How to Waterproof Your Projects

You’ve just crafted a beautiful handmade table. How do you make sure it holds up for years to come? One of the essential steps in a do-it-yourself project is to seal it. This way, it’s protected from water and other potential damage.

Photo by Samuel Schneider on Unsplash

The overall process is super quick and easy. Take a look!

Prepare the Wood

Before you look at a container of stain or paint, grab some sandpaper. Whether you’re working on cabinets, a door or a bed frame, it’s necessary to smooth down the texture of the wood. Doing so will open up its pores so that it can absorb the sealer you use later on. 

Try to choose the correct type of sandpaper to ensure you don’t harm your project. Don’t use a belt-sander on a family heirloom. While this method would work well on a large, sturdy table, it could damage your antique. Also, remember to sand with the grain, so you don’t end up with any unattractive scratches. Once finished, be sure to wipe away the dust with a tack cloth.

Choose the Right Sealer

In general, there are three types of sealers you should consider for your woodworking project – varnish, polyurethane and lacquer. Each can waterproof a surface, but they’re all a little different. Keep this fact in mind when you make your selection of fasteners. A sealer, along with paint, can protect these pieces from corrosion, further sealing them into the wood.


Traditional varnish is made up of resin, drying oil and solvent. It won’t yellow and is typically meant for outdoor use, though you can use it inside. It’s less prone to ultraviolet damage, so it’s an excellent pick for decks, tables and chairs. Varnish is a little trickier to apply than other sealers, as it’s susceptible to cracks and bubbles. If you use it correctly, however, you’ll get a scratch-resistant hard-shell finish.


This sealer provides a little more flexibility. Because it’s a mix of acrylics, solvents and resins, you can choose the type of finish you want. This selection is popular for indoor furniture and hardwood floors. For a more vibrant color, go for an oil-based polyurethane, as a water base offers a more natural appearance.


Lacquer is what many people opt for when it comes to furniture. It’s composed of two kinds of resins, so it may yellow over time – the reason why people typically use it on deep-toned woods. Like polyurethane, lacquer is slightly customizable and is available in various sheens. Be warned that it gives off a powerful odor, so try to ventilate your work area as much as possible.

After you select the right type of sealer for your project, you can paint or stain your pieces accordingly. Otherwise, skip right to the application stage.

Photo by Alvin Engler on Unsplash

Apply a Few Coats

Use a brush instead of a roller. While the process will go slowly, you’ll have more control over where the sealer applies. Make sure the temperature in the space you’re in is regulated. A room that’s too hot or cold can affect the liquid. Start at the center of the object and use small strokes to brush outward. 

Once the entire area is covered, let the sealer sink in for a few moments. Then, apply more to areas that look dry. Remove any extra residue and allow the wood to dry completely – this can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day. Last, sand the surface down once again and apply more coats until you reach your desired finish.

Enjoy Your Work for Years to Come

Waterproof sealers are necessary for almost all wood-based projects. They wick away moisture and other build-ups that can harm the wood in the long run. For your next project, be sure to research the best kind of sealer and apply it correctly. With this step, your work will stand the test of time.

About the author

Scott Huntington is a writer who lives in Vermont and loves all things DIY. You can find him outside no matter how cold it gets. 

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