Polycrylic vs Polyurethane

Polycrylic vs polyurethane If you’ve just made your own furniture and are ready to give it a good finish, you need to make a wise choice between polycrylic vs¬†polyurethane. What are these two choices and how do you make out what’s good for you?

Polyurethane: This is a protective finish that is available in an oil base and a water base. It also has two more variants in terms of finish–glossy and satin finish.

Water-based polyurethane: While water-based polyurethane is low in toxicity and odor, it is also more transparent and dries faster, as against its oil-based counterpart which comes with a trace of color.

Applications of water-based polyurethane: It is used as a good finish for furniture or objects that are not exposed to very hot or cold weather. This includes bookcases, desks, picture frames and side tables.

Oil based polyurethane: This is more durable than its water-based counterpart, especially in extreme heat. When applied to wood, it gives the wood a golden lustre and a very faint yellowish tint.

See more over here.

Applications of oil-based polyurethane: This form of polyurethane works well when finishing kitchen tables and wooden flooring and surfaces that may be exposed to water.

Pros and cons of Polyurethane:


  • It adds a shiny lustre to wood
  • It is almost entirely scratch-proof
  • It is highly durable
  • It forms a solid protective cover over wood


  • It takes long to dry–about 12 hours
  • It is flammable and toxic, so it needs air for ventilation
  • Not only does it have potential to cause explosions, but it also brings about health and fire concerns when inhaled or absorbed through the skin
  • It can only be used in a very airy area and the vapors should not be inhaled. This requires the use of protective equipment

How to apply Polyurethane: Sand your furniture or wooden object using fine grit sandpaper. Once you take off any blemishes on the wood, wipe off the sawdust. Make a solution of oil-based polyurethane and mineral spirit and apply it in long strokes on the surface of the wood.

If there are any drip marks on the wood, even it out. Apply varnish in undiluted form as the second and third coats and allot 24 hours as drying time. When the wood surface has dried entirely, cut any drips evenly, using a razor. Within the next 48 hours, apply the last coat.

Here’s a short tutorial on how to apply polyurethane:

Polycrylic: This is a water-based protective coat, available in satin and glossy finishes. With the help of a roller, it can be applied. It has the advantage of a quick drying time. It can be used on the wood surfaces of maple, ash and birch since they are not tinted.

Applications of Polycrylic: It works well on children’s tables, desks and furniture.

Pros and Cons of Polycrylic


  • Polycrylic is highly affordable
  • It is easy to clean
  • Its finish is highly durable
  • On lighter shades it shows up as a clear finish


  • It is difficult to apply as it has a thin consistency
  • It dries fast, making it difficult to work with large chunks of wood
  • If applied very thickly on dark paint, it shows up as milky

How to apply Polycrylic: Make the surface dust-free or you will get an uneven finish. Sand the surface using fine grit paper. Next, apply polycrylic thinly and let it dry. Once again, sand with grit paper. Finish with two additional coats.

How to choose: Choosing between Polycrylic and Polyurethane depends largely on whether the wood object is going to be used in a high traffic area or low. It also depends on whether the object is going to be in contact with water and what its drying time will be.

Author: John Clax

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