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Polyvine decorators varnish

Listed under Blog, products Posted Jul 30 2012

Polyvine do a range of clear acrylic varnishes for protecting flat matt emulsioned walls in high traffic areas, or for sealing emulsion on woodwork. It comes in 3 sheens, dead flat, satin and gloss.

The basic idea is that you protect a less durable emulsion paint with a very durable clear coat. The clear varnish takes the hits, preserving the integrity of the paint underneath.

It goes on as a white liquid, and then dries clear in about 15 minutes. Recoat time is 2 – 4 hours. Apply by brush or spray. Rollermay not be a good idea (see my experience with dead flat below).

Polyvine satin decorators varnish
I have used the satin finish to protect handles / knobs painted with matt emulsion from sample pots. I wipe it on with the velour taken from a paint pad. Several coats works great.

Polyvine satin decorators varnish
When painting an AVL loom, we painted the non-working parts with Little Greene Ultimatt sealed over with the satin varnish. 2 coats sprayed with a Sata RP gun has done the trick.

The bench in particular gets repeated use and has held up, but the feeling is an extra coat or 2 would boost the chances of long term low maintenance success.

Polyvine dead flat decorators varnish
Here is what happens when you assume. Assume makes an ass out of you and me!

According to Polyvine, whose products have so far always done what they said on the tin, their dead flat decorators varnish should dry to a non-reflective finish over emulsion paints. Therefore in theory, low sheen chalky paints such as Little Greene acrylic matt should stay flat matt but be more wipeable – ideal in high traffic areas: to protect behind a sink area, or a small area of wall at the bottom of the stairs in a house populated by delightful but grubby-fingered children.

In practice, I painted a patch in the middle of a wall of acrylic matt (3% sheen). The dead flat varnished section dried in a few minutes – discernibly darker, and with a sheen.

Is this user error, or over-hyped expectations? Looking closer, according to the spec sheet, you should apply 2 coats of satin varnish with a synthetic brush before applying the dead flat varnish. (I should have thought about that as this is the same principle when applying matt or satin Dulux Diamond glaze over a gloss basecoat.) So I didn’t go by the book and I also rolled the stuff. So it must have been me, I neglected to follow the full spec.

But had I gone by the book, would a section of brush-applied dead flat varnish over a satin varnish basecoat have dried invisible? I asked Nicky Hancock of HKart what she thought. She is a Polyvine goddess, using their products regularly in her work as a furniture painter and says:

It’ll show. It’s a fib it’s dead flat as yes there is a slight sheen.

To rescue the situation, I re-applied the original acrylic matt paint to leave everything looking better than when I started, just not as scrubbable as I had hoped! Will report back. Maybe matt emulsion OVER dead flat varnish will withstand paw prints better than before. That would be one for the record.

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34 comments to “Polyvine decorators varnish”

  1. Matthew

    Hi there

    Just wondering if you ever got to the bottom of this? I’m a complete novice when it comes to painting furniture and I just painted my first two chairs with a lovely burgundy Annie Sloan chalk paint. Only problem I have now is that I really want to maintain that chalky, dead flat look whilst still protecting the paint. Any thoughts?

  2. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    The Polyvine dead matt is about as colourless and flat as you are going to get, as long as you realise it isnt literally 0% sheen.

    However, Polyvine over chalk paint on your chairs, it isnt the greatest option. That is the negative answer. I may have a positive answer from a colleague shortly with his take on what is a good option.

  3. Colin

    Flat paints are inherently fragile. If you looked at a flat paint surface through a microscope, you would see particles of pigment sticking out of the resin, looking bumpy like a mountain-range. When light hits this mountain range, it is scattered in different directions, making it look “matt”. If you scuff the surface of the finish, you effectively knock the tops off the mountain-range, and now it is not so bumpy any more (looks shiny), or you’ve exposed the chalky pigment (lighter scuff marks). That’s why shinier paints are more hard wearing, the pigment has more of a covering of smooth resin over the top. Similarly, if you apply a varnish over a chalky flat paint, you are likely to fill the valley’s in the mountain range, making the finish look shinier. There are hard-wearing coatings that are pretty dead flat, but they are industrial paints that you cannot apply at home.
    The long and short of it is, painting something with a soft chalky paint, then painting a varnish over it, and expecting it to look soft and chalky, is working against the paint – not with it.
    The charm of chalky paints is the battered patina which comes with normal use. You can get a small measure of durability by waxing and varnishing, but then it will look like a shiny paint. In this case, my advice is to get rid of the chalky paint and paint two coats of a genuinely hard wearing oil-based satin.

