What You Need to Know About Polyurethane Wood Finish

What You Need to Know About Polyurethane Wood Finish


If you're a woodworker, homeowner, or builder, then you know that there are many different types of wood finishes available on the market. Among the most popular is polyurethane, a finish that can provide your project with both protection and beauty. But what exactly should you know about using polyurethane? In this post, we'll explore everything you need to know in order to apply this versatile finish like a pro. Read on to learn more!

What Is Polyurethane?

Polyurethane is a super-tough varnish that, once dry, creates a finish that is impervious to water, solvents, and scratches. Unlike traditional varnishes, the microscopic chains of resin molecules in polyurethane wood finishes bond tightly with one another, creating a stronger and more durable finish. There are different types of polyurethane wood finishes available, depending on the desired look and level of protection required. Some polyurethanes are oil-based, giving wood a rich golden tone, while others are water-based, maintaining the wood's natural lightness. No matter what type of polyurethane you choose, it will provide your wood with a long-lasting and protective finish.

Water-Based or Oil-Based Polyurethane?

There are two types of polyurethane wood finishes: water based and oil based. Which one should you choose? Here are some things to consider.

Oil-based polyurethane is one of the most popular types of wood finishes on the market. It gives wood a warm, golden color and forms durable film when applied. It's also easy to apply, dries slowly, so there’s more time to work between coats. However, oil-based polyurethane has higher VOCs (volatile organic compounds) than water-based polyurethane.

Water-based polyurethane is a type of clear finish that dries quickly and cleans up easily with soap and water. It's low in VOCs, making it a great environmentally friendly option. Similar to milk in color when it’s in its can, water-based polyurethane forms a crystal clear finish once it dries. However, because it's more watery than oil-based polyurethane, you'll need to apply more coats. But the quick drying time means you won't have to wait long between coats.

Polyurethane is Available in a Variety of Sheens

There are four basic types of polyurethane wood finishes: matte, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. Each type has its own unique benefits and drawbacks.

Matte finishes are the least reflective option, and they are often chosen due to their strong ability to hide scratches and blemishes. Satin finishes offer enough sheen for those who find the matte finish quite unappealing but still want a little bit of flatness that can hide marks.

Semi-gloss is more lustrous than satin, meaning that it better reveals the natural beauty of the wood. However, this also means that scuffs and scratches are more easily visible, and you'll need to spend more time maintaining the finish to keep it looking good. If you're considering semigloss for flooring, it's best suited for areas with little traffic.

A high-gloss polyurethane finish is hard to miss - the shiniest and most light-reflective of all the finishes, it catches everyone's attention. However, this eye-catching quality also has a downside.

And because it's so reflective, it shows every little scratch, scuff, and ding. For this reason, it's not always the best choice for high-traffic areas. Despite the drawbacks, a high-gloss finish can give your cabinets and picture frames a touch of luxury and sophistication.

How to Apply a Polyurethane Wood Finish?

When it comes to applying polyurethane, there are three different methods you can choose from: brush on, wipe on, or spray. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose the one that will give you the best results for your project.

Brush on polyurethane is the most common method of application on flat surfaces where durability is needed. It’s easy to do and gives you a lot of control over the amount of finish you apply. The downside is that brush marks can be visible in the final product. To avoid this, use a natural bristle brush and apply the finish in long, even strokes.

Wipe on polyurethane is a popular option for contoured surfaces where you don’t want to see any brushing drips.

Spray polyurethane is the quickest and easiest way to apply a smooth, even coat of finish on hard-to-reach surfaces. However, it can be a bit challenging to apply, and overspray can be an issue.

Polyurethane wood finish is a great way to protect and seal your wood products. It can be used on indoor or outdoor furniture, and it comes in many different sheens. If you’re looking for an easy way to keep your wooden furniture looking new, a polyurethane wood finish is the perfect solution!