it takes to protect your structure: masonry, wood, or concrete.
It’s arguably the best clear coat for painted wood you can get.
This product is a premium-quality, protective coating and water repellent with close to half a century’s of reliability.
Its premium nature also beautifies fences, decks, siding, and many more.
A fortified zinc Nanoparticle technology acts as a sunscreen for the wood.
It prevents premature graying and color loss with the help of the tiny zinc particles dispersed throughout the stain.
Keep your wood in great shape for as long as possible using DEFY, a product of the highest quality resins with better resistance to darkening and fading.
It comes in different shades of color, including butternut, natural pine, redwood, light walnut, driftwood, crystal clear, and cedar tone.
All the products are manufactured in Richmond, Indiana, and produced under strict quality standards using the highest quality raw materials available.
Summary of Top features
- It is 250 VOC compliant and 100 percent Acrylic soap and water clean up
- Equipped with Zinc Nanotechnology to protect against damage caused by the sun.
- Easy to maintain as no sanding or stripping is necessary
- Offers maximum durability
- Easy to apply
- It dries fast and becomes hard to apply the recommended 2nd coat.
2. Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer for Wood
Ready Seal Exterior Stain is a wood stain and sealer at the same time.
Applying this wood sealer help protect the painted wood from moisture, reducing the chances of rotting.
The texture of the wood remains visible as the stain enhances the natural beauty of the wood.
You can use a sprayer or a roller to apply the coats. Feel free to blend multiple containers to ensure consistency of color.
Apply one coat and allow a 45-minute break in between, then get to apply the other.
Remember, Ready Seal is bio gradable in contact with water and soil.
The unique formula penetrates deeply into the wood, protecting and preserving it from elements such as mildew, damaging UV rays, and mold.
Before applying, the surface must be clean of dirt, oil, grease, dust, or mildew.
Allow it to dry completely within 48 to 72 hours, depending on weather conditions.
It will be darkest when it is first applied and later reach its true color in approximately 14 days.
Summary of Top Features
- The formula is a stain and a sealer at the same time.
- It does not leave laps, runs, or streaks and requires no back brushing
- Requires no diluting or thinning before spray application.
- It comes in multiple color shades.
- The application can be made using multiple tools.
- The products blend and can be applied at any temperature.
- Requires a PaintCare recycling fee in some states
- Not available in CA
3. Roxil Wood Protection Cream Instant Waterproofing Clear Treatment
Roxil wood protection cream has been developed and produced by safeguard Europe.
The company is United Kingdom’s prominent developer and manufacturer.
Roxils silicone cream emulsion is applied in a single coat directly to unpainted softwood timber using a brush or roller.
After application, the cream absorbs into the wood creating an invisible waterproof board.
After applying this formula to your paint, you will amaze at how water hangs on top of the wood and does not sink in.
The stain works for furniture, sheds, decking, fences, and many more without changing the object’s original appearance.
A single coat is needed to offer protection for ten years. It covers 45 to 55 square feet per quart or 130 to 200 sq. ft. per gallon.
Surfaces that need to be treated are cleaned using a biocidal wood cleaner to ensure the best results.
As a user, you will realize it’s easy to apply this formula with no runoff on horizontal and vertical surfaces and a splashback.
This wood treatment has passed the test, working on weathered hardwood such as oak and softwoods.
Roxil wood can be applied using either a roller or brush with no drip formulation.
Summary of Top Features
- Waterproofs on softwood and weathered hardwood
- Reduces cracking and warping
- Requires only one coat application by brush or roller
- Effective on multiple wood types
- Maintains natural breathability
- None has been identified so far.
4. Rain Guard Water Sealers SP-9004 Paint Sealer Ready to Use
Rain guard water sealers manufacture products designed to wrap the exterior of painted wooden structures.
If you want to apply this formula, ensure that you prepare the surface properly to eliminate dirt, debris, or dust.
A soft bristle brush can be used for the application or a rag while using Rain guard cleaner prep.
