Can You Put Polyurethane Over Paint? (How-To Apply Guide)

Many people choose to use polyurethane to keep their freshly painted floor looking good. With that in mind, you may find yourself asking the question, “Can you put polyurethane over paint or not?”  

If you’d like to prevent painted floors from fading, getting dirty, and losing their quality while making sure they’ll last a lot longer, polyurethane is an option.

However, you’ll need to know how to apply it to maximize your results while using different types of paints. Find out more below!

While you know that you can apply polyurethane to different surfaces, you might not know if it works over paint color, causing you to ask, “Can you applying polyurethane over paint?” The short answer is that yes, you can apply this product to fully cured painted surfaces or painted floor. 

However, there are some things you need to know in advance. For example, it’s important to clean and fully cured the surface before you begin applying polyurethane. It’s also good to know what this product can do to different types of paint so that you’ll have the right expectations when using it. 

Painting Tools with Red Paint

1. Polyurethane Over Latex Paint  

You’ve likely wondered how do you applying polyurethane over latex paint. When you’re applying it over latex paint, you need to clean and sand the surface, tack the stained wood with tack cloth or damp rag, lint free cloth or damp cloth and then apply your first coat of the polyurethane. 

Next, you’ll need to clean the painted surface or painted floor again and apply a second coat. You may then repeat this process again if you need to. When applied to surfaces with latex paint, polyurethane can protect the paint from peeling while making it even easier to clean. 

2. Polyurethane Over Chalk Paint 

It’s safe to add polyurethane over chalk paint. However, you need to make sure you allow the chalk paint to dry beforehand. So, if you’re painting a surface with chalk paint, wait a minimum of 24-hours and a maximum of 72-hours before pulling out the roller and the polyurethane to get started. 

It will leave a glossy touch on the paint. However, it won’t look too shiny, which is something that other topcoats can do. 

3. Polyurethane Over Acrylic Paint 

When using polyurethane over acrylic paint, you need to make sure you’re washing the painted surface or painted floor using warm water.

Acrylic paint is made from suspended pigments in silicon oils, acrylic polymer emulsion, stabilizers, metal soaps, defoamers, and plasticizers. You can clean the painted surface with the warm water, begin scuffing the surface, and then decide what you’ll use to apply the polyurethane. 

You’ll need to work with the polyurethane one layer at a time. Once you’ve applied a single layer, scuff the painted surface or painted floor with floor buffer before you add a second layer.

Repeat the process until you’re satisfied with the outcome. Using this product over acrylic paint helps to keep dust accumulation to a minimum and prevents the acrylic paints from looking dull over time. Make sure that you propely seal acrylic paint after use.

4. Water Based Polyurethane Over Oil Based Paint 

It’s fine to use water based polyurethane over oil based paints. It’s one of the concerns that people often have.

However, water based polyurethane works well as long as you follow the grain of the paint when you’re applying this product.

It doesn’t matter what you use when applying the water based polyurethane or water based poly over oil based paint, whether you feel comfortable with a roller, pad, or natural bristle brush.

Clean the paint brush with paint thinner or mineral spirits for after completing your project. Some people even choose to spray this product i.e. water based polyurethane or water based poly over oil based painted surfaces or painted floor as a finishing touch. 

5. Polyurethane Over Semi-Gloss Paint 

When you have a semi-gloss paint surface, you can apply polyurethane over paint, but you’ll need to lightly sand the surface a bit beforehand.

Don’t worry, you won’t need an electric sander. It’s fine to use sandpaper and your hands to get the job done. After sanding the surface, wipe it down to remove small dust particles. 

Allow the semi-gloss paint to dry before you begin applying a layer of water based polyurethane. Once you've allowed the first layer of wet paint dry, repeat the process of sanding, cleaning, and applying another water based polyurethane coat.

When you complete this process on semi-gloss paint, the glossy appearance lasts even longer, keeping the fresh paint job looking its best for longer periods. 

6. Polyurethane Over Spray Paint 

Before applying this product over spray paint, prep the area by cleaning it, sanding it, and tacking the wood ahead of time. Allow the spray paint to dry before you apply that first coat, and then sand it before adding a second coat or final coat. 

