Polycrylic vs polyurethane – which one is better? This is a tough question as they both serve the same purpose. Polycrylic is a water-based substance and polyurethane is an oil-based substance.
Polycrylic Vs Polyurethane
One thing that you need to do to hardwood floors, wood furniture, and anything else wooden that won’t be covered, is to protect it with a good sealer. But learning why this is important is as important as doing it.
Polycrylic Vs Polyurethane: Why Sealing Wood Is Important
Sealing wood is even more important than staining it. While stain can tint the wood, sealer or a protective finish can protect it. This is very important if you want to get the most out of your furniture or floor.
Sealing wood can be the difference in your furniture ending up with scratches in a week and not getting scratched for decades. Some wood does need to be resealed every few years, but you will know when.
Polycrylic Vs Polyurethane
Now it’s time to get to know the different types of sealants. Most professionals use the two primary protective finishes. We will be comparing polycrylic vs polyurethane. Both can be excellent choices.
But before you know which one is better for your project, you need to find out the difference between the two. Each of them has its own benefits but learning which one does what can help you decide.
Oil Vs. Water
One of the biggest differences when comparing polycrylic vs polyurethane finishes is that one of them is only water-based. Polyurethane can be both water-based and oil-based but polycrylic can only be one.
Oil-based polyurethane is the only one that is heat-resistant and moisture resistant. Water-based polyurethane contains dries faster and is safer to use because it gives off fewer fumes when you are using it.
Polycrylic is always water-based and is less toxic than either polyurethane option. It doesn’t tolerate heat or moisture well but it works great if you are susceptible to breathing problems or want a safer coating.
Tinting Vs. Shining
Oil-based polyurethane usually dries with a glimmer that is tinted with a warm tone. Water-based polyurethane dries completely clear, so it’s a better option if you want to keep the natural color of the wood.
Polycrylic is a great option if you apply a thin and even coat. Otherwise, it ends up with a white, milky consistency. It applies white but if you do it right, it dries clear just like water-based polyurethane.
Strength Vs. Strength
Yes, you read that right. Both water-based coatings are rather strong but not nearly as durable as the oil-based polyurethane. Furniture painted with an oil-based coating will last longer than those painted with a water-based one.
That said, the water-based ones are also weaker when it comes to fumes. They are safer to have around and use without a mask. Especially water-based polycrylic sealant. This can help you choose which to get.
Especially since oil-based sealers are extremely flammable. They aren’t as much after they dry but they should never be applied in intense heat nor near a fire. The same can be true for water-based polyurethane but oil-based is more flammable.
What Should I Choose? Polycrylic Vs Polyurethane
1. Minwax Polycrylic
Minwax Polycrylic may be the best option for polycrylic protective coatings. It is known for drying with a crystal clear finish and works perfectly for light woods like maple, ash, and birch. It can even be placed over another stain.
The finish dries in about two hours and is ready for a second coat! It is also easy to clean up since it is water-based and promises that it doesn’t yellow. The coating comes in gloss, semi-gloss, satin, matte, and ultra-flat.
Promising Review – “I love this product for finishing off my painted wood art projects. It seals my painted designs giving them a protective coating and I love the high gloss shine. There is no overpowering smell so I can use it indoors at my studio work table which is right next to my kitchen and living room and still get no complaints from the family. The product is fast and easy to use since it is water based and all I need do to clean up is run my brush under the faucet for a few minutes. A coat of this dries super fast allowing me to finish a project with several coats in a day. But for most projects I find that one coat is enough to give a piece a decorative shine. One word of caution to crafters however, if you use any of the oil based “paint pens” on a project you need to add those paint pen features AFTER you have poly-ed the piece. If you try to polycrylic over your paint pen designs it can break down and smear the paint pen colors.”
2. Minwax Polyurethane
Minwax Polyurethane is known for providing long-lasting protection and beautiful shine for almost any wood surface. It can be used on both finished and unfinished wood because it is oil-based and won’t absorb into unfinished wood.
If you are looking for an oil-based coating for your topcoat then this will probably be your safest bet. Everyone loves Minwax and this particular can gets amazing reviews time and time again. You can’t go wrong with it.
Promising Review – “Great product! Great price! As a professional woodworker I’ve probably bought several hundred of the minwax polyurethane cans to spray my projects. Quality finish with an rotating spray fan for horizontal and vertical applications and a product that is almost impossible to get sags or drips and highly water resistant, oh yeah, and no cleanup, just toss the can in the trash.”
What Finish Should I Choose? Polycrylic Vs Polyuerthane
The finish is relevant when choosing polycrylic vs polyurethane. Sealant finishes are just like paint finishes. Here are the main types of finishes to choose from and what they mean. Hopefully, it can help you choose which one is best for you.
- Flat or matte – gives the most natural look. It is flat and not shiny but it still protects just as well. If you don’t want to change the look of the wood but still want to protect it then this is a wonderful choice.
- Satin – satin is a good choice for a slight glimmer that hides scratches and imperfections the best. If you can’t decide which finish to choose then choose satin because it is a safe choice for any project.
- Semi-gloss – this is a very popular choice because it is a middle-ground. It is shiny but also hides imperfections. Semi-gloss is gorgeous and is almost as safe to choose as satin, but not quite. It still doesn’t hide imperfections as well.
- High-gloss – this is the shiniest and most reflective choice. It may be impressive, however, it does show imperfections the most. If your wood isn’t perfect or if there is a lot of light that will shine on the wood, then it’s not a great choice.
How To Apply Protective Polycrylic and Polyurethane Coating To Wood
Applying a protective coating to wood is fairly easy. If you’ve ever painted or stained wood before then you already know how to do this. But just in case, let’s go through the steps to use polycrylic vs polyurethane on wood.
Step 1: Remove Previous Coats
It’s best if you remove any previous paint, varnish, or other finishes before applying anything new. So do this by sanding down the wood. For best results, use 120-grit sandpaper on refinished wood and 80-grit on new wood.
Yes, even if the wood is new, it will need to be sanded down because sometimes an invisible protective coating is added in the factory or warehouse. This can also remove any stamps used to date or label the boards.
Step 2: Clean The Piece
After sanding, wipe off the dust and sand with a clean cloth. Then, sand with 180-grit lightly to remove anything left not smooth by the stronger sandpaper. With sandpaper, the higher grit, the smoother and softer the finish will be.
Finally, dust once more, vacuum up and wipe the surface with a damp, lint-free cloth or sponge. It’s a good idea to do this all in a well-ventilated area s both sawdust and sand grit can affect your lungs.
Step 3: Apply First Coat
Apply the first coat of finish, usually with a soft-bristle brush. Start with a very thin coat. If there are hard-to-reach areas, you can take care of them with spray polyurethane which usually coats wonderfully.
After you apply the first coat, let it dry for a couple of hours. Then lightly sand it. You don’t want to make it too rough or remove the first coat. Just sand it enough so that the second coat will apply easily.
Step 4: Add Remaining Coats
After you sand the first coat, you are ready to apply more coats. You will probably need to apply about three coats, depending on the type of wood you are covering. Unfinished wood will need more coats than finished.
It’s a good idea to wear a mask, especially if you are using oil-based polyurethane. If you can’t use it outside, then go ahead and open a window with a fan in it and put the fan facing out to take the fumes away.