The formula is meant to extend the beauty and life of the painted surfaces without changing anything.
It is great for interior and exterior vertical and horizontal surfaces.
Rain guard water sealers company produces safe chemicals for plants, people, and pets.
A proprietary ingredient known as MICRO-LOK creates a mechanical bond that gives you a hydrophobic barrier that protects the wood and is not affected.
The mechanical bond offers protection from freezing temperatures, dirt, salt, Ultra-Violent Rays, weathering, and rain driven by rain.
Summary of Top Features
- It prevents damage to the surface from ice, snow, and rain
- Has Micro-Lok, which is a long-lasting mechanical bond
- Meets the federal and state environmental guidelines
- You can apply a flood coat with a sprayer, roller, or brush
- No maintenance is required
- It is safe for plants and pets
- It is extremely thin
5. Thompsons TH.024104-14 Clear Multi-Surface Waterproofer
Polymer chemist Edward Addis Thompson developed a formula that protected painted wood from exterior water damage.
Thompsons Multi-surface waterproofer allows you to choose from various stain colors for your exterior wood project.
The stain comes in different colors: woodland cedar, maple brown, harvest Gold, Acorn Brown, and Sequoia red.
This option allows customers to select their best shades according to an individual’s tastes and preferences.
As it has been tested, it proves to waterproof concrete, wood, and brick.
The Thompson clear multi-surface waterproofer can be used on exterior surfaces, concrete driveways, brick patios, fences, cabinets, and decks.
It comes so handily as it will cover you in various other areas.
Depending on the size of the surface material is what will determine the exact coverage.
As a user, ensure to read all the instructions and information on products from Thompsons.
The product’s label and instructions with all the cautions stated are easily accessible to guide you before use.
Summary of top features
- Waterproofs and beads
- To be used on terra coat planters, birdhouses, mailbox posts, etc
- It does allow the wood to turn gray naturally
- It prevents damage caused by water
- To be used when mildew and biological factors are not a problem
- It shields paint against weather
- It leaves a sticky feel for more than a week
6. Rust-Oleum 287722 Ultra Matte Interior Chalked Paint, Clear Topcoat
Rejuvenate your décor with a soft, matte chalky finish with the help of Rust-Oleum Ultra Matte Interior Chalked Paint.
This is the version of a clear topcoat, and it enhances any Ultra matte paint finish, offering protection with a vintage feel and a unique look.
Available in various colors, a clear topcoat is applied over one another for a unique and outstanding look.
Depending on the surface you want to work on, wash it with soap and water and let it dry.
Remove any paint or rust and sand lightly for better adhesion.
If you happen to use a primer, give it a waiting period of two hours before applying the finish.
Ensure to stir thoroughly to disperse any pigment that has settled.
Find a way to use a high-quality brush that is synthetic for better results.
For any coat you apply for, always leave a two-hour waiting period before applying the next coat.
Finally, the last coat should dry for at least 8 hours, and you get to apply another top coat for extra protection.
As a tip, you can apply as many as five coats to get the look you want.
Summary of top features
- The VOC formula allows easy clean up with water and soap
- Offers excellent adhesion
- It has a low odor
- You can use a foam brush or high quality synthetic
- Works well for DIY projects
- No sanding is necessary on most surfaces
- At times it yellows the color
7. Rust-Oleum 302599 Chalked Sealer/Wax Topcoat Spray Paint, Clear
Rust-Oleum, chalked sealer/wax topcoat spray paint is used mostly for internal purposes.
It comes in various colors: tidal pond, semitransparent aged brown, blush pink, aged gray, serenity blue, and farmhouse red.
Other colors are cocoa bean, linen white, country gray, chiffon cream, coastal blue, matte clear, and charcoal.
The available colors allow you to select one based on your taste and preference and how you want your interior décor to turn out.
The nature of the oil-based formula adds protection to your surface and provides an ultimate hide coupled with a timeless look.
One of the most unique and amazing aspects of this formula is that it dries to touch in only twenty minutes and provides coverage of up to 12 sq. ft.
