I get a lot of questions about wax and other topcoats. A furniture makeover happens peacefully until the polycrylic looks streaky or the wax is blotchy and won’t dry or the poly is yellowing. If you’ve been there, you know that agony of spending hours on a piece only to have to sand it and start over after a topcoat gone wrong. After a few years of painting professionally, I’ve learned that topcoats are often not required.
The best example I have is my $35 Craig’s List dresser that I bought a couple of years ago. It had a glossy, factory finish on it when I purchased it. I stripped and refinished the top with Minwax dark walnut stain and two coats of wipe on poly. I used a deglossing agent on the base to knock down the shine and then applied one coat of Sherwin Williams water based bonding primer and one coat of SW ProClassic, semi-gloss in Creamy. I’ve been in and out of this dresser every day for two years and there is not one ding, scratch or chip in the paint finish. When using a quality primer and paint, a topcoat is unnecessary. Just be gentle with it for about 30 days while the paint cures.
I used a similar primer and paint on my office built-ins – Benjamin Moore’s water bourne Satin Impervo in White with a Zinsser primer coat. I painted it in early January and it’s held up nicely so far.
I knew my kitchen cabinets would take a beating, so I used Zinsser primer and BM oil based Impervo in White. The pain with oil is that it takes a looooong time to dry, but when it finally dries and cures, it provides a very hard, very durable finish. I painted them in June of 2011 and they get abused daily and have held up very well. The paint is rubbing away a little bit on the cabinet under the sink where we keep our garbage can, but wear like that is going to happen with any paint. Well, maybe not the Kevlar impregnated paint used on tanks (I’m certain there is such a thing…)
It may surprise you to know, too, that I do not use a wax topcoat on chair frames that I paint in ASCP. I find it’s not really necessary and it’s a big challenge with all of the curves and crevices (especially with caned furniture.) I didn’t use a top coat on my dining chairs or table base and they have held up great. The pieces are distressed anyway, so additional wear isn’t going to bother me. I used a sanding sponge to smooth out the finish and then buffed the paint with a soft cloth.
I know you want your paint finish to be durable, but sometimes adding a topcoat isn’t necessary. Prep your piece well, use a quality primer and finish with a quality satin or semi-gloss paint and your piece will hold up just fine.