Pre-Cat Clear Coat Over Latex Paint

      Water-based pre-catalyzed lacquers work well in combination with latex paints. June 28, 2006

I'm finishing some cabinets with Ben Moore WB latex, then distressed back down to the bare wood on edges and corners. What's the best thing to use for a clear topcoat? I'm looking for a fairly flat finish, but protection for the exposed wood. I normally use WB pre-cat lacquer, but would this be too brittle over the latex?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor B:
The latest edition of Fine Woodworking's "Finishing & Refinishing Furniture" (Taunton Press) features an article by Paul Snyder (our technical advisor) titled "Perfect Paint Job" and shows WB's being used over Ben Moore latex paints.

From contributor M:
The two are sister coatings. Use the WB coating over the dried latex. I suggest you always make a start to finish sample, because there are latex and water base coatings, and there are latex and water base coatings. Compatibility is king of the finish.

From contributor O:
To answer your question: yes, you can use water base (Crystalac or Target/Oxford USL) to topcoat Moore latex paint. I made an armoire and a changing table that have survived three babies' worth of diaper changes and the clear gloss over white paint held up just fine. Not only is water base compatible, but it is water clear without any amber tint to affect your paint color.

However, you might consider another option if you're trying for a distressed milk-paint type finish. Most of these antiques have flat paint on them, not a clear shiny topcoat. You might consider instead putting the clear coat underneath the paint. That way, when you sand or scrape the paint off to get the distressed effect, you're actually only going down to the clear layer and not the bare wood. This also works if you use one color (say, yellow or pumpkin) as a base or "show through" color, then an intermediate clear coat for protection, then the top coat of another color paint (say, blue). Then you can distress it by sanding off the blue until you hit the clear layer and the yellow shows through. That way it's pretty hard to burn through to bare wood.

From contributor M:
Whenever you use a second or third type of coating in a finish, and you try to sandwich the coatings, you need to be very careful. What may work in the first sandwich may not work in the second sandwiched coating. Make up a sample, to be sure.

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