There is minimal preparation required, and the results are excellent adhesion.
Rust-Oleum chalked topcoat spray paint can be used on wood, canvas, metal, and ceramic and easily creates an appealing look.
Summary of top features
- The coat can be used on a variety of interior surfaces
- It is an oil-based formula
- It comes in multiple colors
- Provides an excellent adhesion
- Dries to touch very fast
- Requires minimal preparation of surfaces
- None so far
8. Deft Interior Exterior Water-Based Polyurethane Clear Satin Finish
The satin finish comprises a water-based clear protective topcoat formulated with the latest water-based oil-modified urethane technology.
It’s arguably the best clear coat for painted wood.
The formulation contains superior UV protection providing excellent weather resistance and durability.
Deft water-based Polyurethane clear satin finish is perfect for exterior and interior use.
The excellent results can be seen on the exterior and interior furniture, windows, doors, floors, window frames, and other commonly used wooden areas.
Its usage provides excellent protection from ultraviolet rays and is weather-resistant and durable simultaneously.
The Deft water-based Polyurethane satin finish meets and exceeds environmental regulations for VOC and possesses a very low odor.
Applying a brush, airless sprayer, pad, or HVLP spray is easy.
It offers excellent results and provides excellent performance and as well.
It is important to note that this provides greater durability than oil-based poly on only a two-hour recoat.
The formulated urethane technology has ranked this product as the best clear coat for painted wood.
Summary of top features
- It has a multi-use focus on both interior and exterior
- Water-based polyurethane that provides ideal protection for all surfaces
- It is a 100 percent urethane water-based clear topcoat
- It contains superior UV protection
- Exceeds environmental regulations
- It has a very low odor
- You get to wait only for two hours to recoat
- Exposure to the sun turns wood yellow.
9. RUST-OLEUM 250031
The product is another one from Rust-Oleum, and it protects painted wood outdoors.
A composition of UV absorbers offers the required protection against the elements that damage the wood.
Stains, permanent scratches, and stains on any surface are a direct way to spoil your wood.
The formula allows your structure to resist scratches, and you get to enjoy your furniture.
Its crystal clear gloss finish allows cleaning up while using only water.
The huge coverage also allows you to coat larger areas while using only a minimal amount of paint.
This non yellowing finish does not compromise the natural look of your wooden surface.
Once applied, the paint dries to touch in just 30 minutes.
It’s a water based formula that is easy to clean with the help of water and soap.
Summary of top features
- To be used on wooden surfaces
- Dries very fast
- Protects from scratch and stain
- It has a wide coverage
- It gives an excellent glossy finish
- It is water-based, making cleaning easy
- The product is currently unavailable
10. System Three 1855S16 Clear Marine Spar Urethane
System three marine Spar Varnish is a High-Build urethane coating designed for marine epoxy and exterior painted wood.
The coat is available in only two colors that are satin and gloss.
The marine spar urethane treats your wood thanks to the complete absorption once applied. It dries to a clear and desirable finish.
The clear coat remains beautiful even in constant exposure to the sun.
It has state-of-the-art UV absorbers that maintain the woods’ natural state.
Summary of Top Features
- Available in satin and gloss finish.
- The product is environmentally friendly and safe.
- It offers amazing protection from saltwater and air
- It contains ultraviolet light absorbers
- Specially designed for marine and exterior wood.
- Currently unavailable
11. Watco 63041 Lacquer Clear Wood Finish
The Watco 63041 Lacquer clear wood finish is among the best clear coat for painted wood you can ever have.
This amazing product comes in three colors: clear gloss, clear satin, and clear semi-gloss.
The variety of colors gives the user flexibility of choice that matches the project.
Despite the pricey nature of the formula, it’s worth spending on this formula.
You will love this coat because you can use it to cover up or seal cracks.
It is also a wood filler and does excellently in filling cracks in the surfaces of the wood, eliminating the need to get wood filler products.
