People often use clear coats as a second-layer on different materials for an added layer of protection. Many people say the same about wood stain, so do you have to put a clear coat over stain?

You do not have to put a clear coat over stain, but it is recommended. Putting a clear coat over stain will add a protective layer to it and increase its lifespan. Clear coats also increase a product’s value and will add a beautiful shine.

A clear coat can enhance an object’s shine and durability, but you also have to be careful since you can’t use it with everything. This article will discuss using a clear coat for wood and putting it over stain.

Can You Use a Clear Coat on Wood?

You can use a clear coat on wood, and many people do. While many people focus on staining when it comes to wood, you should also be using a clear coat for every wood project, regardless of whether you use stain or not.

While stains may enhance the texture, color, and beauty of the wood, clear coats do another job. Clear coats will increase the wood’s durability, protect the wood, and help it to last longer.

The coat will also protect the wood from water damage, chemical damage, and everyday wear and tear. Lastly, clear coats can give wood a beautiful shine and gloss. However, it is worth noting that the coat’s amount of glossiness will not affect its durability.

When to Use a Clear Coat

Even though a clear coat is never a bad idea, it can be optional. However, there are a few specific instances where you should use it. Let’s take a look.

  • You are building a deck. When building a deck, a clear coat will be something to consider. If you expect a lot of traffic on the deck or live somewhere with a lot of rain, then a clear coat will be very beneficial. It will prevent the gorgeous stain from wearing out and will also protect it from scratches.
  • Your wood project is on display. Suppose you’re carving a personalized wood statue or ornament. In that case, using a clear coat will both protect its unique look and will increase its value.
  • You don’t want to retouch the stain. When you do not use a clear coat, the stain on your wood will fade. If you don’t want to take the time out to re-stain the wood, then put some extra time in and apply a layer of clear coat.

Benefits of Using a Clear Coat Over Stain

Now that we have covered a few specific instances where you should be using a clear coat, let’s look at some of the product’s benefits. 

  • It will protect the stain. The number one reason why people use clear coats is that they will protect the stain. The stain is what gives the wood its unique and vibrant color. However, you are wasting all of that money and hard work when it fades. Using a clear coat will protect it from weathering and other factors that could damage the base layer.
  • The wood project will last longer. Using a clear coat on stain will help the project last longer. It will increase its durability and prevent any scratches or dents from appearing on the wood and stain.

What Clear Coat Should You Use?

Now that we know if you should use a clear coat on wood, let’s look at a few different factors that will affect the clear coat you use. If you are looking for a general clear coat to put over your wood project, check out the Minwax 13333000 Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Clear Finish.

  • What kind of project is it? There are many different clear coats for different projects. If your project is something that people use every day, such as a stool or deck, make sure to pick up a more heavy-duty clear coat.
  • Will the project be exposed to the sun? If your project is taking a lot of heat, you need to make sure your clear coat can take the heat as well. Some clear coats have ultraviolet absorbers and oil that will protect the stain and wood from sun damage.
  • Did you want to add color to the already stained wood? While many clear coats are clear, some coats will be colored. Keep this in mind when choosing a finish—you can choose a nice amber color to put on top of the stain, but make sure it’ll mesh well.
  • How do you want to apply the product? There are many different ways that you can apply clear coats depending on the product. You can apply some coats with a rag, while you will need to use a brush with others. Choose a brush-on product if you’re working with a more delicate project like a wood carving.

If you want to add a warm amber color to your project, then use an oil-based coat. A water-based, oil-modified finish will be good for any type of wood since it dries fast and tough.

When applying, use a brush to cover a lot of surface area and a wipe-on product if you are using a coat on a contoured surface. It is worth noting that wipe-on clear coats do not create as thick a layer as brush-on coats.

Finally, use spray-on finishes when applying coats to hard-to-reach places. This type of product will also not be as tough as brush-on clear coats.

Choosing a clear coat and applying one is a very different story. Check out this video if you are interested in applying a clear coat on top of stain:


You do not have to put a clear coat over stain. However, there are many benefits to doing so. Using a clear coat over stain will protect its color (use a water-based clear coat if this is your priority). Clear coats will also increase the value of a product by adding gloss and durability to the base coat.

Using a clear coat on your wood project will prevent you from having to retouch the stain. You usually have to retouch stain every two years. Assess a few different factors, such as the type of project, before choosing a clear coat.

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