Polycrylic vs Polyurethane vs Lacquer (Which Wooden End is Finest?)

Polycrylic vs Polyurethane vs Lacquer (Which Wooden End is Finest?)

polycrylic vs polyurethane stain

It by no means fails. You’ve simply completed a brand new venture or sanded down an previous piece of furnishings to revive it and everyone you discuss to tells you to make use of one thing else because the end.

The issue is, all finishes are NOT created equal, and what works finest on one venture may show a catastrophe for one more.

Let’s sit again and check out the Massive Three, first on their very own, then comparatively. There’s no clear winner right here, so we’ll do our greatest to indicate you tips on how to decide the proper software for every job, with examples for every alongside the best way.

Right here’s how polycrylic, polyurethane, and lacquer wooden finishes evaluate.

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polycrylic wood finish

Polycrylic finishes are water-based merchandise you is probably not as conversant in. They’re designed for indoor use and add a protecting layer to your wooden with related outcomes as polyurethane.

Advisable Product: Minwax Polycrylic Protecting End


These finishes have very low odor and are comparatively protected on the VOC (risky natural compound) entrance in comparison with oil polyurethane. In addition they are inclined to dry fully clear in most circumstances, making them a more sensible choice for lighter woods.


Any interruption throughout the curing course of can mar the floor, leaving unattractive scratches in an in any other case good floor.  You additionally can not use polycrylic on outside surfaces, because it has much less resistance to water.

Whereas it has some sturdiness towards warmth, it’s not almost nearly as good as oil-based polyurethane and shouldn’t be utilized in locations there’s a variety of warmth.

Of the three, polycrylic can be the hardest to use. It has a really runny consistency that makes it simple to depart droplet marks or streaks when not utilized fastidiously. It dries a lot slower than it first seems, forcing you to attend 4 hours or extra between coats.

When to Use Polycrylic

Polycrylic is sturdy sufficient to make use of on pure wood flooring with mild to reasonable foot visitors, in addition to most furnishings. It really works effectively on lighter coloured woods that will turn into tinted when utilizing a non-clear end.

Kitchen tables are a very good use, though it is best to use polyurethane end when doing the cupboards above your range.

Can You Put Polycrylic over Polyurethane?

The reply to that is hotly debated, as most older craftsmen had “don’t combine” drilled into their heads. Nonetheless, many fashionable DIYers and contractors advocate frivolously sanding the polyurethane floor earlier than making use of a coat of polycrylic.

Ultimately, they might be pondering of water-modified polyurethane, which carries qualities of each oil and water primarily based polyurethanes. When unsure, test the product labels and check on a bit of scrap earlier than experimenting on a serious floor.

Alternatively, since each polyurethane and polycrylic are floor finishes, you’ll be able to merely sand right down to the naked wooden and apply the polycrylic from there.

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polyurethane wood finish

Polyurethane is an fascinating case, because it’s truly a type of plastic that has each stable and liquid functions. Liquid polyurethane could also be both water or oil-based, every with its personal quirks.

Advisable Product: Varathane Final Polyurethane


Water-based polyurethane is much less poisonous and dries rapidly. It received’t yellow wooden and is a well-liked selection for on a regular basis furnishings resembling bookshelves.

Oil-based polyurethane is extremely sturdy and has good warmth resistance, making it extra generally discovered on kitchen surfaces..


The oil-based coatings might discolor lighter wooden surfaces and take a minimal of 24 hours to treatment, making them a much less well-liked selection for on a regular basis woodworking. It has a nasty odor, due partially to the upper VOCs. Because of this, it’s not the most secure factor to have in your house.

In the meantime, water-based finishes mar simpler and have a low warmth tolerance, making them poor decisions for kitchens and close to different sources of warmth.

Normally, these finishes a pure bristle brush to make use of and is usually too thick to use with out diluting. As it’s a plastic materials, it doesn’t penetrate wooden, however as an alternative sits on the highest and have to be roughed with sandpaper for added layers to stay.

