Looking for the best clear coat for wood for a lasting finish? Check out my list of the best top coats and sealers for wood furniture.
Have you spent hours painting a beautiful piece of furniture only to place a drink on it and ruin the finish with a nasty ring? Yep, that means it wasn’t sealed properly.
Have you chalk painted and waxed a table only to find out that with a few scratches of your fingernail the paint chips off? Yep, chalk paint isn’t really intended for high traffic surfaces without a high traffic sealer.
Have you used a polyurethane finish on a newly white painted piece of furniture only to have it yellow over time? Yep, you used the wrong top coat.
If you’re looking for information on how to choose the best wood sealer for your furniture, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what wood sealers are and how they can help to protect your furniture. We’ll also talk about the different types of wood sealers and how to choose the right one for your needs.
Table of Contents
What is a Clear Coat for Wood?
Wood sealers and clear coats are products that are applied to wood to create a barrier that helps to protect it from damage. Wood sealers can help to protect your furniture from scratches, stains, and water damage. They can also help to extend the life of your furniture by protecting it from the elements.
Different types of wood clear coats
There are a few different types of wood sealers. One type of wood sealer is a polyurethane or polycrylic water based sealer. These sealers are durable and provide a strong barrier of protection. Another type of wood sealer is a lacquer sealer. Lacquer sealers provide a high-gloss finish and can help to enhance the natural beauty of the wood. And finally, there are oil-based sealers. Oil-based sealers penetrates deep into the wood and can help to condition and protect it.
How to choose the best top coat and wood sealer for your furniture piece
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the best wood sealer for your needs. One thing to consider is the type of wood you’re sealing. Some woods are more porous than others and will require a different type of sealer. Another thing to consider is the finish you’re looking for. If you want a high-gloss finish, you’ll need to choose a different type of sealer than if you’re looking for a more natural finish. And finally, you’ll also need to consider the environment the furniture will be in. If the furniture will be in a high-traffic area, you’ll need to choose a more durable sealer. If the furniture will be in a more low-key environment, you can choose a less durable sealer like a beeswax product.
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Best top coat for stained wood furniture
There are a few different clear coats on the market that are great for protecting stained furniture. One of the most affordable and decent clear coat products is the Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish. This clear coat is a water-based formula that dries quickly and is fairly durable. The best top coat for stained wood furniture is General Finishes High Performance Top coat. It’s extremely durable, easy to apply and lasting.
Another great clear coat for stained furniture is the Universal All Surface Clear Topcoat Spray. This clear coat is an oil-based Spray can formula that dries to a matte finish. It’s also durable and chip-resistant. The spray form of top coats are better for smaller projects like covering small furniture pieces, lamps and accessories. Remember than an oil based sealer needs to be applied outside in a well ventilated area and cleaning paint brushes is a little more involved.
My personal opinion: I’m a huge fan of the Polycrylic clear coat but the General Finishes High Performance top coat is a little more durable. It’s my “go-to” finish for all sorts of furniture even stained wood furniture. Note that if you have a light stained wood piece, a top coat might darken in a little. Typically the oil based sealers will darken it more than a water based sealer. Keep that in mind when choosing a good top coat for your stained wood piece.
Best top coat for latex paint
The question should rather be; does latex paint need a sealer? No latex paint does NOT require a sealer. That being said, there are certain circumstances where it can be helpful. Here are a few reasons why.
- Sealer makes latex paint more durable
- Sealer creates another barrier between the surface and the paint
- Creates a durable scratch proof, water proof finish
- Prevents color fade from latex paint
My personal opinion: General Finishes milk paint products are acrylic latex paints which come with the best variety of clear, durable tops coats. Since these products are latex paints, the company has formulated their clear top coats to work seamlessly with these types of paints. I’ve used these top coats for years and would personally recommend them.
Best top coat for painted wood furniture
More times than not painted wood furniture will require some sort of top coat or sealer. The most durable sealers are high gloss liquid top coats. The general rule of thumb with paint finishes is the higher the gloss, the more durable the sealer.