Apply the wood finish with a good quality natural bristle brush for the best results.
It is utterly important to use the recommended brush for application.
This formula offers a durable lacquer finish that will not need sanding between the coats during the application.
It also dries very quickly compared to ordinary clear coats in the market.
Summary of Top Features
- Offers durable protection
- Formulated for a higher clarity
- It eliminates the need for a wood filler
- Dries to crystal clear gloss
- Dries very fast
- It can be applied to furniture, paneling, cabinets, and doors
- Dries to touch in 1 hour
- At times it causes cracking and bubbles.
Best Clear Coat for Painted Wood Buyer’s Guide
In this section, I’ll prepare you to purchase the best clear coat for painted wood.
Why You Need the Best Clear Coat for Painted Wood
A clear coat is a transparent protective layer applied to your painted wood surface after it has dried.
The main reasons you need the best clear coat for painted wood are:
- Easier cleaning- Cleaning furniture pieces with a clear coat is usually much easier.
This is because the dirt can’t easily penetrate the painted surface. Indeed, the dirt wipes much easier from the clear coat.
- Protect the wood from day-to-day damage
A clear coat helps protect your furniture from routine dirt that can ruin the surface, such as oils from our hands and water rings from drinking glasses.
- Protection- When you need to, a clear coat will allow you to scrub the wood surface without ruining your paint finish.
Factors to Consider When Buying the Best Clear Coat for Painted Wood
There are several factors to consider when buying the best clear coat for painted wood.
It is important to check the price of a coat and work within your budget to ensure the results at the end of the day.
Choice of Color
Color is key as you will require it to match your home antique and other furniture.
It is ideal, especially if you are a detailed person.
There are light, dark and bright colors; sometimes, you may wish to combine one or two colors with matching.
A clear coat with high abrasion resistance will maintain your furniture for the longest time.
Maintenance means withstanding sharp or blunt objects from immediate or unnecessary scratches.
The application process should be easy and not complicated while producing excellent results simultaneously.
There should be no hitches or lengthy directions/guides, but it should simply be easy.
Always choose a clear coat that is right for your project.
We all indulge in various projects, whether big or small, so it is vital to know the project you are working on.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the questions that you will likely interact with when looking to apply a clear coat over your painted wooden structures.
Can You Put Polyurethane Over Painted Wood?
Yes, you can. Although polyurethane is mostly used over stained wood, you can use it over painted wood.
Polyurethane is a great option for a finish over painted wood.
It protects the wooden surface from scratching, keeps the paint from peeling, and protects it from rain, dirt, and fungus.
This product is not the best option for outdoor use, but it is a good choice for indoor use since it cracks and bubbles when exposed to sunlight.
Polyurethane can either be oil-based or water-based. Oil-based polyurethane has a smoother and slightly harder finish.
The downside to this is that it yellows over time as it ages, which might not allow you to fully appreciate the color of the paint beneath the finish as clearly.
On the other hand, water-based polyurethane has much less yellowing over time and stays relatively transparent.
The color beneath the finish is a great option to remain unaltered and visible.
What Can I Put On Top of Painted Wood?
Many modern chemicals can be used on painted wood.
The listed ones include shellac or urethane, but most professionals agree that water-based varnish is the best product to use over painted wood.
It imparts luster and is even more durable compared to paint. It forms a protective layer that again allows the color of the paint to show through.
Should I Put a Top Coat On Painted Furniture?
In most cases, the right thing to do is to protect the finish with a topcoat or a sealer.
If you want to ignore the topcoat, it’s advisable to do that over a piece of furniture that is not heavily used.
Minwax Polycrylic has been identified to be amongst the topcoats to be used as it is water-based.
You can never go wrong with it as long as you ensure to use the best brush, one that is of quality.
Can You Put Clear Varnish Over Paint?
You can use varnish over paint to preserve, enhance and protect it.
Varnish is generally more durable than paint and will add luster to the painted surface.
When applied over paint, varnish act as a protective layer through which the paint shows.
