Applying Varnish With a Roller (Can You Do it & How-To)

Varnish has a thick flow, and applying it is harder than most finishes. So, can you apply it with a roller?

You can apply varnish with a roller, but you must use a non-foam roller. Also, you must brush out the finish with bristled or foam paint brush to get a better finish. 

How To Apply Varnish With A Roller?

1. Prep The Workspace

First, prep the workspace. Remove (or cover) nearby furniture or objects. This prevents paint spills (or splashes) over the furniture surfaces. Also, you must cover the floor with a plastic drop cloth to prevent drips on the floor.

2. Clean & Sand

The surface must be cleaned and sanded before applying the sealant. To clean a wooden surface, use TSP or soapy water.

After cleaning the surface, sand it with fine-grit sandpaper. Sanding will remove imperfections and bumps from the surface to allow the sealant to stick to a smooth and even surface. 

You don’t need to sand the paint if you apply varnish over a newly painted surface (as a topcoat). Instead, clean the surface (after the paint has cured) and then apply the sealant.

3. Apply The Varnish With The Roller

Once the surface is clean and sanded, apply varnish with a roller. You must use a non-foam roller to apply it. Non-foam roller prevents bubbles and marks in the finish. The finish will be uneven and thick if you use a foam roller. 

You need to apply 2-3 coats. You must wait until one coat fully dries before applying the next one. Water-based varnish takes 6 hours to dry for a re-coat, while oil-based varnish takes 24 hours. 

Also, after each coat dries, you must sand it before applying the next one. That’s because the varnish has a glossy finish, and if you don’t sand, the new coat won’t stick. Sanding will remove its glossy finish. However, you shouldn’t sand its final layer.

While waiting for the sealant to dry, put the paint roller into a plastic bag, and put the plastic bag into a freezer. This is to keep it wet and prevent the sealant from drying. If you don’t, the sealant will dry, and you won’t be able to reuse it. If the roller gets dry, you must clean it (which takes 30 minutes), and then re-use it.

After applying the sealant, use a bristled or foam paint brush to even out the finish.

Final Words

Applying varnish with a roller is possible, but you must use the right roller type. The best varnish roller is a non-foam.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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