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

| Updated on
Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

Wood sealers are used to protect surfaces from water damage. However, they are usually transparent and after a while, the finish gets boring. So, can you paint over it?

You can paint over wood sealer as long as the coating is fully dry and it has been prepped. To prep it, you should clean and sand it with fine sandpaper.

It’s recommended to use acrylic latex paint over it since water-based paints stick better to a prepped sealed coating. If you want to use an oil-based paint, you must apply a coat of primer first.

Does Paint Adhere To Sealed Wood?

Paint will stick to sealed wood only if the finish is fully dry. It takes an average of 3 weeks for the wood sealer to fully dry. For instance, Thompson’s water sealer takes 30 days to dry before it can be painted over.

If you apply paint coating too soon, the coating won’t stick and will turn sticky. This is because it won’t be able to stick over a wet or not-hard enough coating.

Once the sealant dries, you must scuff (sand) the finish with sandpaper and apply a primer to increase the adhesion. This way the paint will stick over the primer coating and not the sealant.

Ordinarily, paints by design don’t penetrate the surface as deeply as other finishes. They are topical finishes that stay on the top layer of the surface or existing finish.

Note: While you can paint over a wood sealer, it’s not recommended to do so. Wood sealers are designed to be the final coating and they have a moisture-resistant coating that prevents proper adhesion. So, even if the paint sticks over it, it will peel off eventually.

When Can You Paint Over Wood Sealer?

You can paint over wood sealer as long as the sealer is fully dry (cured). The best paint type to use is acrylic latex paint as it has good adhesion.

Also, acrylic latex paint doesn’t need to penetrate the sealed wood as much, so you won’t run into problems when applying it. However, you must clean and heavily sand the sealant coating first before applying the paint.

If you don’t clean or heavily sand the finish, the paint won’t stick because the sealant has a moisture-resistant coating that repels liquid. Sanding will remove the glossy layer and create ridges (pores) on the finish so that the paint can penetrate and stick.

You can also use oil-based paints but you’ll need to condition the sealer to ensure proper adhesion. In this case, a primer coat is needed. The oil-based paint will only stick well if it can penetrate the surface. This is why a primer is needed.

You should never use wood stain over sealed wood regardless of if the wood stain is water-based or oil-based. This is because the stain is a penetrating finish and won’t stick over the moisture-resistant layer of the sealant.

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 finish will be ruined.

Here are the tools you need

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

1. Prep The Surface

Prep The Wood Sealer

First, prep the wood sealer. To do this, start by removing all objects and furniture on and around the surface.

Next, wipe and clean the sealer. The purpose of this is to get rid of dust nibs, debris, and contaminants on the finish. You should wipe it with a damp rag.

If there is oily scum and stubborn stains on the surface, you need to wipe it with mineral spirits or a degreaser like TSD. If you don’t clean the surface properly, the new coatings won’t stick.

2. Scuff The Finish

Scuff The Wood Sealer With Fine-Grit Sandpaper

Sanding is done to improve adhesion between the paint coat and the wood sealer. It also helps to remove stuck grime and small stones in the finish.

To sand it, use 180-220 grit sandpaper. Don’t apply too much pressure as you can remove the entire finish. After sanding a few times, move up to higher sandpaper, such as 320-grit. This sandpaper will remove small imperfections and bumps in the finish.

After sanding, clean the surface.

3. Prime The Finish

Prime The Wood Sealer

Apply a primer coat – You should pick one that is compatible with the type of paint that you want to apply.

For acrylic latex paint, you need a water-based 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 surface. It takes primer between 30 minutes and 1 hour to dry but for optimal results, you can leave it to dry for an additional 30 minutes. To apply it, use a brush or sprayer.

3. Apply The Paint

Apply The Paint.

Once the primer dries, apply paint over it using a brush, roller, or sprayer. You need 2-4 coats of paint for proper coverage. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one.

4. Seal The Finish

Seal The Paint

Once the final coating of the paint dries, seal it. A sealant, such as polyurethane, will form a glossy layer that will protect surfaces from moisture, water, or other damage. You need two coats of sealant for proper coverage.

Does Painting Weaken The Sealant?

A sealed wood will lose part of its waterproofing when it is painted over. This is because you will have to sand its finish. Sanding will remove the top layer of the sealant, and expose the surface underneath to the elements.

Since most of the top layer is sanded off (removed), the sealant won’t be as waterproof and protecting anymore. This means it will be weaker and won’t protect the wood from the elements.

However, you can always apply another coating of sealant once the paint dries. This way the new sealant will create a moisture-resistant layer that will protect all the finishes underneath it.

If you leave it un-sealed, the paint alone won’t protect a surface.

Final Words

In summary, you can paint over a sealed wood, but you must prep it by cleaning and sanding off its glossy layer. It’s recommended to use acrylic latex over it as it sticks better. Also, you must seal the finish after you are done.

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.

Leave a Comment