Polyurethane is an excellent coating to put over wood.
It ensures that your things are protected and that the paint and stain that you have underneath will remain in good condition for years to come.
The problem with polyurethane is that it can be hard to paint and stain over.
There are a few things that you can do to get this to work properly.
Here are a few answers to commonly asked questions about polyurethane and stain.
Can I Stain Over Polyurethane?
If you try to stain over polyurethane, the stain will not be able to soak into the wood.
You can use a gel stain but it will sit on top of the polyurethane, almost like a translucent type of paint.
If your intention is to change the color of the piece of wood you are working on, you will need to first strip it and start the process from the beginning.
The process of stripping wood down and doing the stain over will take some time and a bit of effort.
What Is Gel Stain?
Gel stain is a thicker type of stain than traditional stain.
Inside the gel stain, you will find a urethane material.
The urethane is what makes the gel stain a bit different than a traditional stain.
One of the reasons that the gel stain will stick to the polyurethane is that it has that urethane in it.
The two urethanes will bond and work together.
If the gel stain is colored, you may be able to get it to slightly change the overall color of the piece.
However, it may be hard to see a real change.
Here are the steps that you should take when you want to try to stain over polyurethane.
How to Stain Over Polyurethane with Gel Stain
Step 1: Gather Supplies
To complete this process, you are going to need a few products.
First, you will want to purchase a very good gel stain.
This would be a time when you want to purchase a more premium product.
You want to have everything working in your favor when it comes to trying to get the gel stain to adhere.
You will also need to have sandpaper and some products to help you wash the surface of the wood.
A bucket with a brush and a bit of alcohol and water will be the best cleaning solution to use.
A rag is good to have in addition to the brush so that you can really get the wood clean.
Finally, you will need another rag to wipe the gel stain on when it comes time to recoat.
Step 2: Clean
The first step in the process is to clean the surface of the wood.
You will want to take a small bucket and make a solution of denatured alcohol and water.
This alcohol mixed with water will help to remove any of the dirt or grease that is sitting on the wood.
The solution does not do any damage.
You do not need to soak the wood in the solution.
Instead, simply put some on a rag and start wiping it down.
When you finish this process, you must allow ample time for it to dry.
The drying time needs to be at least two hours.
Since the next step is sanding, you won’t be able to do so with wet wood.
Step 3: Sand
The next step helps to get the surface roughed up a bit so that the gel stain can adhere properly.
You will want to sand this surface with a 400-grit sandpaper.
You can do this by hand, so you will not need a power sander to complete the process.
Once you have sanded the wood, you can then use a damp rag to wipe off any of the particles that may have been left behind.
The sanding process is simply to roughen up the surface, so don’t feel as though you are trying to take off an entire layer or level of poly or stain.
Step 4: Put Gel Stain On
Now you have properly prepared your surface for putting the gel stain on.
Gel stain goes on best when you are using a cloth.
You will want to make sure that you apply a consistent amount across the entire piece.
Keep folding your rag so that you are always wiping with a dry side of the cloth which can absorb some of the stain as you go.
This helps to make sure that the stain does not pool up in any areas and create a mess.
When you are finished, there should be an evenly applied coat to all areas of the piece of wood.
Step 5: Allow Time to Dry
Next, you will have to make sure that you give the gel stain plenty of time to dry.
We recommend waiting at least 48 hours before doing anything with the piece.
If you find that the stain color difference is not enough, you can repeat the process and put on another layer.
Again, you have to remember that you may not be able to get this exactly right because of the fact that it still has the poly underneath the gel stain.
Can You Add Stain to Polyurethane?
When you add polyurethane over stain, it can help to make the stain get a bit shinier, and it also makes the overall protection of the wood that much better.
Some people wonder about mixing stain and polyurethane to make this process a bit faster.
There are options on the market that are a mix of poly and stain.
These options are a great choice for a person who is trying to complete a simple project and doesn’t want to have to worry about drying times in between polyurethane and stain.
The only problem with these premixed options is that you will be limited in your color selection.
Some people have started to simply mix stain and polyurethane themselves.
The process is quite simple and will save you a step in finishing up your project.
How Long After Staining Can I Apply Polyurethane?
Staining a piece of wood is a very quick process.
The stain wipes on easily, and you can sometimes be done in a matter of minutes.
The process of staining is not the time-consuming part.
The most time-consuming part is the prep work and then waiting for it to dry.
A coat of stain should dry for 48 hours before putting polyurethane on.
Depending on where you live and humidity levels and temperatures, you may have to wait up to 72 hours.
If the stain is not completely dry, the polyurethane will not adhere properly, and it could cause it to get runny or ruin the original staining job that was done.
We know it’s a long time to wait, but you will save yourself time and a headache if you can manage to wait 72 hours between staining and applying the polyurethane.
How Many Coats of Polyurethane Should You Put On?
The number of coats of polyurethane that you need to apply to a piece of wood will vary depending on what the wood is used for.
For the most part, you will want to put at least two coats on anything.
If you are working with a piece of furniture, two coats should be enough to get it looking great.
The first coat sort of seals the wood, and the second coat works as a layer of protection.
When you look at something like a floor, you will have to put at least three coats in place.
The floor is going to get a lot more wear and tear, and with the foot traffic, the poly will wear off much more quickly.
Some wood pieces will never need another coat of poly.
Others will need the poly replaced every year if there is quite a bit of use.
Ensure that you are also allowing time between the coats of poly for it to dry properly.
We like to sand the poly coat very lightly and then wipe the wood clean before putting on the next layer.
If you skip this step, you likely won’t run into any issues, but it just seems to hold up better, and it looks better over the long term as well.
Keep in mind that you can’t go wrong by adding an extra layer of poly if you are worried about the long-term look and durability of a product.
Anytime you stain over anything, you have to understand what it is you are trying to apply the stain to.
Since the stain is designed to soak into the wood, you will have to make sure that it can be applied properly.
Gel stain works very similarly, and you will be able to use it to change the color of your wood without having to remove the poly.
If you decide to use gel stain, make sure you follow our steps for appropriate application, and the stain should hold up for the long term.