The Ideal Top Coat For Your Painted Furniture

I bought a table several years ago,…and since then it has been painted several times and has survived a long haul from our previous rental to our home we currently are in.

This particular table has been through several transformations. It was given a gray paint finish with two layers of wash to make it appear old.  Two years ago, I sanded off the paint, hoping to go for a raw wood look to match the existing pine furniture in our basement. One thing I learned when removing paint finishes is to either use a heat gun, or furniture stripper when removing paint. Instead I sanded down the paint, and sadly, in several places, the veneer has been almost sanded off.

  • Pre-stain Wood Conditioner Minwax
  • Pre-stain Wood Conditioner Minwax

Dead Flat Varnish

A few years ago, almost everyone I knew was caught up in wax.  Wax is great, and absolutely beautiful for most advanced paint finishes.  I jumped in the craze, and decided to give it a try on a few wood table tops.  Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out too swell for me.  When the finish was removed on this table above, I added a wax finish to the top of the table, hoping to get a flat appearance.

Over the last two years, I ended up getting water stains, and every cup I left on the waxed surface left a mark.  I don’t know about you, but once I finish a piece,…I want it to be done forever.  I don’t want to sand, and re-apply finishes every year as maintenance.  Who has time for that? 

Polycrylic made by Minwax has always been my go-to clear finish for the tops of dressers and tabletops.  It has worked so well on my table tops over the years.  Though, with this table I wanted to experiment with a finish that had a flat appearance to it.  I wanted the look of matte raw wood, without any sheen, so I decided to try out Modern Masters “Dead Flat Varnish“.

This product has been fabulous at creating a barrier for protection, while at the same time allows the wood to have that raw sanded look.  This product has also been recommended for white paint finishes, as it doesn’t yellow over time.

In the pictures above, I started off using a paint conditioner, and once it was dry, I applied a coat of the dead flat varnish.  To my surprise, it didn’t make the wood darker.  It looks like it was newly sanded, which is the appearance I was after.  If you have a project that needs a flat coat, consider this project.  It worked well for me.

Friends make their comments on what works for them on white paint finishes:

Paula Arndt Crystalfin polyacrylic will not yellow. I’ve used it over 22 years. Comes in matte, satin, semigloss and high gloss”  “Crystalfin is a polyacrylic I started using in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Comes in every sheen from matte to high gloss. It’s tested and proven for durability. Originally used on wooden flooring and wood on boats!”  “It’s non toxic, does not yellow, water based and easy to apply. It’s also expensive but a can lasts forever!”

Amy Worthington Gregory Dead Flat Varnish – “As long as you are ok with a matte finish this stuff is great.. Water based and completely non yellowing… Even over white”

Stephanie Francisco Coon WAX Finish Varnish Modern Masters “Does not yellow. You get a sponge wet. Ring out. Dip in Polyvine and wipe on”

Heather Lewellen “I use Valspar clear coat from lowes. It’s awesome. Never use poly on whites lol. Honestly, I never ever use poly. Its not a durable as valspar”

Carol Prendergast  “I like Varathane waterbased sealer and all Modern Masters sealers. Polyacrylic is not supposed to yellow”

Kirsten Lattimore Solomon  “The poly I use to use was Minwax brand purchased at Home Depot. I no longer use them. I use satin finish by Vintage Market”

Mary Appelgate “I also think GF doesn’t yellow…I have used that with good results but a year later is the real test and the polys react with chalk substances in the paint…there is the real issue I think

Mary AppelgateI have used Modern Masters it yellowed and minwax is the worse in my opinion. I had the best results with varathane but you cant get it matte and Marcy uses Rustoleum and says it doesn’t yellow. The best test is time. I have recently gone back to wax for my whites”

Stephanie Francisco Coon  On Polyvine Varnishing Wax ” I used this on table surfaces but Polyvine recommends 2 coats of Satin and then 2 coats of Dead flat. It’s all I use now for top coat” 

On Polyvine Varnishing Wax –” Polyvine Varnishing Wax is not a wax.  It is a water-based clear coat that has a silky, waxy look resembling beeswax when it dries. It can be added to other water-based varnishes to impart a silky feel. If you add it 50/50 to flat latex paint, it allows the paint to be sanded down with water to reveal the base color for distressing techniques”  Read more at

Ann M Munoz “I had a side table painted bright white, I believe I made POP chalk paint. I tinted the min wax polycrylic with a tad of the same white paint ( not mixed as chalk paint ) seen it a year later and it was still bright white……… Mary recommended the tinting to me”