Urethane Vs Polyurethane Wood Finish: A Comprehensive Guide

Urethane Vs Polyurethane Wood Finish

More and more people are discovering the wonders of urethane and polyurethane wood finishes, both of which offer their own unique advantages and disadvantages. In this article, readers will learn more about the pros and cons of urethane and polyurethane wood finishes and decide which one is right for them. We’ll also be discussing the differences between urethane and polyurethane wood finish in terms of price, durability, finish and maintenance. Nowhere else will you be able to delve into the zeitgeist of urethane vs polyurethane wood finish as eloquently and succinctly as is possible here. So, let’s get started.

What Is Urethane Wood Finish?

Urethane wood finish has become increasingly popular with the DIY-er crowd due to its ease of application, durability, and attractive penultimate finish. It is often used as a top coat on wood surfaces in place of paint or varnish. It is a high performance film-building coating that is formulated to protect, seal, and beautify a variety of substrates. Urethane wood finish is a versatile and reliable choice when looking to protect and enhance the natural look of your wood surfaces.

Advantages of Urethane Wood Finish

Urethane is a popular choice when it comes to wood finishing, offering many advantages when compared to other types of finishes. Urethane wood finish provides durability, a glossy finish, and little maintenance required.

Durability: Urethane wood finishing can stand up to the wear and tear of daily wear and tear and provide excellent protection from water, extreme temperatures, and ultraviolet light.

Glossy Finish: Urethane wood finishing provides a durable and glossy protection that adds a fresh and clean look to the wood.

Low Maintenance: Urethane wood finishing requires little maintenance and is generally easier to apply than other types of finishes.

List of Advantages:

  • Highly durable
  • Produces a glossy finish
  • Highly water resistant
  • Stands up to extreme temperatures
  • Good protection from UV rays
  • Easy to apply and maintain

Because of its advantages, urethane is a popular choice among homeowners and contractors looking for a durable, attractive wood finish. It’s important to remember, however, that urethane is not suitable for all applications; for the best results consult with a professional.

Disadvantages of Urethane Wood Finish

Urethane wood finish has a few disadvantages that should be taken into consideration. One of the most common drawbacks of urethane finishes is that they can yellow or discolor over time. They also have a tendency to fail to adhere properly on certain types of woods, which can lead to chipping or flaking. Urethane finish is also more difficult to apply than polyurethane and requires more time and elbow grease to properly finish a piece of furniture. Additionally, urethane finishes are more prone to water damage than polyurethane finishes.

Urethane wood finishes are generally not as durable as polyurethane finishes. They have a tendency to chip, scratch, and wear down due to everyday use and contact with surfaces, resulting in a need for more frequent touch-ups or repairs. Urethane finishes are also prone to dulling over time, unlike polyurethane finishes which can still maintain a glossy sheen.

Here are some of the main disadvantages of urethane wood finishes:

  • Yellowing or discoloration over time
  • Failure to adhere to certain types of wood
  • More difficult to apply than polyurethane
  • More prone to water damage
  • Less durable than polyurethane
  • Can chip, scratch, and wear down over time
  • Prone to dulling

What Is Polyurethane Wood Finish?

Polyurethane wood finish is one of the most versatile and resilient wood finishes available to homeowners and woodworkers. It is a combination of a resin and a drying oil, and is often used to create a lustrous, tough and protective finish that lasts. Polyurethane wood finish also resists fading, chipping, and peeling – making it a great option for outdoor furniture or other items that are frequently exposed to the elements. It can also be used on nearly any type of wood, from soft woods like pine to hardwoods like oak, and comes in both water-based and oil-based formulas.

Advantages of Polyurethane Wood Finish

Polyurethane wood finish provides a number of advantages for those looking to add a protective layer to their woodwork. Here are just a few of the benefits of using polyurethane wood finish to protect wood surfaces:

  • It is extremely durable and resistant to scratches, scuffs, and other types of damage.
  • It is a waterproof finish, so liquids won’t be absorbed by the wood.
  • It is a breathable finish, which means that moisture can escape the wood.
  • It creates a smooth, uniform surface, which makes it easy to clean.
  • It comes in a variety of colors, so it can be used to achieve a customized look.
  • It is easy to apply and can be used as an appropriate top coat for many types of paint.
  • It is very abrasion-resistant and long-lasting, so it will protect the wood for years to come.