  4. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    Great description of matt finishes.

  5. Imaginative Interiors Imaginative Interiors

    I’ve been using Polyvine varnishes for years over specialist wall and furniture finishes and find it an great product. It works equally well over oil and acrylic glazes and is a doddle to apply.

    Another great product for is Dulux’s Clearcoat. It’s equally easy to apply and can be bought at Dulux Trade Centers by special order only. It’s now only comes in matt and is a remnant from the good old Duette system.

    Like Colin, using either of these varnishes over chalky paints isn’t something I would recommend. Not only do you loose the natural chalky look of the paint but they also seem to darken the colour by at lease a shade or two. Word to the wise – if you’ve created an ‘antiquing’ effect over darker coloured chalky paints then the effect may be lost when the colour changes as the glaze doesn’t darken in equal measure.

    Matthew – for Annie Sloan paints I would suggest using her wax as it’s designed to go over her paint and works well. It goes on halfway between matt and satin but can be buffed up get whatever sheen you fancy. I believe Annie is soon bringing out a ‘Polyvine/Clearcoat’ type varnish too so look forward to checking that out and will keep you posted.


  6. Honty

    Hi, I’ve just painted a wooden lamp in Little Greene Intelligent (acrylic) Eggshell. Given it’s a light colour on an item of furniture that’s likely to get a lot of touching from usage, I’m considering applying a coat or two of Polyvine Decorators Varnish. What would people recommend to keep the finish looking as close to the original LG eggshell sheen as possible – the Polyvine Dead Flat or Satin varnish?


  7. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    Satin. The dead flat will take all the sheen out.

  8. Cheryl

    Can I varnish over the emulsion on the wall behind my cooker, or would the heat damage the varnish?

  9. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    Hi, apologies, I got sidetracked looking for a proper heat resistant varnish for over emulsion.

    Is your current paint coming off, or singed? If not, Polyvine decorator varnish certainly is worth a look. I would advise a call to their HQ to double check the following.

    It is acrylic based and 350F seems about the limit before a decent acrylic binder would break down.

    In the nitty gritty spec sheet for Polyvine Dec Varnish, heat resistance isn’t mentioned as a property. I would conclude that it is as heat resistant as it would need to be for painted walls in normal use, but not suitable for direct heat or on metal where heat resistant paints seem to have to be able to cope with 750F.

    Let us know how you got on

  10. Cheryl

    The only problem I’ve had with the paint so far is that it’s washing off when I’ve been a bit flamboyant at the cooker! So I just want something to seal the paint really.

    Thanks very much for your advise, I’ll let you know how it goes…

  11. Sue furniss

    I have bought satin wax flat Polyvine by mistake. It says its for mdf etc. Can I use it on my wallpaper?

  12. patsy

    Hi. I have used both Polyvine wax varnish and the dead flat. The problem I keep getting is, it dries patchy on large flat surfaces, even after 3 coats, and if you want to apply it over white chalk paint, it dries very yellow, even though it says Non yellowing. I now only use on small decorative pieces. I am now using Little Greene oil based Eggshell. Great to apply, but I want a brush that doesn’t show brush marks. Any info would be much appreciated.

  13. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    The Polyvine wax varnish doesn’t seem to be the right product for chalk paint. It isn’t the decorators varnish referred to. Dead Flat decorator varnish is colourless, but it does make a colour look water wet, if that makes sense.

    The Fox paint brush is fine for any sticky oil paint, or a chinex bristle brush. Conditioner (Owatrol) in oil paint also will aid with flow.

  14. ken

    Hi, I’ve recently done a dragging effect on a wall using polyvine acrylic scumble, I left it for three days to dry then sealed it with polyvine dead flat decorators varnish. I notice that after a few minutes the whole wall blistered, quite evenly, in tiny pin pick bubbles. Any ideas on the reason would be helpful. Thanks

  15. Isobel Boyes

    Hi. I want to use a wallpaper (not a blown vinyl, it’s a sage green background with a non-raised printed pattern in off white) on the chimney breast and along the wall as you walk in through the front door and along the hallway (which is open plan to the living room). This is where I will need to site coat hooks etc so the wallpaper here is going to get a few knocks and bumps even just from people brushing past as they squeeze in through the front door, and I know this could degrade it pretty quickly. Do you think I could use either of the products you mention to arrive at a wipeable and slightly stronger surface than bare wallpaper? Like some varnishes, does it yellow with age? Many thanks,

  16. Mary

    I am wallpapering the risers on my stairs, I want to finish them with a varnish to help durability, can anyone recommend the best one to use on paper please.

