We’ve all had that piece of furniture that was given to us by family or friends and it gets used for a while, but now it’s not really your style anymore. Do you keep it or update it? You’ve updated it and now you want to protect it by finding the best sealer for wood furniture.
This recently happened to me with my dining room table. I gave it a makeover 3 years ago, and decided to do so again. I have stripped away the paint and stain and now it’s time to choose a wood furniture sealer. Today we are talking about how to best seal wood furniture and the best sealer for you.
This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure statement here.
The look I was going for was a really warm, but natural wood tone. I added some antiquing glaze to the raw wood and it was perfect. Now I needed a sealer that wouldn’t change the color. Let’s talk about the wood furniture sealer that I used, others to consider, and as well as some sealing furniture tips.
Related: Different Ways To Use Antiquing Wax
Best Sealer For Wood Furniture
When I was researching the best wood furniture sealer, I came across one that I had not used before called High Performance Flat by General Finishes. It’s a clear water based top coat in a Matte Finish. I typically like more of a satin finish, but over raw wood, the matte finish protects while keeping the look of the natural wood furniture.
It is a polyurethane that is made with a UV stabilizer to keep wood from fading as well as a flattening technology that helps create its matte finish. This was voted one of the hardest and most durable top coats for furniture and I had high hopes for it’s ability to seal my natural wood table.
Other favorite furniture wood sealers for other furniture flips have been:
- Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane in Satin Finish
- Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish in Matte or Satin finish.
- Minwax Tung Oil
- Minwax Indoor/Outdoor Helmsman Spar Urethane (Haven’t used this one, but it is selected many times as the best multi purpose and outdoor sealer so worth mentioning)
The pro for these top coats over the General Finishes High Performance Flat is they are quality top coats that all cost less.
How to Seal Wood Furniture
Now that I’ve stripped my dining room table back to the natural wood, we need to protect it. Let’s look at the steps I took when using the High Performance Flat wood furniture sealer. Consider these two photos below the before:
- First, stir the topcoat working in the solids that fall to the bottom before and during use.
- Once the mixture is well stirred, pick a synthetic brush, foam brush, pad, or roller to apply. I like applying top coats with a foam product either a pad or a brush. It can also be sprayed.
- Apply a liberal amount on the applicator and slowly and with very little pressure brush the topcoat along the top of the wood surface going with the grain.
- The key to avoiding brush strokes is the avoid backstroking. When applying the topcoat, go slowly, but understand that there is a time limit before the top coat starts to dry.
5. Let the topcoat dry for 2 or more hours in between coats.
6. Lightly sand with a high grit sandpaper (200-300 up to 400). The ideal conditions for dry time is 70 degrees with 50% humidity, but as always, if in doubt let the finish dry longer.
7. Repeat this process, but only 3 coats. After that, it is not recommended to add any more coats as it does not strengthen the durability.
8. Enjoy your newly sealed wood furniture!
Note: If you want to spray on the High Performance Flat from General Finishes, you can thin it with some distilled water. Strain the top coat through a sieve also for the smoothest finish.
Different Types of Wood Sealants for Furniture
For fun, lets say that High Performance Flat isn’t for you, but you are wondering the different ways in which to seal wood furniture. There are polyurethanes, polycrylic, oils and waxes. I’ve used each on different pieces of furniture and here’s what I think of each of them:
Polyurethane comes in an oil-based or water-based finishes. We used the oil-based polyurethane on my husband’s desk. It’s applied in much of the same way as High Performance Flat, but left a definite sheen on the top.
It is the stronger of the two types, but water based polyurethanes are also good options for sealing wood furniture. Just know they aren’t as strong of a topcoat and can also yellow over time. I wouldn’t recommend either of these over painted furniture.
Polycrylic is my favorite sealer. They aren’t as smelly as Polyurethanes and they dry really quickly. I have used polycrylic to seal my floors, wood and laminate furniture, artwork, and probably other things as well.
It’s really versatile, but not as strong as the polyurethanes and only come in water based finishes. If you have a furniture piece that you have painted with chalk paint or other kinds of paint, I would use a polycrylic. It is the least likely to yellow.
Furniture Wax is probably the least durable of all the wood sealants. To apply furniture wax, use a clean rag and lightly rub it into the wood.
Take another rag and buff the wax until it shines. Wax gives a silky finish over the wood. I recommend this finish over painted wood that is low traffic. The only downside is that the wax may need to be reapplied over time.
I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS OVER WHITE OR REALLY ANY COLOR OF CHALK PAINT THAT IS ON A HIGH TRAFFIC FURNITURE PIECE. It doesn’t protect it well and can eventually rub off from the oils and dirt from our fingers.
Have you ever heard of sealing your furniture with an oil? I wanted to throw this out as another option. For light use furniture like a decorative piece or something with low traffic, furniture oil is an option for sealing wood furniture.
Hemp oil, linseed oil, and tung oil are great affordable options that are readily available at most hardware stores. Note-using an oil may require a reapplication every year or so to the surface to keep up the protection.
I used tung oil on a dresser in my living room that hold extra blankets and linens. It has worked out great.
FAQ About Sealing Wood Furniture
What happens if I mess up with the sealer?
The dreaded question, what if I mess it up? The sealer turned the natural wood furniture too dark or the application of the wood sealer was botched. These can both be fixed by sanding or stripping the wood down to the raw wood and trying again.
How do I waterproof wood for Indoor and Outdoor use?
There are a few ways to do this. For indoor use, you can get away with a polycrylic on your wood furniture with a few coats. We used this method on our butcher block bathroom countertops. I think I did 5 coats of the poly and it has worked beautifully.
For outdoor use, I would use a heavy duty lacquer or polyurethane. Using a stain sealant combo is also a good option. According to other blog posts out there, Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane is a great option for the best sealer for wood furniture indoor and outdoor use.
Things To Remember
- Use a good applicator! Having quality tools make all the difference when completing a project
- Identify the type of wood that you are going to seal and test your finish out on the same type of wood. It may be a great match of sealing your wood furniture, or it may not. It’s better to know beforehand
- Try to use long continuous strokes with applying liberal amounts of your topcoat
- Follow the dry time instructions, and don’t forget only 3 coats of the High Performance Flat
- Remember that prep work is tedious and BORING, but SUPER IMPORTANT
Final Look and Thoughts
I love how this table turned out, but I have a secret. This table sat in my garage for about 8 months after I started working on it. In the mean time I found a new table. Ironically, I need to redo the top protective layer on the new table as well and a different wood sealer for it’s wood top.
As far as the General Finishes High Performance Flat, it definitely doesn’t change the finish from what I can tell. It went on smoothly and dried clear and matte just as it promises. So far it seems like a winner and a furniture sealer that I will definitely reach for again. Give it a try on your natural wood projects!