Poly tips

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Cornhole Boards with Poly

Once you've painted and/or added logos or decals to your boards, it's time to protect that beautiful finish.

Many people will add a coat of either polyurethane or polycrylic as a final clearcoat on their boards. Most people add at least two coats of poly on their finished boards. It serves as protection against bags, debris, and the elements, and allows for proper slide. This can be done so many ways, Cornhole Wiki is going to feature different methods, as used by different people.

You can either add your own method, or add notes to a method that somebody else has posted!

We've created several pages that are intended to help you as you build and customize your cornhole boards. First, check out our cornhole board building page. Once you have boards built, you can find some great Sanding Tips, Painting Tips, Poly and Clearcoat Tips, Logo Painting Tips, and Decal Application & Tips.


What to Use

Given the choice between polyurethane or polycrylic, most builders tend to use a water-based polycrylic, mostly due to it's tendency not to yellow upon initial application (it may eventually yellow over time). When it comes to polycrylic, the favorite had always been Minwax, but recently, many people are also using other products, like Rust-Oleum® Wood Care Interior Ultimate Polyurethane. A water-based product, which is often less expensive.

From TednWV - I switched over to Park's Pro Finisher water base poly for floors. Higher build or something. $10 cheaper than Minwax poly too. I always apply 2 coats, at the most, of sanding sealer on my boards first. Apply decal, THEN apply 8 coats of poly. I lightly sand the boards after the 6th coat. I think it knocks down the edge pretty good. Then apply my last 2 coats.

From pharaoh - Rust-Oleum® Wood Care Interior Ultimate Polyurethane is what many here use. As good or better than polycrylic.(an arguable point) Available at Lowes. About $32.00. If there is a Sherwin Williams paint store close by, you might consider doing the sign up thing with them. They'll send you coupons for 30-40% off that is unadvertised to the public as well as notifications when they have their usual sales for 50% off paints.


From DerrickSmash - The rustoleum poly from lowes is what i use 90% of the time. stuff is awesome. lays out ridiculously smooth. i use a 3/8" nap roller too. one fat coat - done. literally. none of this 17 coats with a foam brush nonsense for me. when i'm not using that rustoleum stuff, i'm using a waterbourne finish from any other company (usually thybony/muralo's house brand).

i like polycrylic out of hvlp - the whole furniture making community will agree with that - but with my methods of just wanting to clearcoat the hell out of things, poly doesn't work well at all. gonna coat really lightly, and apply many coats to get a build. that lowes stuff lays out really flat. when i'm stuck doing multiple coats over decals or after post-poly touchups, my boards are tremendously slick...and new bags won't stay on them. it's nuts. and i'm using satin. with semigloss, there is no chance in hell. the stuff ambers as it dries the first hour, but have seen sets that have had thousands of hours of sun exposure and look just the same.

Also switched over to their stains. they're really rich and vivid.

Polycrylic Application

General Poly Application 1

Most Cornhole Players apply 5 to 10 coats of polycrylic.

Application is usually done with a foam brush. NEVER ROLL it, brush it every time. Rolling it causes bubbles in the poly and will dimple your finish. Also, never shake your poly in the can like you would do with paint. Stir it, but don't shake it. Bubbles again...

Most people sand with very fine sandpaper after coat 3 or 4. This will knock down any raised wood grain. Then the final 2 or 3 coats are applied.

Let the boards cure for 24 to 48 hours.

General Poly Application 2

I do all my poly inside my house. In a spare bedroom. What I do before bringing the boards inside to poly is run the vacuum over the floor several times to get as much dust and debris off the floor first.

Then I lay down a tarp for the drips.

Bring my saw horses in and set them up.

Bring my boards in and set one on each set of saw horses.

Apply my poly. I usually wait about 15 minutes or so after I poly before turning on the fan though. I don't want take any chances of anything blowing in my wet poly. In about 15 minutes, the top is fairly dry and then I turn the fan on.

30 - 45 minutes later I turn the fan off and apply second coat and so on. Do this each time until all my poly is applied. ~TedNWV

Polycrylic Cornhole Board

Misc Application Notes:

From TednWV: ALWAYS, ALWAYS....ALWAYS brush on the poly. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER roll it on.

From Woodburner: Rollers and poly are like oil and water.....talk about BUBBLES!!!!!!! always brush...actually, you usually cant go wrong by following the directions on the can.......i don't think any poly manufacturer would ever suggest applying their product with a roller, honestly.

From TednWV: Use a really fine sandpaper (320 or higher) or #0000 steel wool after the 4th coat of poly and PLEASE wipe your boards down to get all the loose stuff off before applying that last coat of poly.

How long between coats? The answer from "Milky":

Wait until it is truly dry, or you will regret it. There is this thing that happens when you poly over poly that is not fully dried yet. How can I describe it? When poly goes on and dries, imagine it as a very thin, very brittle sheet of plastic. When you start to push a brush over it, and it's not dry yet, it cracks the this layer underneath. Imagine, if you will, the chocolate coating on the top of an ice cream cone. It cracks like that stuff, and leaves you with a build up underneath, because you're coating right on top of the "crack-up" area. It also causes a white, milky, ghosting type of haze.

So, the point is, don't rush the poly. PLEASE don't rush the poly. You will regret it, for certain. As a rule of thumb, you should wait until you can run a finger across the poly and not see any marks in it, or get any poly on your hand. 30 minutes, maybe? 2 hours, still maybe? http://www.CornholeGamePlayers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2361&start=15

Polycrylic of choice

Minwax Water Based Polycrylic ( in the blue can ) is very widely used by the members Cornhole Players Forum. ( not an advertisement, just fact )

Most will use the Semi-Gloss, as the regular Gloss is overly shiny.

