Chalk paints have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, from small craft or upcycling projects to elaborate home decor. As this beloved paint moves outdoors, however, you might be wondering if chalk paint is waterproof and can withstand the elements, especially when painted on furniture.
Fortunately, it is possible to use high-quality chalk paint on outdoor projects with the right techniques and supplies. Learn how to make chalk paint suitable for outdoor use, ways to increase its water resistance, and the answers to common chalk paint questions.
Are Chalk Paints Waterproof?
While chalk paints are water-resistant, it’s important to note that they’re not waterproof. This means it can withstand some contact with water, but will degrade, peel, or develop mold with constant exposure.
Nevertheless, you can still use chalk paints on your outdoor furniture and projects—even fabric surfaces, like lounge chairs or cushions. Select a paint with additives that prohibit mold growth, if possible, and consider finishing furniture with sealant after your chalk paint has dried.
How To Make Chalk Paint Waterproof (Options For Sealing)
Sealing Chalk Paint with Wax
This option is more difficult than others but does provide a durable finish without sacrificing the chalk paint's matte look. What's more, you can increase the distressed look of chalk paint with a dark wax, if desired.
To apply a wax sealant, paint it on with a wax brush and spread it evenly. Take care not to apply it too thickly or overlap your brushstrokes, as an excess of wax will feel tacky after drying.
Another downside of wax sealant is that it will require buffing for a smooth appearance after it dries. Additionally, it takes 2 to 3 weeks to fully cure before the furniture can be used. It’s ideal for pieces that won’t get much contact, so steer clear of it for tables, cabinets, and other everyday furniture.
Sealing Chalk Style Paint with an Aerosol Clear Coat
This sealant option is the quickest and easiest: simply spray it on evenly and lightly, allow it to dry, apply again, and you're done. Its main drawback is that it's expensive for large projects and won’t provide any additional aging effects.
Sealing Chalk Paint with a Matte Polycrylic
To apply a polycrylic sealant, brush it onto your fully dried chalk paint with a quality bristle brush. You don't have to use a second coat but might want to if durability is a concern.
Polycrylic topcoats have the advantages of easy application, an opaque look that turns clear when it dries (making full coverage more straightforward), and a soft finish that complements chalk paint's finish.
On the list of cons, however, you'll notice some brands turn yellow over time, although this mostly refers to oil-based sealants.
Using Aging Glazes
Finally, you can partially seal your piece with an aging glaze for even more effect. To apply, paint the aging glaze onto any areas where you want more depth and detail, then wipe them away with a wet cloth. Vary your amounts and pressure to get a natural-looking finish.
The downside of aging glazes is that they don’t fully seal your piece; you’ll still want to apply a topcoat when the glaze has dried.
Why Use Chalk Paint? (Overview + Suitable Surfaces)
Contrary to popular misconceptions, chalk paint is not the same as chalkboard paint. Rather, the “chalk” in its name refers to its ultra-matte, chalky finish that perfectly suits shabby chic or antique pieces.
The water-based paint is incredibly user-friendly, requiring no thinning or straining prior to application. In fact, chalk paint doesn’t even have to be mixed before you paint it onto your furniture.
Chalk Paint was invented by Annie Sloan in 1990, and her trademarked brand is one of the best-known paints on the market to this day. However, other brands have since developed similar formulas of their own.
Perhaps the greatest benefit in using chalk paints is the fact you don’t absolutely have to prime or sand a piece before painting. Its unique formula leaves no drip marks, goes on thick, can be used in a sprayer, and can cover imperfect surfaces and old finishes with little to no preparation. It can transform furniture—indoors or out—as well as curios, lamps, fireplaces, and even floors.
What We Like
Things We Don’t Like
Requires minimal prep work
Can show brush strokes
Self-smoothing, matte finish
Can be expensive
Thick; drips less, fewer coats
The Do’s And Don’ts Of Using Chalk Paints
Don't go crazy with color combos
This is often true of any paint finish, but overloading a piece with color can turn your shabby-chic vision into something more suited for a kid’s room. The matte finish of chalk paint only serves to underscore this effect, so use colors sparingly.
A good rule of thumb is to choose subtle contrasts. You can also leave some wooden elements, like a stained bar top or small decorative details, to ground your piece and give it that extra bit of sophistication.
While chalk paint requires sanding for that aged look crafters love, it is possible to overdo it. Consider which areas would weather first if you left the distressing up to time and nature. High-contact areas and edges, for example, are ideal places for light sanding. Doing this step correctly will add dimension rather than appearing forced.
Do use patterns and accents sparingly…if at all
Although a "pop piece" or two is certainly acceptable for most rooms, you're better off saving bright patterns or eye-catching contrast for things like pillows, art, or curious you can swap on a whim. Instead, try a subtler approach with minimal contrast, such as a few light flourishes or a monogram.
Don't use chalk paint when you should be staining
Obviously, this is subjective, but not every component of every project has to be covered with chalk paint. Ask yourself where the most contact will occur, such as the seat of a chair, and consider staining that area instead.
Lastly, don’t use dark colors as a replacement for actual staining. The color may be the same, but the effect won't: letting the wood's natural grain shine will result in a much more dynamic finished project and play off the matte finish of the chalk paint beautifully.
Chalk Paint Water Resistance FAQs
Are Rustoleum, Annie Sloan, Waverly, & Behr chalk paints waterproof?
Although popular chalk paint brands offer varying amounts of weather- and water resistance, none are inherently waterproof. You'll have to seal your finished project with a sealant to increase its durability for heavy outdoor exposure.
Does chalk paint come off with water? Does it wash off in the rain?
Before its full dry time (which is very quick), chalk paint can be easily washed off with soap and water. After it's dried, it can be removed by scrubbing and sanding or paint thinner. Rain will not wash chalk paint away completely on its own, although unsealed chalk paint can fade and wear down.
Can you use a waterproof sealer with chalk paint?
Yes, you can apply a waterproof sealer to your finished chalk paint piece. Note that some sealants are more waterproof than others, and a few—like wax—will require more frequent reapplication over time.
Chalk paints are a highly versatile option for upcycling and decorating cabinets, decor, and especially furniture—even if you plan on using that project outdoors. Although chalk paint is water-resistant, it isn't waterproof.
Sealing chalk paint with an appropriate sealant will protect your outdoor pieces from rain, wind, sun, and frequent use or contact without sacrificing chalk paint's unique matte finish.