Can You Paint Over Wood Sealer? (How-To)

Wood sealers are used to protect wood from water damage. However, sealers are usually transparent and after a while, the finish gets boring. So, can you beautify the sealed wood by painting over the sealer?

You can paint over wood sealer as long as the wood sealer is fully dry and has been prepped before the paint is applied.

To prep the wood sealer, you should clean and sand it with fine sandpaper. The best type of paint to use over wood sealer is acrylic latex paint since the paint is water-based and will stick to the prepped wood sealer. If you want to use oil-based paint on the wood sealer, you need to apply a thin coat of primer first.

This post reveals all you need to know about painting over wood sealer including expert tips and steps to carry out the task. Let’s dive in.

When Can You Paint Over Wood Sealer?

You can use any water-based paint on wood sealer as long as the sealer coating has cured. The best type of paint to use on wood sealer is acrylic latex paint. This is because acrylic latex paints have good adhesion so the paint will stick to the sealed surface.

Also, acrylic latex paints don’t need to penetrate the sealed wood so you won’t run into problems when applying the paint over the wood sealer. You should know that proper cleaning and sanding of the wood sealer will increase adhesion between the latex acrylic paint coat and the wood sealer.

You can also use oil-based paints over wood sealers but you’ll need to condition the sealer coat to ensure that the oil-based paint sticks. In this case, a primer coat is needed. This is because oil-based paints need some penetration on the surface for the paint to stick.

In the painting world, oil-based paints only stick well when the paint coat has something to bite into. This is why a primer coat is needed to allow the oil-based paint to stick.

You should never use wood stain over sealed wood regardless of if the wood stain is water-based or oil-based. This is because wood stain is designed to soak in the wood pores. Since there is wood sealer already on the wood, the wood stain can’t soak into the pores and as a result, will turn sticky.

Will Paint Stick To Sealed Wood?

Paint will stick to sealed wood only if the sealed wood is fully dry. It takes an average of 3 weeks for wood sealer to fully dry enough for paint application. Thompson water sealer for instance advises DIYers to wait 30 days before applying paint over the wood sealer.

If the sealed wood is damp or not dry enough, the paint will not stick to it and will turn sticky. To improve adhesion between the paint coat and the sealed wood, you should scuff the sealed wood with fine sandpaper and apply a primer coat before applying the paint.

Ordinarily, paints by design don’t penetrate the surface as deeply as other finishes. Paints are topical finishes that stay on the top layer of the surface or existing finish. Since paints don’t need to penetrate the surface to stick, you can apply paint over a wood sealer and the paint will stick.

The only case where paints might not stick to the wood sealer is if the wood sealer coat is not in good condition for paint application. For instance, if the wood sealer is wet, stained, or filthy, then the paint will not stick to it because there are contaminants on the wood sealer that will repel the paint.

Next, let’s check out how to paint over sealed wood in detail.

How To Paint Over Wood Sealer?

Painting over wood sealer is not a difficult task but it’s a task that requires caution and the right steps. If you don’t follow the right steps, the paint finish will be ruined.

This guide reveals how to paint over wood sealer in 4 simple steps and the tools and supplies needed to make the task easier.

Before you begin to apply the paint, let’s gather the needed tools and supplies:

  • Sandpaper
  • The needed paint (preferably acrylic latex paint)
  • Paint primer
  • Rags
  • Mineral spirits
  • Sheets
  • Masking tape
  • A vacuum or duster
  • A pair of gloves
  • A face mask for breathing protection
  • Paintbrushes or a paint sprayer
  • Water-based polyurethane

Here is a 5-step guide to painting over wood sealer:

1. Prep The Wood Sealer

Prep The Wood Sealer

The first step on the list is to prep the wood sealer. To do this, start by removing all objects and furniture on and around the sealed wood. Any object you don’t want the paint to get on should either be removed or covered with a drop sheet and masking tape.

The next step in prepping the sealer is to wipe and clean the wood sealer. The purpose of this is to get rid of dust nibs, debris, and contaminants on the wood sealer.

You should wipe the wood sealer with a damp rag. If there is oily scum and stubborn stains on the wood sealer, you need to wipe the surface with mineral spirits or a degreaser like TSD. If you don’t clean the surface properly, the primer and paint will not stick.

2. Scuff The Wood Sealer With Fine-Grit Sandpaper

Scuff The Wood Sealer With Fine-Grit Sandpaper

With the wood sealer clean, you need to sand lightly. This is done to improve adhesion between the paint coat and the wood sealer. Sanding also helps to remove stuck grime and small stones in the wood sealer. To sand the sealer, you should use 180-220 grit sandpaper.

