Water Based top coat over oil based stain?

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Forum topic by gregb posted 07-17-2009 09:49 AM 31880 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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38 posts in 2710 days

07-17-2009 09:49 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing

I remember reading something somewhere about wheither or not you can use a water based top coat over oil based stain… but for the life of me I can’t find the answer anywhere. I have re-read every book I have on the subject, searched the internet, and now I am coming to you, the experts! I have already sprayed two coats of stain and am now ready for my top coat. Two problems; 1.) I was forced to assemble the project before I could stain, which gave me several inside corners (which is why I chose to spray) 2.) The trim is cherry and NOT stained (which is why I had to assemble before stain). I need something that will stand up to a lot of wear which is why I decided to go with a water based poly… but before I proceed foward I want to be sure. Here is a picture so you have a better idea (the blue painters tape is covering the trim) Thanks for reading and helping me out.


7 replies so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 3242 days

#1 posted 07-17-2009 01:10 PM

Greg, you can apply a water based topcoat over an oil based stain without any problem provided you give the stain time to cure. Don’t rush the staining process. Refer to the directions regarding cure time but normally this would be about a few days, depending on the ambient temperature.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View CharlieM1958's profile


16229 posts in 3639 days

#2 posted 07-17-2009 03:04 PM

Scott is right, but the way you phrased your question makes me curious. You said you wanted to go with water-based poly for durability, but I wasn’t aware of a significant difference in durability between water and oil-based polys. Have I missed something?

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 3548 days

#3 posted 07-17-2009 03:34 PM

Don’t count on a waterborne topcoat adhering to an oil stain surface. You will know when it fails when the topcoat delaminates and peels off.

There are several possibilities. Here are two possible solutions:

1. Apply a barrier coat of dewaxed shellac, such as Zinsser SealCoat. This will mediate the adhesion differences between the oil stain and the waterborne topcoat.

2. Use an oil based topcoat, such as General Finishes Original Seal-a-Cell CLEAR.

-- 温故知新

View gregb's profile


38 posts in 2710 days

#4 posted 07-17-2009 10:50 PM

Scott- thanks for your input
Charlie- the only reason I wanted to go with a water based is because I have it on hand…lol
Randy- Thanks for the other options

all in all I think I’m gonna go with an oil based poly. again if there are any other comments or conscerns, please let me know

View Don K.'s profile

Don K.

1075 posts in 2747 days

#5 posted 07-17-2009 11:11 PM

I have never had a problem with a water based poly over a oil stain…as long as you do what Scott says and let it dry ALL the way. But I also use a oil based poly….it all depends on the application and the piece.

-- Don S.E. OK

View eastside's profile


97 posts in 2682 days

#6 posted 07-17-2009 11:38 PM

I used water based on oil stain quit a few times in the past but always gave it 3 days min to dry. Now I use a quick dry oil then the water based not because of adhesion but the oil makes the grain pop. I use water because it dries fast and is not flammable. That was a major concern in my old shop/basement.

-- Mike, Westport MA.

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2821 posts in 3011 days

#7 posted 07-18-2009 02:22 AM

I’d say that it’s fine so long as you give the stain plenty of dry time. You will have adhesion problems if you don’t let it dry. Randy’s got it right though, don’t risk it and apply a barrier of shellac.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

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