You'll want to add at least two clear coat when you’re applying it over spray paint, but you can add more than two layers of this product on top. 

7. Oil Based Polyurethane Over-Water Based Paint 

We all know that oil and water typically don't mix, so that would leave you wondering if oil based poly or oil based polyurethane would be suitable to use on a water-based paint.

Oil-based polyurethane dries faster and has a very light amber tint and tends to have a yellow or amber hue. The good news is that you can use oil based polyurethane over this type of paint. 

Oil based polyurethane can still work wonders to protect the surface while preventing againt producing deep scratches marks or brush marks, and more. If you want a water-based painted surface product to change the look of paint beneath, consider using oil based polyurethane on top of it. 

8. Polyurethane Over Rustoleum Countertop Paint 

It’s perfectly fine to apply polyurethane over paint i.e. Rustoleum countertop paint.

You may want to take the extra precautionary measure as a way to keep your countertop in excellent condition. When applying the polyurethane, do it in layers as you normally would. 

It should take around three layers to achieve a flawless finish that will prevent your countertop from chipping, peeling, and getting deep scratches with ease. 

Can You Paint Over Polyurethane? 

Now that you know it’s possible to use polyurethane over paint, you may wonder if you can paint over it with different types of paint and, if so, what paint will stick to polyurethane?

You can apply paint to polyurethane, but you'll need to keep the surface in mind. 

It doesn't stick as well to surfaces that have been heavily sanded and then covered in polyurethane.

If you're going to paint over polyurethane, take the right steps in preparation for it.

Tools for Painting Jobs

You'll need to clean and prime the surface beforehand. 

In addition, it's best to use paint acrylic enamel paints or enamel paint and oil based paints when you’re acrylic painting over this liquid plastic material. 

Polyurethane - Overview & How It's Applied

Polyurethane is a type of plastic material available in a flexible type of foam that is commonly used on furniture, such as desks, tables, and more. So, what is its purpose? Polyurethane gets used as a coating for different surfaces.

When applied to the right surfaces, it can keep them from getting scratched and damaged. It also provides an added layer of protection against water damage. As a result, products can last a lot longer and continue to look their best.

Many professional painters use polyurethane because of the added protection this plastic liquid provides to the surfaces it gets applied to, such as desks, kitchen tables, nightstands, and other furniture items. Applying the product is a simple and straightforward process.

While it’s possible to use a foam brush or roller, it’s best to use a roller for precision and a mark-free finish that looks impressive. It also takes less time to apply the product when you’re using a roller compared to using a traditional brush. So, if you’re choosing to use polyurethane, consider having a roller available to use with it.

People often wonder if polyurethane finish stick to all different types of surfaces. It does adhere to most surfaces, but it's important to prep those areas before you get started. If you don't prep the space beforehand, you may struggle to achieve that perfect finish with this liquid plastic product.

Preparing the surface involves a series of steps, such as sanding, removing dust particles, waxing, and waiting for the specific surface to dry completely before using the roller to apply the polyurethane.

With the right application, you can expect surfaces to look better for even longer. When you want to achieve the best results possible, be sure to apply few coats of the product. The best results depends upon how many coats you apply. Instead of applying a single coat, try adding at least three layers of polyurethane to the surface to give it that special touch.

Frequently Asked Polyurethane Questions

How long does it take for polyurethane to dry?  

Polyurethane can take a minimum of two hours to dry. However, when dealing with a larger surface, it may take up to 24-hours for it to dry. 

Can you put polyurethane over white paint?  

No, polyurethane doesn’t look good over white painted surfaces.

How long should you wait to put polyurethane over paint?  

The length of time you’ll need to wait will depend on the specific paint used on a surface. Some paints, such as chalk paint, will require you to wait for at least 24-hours.

What happens if you don't sand between coats of polyurethane?  

If you don’t sand between coats of polyurethane, you may not achieve a seamless finished piece. So, be sure to take the proper steps to get your painted furniture to look its best after applying polyurethane over it. 


It’s entirely possible to use polyurethane over paint. In fact, you can use this product on many types of paint, including oil based and high gloss paint options.

However, if you’re going to use this product on high gloss paints, you need to follow the proper steps that may involve sanding, cleaning, or applying against the painted wood, depending on the type of paint you’re covering with this product.