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Old 01-23-2012, 08:25 AM   #1
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Ultimate choice for sealing wooden paint jobs?


Hello there! I have a large metal desk with a wooden top. I painted the top of the wooden desk to the color I desired using a water based paint. I then used poly crylic on top of it and let it sit for a few days.

Last week I put it into use. Within minutes I realized how disappointed I was in the finish. Visually it looked really good, but it marks incredibly easy. If I simply slide something across the desk, it makes buff marks. My computer monitor, which sits stationary, made round rubber marks when I removed the monitor from its place. It does not appear as if the finish is being removed, but more so it's just getting smudged on the surface. Think of it like black sneakers on a white school floor, except the black sneaker marks are either incredibly difficult to remove and/or impossible without doing any further finish damage.

So here I am trying to find a suitable answer. I've talked to people at home improvement stores and I get mixed ideas each time. I've researched poly urethane, spar urethane, oil based enamel, other various varnishes, etc. The only thing so far I know would be a sure fire win is the 2 part stuff you can get for like 60 bucks that is equal to 100 coats of poly urethane... that stuff that is often on bar tops.

My goal is simple. I want the finish to be durable. I want to be able to slide something across the top and bring it to me without marking up the desk. Here are my list of ideas and concerns:

Spar Urethane - sounds good, but all accounts I read suggest it to be on bare wood. Nothing to be said about painted wood. Some people also suggested this urethane needs re-coating every so often (most common I heard was 18 months).

Poly Urethane - once again doesn't seem to have any references to paint. Makes me wonder if poly urethane is bare wood only?

Poly Crylic - been there. Maybe I applied it wrong? I did use a variation of the brush-on stuff as well as the spray can stuff. I think the spray can stuff is rather sub par, as the nozzle tends to spit out random blotches of the stuff and not a consistent stream like I had expected/hoped. Two different cans did this, so I had to assume it was just the negative of using an aerosol product for something like that. Nonetheless, it still dried to a smooth finish, but the fun stopped there with what I said above about it marking easily.

Poly Urethane (Oil Modified) - I heard people speak very highly of this, suggesting it to be rather durable while environmentally friendly. On the MinWax site I haven't seen any reference to using this on paint (in fact poly crylic was the only one listed for painted surfaces). Would this work?

I've also considered on getting Formica (the hard surface on kitchen rounders), but considering the surface area and shelves I want to cover, we're talking ~$189 (Home Depot price) to get enough Formica to do the job.

I've also considered on getting a glass top (or even plexiglass), but there again with the surface area and custom cutting, it may cost quite a bit than I'd like.

So, what do you guys recommend I do? Strip the paint and go oil based? Stick with water based (I really dig the green side of that) and redo with poly crylic brush-on only and avoid the spray stuff?

I just don't know what else to do with it. I just figured there was a clear epoxy-like coating I could brush on and keep under control while wet and then when dry, have a rock solid finish that would be great for what I'm after.

Anybody have any insight?

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Old 01-23-2012, 08:37 AM   #2
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Ultimate choice for sealing wooden paint jobs?


You never apply a sealer over paint, the paint is the sealer.
You used the wrong type paint for one thing.
It should have been primed then painted with enamel or or an epoxy. Much tougher paints.
Even with the right paint if things are moved around on it long enough it's going to get scratched up, paint makes a poor table top surface.
Plexaglass tends to yellow and scratch easly. Lexan does not.
If you use glass you should order tempered glass cut to size and have them round the edges or even a nice beveled edge. Tempered gall can not be cut on sight and is not cheap. Any glass company could help you with that.

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Old 01-23-2012, 09:07 AM   #3
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Ultimate choice for sealing wooden paint jobs?


Thank you for the quick response. I too thought I used the wrong paint, but I was in such a rush with several other things I almost didn't stop to think twice. Totally a facepalm on my part. But it's okay, with the proper grit sandpaper I intend to get back to square one and do it right.

As far as the scratching, I understand that eventually you'll scratch through the paint layer. That can be said about any material. What happened to me was I had a computer tower sitting on the top. I slid it to me. Now, mind you, this tower wasn't one of Google's core servers that weighs a truckload and has 800 megatons of hard drives and RAM. It was just a standard micro-ATX computer tower. The rubber feet on the bottom marked it up, to which I immediately thought, wow, that's just terrible. I think I might have been better off with a painted surface and no poly crylic in this case.

You mention enamel, which to me screams oil based paint. I have some Rustoleum oil based enamel semi gloss that I was thinking of trying. However, you also mentioned epoxy. Is that the same paint used on garage floors? If so, can it be used on wood? Can you link me to an example of something you'd recommend?

For what it's worth (this is my own curiosity speaking that is semi off topic) what do residents in California and Maine do that don't have immediate access to oil based paints? Are there alternatives sold in those states or is it "sorry water based for everybody" type of situation?

Again, thanks for the quick response.
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Old 01-23-2012, 09:37 AM   #4
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Ultimate choice for sealing wooden paint jobs?


