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Polyurethane vs. Polyacrylic: Which is the Best for Your Next Project?

You will hear a lot of people debating which finishing product is the best for home projects: polyurethane vs. polyacrylic. Every finish has its pros and cons, so it is still up to you which one should you prefer to use.

Both polyurethane and polyacrylic have some differences. So, having the knowledge about these two chemicals will give you a hint on which one is the most practical for you.

Overview of Polyurethane and Polyacrylic

Polyurethane vs. Polyacrylic: Which is the Best for Your Next Project?

Polyurethane is necessarily known as plastic in the form of liquid. But, it starts to dry up. You can find this in both water-based and oil versions. It varies from glossy to satin finish.Water-based versions have the lowest toxicity and odor. Plus, it has a crystal clear appearance, and it does not put any color as it dries up.

But, oil-based polyurethane leaves a slight amber color. Also, it dries up faster than the water-based option. Water-based versions are resistant to chemicals and heat.Moreover, they cannot hold up pretty well in severe conditions. But, experts advise that you use them for bookcases, desks, side tables, and picture frames.

Oil-based options are highly durable, especially regarding contacting with heat. They can also show up their natural, vibrant color. But, they put a slightly yellowish or amber tint.You can use it for the kitchen and coffee tables, as well as wood floors. It can take up too much time to dry than the water-based counterparts. Plus, they emit a strong odor.On the other hand, polyacrylic substances are high water-based acrylic with a mixture of a small amount of polyurethane. The protection they provide can withstand extreme conditions.

Plus, you can choose its glossy, semi-glossy, and satin options. They can offer oil-based finishes, and you may apply them using a similar applicator you use for the polyurethane.Also, it can hold up well to different surfaces and provide protection for the wood.

Pros of Polyurethane and Polyacrylic

Polyurethane vs. Polyacrylic: Which is the Best for Your Next Project?

Polyurethane is plastic, but in its liquid form. It can add a protective coating that is highly sturdy as it starts to dry up. Additionally, it gives a shiny appearance that is no match for the wood. The coating of polyurethane is quite hard and scratch-proof.

On the other hand, polyacrylic finish is long-lasting and durable. It is ideal for surfaces that you frequently use, including tables, desks, and furniture. The water-based and oil-modified versions can dry up precisely.

Plus, it does not give off an amber or a yellowish hue than the oil-based option. It is perfect if you are looking for a bright finish. Also, this is for people who do not want their projects to have colors.

Cons of Polyurethane and Polyacrylic

Polyurethane vs. Polyacrylic: Which is the Best for Your Next Project?

Polyurethane is a flammable substance when it turns into a liquid. It is highly toxic, and people should avoid breathing it. So, you should use this chemical in well-ventilated places.Additionally, you have to wait for longer periods just for the substance to dry in between coats. With that, it has its plastic feature that may take some time to harden and accommodate another layer when you apply it.

A downside of polyacrylic comes with a runny consistency, which makes it quite hard to apply. As you work on vertical surfaces, you should apply a thin coat in between and observe carefully for drips.When it dries up faster, it may be challenging to use on large surfaces. Also, you need to wait for some time before it cures, so you can’t do anything until you reach such point.It may dry up quickly, but you have to wait for a period until polyacrylic cures. It can work well in latex paint, but this is not a good choice for matte latex paint. At times, it may also become runny that will leave cracks as it totally dries up.Also, polyacrylic does not appear to be transparent after all. It may still offer you a white finish when applied on dark surfaces.


Although there is no right answer whether to choose polyurethane over polyacrylic or vice versa, the option is still in your hands. You also have to take note of the surface and the conditions you may use.

For instance, if you want the surface to expose to water, then you can use the polyurethane version. If you need that surface to dry up fast, then you can use polyacrylic substances. Thus, what matters here is your preference.