Can You Use Enamel Paint on Wood? (How-To)

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

You can use enamel paint on different surfaces. But, can you use enamel paint on wood? 

You can use enamel paint on wood as it gives it a hard, glossy, and durable finish. It is also easy to clean from wooden surfaces. When dry, it forms a firm and durable finish.

Since enamel is oil-based paint, it also has a glossy finish that makes it perfect for wood surfaces as it protects them from moisture, scratches, and other damage. However, you must seal the finish if you want to use it outdoors. 

How Long Will it Last?

Unsealed enamel paint will last up to 5 years indoors and 1 year outdoors. Sealed enamel paint will 10 years indoors and 5-7 years outdoors. Its durability also depends on the conditions of the surface that is applied, and where the material is placed.

Enamel paint is more durable than other types of paint, and it’s easier to maintain. You can clean dirt over it with water without affecting the finish. It will also protect the wood from water damage because it creates a waterproof layer over the surface. 

However, the paint lasts longer indoors than outdoors. That’s because indoors they don’t come in contact with environmental changes. But, the surfaces placed outside are exposed to weather conditions, and over time, the finish starts to crack

Low maintenance of outdoor surfaces can also lead to the short life of the finish. So, it is mandatory to clean the paint at regular intervals properly. If the finish starts chipping off, you must re-paint the patch so it doesn’t get extended.

Related Read: Can You Use Metal Paint on Wood?

Varnished Wood

You can apply enamel paint over varnished wood only if you sand and prime the wood first. Varnish is a sealant that produces a glossy finish that prevents liquid from penetrating. So, if you paint over it, the coating won’t stick and will peel off.

But, if you sand it, you will create tiny pores (scars) that the paint can penetrate to. Also, the primer will cover its glossy finish and create a textured base coat so the new coatings can stick over it. 

To sand varnished wood, use medium-grit sandpaper (220-grit). After sanding, clean the surface and apply 1 coat of primer. Once the primer dries, apply the enamel paint. 

Avoid applying thick coats as it can cause dripping and a wavy surface or the formation of air bubbles. 

How To Apply Enamel Paint To Wood?

Painting wood with enamel can be tricky if you don’t prep the surface. Some people don’t prefer to prep the surface, which causes the finish to last less. Here’s how to do it:

1. Sand The Wood

Before applying enamel to wood, you have to sand the wood surface.

To achieve the perfect, professional, polished finish on your furniture, you must sand them first. Start by sanding off any ridges or uneven elevations using fine-grit sandpaper. This will smooth out the edges and give a nice creased look once it is finished.

After sanding, clean the surface using a microfiber tack rag to get rid of dust and debris.

2. Apply Primer

Apply primer to the wooden surface so the enamel paint can stick better.

The primer covers the cracks and imperfections on the surface, providing a smooth base to stick to. It also increases the adhesion quality between the paint and wood. 

Apply 2 coats of primer using a brush, roller, or sprayer. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one. 

3. Sand (Again)

Clean and clean the primer

After the second coat of primer dries, use a very fine-grit sandpaper to sand off any imperfections from the primer coat. The very fine-grit sandpaper will remove imperfections, but won’t affect the primer coating. After sanding, re-clean the surface. 

4. Apply The Enamel Paint

Apply the enamel paint.

To apply enamel, use a brush, roller, or sprayer. Apply 2-3 coats, but avoid applying thick coats as wood can’t absorb them.

After the final coating dries, seal the finish with a sealant, such as polyurethane, to increase its durability. 

Metal Enamel Paint On Wood?

The formula of metal enamel paint is almost identical to the standard enamel paint — it just has additional rust protection additives. These rust protection additives prevent metal surfaces from getting oxidized. So, you can use metal enamel paint over a wooden surface.

However, you must sand the surface, apply 2 coats of primer, sand again, and then apply the paint. Metal enamel is durable and can last long on indoor surfaces. But, for outdoor surfaces, you must seal it with an exterior sealant. 

Related Read: Can You Use Enamel Paint on Plastic?


In summary, you can use enamel paint for wooden surfaces, but you must clean, sand, and prime the surface before applying it. Also, once the paint dries, you must seal the finish with a sealant to increase its durability. 

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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