  17. Helen

    Hi I’m doing acrylic paintings on slate and would like to seal them with heat resistant varnish can anyone recommend a product, there is no rule in the varnishing bible that you do not varnish slate that I can see !!!! Many thanks

  18. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    Slate is porous, and it is sealed successfully when used as flooring or worktop products. With all sealants, even proven ones, it is recommended to test an area first before investing.

    Heat resisting varnish, not sure there is such a thing. Up to normal high temperatures (think the hottest radiator) water borne paints will perform fine. Acrylic varnish like a Polyvine would not yellow which is probably an advantage to protect the integrity of your artwork.

  19. julie

    i have painted rust-oleum white chalk paint on bedroom furniture, i covered with their lacquer for chalk paint and it went all yellow and patchy, on contacting them they say its not for light colours, can you suggest anything else to protect it for longer than the wax that will not yellow

  20. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    @Isobel – “I want to use a wallpaper (not a blown vinyl)”

    The Polyvine decorator varnish range is suitable for wallpaper that doesn’t have a coating on it already. You should always try a sample area out of sight first.

    @julie – (acrylic varnish will not yellow) but with chalk paint use wax for protection. Extra coats of wax provide extra protection. If wax isn’t durable enough for the job in hand, it is advisable to choose a different paint system.

  21. Virginia

    Can I sand and paint over decorators varnish? I am worried that once applied reprinting might be very difficult maybe needing paint stripper to remove it.
    Could I simply add say 10% to my mat paint to give it extra durability? I used to do this with a similar sounding product I found in Costa Rica and it worked a treat

  22. sandor

    if i want to spay the ploy vine satin finish do I have to water it down?



  23. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    According to Polyvine “You can add about 10% of water to the Varnish.”

    After that you will have to adjust the settings on your spray gun.

  24. David

    Great article Andy. Is it possible to overcoat the Heavy Duty dead flat with satin?


  25. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    The spec is gloss first then dead flat. So if this is the case you have a correct base. If these two coats have fully cured then I see no reason why you cannot overcoat with satin. Worth a call to Polyvine to double check there is no surface tension issue pending.

  26. rob

    Hi there.
    Question im thinking of putting (please don’t larf to load) wallpaper pictures on the out side of my van. What can I youse to protect it from mother nature and the outside elements. Kind regards Rob. .

  27. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    Can you not get vinyl sticker material screen printed?

  28. Cheryl

    I am about to paint my dining table and chairs with anne sloane chalk paint, in French Linen. Which kind of varnish would you recommend me to paint over on the top to give that protection and easy to wipe clean etc as I have children.

    Thanks so much,

  29. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    Annie Sloan sell a clear lacquer.

    There are alternative ways to achieve a bit of translucent colour and protection on heavy traffic timber. eg tint Tikkurila Kiva lacquer. or tint Patina with oil stainer.

  30. simon

    “I may have a positive answer from a colleague shortly with his take on what is a good option.”

    This has come again on another painters forum, just wondering if you ever did get to the bottom of this?


  31. Mel

    Hi I’m wanting to use wallpaper in my bathroom. Do you do a waterproof varnish or only water resistant?

  32. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    I would assume water resistent, to manage expectations. Waterproof is a tall order especially on wallpaper.

  33. JB

    I am looking for a product to provide a clear varnished effect over wooden surfaces painted in white. Ideally I want to provide extra sheen on my stair rails, stair banister and interior doors that have been painted using white gloss paint, a water based gloss paint.

    Would you recommend the Polyvine Decorators Varnish in Satin or Gloss or Polyvine Lacquer? I still want the areas to be white and not have any yellowing effect. Thanks for your assistance

  34. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    A water based white gloss paint is as abrasion resistant as an acrylic decorator’s varnish. We have been advised over and over, an extra coat of gloss paint is by far the most effective way to achieve the most resistance. One product, no incompatability issues.

    If you have matt emulsion paint and want a tougher finish, then you could consider a tougher decorators varnish (satin or gloss) It will sightly alter the colour even though clear.

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