I’ve built a rocking horse that I’m donating to a Ronald McDonald House and have painted it using Pittsburgh Paints & Stains Ultra semi-gloss enamel. It will be used by sick children and will need to be wiped down periodically with disinfectant wipes. Will the paint hold up under these circumstances, or should I use a polyurethane or other protective finish over it? – Jim Hoyt
Tim Inman: This is a question best asked of the paint makers. It is also a question best asked BEFORE you do the project. I would probably opt for a poly clear coat surface, all other things being equal. Nothing will hold up forever, given the constant disinfecting wipe-downs. Which will last longer and better? Which can be recoated periodically with the least trouble is a question to ask, too.
Chris Marshall: Real world experience is usually the best teacher, as we all know. So, I’ll share a bit of my experience about polyurethane’s durability over time. Back around 2005, I built a cherry kitchen table for our magazine. I finished it with oil-based satin polyurethane (probably Minwax®). That table has seen regular wipe-downs for three meals a day at our house ever since. The top probably could use refinishing now, after 14 years of family life, but it’s still repelling water and other spills just fine.
Polyurethane goes the distance on bare wood, like my table. But will a coat of polyurethane improve the durability of enamel paint, too? I suspect that it will, and I’ve wondered the same thing myself. However, I don’t have “real world” experience to confirm or deny it. I agree with Tim: ask the technical folks at Pittsburgh Paints and & Stains. And, when time is on your side, experiment with poly over paint to see for yourself. Surely it will be worth the effort.