Polyurethane wood finish is also one of the most popular finishes for wood pieces, so if you’re looking for a finish that is widely accepted and respected, polyurethane is a good choice. It’s a great choice for those looking for a long lasting finish that won’t need to be re-done in a few years. Plus, polyurethane wood finish can be applied as a single coat, making it much easier to get a professional finish in less time.

Disadvantages of Polyurethane Wood Finish

Polyurethane wood finish can be a great way to protect and seal wooden surfaces, but it also has some drawbacks. Polyurethane takes longer to dry than other finishes, and often requires multiple coats for maximum protection. Additionally, polyurethane finish can crack and peel over time, which means it needs to be refinished more often than other types of wood finish.

Polyurethane finish can be difficult to apply correctly. If the surface isn’t properly prepared before application, the finish may crack or peel prematurely. Additionally, polyurethane finish is more likely to suffer from bubbles, especially in large surface areas. Lastly, polyurethane can discolor when exposed to sunlight, which is something to consider when using polyurethane on outdoor wood structures.

Here are the key disadvantages of polyurethane wood finish:

  • Takes longer to dry than other finishes
  • Requires multiple coats for maximum protection
  • Prone to cracking and peeling
  • Difficult to apply, needing a properly prepped surface
  • More prone to bubbles compared to other finishes
  • May discolor when exposed to sunlight

Comparing Urethane and Polyurethane Wood Finish

Urethane and polyurethane wood finishes are both popular options for wood projects. Both offer different levels of protection and finish, so it’s important to consider the pros and cons of each option before making your decision. In this section, we’ll explore the relative merits of both types of wood finishes, looking at factors such as price, durability, finish, and maintenance needs. After reading, you’ll be able to choose the right wood finish for your project with confidence.


When it comes to the price comparison between urethane and polyurethane wood finishes, polyurethane is usually the more expensive option. On average, polyurethane is about twice as expensive as urethane, but this difference can vary from product to product. Additionally, polyurethane finishes can be divided into oil-based and water-based options, with oil-based polyurethane usually costing a little more.

Apart from the pricing differences between the two products, there are other factors that influence the cost. The quality and type of wood to be covered with the finish, the size of the area to be treated and the number of coats needed are all factors that must be taken into consideration when comparing the cost of urethane and polyurethane finishes. The cost of labor and the costs associated with proper preparation of the surface to be treated can also have a significant effect.

Overall, when comparing the cost between urethane and polyurethane wooden finishes, urethane is generally the more affordable option. However, this may not be the case for a specific job, so it is important to compare prices between different products and assess their respective advantages and disadvantages.


Urethane wood finish is generally the most durable wood finish, as the characteristic that determines its level of durability is the ability to maintain its original clarity. This is because urethane is more resistant to abrasion and resistance to fading. In addition, urethane is also extremely resistant to water damage, making it a great choice for outdoor furniture applications.

Polyurethane, on the other hand, is usually more vulnerable to the elements and can wear more quickly over time. This, along with its tendency to turn yellow over time, makes it a poor choice for outdoor uses. Additionally, it is also harder to repair than urethane.

So when it comes to durability, urethane is generally the better choice. Here are a few factors to consider when comparing the two:

  • Urethane is more resistant to abrasion and fading.
  • Urethane is more resistant to water damage.
  • Polyurethane is more prone to yellowing and wear.
  • Polyurethane is harder to repair than urethane.


When comparing the finish of urethane and polyurethane wood finishes, there are a few things to consider. Urethane provides a glossy finish that is both durable and resistant to scratches, making it a great choice for high-traffic areas or areas where durability is a priority. Additionally, urethane finishes tend to have brighter colors and highlight the natural grain of the wood. However, urethane can be tricky to apply and may require several coats to achieve the desired look.

