How to paint over polyurethane on wood

Written by robert korpella
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How to paint over polyurethane on wood
Once prepared, paint adheres well to surfaces that had been finished in polyurethane. (John Howard/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Paint can be applied to most surfaces, including those previously finished with polyurethane. The key to a successful paint job is preparation of the surface so the paint will adhere properly. Some sanding and cleaning is necessary, but the results will be worth the effort.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 180-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Brush
  • Oil-based, stain-blocking primer
  • Oil-based paint

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  1. 1

    Sand the shine from the polyurethane finish with 180-grit sandpaper. Make sure you rough the surface thoroughly. Paint adheres best to a surface that isn't glass smooth. You can measure your progress because the finish will dull and collect a thin build-up of greyish, sanded material.

  2. 2

    Wipe the entire surface with a tack cloth. Turn the sticky cloth over frequently to make sure it is not becoming clogged with sanded material.

  3. 3

    Brush on a coat of oil-based, stain-blocking primer. Primer helps prepare any surface to accept the top coat of paint. Oil-based primers work best when applied to varnished or urethaned surfaces. Stain-blocking properties will help hold back stains, ink and old colour so they don't bleed through the final finish. Allow the primer coat to dry overnight or as recommended by the manufacturer.

  4. 4

    Sand the primed surface lightly with 180-grit sandpaper. This is just a light sanding to settle any wood fibres that may have risen during painting and to roughen the primer just a little for the final coat of paint. Wipe down all wood surfaces to be painted using a tack cloth.

  5. 5

    Apply a coat of oil-based paint to the primed surface. Brush the paint on in long, even strokes. Recoat as needed or as recommended by the paint manufacturer.

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