Difference Between Polyurethane and Varnish (With Table)

Polyurethane and Varnish are widely used when there is a need to add finishing to a hardwood floor. It is a very important phase because it adds quality to home improvement. It has an amazing finish touch to wood. It has high durability. Varnish is an old finish touch. The durability is different in both the material.

Polyurethane vs Varnish

The difference between Polyurethane and Varnish is Polyurethane is an oil-based finish, whereas Varnish contains some solvents and resins. Polyurethane can be toxic if it is oil-based, but it is not toxic if it is water-based. Polyurethane is used mainly in indoor furniture, but Varnish is used everywhere, wherever needed.

Polyurethane is a wood finish that makes the hardwood surface shinier. It is available oil-based and water-based. The oil-based is more durable, and the protection margin is higher. It has a disadvantage which is toxicity in nature. The choice depends on the person what kind of finish is preferred by the person.

Varnish is a combination of resin and oil with some kind of solvents. It is resistant to UV. It is very much used for outdoor wood finish. It is done in garden benches or decks. It is widely applied to softwoods. It is susceptible to cracking or peeling. It is not toxic.

Comparison Table Between Polyurethane and Varnish

Parameter of ComparisonPolyurethaneVarnish
DefinitionOil-based or Water-based wood finishA wood finish made of resin and oil with some solvents.
DurabilityHighLow
CostCostlyCheap
Speed Of DryingFastSlow
StructureHardThin
UsageIndoorsOutdoors

What is Polyurethane?

It is a wood finish. It is available oil-based or water-based. Water-based is durable. Oil-based has high durability. It gives robust protection. Oil-based is more durable than water-based. Oil-based as it terms it has oil in it also leads to some danger. It is highly toxic due to the oil in the mixture.

The appearance is milky in the container. As soon as it is applied to the wood, it makes the wood shinier. It is of thick quality. It is applied in two or three coats so that the surface is perfectly shiny and smooth. Oil has abrasion-resistant on the wood.

Oil-based can lead to scratches very easily. Both of them are used in only indoor polish. It does not protect the surface from UV protection. The UV protection is increased, but still, it does not protect how much varnish can. It is widely used in indoor painting. 

The toxicity level in Polyurethane is very low in the water-based.

If it is applied to outdoor things, then it may lead to cracks on the surface. This is why it is not advised to apply on outdoor things. A person may be allergic to oil-based which is why applying water-based indoors is advisable and suitable.

What is Varnish?

Varnish is made of resin and oil with some kind of solvents. It has a natural finish. It is widely used for the outdoor finish as it protects the surface from UV radiation. It does not get damaged due to water. There are many solid components present in Varnish, due to which it is very suitable in harsh weather climates.

It is applied on garden beaches, and varnish makes the bench look very shiny. The toxicity level in them is very low as compared to polyurethane. It is very flexible. It cannot break easily, not even due to shifting of the furniture. Varnish is mostly applied on softwoods due to its high durability.

Varnish is very thin, due to which it is applied in many coats so that it serves the purpose. It cannot leave the surface very easily. It is applied in several coats, which is why it takes time to dry and can take 6 hours maximum to dry up.

It is applied using a brush, and it is not so costly as polyurethane. It is a very old material of wood finish. Sometimes people may get confused with Varnish. It adds gloss to the softwood surface. It protects the surface from high radiation outdoors.

Main Differences Between Polyurethane and Varnish

  1. Polyurethane is an oil-based wood finish, whereas Varnish is a combination of resins, solvents, and oil.
  2. Polyurethane is more durable as compared to Varnish.
  3. Polyurethane gets dried up faster as compared to Varnish.
  4. Polyurethane is costlier than Varnish.
  5. Polyurethane is harder, but Varnish is thinner.
  6. Polyurethane is used indoors, but Varnish is used outdoors.

Conclusion

Polyurethane and Varnish are both amazing wood finish materials. This is widely applied based on its applications. Polyurethane is available in water-based and oil-based. It has its functions, advantages, and disadvantages, which are kept in mind, and then the suitable material is used for wood finish. It also depends on the person about what kind of shine is required and where it has to be applied.

Sometimes people may get confused with Varnish. It adds gloss to the softwood surface. Varnish has a natural finish. Oil has abrasion-resistant on the wood. Polyurethane is an oil-based wood finish, whereas Varnish is a combination of resins, solvents, and oil. Varnish is not so costly as polyurethane. The UV protection is increased, but still, it does not protect how much varnish can.

It is widely used for the outdoor finish as it protects the surface from UV radiation. Polyurethane has a disadvantage which is toxicity. Varnish does not get damaged due to water. It is widely used for the outdoor finish as it protects the surface from UV radiation. Oil-based as it terms it has oil in it also leads to some danger.

It is toxic. Polyurethane is harder, but Varnish is thinner. Finally, wood finish depends on the person’s preference. UV protection is a high advantage due to which its applications are only outdoors.

References

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/app.22432
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11998-016-9805-5
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