It is good to realize that most experts recommend using a water-based varnish over paint.
Can Minwax Polyacrylic Be Used Over Paint?
Yes, is it can. It is among the best formulas to use over paint.
The product is not expensive and produces excellent results as it is water-based.
You can never go wrong applying it while using a quality brush.
During application, just take note of doing light coats while letting it dry before setting off to apply another coat.Buy Minwax Here
How Do You Apply Polyurethane Over Paint?
Proper product application is the best way to guarantee durable and efficient service.
Below is a comprehensive guide on how to correctly apply polyurethane over paint.
Step 1: Prepare the Surface
There are two main things to do when preparing a painted wood surface for polyurethane application.
First, you need to wash the painted surface.
If the paint on the wood is not fresh, use a strong detergent solution to wash off the grease stains, mud, dirt, and other filth.
One way is to take a ½ cup of trisodium phosphate mixed with warm water and scrub the surface with a sponge or a rag.
Apart from cleaning the surface, this solution also de-glosses the surface, hence increasing the polyurethane adhesion.
Second, scuff the surface of the painted wood. Once the paint has dried, use 120-grit sandpaper to scuff the wood surface.
You are trying to get here to slightly flatten the sheen without producing any scratches that are too deep to be visible under the polyurethane.
You can either use a hand to sand or a palm sander.
However, if you apply polyurethane to the floor, it would be best to use a floor buffer and a 120-grit sanding screen and then use a damp rag to wipe the dust away.
Step 2: Choose the Application Tool
The tool you use to apply the polyurethane can determine the quality of the finish.
After deciding whether to apply the oil or water-based polyurethane, you need to figure out how to apply it.
It is best to either use a brush or a spray to apply it.
If you spray the polyurethane, you do not need to thin it out as it is already thin enough to spray, and adding extra thinner may only cause it to run too much.
Step 3: Apply the first coat
You can then apply the first coat of polyurethane to your wood and let it dry for the time the manufacturer recommends.
After the polyurethane is fully dried, scruff up the surface using sandpaper to remove any dust particles and flatten out any air bubbles that may have hardened into the finish.
Step 4: Apply the Second Coat
Apply the second coat of polyurethane and let it dry for the recommended time.
Seldom will you need to apply more than two coats of polyurethane?
What Is the Best Clear Coat for Acrylic Paint?
For acrylic paint, use any oil-based and water-based polyurethane.
It is important to know that oil-based polyurethane can form a yellow hue.
This happens especially in light colors.
You can buy a sprayer instead for users who prefer spraying and use it on your projects.
Will Clear Varnish Protect Painted Wood?
Varnish is a good way to preserve and protect your painted wood and add luster to the surface.
Below are some ideas on how to handle varnish application on painted wood.
The best way to ensure that you get a smooth coat of varnish is to have the underlying paint surface clean and smooth.
Use a sponge soaked in detergent to clean the surface and allow it to dry.
Also, to make the varnish adhere to the surface better, lightly sand the surface using sandpaper and a wire brush to eliminate any loose particles you see.
Apply the Primer
The varnish will not adhere properly to a surface painted with oil-based paint without a primer.
To identify if the paint is oil-based, use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to rub off part of the surface.
If the paint were oil-based, it would rub off. If you can’t tell whether the paint is oil or water-based, applying the primer won’t hurt.
Apply the Varnish
Although finishes are usually sprayed on, you can still achieve a smooth finish using a paintbrush if you have experience doing it.
When the varnish is dry to touch, you can proceed to lightly sand the surface using sandpaper or fine-grit steel wool for hard-to-reach areas.
Choosing the gloss you want wisely is also necessary, as it will influence the final look of your surface.
I believe you have gathered information on the best clear coat for your painted wooden structures if you have read this post.
The buyer’s guide section offers so much to help influence your decision.
Having worked with most of these clear coats, I still find it easy to choose the Ready Seal Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer as my overall best clear coat for painted wood.
The formula is both stain and a seal which offers you a double advantage going into your projects.