Most durable top coat for painted wood furniture
If you want the most durability, a product like General Finishes Enduro Pre-Cat Lacquer is as durable as you can get. The great thing about this product is that it actually resists yellowing unlike other lacquer products. The bad thing about this product (and other lacquer products too) is that they are tricky to apply. This particular product has to be applied from a paint sprayer. It will look blotchy and uneven if you don’t apply it properly.
Best satin clear coat for painted wood furniture
The best satin top coat for painted wood furniture is General Finishes High Performance top coat or for a more budget option, Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish. Both are good quality top coats that mostly resist yellowing over time (you will find this problem with oil based products). Polycrylic comes is roughly about half the price of the General Finishes product and isn’t quite as high quality as General Finishes.
You get what you pay for right?
Best matte top coat for chalk paint or painted furniture
If you’ve painted a piece of furniture with chalk paint then chances are you wanted that beautiful velvety matte finish. The recommended sealer for chalk paint is a wax product, but truth be told the wax doesn’t hold up very well and should be reapplied every year (most people don’t know this). What if you want a more lasting finish with a more durable top coat over chalk paint?
If you are looking for an ultra matte finish and still want a durable top coat, check out General Finishes Flat Out Flat. This product was made specifically for chalk paint and milk paint. When you want that matte finish but you want more durability, try this!
Side note; this product WILL YELLOW over a bright white finish.
If you are looking for a NON YELLOWING MATTE TOP COAT- warning, it will be hard to find. For some reason the matte clear coat finishes are known to yellow light or white paint easier than say a satin or semi gloss top coat.
That being said Varathane Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane does a good job of keeping a decent matte finish while resisting yellowing.
I covered my beverage bar painted cabinets with it and here we are four years later they are still bright white! If you look closely you might see a tiny bit of tinting but you wouldn’t notice it unless I told you.
Best natural top coat for unfinished wood furniture
If you are looking for a natural top coat that still provides a little durability, furniture wax and furniture polishes are the way to go.
What’s the difference between furniture wax and furniture polish?
Furniture wax (or paste wax) is a thicker product than furniture polish. Furniture wax is literally a wax product that sits on top of the surface to create a barrier against water and other elements. The paste wax products dry to a hard finish and they normally need to be buffed out.
Furniture polish, beeswax, or other liquid wax products have mostly been diluted with a compound like mineral spirits to make them easier to apply into the wood. This, however, makes them easier to wear off and requires more frequent applications.
I recently wrote a post where I tested three of the most highly recommended Beeswax products on wood. I was impressed with the results and the natural wood finish it produced. That being said, I can easily see how it will have to be reapplied quite often.
Best durable natural top coat for unfinished wood furniture
As far as durability, the best natural top coat for unfinished furniture would probably be paste wax. Even though high traffic spots (like table tops) need to be reapplied yearly, it’s still the most natural looking finish you can apply.
The best clear wax I’ve found is Annie Sloan’s clear wax. I’ve used it on unfinished wood and it creates a nice durable yet matte natural looking finish.
Minwax Paste finishing Wax in natural is also a good choice that gets great reviews.
If you are looking for a white wash finish, Liming wax is also a great choice. I’ve got a full tutorial on how to use liming wax here.
Best wood polish for unfinished wood furniture
The best wood polish I’ve found for unfinished wood would be the Daddy Van’s All Natural Beeswax & Lavender Furniture Polish. Not only does it smell amazing, but it’s naturally chemical and solvent free. A little bit of this goes a long way. The more you use, the darker it will make the wood.
Looking for an outdoor
As far as the best products for sealers and top coats on wood; General Finishes has all the other brands beat. This is primarily an opinion, but after using countless products, I keep coming back to General Finishes. Their products are a notch above the rest and they have so many top coat options to choose from!
I hope this post has helped you navigate through a world of products to find the right one for your project.
Thanks for sticking around and happy painting.