Polyurethane vs. Polyacrylic- The Two Competiting Finish Available

Polyurethane vs. Polyacrylic: The Two Competiting Finish Available

"I hope you love the products I recommend! When you buy through links on luxuryhomestuff.com, I may earn an affiliate commission."

Woodworking industry isn’t just about the saws, drills, brushes, paint rollers and the nailers, it is also about the final touch elements which enhance the texture of the wood along with giving it a great shine.

Whether it is varnish, shellac, polyurethane or polyacrylic, all of them are used for imparting that glow as well as to make it durable in favorable and unfavorable conditions for a long period of time.

So let’s go ahead and get to know the difference between the two majorly used finishing elements i.e. Polyurethane vs. Polyacrylic


General Overview:
Polyurethane vs. Polyacrylic

Polyurethane is a plastic layered in the liquefied state, which dries to gives you the perfect finish. It varies from satin to glossy and from water based to oil based.

Water Based Polyurethane – It is a low odor, low toxicity polyurethane which is very popular. It doesn’t add any color to the surface and dries very fast and is thus ideal to be used in woodworking projects, lessening the chances of messing up the finish.

It is generally used for bookcases, side tables, desks and picture frames comprising pieces of furniture not exposed to chemicals or heated extremes.

Oil Based Polyurethane – Oil Based Polyurethane adds color to the surface, thus enhancing the rich texture and quality of the wood.

As the oil based polyurethane takes much longer time to dry, the work should be done in a well-ventilated area with a respirator, and this oil based polyurethane needs to be applied using a rag or natural bristle.

It is durable and can be used on furniture to be kept in extreme heat or chemicals such as the kitchen table.

Well, one thing to be kept in mind when using polyurethane is that the room should be well ventilated as oil based polyurethane needs a longer stretch of time to dry, another major reason being that polyurethane is highly flammable and toxic.

Polyacrylic is basically a new candidate in the market which is water based as well as oil modified polyurethane, which allows the water-based protective coat to be applied over wood.

Polyurethane creates a durable as well as clear finish, resulting in no yellow tint. It dries very fast and is used in children furniture as well as chairs and tables. The protection of a Polyacrylic finish can withstand rough conditions and thus can be used over water based wood stains and bare wood as well.

It is a combination of goodness including fast drying times and is available in semi-gloss, satin and sometimes even in glossy finishes.

Polyurethane vs. Polyacrylic What’s The Real Difference?

Polyacrylic creates a durable finish and is great for surfaces that are very frequently used such as desks, kids' furniture, and tables. It is completely clear and does not have an oil based polyurethane. So it is best used when you don’t want a yellowish colored layer over your furniture and more so over light colored paint.

Polyacrylic is durable and has a well clear finish as compared to the yellow tint like oil based polyurethane finish, whereas polyurethane turns hard like plastic and becomes scratch proof as well.

polyurethane vs polyacrylic comparision via Two It Yourself

polyurethane vs polyacrylic comparision via Two It Yourself

Polyacrylic is also very affordable as compared to polyurethane products, and is suggestively used in high traffic objects such as table lamps and kids' furniture.

We all know that Polyacrylic is actually water based as well as oil modified polyurethane with the durability of oil-based polyurethane and other features of water based polyurethane.

One just cannot ignore the shine that polyurethane layering gives to expensive wood furniture and wooden flooring.

Top Picks: The Best of Polyurethane vs. Polyacrylic

  • Minwax Clear Gloss Polyurethane
  • General Finishes Water-base Polyurethane
  • Minwax 244444444 Minwaxc Polyacrylic

This is an oil based polyurethane which provides a protective and a clear finish.It is well known for providing long lasting beauty to your furniture, precisely any wood surfaces to be installed inside your house.

This Miniwax Clear Gloss polyurethane can be used on both finished as well as the unfinished wood used to make furniture, doors, cabinets, and floors and providing durability to the wooden surfaces.

Uses for each: Polyurethane vs Polyacrylic


Whenever we speak of polyurethane we need to classify it into water based and oil based polyurethane, so let’s go ahead and know about the uses of each of them in the wood working industry-Water Based Polyurethane is used for

The Oil Based Polyurethane is applied on furniture or wooden surfaces exposed to extreme heat and chemicals such as the

  • Kitchen Tables
  • Wood Flooring
  • Surfaces that may get wet
  • Paint Brush


Polyacrylic is generally used to add that intrinsic touch to interior wood furniture or surfaces as well as the doors and cabinets.

Light wood surfaces such as ash, maple, birch are enhanced by this tint less Polyacrylic products. Polyacrylic also specializes in water-based wood stains.

Advantages - Polyurethane vs Polyacrylic

  • Polyurethane
  • Polyacrylic

It is an extremely versatile material used to coat different types of wood surfaces.The durability, as well as the finish of the product, depends entirely on the fact whether it is a water based polyurethane or an oil based polyurethane finish.

It is quite durable and is actually plastic in liquid form, giving a shiny look to the wood surface.The coat is hard and scratch proof as well.Polyurethane is elastic as well as highly resistance to damage and spills.

Water based polyurethane has a lighter odor as well as low toxicity and gives a transparent finish. It dries faster as well and can thus be used on furniture made, modifications or repairs done on a very short notice.

It is ideally used on wooden surfaces away from extreme heat, chemical as well as damp conditions.

Bottom-line Polyurethane vs. Polyacrylic

Well, even after all these discussions one may stand confused as to which product to choose. So, to help you out a bit more we have jotted down a checklist for your convenience.

Ask yourself whether your wooden surface will be exposed to extreme conditions such as heat i.e. when used on a kitchen table or whether the surface is prone to be wet very often or maybe sometimes.

If so whole heartily go for oil based polyurethane for the wood surface.If it is to be dried very fast, for work done in workstations or at short notice or at places lacking ventilation, one should go for the water based polyurethane finish.

If you consider a white lamp or a decorative piece in your living room, it is generally done with Polyacrylic, because of it very advisable to be used on products facing high traffic.

So, one should just go through these questions as well as their budget before buying a can of the finish for their furniture. They need to know their wood along with the results they require if they need the clear finish of Polyacrylic and water based Polyurethane or the hue of the oil based polyurethane.

Scroll to Top