I just completed refinishing an outdoor side table. On the metal, I sanded and cleaned it. Put a base of Rust-Oleum textured protectant followed by two coats of Rust-Oleum Hintr Green.

The wood is my concern. I stained it with two coats of Rust-Oleum summer oak wood stain and rubbed it out (when totally dried) with my leather work gloves to a really smoothe shine. Is it protected enough for outdoors? It says to apply polyurethane but I am afraid of fouling it up.

If I spray I am afraid of the bubble effect and smoothness. I have never used a gun. What about brush marks? I have Rust-Oleum "crystal clear enamel" spray available. Will it harm the wood? What should I do? My very first wood project at age 65!

Many thanks in advance

2 Answers 2


Congrats on your first project! I understand your concern. Stains don't offer wood protection so a top coat is advised especially if it is for an outdoor table.

I used a spray once and was disappointed, so my background is with a can. But I would suggest a foam brush, they are cheap, can be tossed afterward and when applied correctly they don’t leave any brush marks.
If you run smooth and consistent you should not get any bubbles or streaks.

Preparation and environment are important, make sure the surface is clean and sanded smooth.
Also a light is important, so you can reflect light against the table to spot any issues. Poly can be understanding if done right. Take your time and make sure you have enough time to complete the project, and avoid doing it where bugs, wind and small debris can land and then stick to the surface before it dries.

Don’t shake the can, that prevents bubbles within the poly before application. Dip the brush in and run with the grain slowly.
Make sure your application is thin enough, a lot of people want to apply it too thick, which makes the process much more complicated.
Run long straight lines with the grain. When running the next line, make sure the brush over laps the previous run.

Once the project is done, let it sit, don’t poke or try to fix anything. Poly over time will flatten itself out as it dries.
A warm dry day is the best environment.

If you see spots or bubbles wait until it dries sand them with >=280 grit sand paper.

If the stain is water based use a water based poly, or if oil based use an oil based poly. Both have pros and cons. When applying a second coat, sand gently to prevent sanding out too much poly and go smoothly with the grain. I avoid steel wool because it can leave small pieces of metal. Make sure the surface is very clean before the second coat.

Good luck and enjoy the table!

  • Should I reapply after the grit and how many coats? Got a good brand of poly?
    – Jim Ramge
    Jul 3, 2014 at 13:31
  • See my added comments above, if the stain an oil or water based?
    – treeNinja
    Jul 3, 2014 at 13:59

Yeah stain won't be enough to keep your wood sealed and healthy over the long term. You need something that's low in wax content (wax is what turns white when wet) and has a u.v. blocker. If its just a small project there's no shame in a rattle can spar varnish (Helmsman has one available at the box stores). Oils are okay if you want a dull rubbed finish and don't mind reapplying once a year. Don't be afraid to do samples to get your process down. If you go with a spray consider a sealer coat. If oiling or using a wipe on poly just get it on the piece in whatever manner seems best then wipe off completely with a decent paper towel. Sand with 280 in between coats in either case. It should feel sort of crunchy and produce a fine white powder when you're sanding. If it feels tacky or builds up on the sand paper: its too soon. Resist the temptation to set it out in the sun on a hot day to speed drying time, that can lead to catastrophic failure. Clean(dust free), warm, moving air is your best friend. Hope this helps, cheers.

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