Polyurethane is also known for its glossy finish, but in comparison to urethane, it tends to have a slightly duller look. Polyurethane is a great option for those wanting to get a bit of a more subtle, natural looking finish. It also has better resistance to fading and moisture than urethane, making it a great choice for outdoor applications. Another advantage of polyurethane is that it is easier to apply than urethane and doesn’t require as many coats of finish.

Overall, both urethane and polyurethane provide a great finish and both are durable and resistant to scratches. Urethane has a brighter, glossy finish that highlights natural wood grain, while polyurethane has a more subtle, natural look. It ultimately comes down to the end look you are hoping to achieve and the time and effort you have available to apply.


When it comes to maintenance, urethane wood finishes require significantly more upkeep than polyurethane. Urethane finishes are typically harder to clean as most commercial cleaning solutions can’t be used. The finish can be damaged by harsh chemicals and surfaces can be worn down easily. It’s best to opt for a mild cleaning solution like water and a cloth.

In addition, the right sealer should be used when applying urethane finishes. A good sealer will protect the wood from dirt and moisture, as well as other environmental elements. Sealers are a great option for high traffic areas such as kitchen cabinetry or high humidity spaces like bathrooms.

Polyurethane can also be sealed, but typically requires less upkeep as it is typically more durable. Polyurethane finishes are usually easier to clean and can be safe when used with commercial and basic cleaning solutions. This makes polyurethane a great choice for high traffic areas or those with a lot of dirt and grime. Polyurethane also offers great protection from moisture and other environmental factors, making it resistant to wear and tear.

To sum it up, here are the key differences between cleaning up urethane and polyurethane wood finishes:

● Urethane: Requires special sealer to protect the wood; Must use mild cleaner like water and cloth to clean; Can be damaged by harsh chemicals.

● Polyurethane: Easier to clean with commercial and basic cleaning solutions; More durable and resistant to moisture, wear and tear.

When it comes to maintenance, polyurethane wood finishes are the clear choice, as they require less upkeep and are more durable than urethane finishes.

Which Is Better?

It can be difficult to decide which wood finish is better: urethane or polyurethane. Both are durable, can provide a glossy finish, and are relatively affordable. Urethane and polyurethane are both synthetic finishes, but there are some distinct differences in their composition and application method.

Urethane is a more common finish, and it typically comes as a varnish, oil, or stain that is applied to wood surfaces. It is typically tougher and more scratch-resistant than polyurethane and is less expensive to purchase. However, it can be somewhat more difficult to apply, and it doesn’t bond with the wood surface as well as polyurethane.

On the other hand, polyurethane has a more complex chemical make-up and is applied with a brush or spray. It is also more expensive to purchase, but it offers better protection and bonds more strongly with the wood surface. Although it is more difficult and time-consuming to apply, some people may prefer the long-term protection it offers.

When it comes to deciding which wood finish is better, there is no clear winner. Both urethane and polyurethane are durable, provide a quality finish, and can protect your furniture for many years. Ultimately, the decision comes down to your specific needs and budget. For long-term protection and durability, polyurethane might be the better choice. However, if you want a more budget-friendly option or are just looking for basic protection from scratches and everyday wear-and-tear, urethane may be the way to go.


Devin B

Hi everyone! My name is Devin and I'm the author of this website about tips for woodturning and wood finishing. I'm an avid woodworker and have been doing it for over a decade. I'm constantly learning new techniques and experimenting with new materials and finishes.

I started my journey in woodworking when I was a teenager, making furniture for my bedroom and small projects for my family. As I got older, my interest in woodturning and wood finishing grew. I took classes on the subject and read books on the topic.

I'm passionate about woodturning and wood finishing because it allows me to express my creativity in a tangible way. I love the satisfaction of seeing a piece of wood that I have transformed from a block of raw material into a beautiful finished product.

I hope you find the tips and advice on this website helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me. I'm always happy to help out and share my experiences. Thanks for visiting my website!