Can You Paint Over Polyurethane?

Can You Paint Over Polyurethane surface like this floor?

A good number of furniture today has a polyurethane finish. Polyurethane other than adding the much-needed beauty to you wood offers protection and a lot more. One question that must be crossing the mind of most readers is:

Can you paint over polyurethane? 

A simple answer is yes! You can paint it with proper preparations, all you need to do it make the condition of the painting surface favorable for your painting work. 

Polyurethane is a strong, durable, and a glossy compound. However, it’s vulnerable to chips. If you are looking to paint a piece of furniture with a polyurethane finish, you should remove all the vanish and prepare the surface properly for the best result possible. 

How To Paint Over Polyurethane

You need a lot of patience to paint over polyurethane; your effort and time will play a significant role here. Priming, sanding, and application of oil-based paint will ensure that the paint sticks to the wooden surface of the furniture. Usually, a polyurethane finish tends to resist other materials from attaching to it; that’s why we encourage, priming, and sanding before painting.

It is frustrating to spend a lot of time and money and end up with an “ugly” final work on your furniture. 

In this article, you will find helpful tips that will help you with the painting work and avoid possible frustrations that might result from following the wrong procedure.


  • Oil-based paint
  • Oil-based primer/sealer
  • Tack cloth
  • Cotton rag
  • Paintbrush
  • A suitable (220 grit) sandpaper
  • Grease-cutting detergent
  • Sanding block
  • A solution of Trisodium phosphate

Follow the steps below to paint over a polyurethane successfully

1. Prepare the polyurethane finished wooden furniture for painting.

Strategically position the furniture- preferably outside your home or in a room with proper ventilation.

2. Apply the solution of trisodium phosphate.

Using a rag, apply the solution on the surface of the wood. TSP is a reliable cleaner that helps detach stubborn grease and molds from wood surfaces, both painted and unpainted. Remove all the dirt and oil and allow the surface to dry. 

3. Sand the wood.

First, start the scrubbing with 220-grit sandpaper, which is best for rough finishes as well as heavy varnish. Then, scrub the wooden varnish using a sanding block till the surface turns dull. 

Use tack clothing for cleaning and the removal of all the residue. Wipe clean all the areas to ensure that there are no traces of dust left. 

4. Apply a primer.

Begin the application of primer. Ensure that you apply it to all the surfaces. Let the initial coat to dry out before doing another layer. After applying the second layer of primer, allow the furniture to dry overnight.

As soon as the primer drys, sand it once more. This time until the surface smoothens. You must make all the surfaces even.

Unless primed, you will find it hard to get the paint sticking properly to a polyurethane treated furniture. Other types of primers are less compatible with the polyurethane finish, which leaves you with an oil-based primer for the best results. 

5. Paint your furniture.

Use an oil-based paint to paint the surface. The procedure remains the same for painting as it is for the application of the primer. Feel free to use longer strokes to brush the whole surface. Let the initial layer of the paint dry, then add another or as many as you would love.

An oil-based enamel is the perfect kind of paint to use on a polyurethane treated wood since it withstands harsh conditions.

Useful Precautionary Tips While Painting Over a Polyurethane

The paints, primers, and even the wooden surfaces contain harmful chemicals; therefore, before commencing your painting work, you need to observe a few precautionary measures to ensure that you are safe during the process.

  • Ensure that you are in a well-ventilated place or a room while preparing for the painting work. These substances contain a lot of chemicals that are harmful following prolonged exposure. Therefore, carry out your projects away from your house where there’s a proper circulation of air. If you are doing this in a room, then open all the windows.
  • It’s essential to wear protective gear each time you are doing the painting work. Have your goggles on, for example. Also, ensure that you have your pair of gloves on to protect your hand against contact with the chemicals.
  • The use of a respirator, if you have one, would be great. These chemicals have fumes that you can inhale in the process; they are toxic and can have some adverse health effects on you like dizziness, nausea, and sometimes a headache. Using a protective mask offers protection to your lungs.

Furthermore, working under extreme temperatures posses threats, mainly because most of the materials are highly flammable. Avoid smoking or working around appliances that generate heat.

  • Avoid working on rainy weather as well. Sunny days make the best working moments; cold days are bad for the curing process as the conditions can end up ruining your entire paintwork by causing cracks.

The most suitable temperature for painting over polyurethane is about 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Ensure proper disposal of waste materials that you have used during the process. Do not, at any cost, pour the solvents in the drainages, instead, have them delivered to a local garbage plant.

These solvents chemicals and poor disposal can result in environmental pollution.

NOTE: If you require a paint that will dry a lot easier and faster, then acrylic paint is the way to go. Oil-based paint takes a lot of time to dry.


There are more advantages than disadvantages when it comes to painting your wooden structures. It’s even more beneficial when you do it by yourself as it will save your pockets from the cost of hiring a painter. 

The steps we’ve provided above will guide you through the entire process, even if it’s a polyurethane treated furniture, go ahead and enjoy the painting.

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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