Can You Paint Over A Wood Sealer? Answer + Tips

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You’ve spent hours sealing your wood surfaces, and now you’re ready to paint. But can you paint over a wood sealer? The answer is yes, but there are a few things you need to do first to ensure that your paint job turns out flawlessly.

Today, I’m going to break down the do’s and don’ts of painting over sealed wood, plus how to select a primer that really works.

When to Apply Paint on Wood Sealed Surfaces

The general rule of thumb is to wait 24-48 hours after applying the sealer before painting. This will give the sealer time to dry and cure properly. 

But if you use wood putty, it only takes little time to dry. If you try to paint too soon, you risk the paint not bonding correctly and peeling off later. 

round dining table

Preparing the Wood Using Paint Primers

Once the surface is clean, you’ll need to apply a primer. This will help the paint adhere better and create a more even finish. When choosing a primer, ensure it’s compatible with the type of paint you’ll use.

If you’re going with oil-based paint, then an oil-based primer is your best bet. On the flip side, if you’re using latex paint, then go for a latex primer. The right combination can make all the difference in how your paint job turns out.

Types of Paint Primers + When to Use

A paint primer is a preparatory coating that is applied to a surface before painting. Primers are designed to provide better adhesion for paint, improve the appearance of the paint job, and extend the life of the paint job.

In some cases, primers can also be used to hide dark colors or stains on a surface. This can be especially helpful if you try to achieve a lighter color palette in your space. While most primers are white, gray and black options are also available. 

applying paint primer on wooden frame

There are three main types of primers. Take a closer look at each type so you can decide which one is right for your project: 

Shellac Primers

Shellac primers are made from resin that is extracted from lac bugs. This type of primer is quick drying and provides excellent adherence for both paint and wallpaper.

Shellac primers also have excellent sealing properties, making them ideal for surfaces that have been damaged by water or other stains. However, because shellac is flammable, this type of primer should only be used in well-ventilated areas. 

Note: Pure shellac primers are different from a dewaxed shellac. To learn more about the dewaxed properties, check this article next!

Oil-Based Primers

Oil-based primers are made with either alkyd resin or mineral spirits. They provide good adhere ability for both paint and wallpaper and also do an excellent job of sealing surfaces.

mixing oil-based primer

Oil-based primers can be used on interior and exterior surfaces. They also work well on porous surfaces such as wood or drywall. However, they take longer to dry than other types of primers and give off strong fumes. So, don’t even think about using them unless you’ve got solid ventilation going on. 

Acrylic or Latex Primers

Acrylic or latex primers are water-based products that contain acrylic resins. They provide good adhesion for paint and work well on difficult surfaces such as glossy surfaces, bare wood, or metal.

I also find that they’re less likely to turn yellow over time than oil-based primers. However, they may not provide as much coverage as other types of primers and may not be suitable for all types of paints.

Also Read

Would Paint Cling to the Sealed Surface?

Paint would cling to the sealed surface. The paint’s solvents cause the sticky residue to be left behind. Generally, the more volatile the solvents in a paint, the more likely it is to leave a sticky residue.

applying wood sealer

Solvents that are high in volatility evaporate quickly and will leave a sticky residue on most surfaces. On the other hand, low-volatility solvents do not evaporate as quickly and are less likely to leave a sticky residue on surfaces.

How to Apply Paint on a Sealed Wooden Surface

Here are the materials you’ll need:

Step #1: Prepare the Sealer

Before you begin, prepare the sealer to ensure that the paint adheres properly and doesn’t peel off in the future. To do this, simply apply a layer of paint stripper to the surface and let it sit for several minutes.

preparing wood sealer

Once it’s had a chance to work its magic, use a putty knife or other scraping tool to remove any loose paint or debris, if necessary, sandpaper can also rough the surface before proceeding to the next step.

Step #2: Sand With a Fine-Grit Sandpaper

After the sealer has been removed, it’s time to start sanding. I suggest starting with fine-grit sandpaper and work your way up to a medium or coarse grit if necessary. The goal here is not to remove all of the sealers but rather to create a smooth, even surface for the primer and paint to adhere to. 

