Can You Put Poly Over Chalk Paint? (Must-Know Tips)

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Chalk paint is frequently used in a lot of woodworking projects for its unique finish, but it does come with limitations when utilized in construction. Being primarily water-based, it lacks the moisture resistance and durability many look for.

But can you put poly over chalk paint? In this guide, I’ll answer this question and share more about the properties of polyurethane.

Is it Possible to Apply Poly on Chalk Painted Surfaces?

Yes, it’s possible to apply polyurethane on surfaces that are chalk-painted. The applied polyurethane will result in a glossy layer that’s moisture-resistant. This protective layer will protect the chalk paint from scratches, moisture, mold, and other damage. 

Polyurethane can seal chalk paint and can form a protective coat on the chalk paint applied on furniture. You can use polyurethane for indoor furniture, such as painted kitchen cabinets, but it is the best finish for outdoor furniture. 

How Long Should You Wait For Chalk Paint to Dry Before Applying Polyurethane?

You should wait for at least 24 hours to 72 hours for chalk paint to cure. By this time, you can apply a polyurethane coat. Anytime sooner, the polyurethane will not stick, and the resulting finish will become sticky. 

applying polyurethane over chalk paint

In general, chalk paint dries approximately within 30 minutes; after that, you can apply another coat. But the paint should cure for at least 24 hours before applying a sealant. 

The drying time of paint largely hinges on several elements like the type of surface, ambient temperature, thickness of the paint applied, and the humidity in the surroundings. If you want to speed up the drying process, I recommend boosting the air circulation.

How Long it Takes for Water and Oil-Based Poly to Dry Over Chalk Paint

Make sure to check the curing and drying times of chalk paint as well as the polyurethane you wish to use. 

Water-Based Poly Drying Time

Water-based polyurethane is recommended for indoor furniture since it dries faster. Furthermore, you do not thin it out before its application. However, this would mean you have to apply more than two coats (or multiple coats as needed).  

(If you’re planning to apply water-based poly over oil-based stained wood, here’s what you need to know!)

applying water-based polyurethane

You should allow the polyurethane approximately six hours to dry. Make sure to keep away from the surface as it dries out completely. 

Oil-Based Poly Drying Time

Oil-based polyurethane is advisable for paint exposed outdoors, as they’re more durable. However, they have a thicker viscosity, and this type of polyurethane needs to be thinned down before application. 

Applying this type of poly can result in a yellow finish and create a clear coat that’s hard to the touch after multiple coatings. Like latex paint, oil poly takes more time to dry and about 24 hours.

How Long Does it Take for Poly to Cure? Can Your Speed Up the Process?

The only difference between curing and drying is that a solvent is considered cured once it has completed its chemical interaction with oxygen.

Water-based polyurethane will take 48 to 72 hours to cure on chalk-painted furniture such as kitchen cabinets or dining room tables. Some can even take up to 30 days to completely cure. Oil-based poly, on the other hand, requires up to 30 days to completely cure. 

lady painting over chalk paint

The rate of curing is influenced by ambient environmental conditions. These conditions will include temperature and the number of coats, and whether you have applied light coats or not. You can speed up the polyurethane drying time and curing process by opening doors and windows. 

Also Read: Apply Polyurethane Without Bubbles 

Applying Polyurethane Over Chalk Paint: 3 Quick Steps

Step 1: Clean the Wood Surface

First, you’ll want to thoroughly clean the wood surface to get rid of any dirt and stains. It’s crucial to achieve a pristine finish, ensuring the polyurethane adheres smoothly without trapping any imperfections. After you’ve cleaned it properly, you’ll be amazed at the beautiful finish you can achieve. Now, let’s go through the steps to clean the surface:

  1. Combine soap and warm water
  2. Add the mixture over the dried chalk paint [1].
  3. Slowly scrub the stains off the surface using a soft brush or a lint free cloth.
  4. Remove the residue of the soapy water from the surface. 

