Spray clear coats are often used for specific projects since it applies differently than other clear coats. Should you use a spray clear coat for wood?

Spray clear coats work well for wood since they are easy to use, spray with precision, and apply even layers. Use an oil-based spray for a thick, amber-colored layer and a water-based spray for a clear, thinner layer.

There are so many clear coats to choose from for your project; it can become overwhelming. This article will cover the pros and cons of spray clear coats, describe if you should use one, and discuss some frequently asked questions. Let’s dive into it!

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The Pros and Cons of Spray Clear Coats for Wood

Pros of Spray Clear Coats:

  • You can apply spray coats two ways depending on your materials, with an aerosol can or a spray gun.
  • They are easy to use.
  • You can spray with precision.
  • Will not leave streaks or distracting brush strokes of any kind.
  • You can easily apply multiple layers with spray coats.
  • You can spray hard-to-reach places with an aerosol product.
  • Aerosol sprays apply as even, durable layers.

Cons of Spray Clear Coats:

  • You will have to use a good technique to avoid the spray from dripping.
  • Spray coats may leave overspray (particles of the spray can land on other items near the area you are applying it).
  • You will have to lay down tarp or sheets to avoid overspray consequences.
  • Spray coats do not create as thick layers as other products such as brush-on or wipe-on clear coats.

When to Use a Spray Clear Coat

As mentioned above, spray clear coats have a lot of benefits. However, they will not be the number one choice for every project – so when should you use an aerosol spray instead of a wipe-on or brush-on clear coat?

The number one reason you should choose a spray compared to another kind of coat is if your wood project has hard-to-reach crevasses. For instance, if you want to apply finish to an intricate carving, it will be hard to cover the entire surface area with a brush. Any project that has carved contours will probably need a spray.

Spray clear coats are also great if you are a beginner at the whole process. The only thing you will have to worry about is the spray dripping, and you can usually avoid this by laying the project flat if possible. Aerosol products will apply even layers, and you can do as many layers as you like. It is also relatively easy to fix any application mistakes.

5 Reasons to Use a Spray Clear Coat for Wood

Many wood projects need a layer of clear coat to protect them from sun damage, water damage, and everyday wear and tear.

You Have More Precision When Using Spray Finishes

People love aerosol coats because there is a higher sense of control when using the product. It is very easy to aim and to spray exactly where you want.

If you are using an aerosol can but want even more precision, you can buy a trigger assembly kit to turn your can into a spray gun.

The Can-Gun 2012 Premium Can Tool is a great option.

Spray-Coats Are the Quickest To Apply

When using a coat that you have to apply with a brush or a cloth, you have to take your time to apply an even and clean layer. However, using a spray coat will cut the application time down by half. With a spray coat, you do not have to keep applying the finish to your brush or cloth, you can simply spray.

Spray Clear Coats Apply Stroke-Free Layers

One of the most common problems with clear coats you have to brush-on is that they can leave behind streaks if you are not careful. Even the most novice wood-workers can spray an even and stroke-free layer with aerosol coats. Even if the first layer does not come out completely even, imperfections are easy to fix with a second layer.

You Can Apply Multiple Layers With Spray Clear Coats

Even though you can still apply multiple layers with other kinds of products, applying two or three layers with a spray is a much easier and quicker process. It is worth noting that you will have to apply more layers with a spray coat than other kinds since the layers are not as thick. With two or three layers, you can achieve a beautiful, glossy finish.

There Are Multiple Kinds of Spray Clear Coats to Buy

There are a few different kinds of spray clear coats you can buy. Let’s take a look at a few:

  • Water-based clear coats. This kind of clear coat is great if you want to preserve a wood’s color. The coat has a milky-white color, but it dries clear. This product is less thick than oil-based clear coats, so you will have to add more layers to increase its durability. Finally, this product will dry quickly, which is great for doing multiple layers.
  • Oil-based clear coats. Oil-based products take longer to dry, but they create more thick and durable layers. An important feature of oil-based coats is that they dry as a warm, amber color. So if you don’t want to add any color to the wood, do not use this product.
  • Water-based oil-modified clear coats. These coats dry as a hard, amber color. You can use this kind of clear coat with all wood types. People also like these products since they dry fast. Lastly, even though it is partly oil-based, it is safer than purely oil-based products.

Clear coats also come in a few different cosmetic finishes, such as gloss, semi-gloss, and satin. Many people love gloss for its gorgeous shine, but just keep in mind that the higher the gloss, the more imperfections you will see in the wood.

The Downsides

Like any product, there will be a few downsides to spray clear coats. Let’s take a look at a few.

Spray Clear Coats May Drip

It is hard to lay some wood projects down flat, such as installed cupboards or other kinds of furniture. If you have to spray on the coat vertically, you may experience some dripping. However, you can always remedy this by sanding it down when it dries.

The Spray Coat May Have a Cloudy Texture if You Apply It in a Humid Area

If you live in a humid area, make sure to try and lower the humidity where you are applying the clear coat, if possible. The spray may turn cloudy if the air is too humid. You can resolve this by applying another coat when you move to a less-humid area. The cloudiness will disappear after the second coat dries.

Some Spray Clear Coats Have High VOC Levels

A big downside of some spray clear coats is that some have high VOC levels. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. These compounds may be harmful to humans, depending on the concentration. While most VOCs do not have short-term effects, chronic health issues may be a concern.

Oil-based clear coats usually have the highest VOC levels. To avoid any harmful effects, apply the products in well-ventilated areas.

You Have to Dispose of Clear Coat Spray Cans Carefully

An important thing to remember about aerosol spray cans is not to throw them in the garbage. Before you dispose of them, make sure there is no material left in the can. Then you can put it into recycling. If you do have a bit more liquid left in the can and you are not planning on using it, consider lending it to a friend instead of disposing of it incorrectly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q: Can you spray a clear coat on wood? You can spray a clear coat on wood, and many people do. People prefer spray products since it applies an even layer and is easy to use. You can also reach places where a brush can’t reach, such as small crevices.
  • Q: What is the best clear coat for wood? Polyurethane is always a good choice for wood since it is water-proof and is highly durable. This product will give the wood a more natural look. You can buy polyurethane as an oil-based or water-based spray. The Rust-Oleum Water-Based Spray, 200081 Gloss Finish is a great choice. It is a water-based polyurethane spray for wood surfaces.
  • Q: How long does clear coat take to dry on wood? It will depend on the spray, but aerosol products usually dry pretty fast. Even though some sprays dry to the touch in 30 minutes to an hour, you should wait at least 24 hours to handle the project. If you want to play it safe, wait 48 hours. 
  • Q: How do I get a smooth clear coat finish on wood? You can get a smooth, clear coat finish by sanding the wood down. After sanding it, you can vacuum the piece to get rid of all debris and dust. After doing these steps, your finish will go on smooth and shiny.
  • Q: Can you spray clear coat over old clear coat? If the old clear coat is not damaged and is not peeling, you can spray a new clear coat over the old one. However, if it is damaged, make sure to remove the old coat before applying the new product to get a smooth finish.

Final Thoughts

Spray clear coats for wood are worth it since they are affordable (usually anywhere from $15 to $30) and can cover a lot of surface area in a short amount of time. You can also apply as many layers as you want with spray clear coats to create a glassy-appearance. Purchase an aerosol spray if you want an easy-to-use option for your wood products.

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