Interesting Read: What Grit of Sandpaper Should You Use Before Painting Wood

sanding block

Once you’re finished sanding, vacuum up any dust accumulations and wipe down the surface with a damp cloth.

Step #3: Prime The Wood Sealer

To further prepare the surface for painting, apply a thin primer layer with a brush or roller. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the dry time before proceeding. Once the primer is dry, you’re finally ready to start painting!

preparing wood sealer

Step #4: Spread the Paint

Now for the fun part – it’s time to add some color! Choose your desired paint color and apply it evenly across the surface using a brush or roller. If you want an ultra-smooth finish, consider using a high-gloss paint.

paint brush

Step #5: Seal

Finally, it’s time to protect your hard work with a clear sealer. This will help extend the lifespan of your paint job and prevent dirt and debris from accumulating on the surface. Simply apply the sealer according to the manufacturer’s directions, and voila – you’re finished!

Next Readings

applying wood sealer

Is it Okay to Apply Oil-Based Paint on Top of Water-Based Wood Sealer?

Applying oil-based paint on top of water-based wood sealer is not okay. Oil-based paint will not bond with the water-based sealer and will eventually flake and peel off, leaving your wood unprotected.

Water-based sealers are designed to penetrate the wood and form a film that protects it from moisture and helps prevent staining. Oil-based paints, on the other hand, form a film on the surface of the paint that can be scratched or chipped off easily [1].

Is it Okay to Apply Water-Based Paint on Top of Oil-Based Wood Sealer?

Okay, so you might be wondering if you can use water-based paint over an oil-based wood sealer. Technically, you can, but I wouldn’t advise it. The issue here is that the water-based paint won’t stick well to the surface if there’s an oil-based sealer underneath. It’s just not an ideal combo, and you’ll likely run into problems down the road with your paint job.

priming wood before painting

In addition, the water-based paint will most likely peel off over time.

Will a Wood Sealed Surface Lose its Waterproofing and Sealing Properties After Painting it?

By sealing a wood surface, you are essentially preventing it from absorbing moisture. If the sealant is applied properly, it will not lose its waterproofing and sealing properties.

Read Next: Top-Rated Waterproof Paint for Wood 

However, if the sealant begins to wear off or peel away from the wood surface, then the wood will become susceptible to water damage.

It is important to routinely inspect your sealant and reapply it as needed to protect your wood surface from water damage. Additionally, avoid exposing your sealed wood surface to excessive amounts of moisture to prevent premature deterioration of the sealant.

How To Paint and Seal Without Using a Primer

Wood sealer can be used as a primer, which will save you time and money. If you’re going this route, look for a sealer that comes with a built-in primer. If you are using a water-based sealer, apply two coats for maximum protection.

wooden table

You should also consider the type of paint you will be using. Oil-based paints are more durable and typically last longer than latex paints. When using an oil-based paint, only one coat of sealer is necessary.

Wood Sealer Types

There are two main types of wood sealers: water-based and oil-based. Water-based sealers are easier to clean up and have low odor levels. They are also less likely to yellow over time. 

Oil-based sealers provide better protection against fading and chalking. They also penetrate deep into the wood grain, which helps preserve its natural color. 

How to Apply the Wood Sealer Without Paint

Applying a wood sealer is easy! Just follow these simple steps:

Ready Seal Stain and Sealer for Wood
  1. Sand down the furniture to create a smooth surface.
  2. Wipe down the furniture with a damp cloth to remove any dust.
  3. Apply the sealer with a brush or roller in long, even strokes.
  4. Allow the sealer to dry completely before painting. 
  5. Enjoy your newly protected furniture.


Can you apply paint on surfaces coated with lacquer or varnish?

Yes, you can apply paint on surfaces coated with lacquer or varnish as long as the surface has been properly prepared. To prepare the surface, it’s essential to sand down the lacquer or varnish coating to create a rough surface, which allows the paint to adhere effectively.

Related Topic


In sum, you can paint over a wood sealer with the right type of paint and correct application. This can give your wood furniture or surfaces a new lease on life without having to strip off the old finish first.

Just be sure to sand smooth, wipe away dust, and apply compatible paint in thin coats for the best results.

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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