Enamel can be water or oil base, it can also be differant sheens.
It's just a super tough paint. Common misconseption.
I use it all the time on trim.
I even used it to paint my bathroom walls, It's so tough you would have to use a power sander to get it off.
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Old 01-23-2012, 09:45 AM   #5
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Ultimate choice for sealing wooden paint jobs?


Semi Gloss acrylic takes 30 days to cure. You raced. Look into melamine in addition to urethane.

What about a sheet of laminate? Just about any paint will scuff dragging stuff on it.
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Old 01-23-2012, 09:45 AM   #6
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Ultimate choice for sealing wooden paint jobs?


Quote:
Originally Posted by joecaption View Post
Enamel can be water or oil base, it can also be differant sheens.
It's just a super tough paint. Common misconseption.
I use it all the time on trim.
I even used it to paint my bathroom walls, It's so tough you would have to use a power sander to get it off.
Perhaps I've just been mistaken this whole time about some things. I mean, when you really think about it, there's quite a bit that goes into the paint world of terminology. For example, water or oil base, simple enough. I never knew that latex immediately = water based. I just always thought I'd see "water base" on it... Then you have acrylic in the mix, alkyd, etc. Quite a lot of terms for someone who was hoping to run in, grab something, and run out.

So at the end of the day, enamel is what I want, not necessarily "water" or "oil" based. Just enamel.

While we're on it, I suppose there's not a significant difference from the water or oil based enamel besides dry time, clean up, etc.?

Just for sake of comparison (and learning for that matter) I wouldn't mind visiting the epoxy idea. Is there a specific product in mind that would be suitable on wood that is, do I dare say, epoxy based?
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Old 01-23-2012, 09:51 AM   #7
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Ultimate choice for sealing wooden paint jobs?


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Originally Posted by sdsester View Post
Semi Gloss acrylic takes 30 days to cure. You raced. Look into melamine in addition to urethane.

What about a sheet of laminate? Just about any paint will scuff dragging stuff on it.
I'd be all about laminate. And I know just about any paint will scuff to a degree, I just want to go with a product as durable as possible while I'm already in the process of redoing it. I'm not planning on using it as a work bench that I want to look like presidential office quality and be bullet proof, but I'd just like to know I can put things on it or slide my laptop closer to me and it won't bork things up. Is there something you'd recommend that is pretty cheap? The Formica I looked into amounted to 189 bucks... that alone is enough to think I'd rather just have bare wood...

I have three desks total that surround me on 3 sides I'd like to do this to. Two have bottom shelves the same size as the top.

2' wide x 8' long (top and bottom)
3' wide x 6' long (top and bottom)
32" wide x 65" long (top only, main desk)

I'm sure there are cheaper brands out there, I just don't know what they are. I did consider floor tiling too but I'd like to take out the work of making things flush and just get one solid sheet and slap it together with some contact cement.

EDIT - thinking about it now, I could always go with the enamel on the bottom shelf and go with Formica on the top... 30x96 of black Formica is 37, with 36x96 being 42 at Lowes... two of the 37s for the two side tables and 42 for the center... I could at least do the tops of all 3 for just over 100... But there again, if I could get a decently painted option for 18.99, I'd be all about it too! :P

Last edited by roasted; 01-23-2012 at 09:56 AM.
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Old 01-23-2012, 09:59 AM   #8
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Ultimate choice for sealing wooden paint jobs?


Not that easy, The laminite gets cut to a larger size then you need, reason being the instant it hits it's stuck and can not be adjusted.
Contact cement gets applyed to both surfaces and allowed to dry intill it's tacky. For a large surface I lay 1/2 wooden dowels on the surface to keep the two materils from touching. Start on one end making sure it lines up and work your way down pulling out the dowels as you go.
Go over it with a floor roller, (a rolling pin will work) once dry you'll need a trim router and a trim bit to round over the outside edges.
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Old 01-23-2012, 10:06 AM   #9
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Ultimate choice for sealing wooden paint jobs?


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Originally Posted by joecaption View Post
Not that easy, The laminite gets cut to a larger size then you need, reason being the instant it hits it's stuck and can not be adjusted.
Contact cement gets applyed to both surfaces and allowed to dry intill it's tacky. For a large surface I lay 1/2 wooden dowels on the surface to keep the two materils from touching. Start on one end making sure it lines up and work your way down pulling out the dowels as you go.
Go over it with a floor roller, (a rolling pin will work) once dry you'll need a trim router and a trim bit to round over the outside edges.
I already did some homework for the laminate department:

http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/vide...639675,00.html

I could handle that rather easily. It's really just the cost of it, to be honest. We just moved last week, so I'm a little reluctant to drop 200 bucks worth of desk covering that I don't *need* when we haven't experienced the full wave of monthly house bills just yet. Although I do like how it would be a very uniform finish...

Is there a cheaper type of laminate, or would 37 bucks @ 30x96 sound like a good running deal? Google Shopping comes up with the 37 dollar Lowe's option as the cheapest anywhere when I searched for "black laminate countertop sheets".

Last edited by roasted; 01-23-2012 at 10:12 AM.
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Old 01-23-2012, 12:08 PM   #10
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Ultimate choice for sealing wooden paint jobs?