Step 2: Sand the Surface

Sanding might be optional, but it’s best to perform it still. Sanding the wood’s surface will eliminate any imperfections, and bumps found on the wood’s exterior, and makes the surface smooth, which will allow the sealant to adhere.

sanding surface
  1. Use fine-grit sandpaper and sand the surface gently.
  2. Dust off the debris as a result of sanding. 

Step 3: Coat it with Polyurethane

If chalk paint has been cleaned and sanded, you may apply the polyurethane. You can use a sprayer, paintbrush, or roller. Make sure to allow the first coat to dry before applying a new one. 

If you ever wondered how many coats of poly you should apply, the more coats, the better. 

How Long Should You Wait Before Applying the Second Coat of Chalk Paint?

Chalk painting furniture requires time and patience. I always give it at least 24 hours between coats to ensure the best results. And trust me, using the right brush specifically designed for chalk paint makes all the difference in achieving that smooth, even coat.

painting wood

How to Achieve a Smooth Finish Using Chalk Paint

Some people are doubtful about chalk paint and believe it can result in an undesirable finish. 

However, you can achieve a beautiful finish with chalky paint by following these easy steps:

  1. Sand the surface to even out the texture of the wood surface.
  2. Water drowns the paint, so proceed to apply thin coats. When applying coats, make sure they’re in the same direction. 
  3. Sand the surface to remove any irregularities like brush strokes.
  4. Apply a clear chalk paint wax on the surface using a brush or a clean cloth. 

Can You Use A Roller For Poly And Chalk Paint Applications?

You can use rollers for these applications. They’re such versatile tools, offering both efficiency and consistent coverage for these paint types. When rolling on poly paint, I recommend opting for a quality foam or synthetic roller cover. It truly makes a difference in getting that silky-smooth finish.

For chalk paint, a roller with a shorter nap or even a foam roller can work well to achieve the desired texture and effect. Making sure to assess the size of the project can also dictate the type of method you should use. If you’re dealing with a bigger area, use a spray gun. 

spraying polyurethane over painted cabinet

Combining Polyurethane with Chalk Paint

You can easily mix water-based polyurethane with chalk paints. The resulting mixture can lead to a colorful and durable finish. On the other hand, you cannot mix oil-based polyurethane with chalk paint or milk paint

Polyurethane Alternatives

If you do not prefer polyurethane coats on your types of furniture, there are several alternatives to this product to achieve a durable finish.  


Wax is an excellent alternative since its resulting final coat provides good protection. It comes as a semi solid paste available in different colors and odors. A wax finish like Annie Sloan wax results in a matte finish that protects furniture from wear and tear.

Annie Sloan wax finish


Polycrylic is almost the same as poly. However, unlike polyurethane, polycrylic is water-based. Thus, a top coat of polycrylic is more durable. 

You Might Be Interested In: Applying Acrylic Paint on Wood: Is it Doable? 


What’s the best sealant for chalk paint?

One of the best sealants for chalk paint is the General Finishes Top Coat. It can effectively preserve the color and texture of painted wooden surfaces such as chalk paint kitchen cabinets.  

Can you apply stain over poly?

You can apply stain over poly. This practice will bring no harm to your wooden surfaces. But how about applying paint over polyurethane? Find out next!

Is it advisable to use chalk paints on cabinets?

You can use chalk paints on cabinets like the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. It results in a rich and matte finish. 

How will the chalk-painted surface turn out if it’s not sealed?

If chalk-painted surfaces are not sealed, they will be easily stained. It will become old and ugly easily. If this happens, it’s essential to know how to remove chalk paints from wood to refinish it again. 

Is chalk paint prone to scratches?

Chalk paints are prone to scratches, so it’s best to protect them using a sealant.


Polyurethane can create a protective layer once applied to wooden surfaces. This gives a glossy finish that stands up against moisture and scratches.

So, don’t second-guess yourself. You can absolutely put poly over chalk paint. Doing so will only boost the durability and longevity of your wood piece!

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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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