Application Time Frame | from "Milky"

As far as the poly, how many coats per day, etc etc, there are some variables. Humidity and the thickness of the layers you're applying are the biggest factors. A nice technique is to set up one of those $25 oscillating fans in front of the boards, on 1 or 2 speed, and let that blow across your boards while the poly is drying. This will dry each coat very fast.

The big key, and I can't stress this enough, is to NOT RUSH the process. If you poly over a coat of poly that was not dry, you will get a ghosty, milky, white haze on your boards. You may even crack and pull up the previous coat of poly. Done properly, you should be able to get at least three coats of poly on in one evening.(with the fan blowing).

A great rule of thumb for using the boards after the poly is 72 hours from the last coat feeling dry to the touch, until you throw the first bag at them.

Where to Apply Poly | from "Milky"

I think you'll find that some people do this differently, depending on their personal preference. I do the following:

At least 5 coats of poly on the tops At least 2 coats of poly on the legs At least 2 coats of poly on the side NO coats of poly on the undersides, unless my customer requests it. I have had two people ask for a completely polyed set. They think, and I agree, that it will protect your boards better from the elements.

General Poly Tips and Tricks

from CHP's Woodburner - I let the paint dry for a like 24 hrs. then put the decal on. then poly over the top of it all.....4 coats of poly, sand with no rougher than 220 grit (try to stay off the decal) and poly one more time. ( oh, and do not use any kind of roller to apply the poly) i think that may be the process used by most in this forum.... hope that helps.

Poly Application 1

  • Foam brush seems to be the best for application. One other tip: When using a quart can of polycrylic and a 4" foam brush, the brush is too wide to fit into the quart can. To fix this, just trim the edges off the brush (any scissors will work)....brush is now ~3" wide, and fits right into the can....no pouring = no waste and less time. ~vvinston
  • Foam brush is the way to go, no doubt about it, in my humble opinion. You're right about the 4" not fitting in the can. I pour the poly onto a paper plate, or into the liners for paint trays. Works like a charm, and both are cheap as can be. ~Milky

Synthetic or Foam Brush for Poly

Poly Application 2

I have used the ziplock baggie trick for awhile, the difference with me though, is I use a really nice bristle brush for polycrylic, and use foam for urethane. I don't wash out my crylic brush until I am done with a set of boards, which typically takes me 2-3 days, because I tend to go overboard and apply several coats on each board (usually 9).

For the urethane, I use the same 4" foam brush for all 7 coats I apply. Generally, by the time i get to the 6th or 7th coat, the brush has seen its better days, but I can make do for one or two more coats. In between urethane coats, I wrap the foam brush in aluminum foil, then place the brush in a airtight tupperware container. With my crylic brush, I put the brush in a ziplock baggie, then put that in the airtight tupperware container.

The main reason I use a bristle brush with crylic, is that I found with a foam brush, the crylic goes on paper thin, and I prefer heavier coats. ~Mitch

Application and Sanding

For polyCRYLIC finished boards, I will apply 8 coats, let that dry for at least 10-12 hours, then hit them with my orbital sander and 220 grit. Wipe of the dust, and apply one final coat.

For polyURETHANE finished boards, I will apply 5-6 coats, let that dry at least over night, the use the orbital sander with 220, and then one final coat.

Seems to work just fine for me. ~Mitch

In Case of Clouding

That clouding could be because of putting the poly down before the poly underneath is dry, but if you're only seeing it after sanding, that's an easy fix. You will see that clouding you spoke of when you sand. Sort of. Here's the deal:

You want to sand very VERY lightly. The goal is not to apply too much pressure, or you'll scratch your paint or take the poly down too low. You shouldn't sand before the 3rd coat, for just that reason.(danger of hitting paint/stain). When you do sand, if you sand too much, you will se the hazing you spoke of. In fact, even when you sand lightly, you will see a light haze/clouding. What you want to do is take a slightly moist t shirt and wipe all of that dust off of there, because that's what you're seeing. The dust in the grooves you've created. Once you wip it down, and dry it, apply more poly, and bye-bye clouding. ~Milky

Unevenness After several Coats

If you're on your 5th coat, and you see unevenness now, take some 600 grit sandpaper and sand it out. After 5 coats your boards should certainly be able to withstand a LIGHT sanding with 600 grit. Light being the optimal word. Do not use too much pressure.


Poly Layers vs. Slickness

Q. Is there any correlation between how many coats of polycrylic you put on vs how slick the boards are?

A. It shouldn't make one bit of difference. What WILL make a difference though is if you sand the poly in between coats or not. For example, boards with 5 coats of poly (coat 4 times, sand, final poly coat) will be slicker than a set of boards that were coated 10 times without ever sanding.

My last boards, I did 4 coats, sanded, 2 more coats, sanded, then 1 final coat to total 7 coats. ~J2K66

Making Boards Less Sticky

Usually Polycrylic on your cornhole boards will make them very slick. Occasionally, though, people complain about boards that are too sticky. One solution for this has been to rub corn starch on the boards. This powder acts the same as the dust that may come off of the corn bags after constant use.

Example from TednWV: I put 3 coats of polyurethane on my boards and let them dry for 72 hours at least. Got my bags....threw them and THUD! Another bag...THUD! So....I went inside and found a box of corn starch and sprinkled it on the boards and rubbed it all over with a towel. Threw another bag...thump...slide. Threw another bag....thump....slide. Thre another bag....thump....slide....IN THE HOLE! They just kept getting better and better.

I would highly recommend corn starch to anyone having this problem. From personal experience....corn starch does the job!

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