Just maybe a little different perspective. If you tried sealing the latex paint within a day or so of application, I suspect the latex wasn't fully cured and applying the sealer arrested the curing process, leaving the paint somewhat soft. If that's the case, your alternative now is to strip completely and redo.
I'm not sure at this point whether you could get good adhesion with a laminate without taking it down either.
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Old 01-23-2012, 12:57 PM   #11
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Ultimate choice for sealing wooden paint jobs?


To be safe, you probably should strip whatever is on there off. And as a couple of us has mentioned, you raced the cure time of the paint and top coated it so it may never harden.

Once off. There are other brands of laminate than Formica. Laminate also comes in different thicknesses but the retail prices you are quoting seem reasonable. I think just about any option, including painting and repainting frequently is going to cost you at least $200?

The dowel idea is a good one. For large sheets, it is handy to have a helper maneuver the sheets in place on the dowel. Once the two contact cemented sides meet each other, it is glued wherever and you will not be able to adjust it.

A few other options worth thinking about---perhaps.

I was taught by some old-timers to toss some acrylic poly in with semi-gloss for a harder finish. Still have to let it cure 30 days though.

I've not used it but Rustoleum makes that new "granite looking" countertop material to go over laminate countertops. I have not used it and would not trust it but is a quick cosmetic way to get a house sold, but it might be suitable for a desktop.

If all you want is a black desk/shelf top, you would not be the first person to use a piece of flooring.

Good luck.
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Old 01-23-2012, 01:40 PM   #12
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Ultimate choice for sealing wooden paint jobs?


Good info guys, thank you very much for the responses. Regardless I had planned on taking the wood down to bare again. I want to reverse whatever I did and start fresh and properly, so that's just going to be my next step regardless.

I'm very open to the floor idea, but all I could easily find were 1x1 squares. I'd rather have a full sheet. I'm sure they exist, but I just haven't come across any that are jet black and in a small enough range that I would be needing for a desk top. I would assume I'd still use the same contact cement method above with formica in the same regard to flooring if I were to use that?

Also, the paint had about 3 days before I put the first coat of poly crylic on. Was that still rushing it?

At any rate, it's coming off regardless.

I think a fair compromise between costs, functionality, and logic, would be to bare the wood completely, prime it, paint it with a black semi gloss (maybe even full gloss?) enamel (likely water based I think) and see how it works. If it doesn't stack up, formica is always there to throw on top.

That is... assuming... I can throw on contact cement and formica onto a painted surface? *crossing fingers*

If I can go that route, at least I start small and build up instead of throwing formica on when a regular enamel might have been the ticket.
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Old 01-23-2012, 06:00 PM   #13
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Ultimate choice for sealing wooden paint jobs?


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Originally Posted by joecaption View Post
You never apply a sealer over paint, the paint is the sealer. You can't? Hmm. I've been making a mistake all these years? It's perfectly okay to apply a poly over paint for added protection. Anything subject to heavy wear and tear is a candidate for poly. I've used poly over dark colors in baths to protect the surface. I've used poly on risers to reduce scuff marks. I painted the underside of a open staircase (pictured in my gallery) with flat black that I poly'd with flat poly to protect it from burnishing when cleaned. Poly is also widely used in faux decorating.
You used the wrong type paint for one thing.
How do you know? All OP said was that he used "water based". There are plenty of "water based" products that would provide durability for what he needs. He just needs a furniture grade product.

It should have been primed then painted with enamel or or an epoxy. Much tougher paints.
Even with the right paint if things are moved around on it long enough it's going to get scratched up, paint makes a poor table top surface.
Plexaglass tends to yellow and scratch easly. Lexan does not.
If you use glass you should order tempered glass cut to size and have them round the edges or even a nice beveled edge. Tempered gall can not be cut on sight and is not cheap. Any glass company could help you with that.
OP, since you were eyeing black formica, I'm assuming you used a very dark, or black, finish. These colors, especially if store mixed, take a long time to cure. Even the clear may not have been completely cured prior to your use, probably about 7-10 days. I used SW latex All Surface satin enamel, a furniture grade product, in black for some pieces, factory mixed. For the better part of a week you couldn't even look at it without it burnishing, let alone touch it, as it would leave whitish marks. After about a week - ten days, that stopped and the whitish burnish marks from past wiped right off with a damp rag. Now, I can wipe it, rub it, whatever, and nothing happens. It's an office desk, you're not going to be sliding and dragging/dropping power tools on it. Before you go stripping the finish, cutting expensive glass, or installing formica, allow it cure a few more days and see if you can't wipe the burnish marks off. You may have been rushing things. If you want some soundness of mind, get yourself a floor grade latex poly and apply two-three coats of that. You'll be fine.
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Old 01-23-2012, 06:22 PM   #14
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Ultimate choice for sealing wooden paint jobs?


Another way to go would be with Ebony stain and 4 or more coats of poly made for floors.
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Old 01-23-2012, 07:10 PM   #15
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If you want some soundness of mind, get yourself a floor grade latex poly and apply two-three coats of that. You'll be fine.
Do they come in different colors? The only thing I've found was the standard gray concrete-ish looking stuff. Is there something in particular you'd recommend? I kind of like that idea...

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