How to apply polyacrylic & avold bubbles on wood

Written by charles clay
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How to apply polyacrylic & avold bubbles on wood
Polyacrylic is a water-based clearcoat suitable for furniture and trim. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Polyacrylic or polycrylic is a water-based clear topcoat most commonly used to protect bare or stained wood. It is similar in performance to polyurethane, although it can be cleaned up with soap and water rather than solvents and does not yellow with age to the same extent. Applying polyacrylic smoothly and without bubbles which will ruin the smoothness of the finish requires some preparation and the proper tools.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Natural fibre brush
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloths

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  1. 1

    Brush on a thin coat of polyacrylic using a natural fibre brush or a synthetic brush designed for varnishes. Brush in one direction only, and do not try to smooth the coat or brush out drips after the initial application. This will cause brush marks.

  2. 2

    Sand the surface gently using very fine sandpaper, grade 320 or higher. Wipe away the sanding dust using a tack cloth. Do not sand or re-coat until the polyacrylic has dried completely. Consult the can label for drying times.

  3. 3

    Apply additional thin coats, sanding gently between coats. The top coat does not need to be sanded.

Tips and warnings

  • To avoid bubbling, do not spray polyacrylic or use a foam brush. These can trap air bubbles in the finish as it dries, creating a rough surface.
  • If drips form after the initial application, allow the coat to dry. Then sand the drip away using fine-grit sandpaper.
  • Multiple thin coats will provide a smoother finish than one or two thick coats. Thinner coats will also be less likely to form drips.
  • When staining or varnishing wood, always work in a well-ventilated area free of open flames. If there is a strong build-up of vapour or you feel sick or dizzy, leave the area immediately to allow the fumes to dissipate. Consult the health and safety warnings on the label before using this product.

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