Be careful with this sandpaper as too much force can create gouges in the sealed wood. After sanding with 180-220 grit, go higher and finish off with 320-grit sandpaper. After sanding, wipe or vacuum the sealed wood to remove dust.

3. Prime The Wood Sealer

Prime The Wood Sealer

The next step is to prime the wood sealer. To do this, you need a primer coat – You should pick a primer that is compatible with the type of paint that you want to apply.

For acrylic latex paint which is the best over sealed wood, you need a water-based paint primer. For oil-based paints, you need an oil-based primer. You can also use a latex primer as long as you allow the primer to dry fully before applying the oil-based paint.

You only need a light coat of the required primer on the sealed wood. It takes primer paints between 30 minutes and 1 hour to dry but for optimal results, you can leave the primer to dry for an additional 30 minutes. You can apply the primer using a bristled paintbrush or a paint sprayer.

3. Apply The Paint

Apply The Paint

When the primer is dry, you can apply the paint over the sealed wood. For water-based paints, you need 2-4 coats on the sealed wood. For oil-based paints, you need 2-3 coats on the sealed wood.

You can use a paintbrush or paint sprayer to apply the paint over the sealed wood. For water-based paints, use a synthetic-bristled paintbrush and for oil-based paints, use a natural-bristled paintbrush.

You should wait at least 30 minutes between each coat of water-based paint and 1 hour between each coat of oil-based paint. After applying enough coats, leave the paint to dry for 24-48 hours.

4. Seal The Paint

Seal The Paint

After 24-48 hours, you can seal the paint. The purpose of sealing the paint is to give the wood some waterproofing so it is protected against water damage. You can seal the paint with 2 coats of polyurethane.

Can You Paint Oil-Based Paint Over Water-Based Wood Sealer?

You can paint oil-based paint over a water-based sealer but the sealer coat must be sanded and primed before applying the oil-based paint.

Also, the water-based wood sealer must have cured before the oil-based paint is applied. It takes between 7 days and 21 days for a water-based sealer to dry. Check the water-based sealer manufacturer’s instructions to know how long to wait before applying the oil-based paint.

Oil-based paints contain a high volume of solvents and natural or synthetic oils like linseed oil. The high solvent and oil ratio in the paint doesn’t make it very compatible with the water-based sealer especially when the sealer isn’t dry. If you apply oil-based paint over a damp water-based sealer, the result will be a streaky and tacky finish. So, it’s proper to allow the water-based sealer to dry fully before painting over it.

When the sealer is dry, you can sand and prime it before applying the oil-based paint. A combination of these steps ensures you get a perfect finish.

Can You Paint Water-Based Paint Over Oil-Based Wood Sealer?

You can paint water-based paint over oil-based wood sealer as long as the oil-based sealer has cured. When the oil-based sealer has cured, it means that the oils in the sealer have been completely evaporated and the sealer has become hard and strong.

If the sealer hasn’t cured, applying a water-based paint over it will cause the oils in the sealer and the water in the paint to clash. The result of mixing water and oils would give you a tacky and smelly finish. If it’s on a vertical surface like a wall, the water-based paint will run and drip excessively.

You don’t need to prime the oil-based wood sealer. The only necessary step is to sand it before applying the water-based paint. The purpose of sanding is to remove the glossy top coat of the oil-based sealer and to create ridges in the oil-based sealer that the water-based paint can bite into.

Does Sealed Wood Lose Its Sealing and Waterproofing After Painting Over It?

A sealed wood will lose part of its waterproofing when it is painted over. This is because before painting over the sealed wood, you are required to sand the wood sealer first.

Sanding the sealer directly removes the topmost layer of the wood sealer. This topmost layer is what makes the wood sealer waterproof because it prevents water from penetrating the sealed wood. Since you sanded off part of the topmost layer to make the new paint stick, you directly reduce the waterproofing qualities of the sealed wood.

However, the sealed wood can regain its waterproofing if you use a waterproof paint over it. For instance, if you use polyurethane paint over the sealed wood, the wood will still regain its waterproofing because polyurethane is a waterproof paint or sealant. This is why it is highly recommended to seal the paint after application so the wood can get some protection against moisture.

If you use a water-prone paint alone over the sealed wood, the wood will experience water damage after some time because there is no waterproof covering over it anymore.

Final Words

In summary, you can paint over sealed wood. You just need to properly prep the wood and follow the right application steps.

As long as you follow the right steps discussed in this post, you’ll end up with a perfect finish. Remember not to use wood stain or other penetrating finishes on the sealed wood because the wood will not absorb the stain.

Finally, ensure to seal your paint finish after application or use waterproof paint over the sealed wood. This ensures that the wood regains its waterproofing.

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