When to Use Polyurethane

Oil-based polyurethane is likely one of the finest decisions on the market for pure picket flooring. It’s additionally the only option for heavy-use furnishings and outside functions.

Because it carries a slight yellowish tint, it is best to solely apply it to darker woods the place it received’t be observed. Because it takes a very long time to dry, you have to be ready to isolate any initiatives for at the least a day after every coat

Water-based polyurethane is a superb selection for furnishings that doesn’t get heavy use. It dries faster and has fewer VOCs, making it a more sensible choice for houses the place there are well being considerations.

Can You Put Polyurethane over Polycrylic?

As with doing the reverse, you’ll all the time get a combined reply to this query. Whereas it could be potential to frivolously sand the polycrylic and apply the polyurethane on high, we’d counsel sanding right down to the naked wooden and placing the polyurethane on contemporary.

See Additionally: How Many Coats of Primer Earlier than Portray?


lacquer wood finish

Lacquers are literally a complete group of merchandise. Historically, they’re acrylic, nitrocellulose, polymer, or shellac-based. Extra fashionable variants are water-based.

Sadly, they’re changing into the underdog of right this moment’s ending world, taking a backseat to the polycrylic vs polyurethane conflict. Nonetheless, we really feel they nonetheless maintain benefit, and never simply because we love the underdogs.

Advisable Product: Watco Crystal Clear Lacquer


Lacquer is known for having a gorgeous sheen, though the precise vary might be anyplace from ultra-matte to satin to ultra-gloss, giving it a a lot wider vary of makes use of than one may first assume.

Its consistency is ideal for each brushing and making use of by way of low stress sprayer, making it simpler to use. The outcomes are a easy, even coating no matter your DIY stage.

By way of particular person bases, some include their very own perks. For instance, acrylic lacquer is extra sturdy and fewer more likely to yellow. In the meantime, water-based is VOC-free and dries sooner, plus it’s probably the most cost-effective.


Conventional solvent-based mixes have a excessive VOC content material, making them unattractive decisions for well being causes. The newer water-based lacquers lack the luster that lacquer is understood for. Nitrocellulose can be additionally extremely flammable, severely limiting its potential makes use of.

One other main draw back is in its low sturdiness. Lacquered surfaces are simple to mar or scratch, and the end will start to discolor over time, often yellowing.

When to Use

Lacquer by itself has some restricted use. Nonetheless, because it penetrates the wooden, it makes a superb companion to ground wax or different top-coat finishes.

Its extremely quick drying time and simpler software means it stays an excellent selection for furnishings that doesn’t expertise excessive visitors, in addition to for woodworking initiatives together with your youngsters (offered you decide one of many decrease toxicity variants, that’s).

The Wooden Finisher Awards

As we talked about earlier than, there isn’t any clear winner, as each product has its personal strengths. So as an alternative, let’s break all the pieces down into classes and maintain just a little awards competitors.


Lacquer is probably probably the most versatile, requiring no dilution to make use of with both brush or high-pressure sprayer. It tends to coat evenly and a number of layers might be utilized whereas ready for the primary coat of oil-based polyurethane to treatment.

Nonetheless, polyurethane is usually the only option for vertical surfaces, as a consequence of its thicker consistency.

Software Price

There’s no level making an attempt to resolve who has the most affordable cans when the true value lies within the software. Oil-based polyurethane is probably the most affordable to use, requiring solely a very good pure bristle brush.

Lacquers, with their versatility, are available in a detailed second. In the meantime, polycrylic ought to solely be used if you happen to actually have a very good hand, because it’s extremely runny and takes quite a few layers, requiring extra cans for a similar space.

Shade Management

Pure mild is an incredible factor. Nonetheless, UV rays are infamous for discoloring finishes.

Oil polyurethanes resists light-based discoloration however will itself add a tint to lighter woods. Because of this, polycrylic will get our vote for the most effective coloration management in each sunny and shaded rooms.

Drying Time

Lacquer is the clear winner right here, with water-based lacquers drying lightning quick in comparison with the competitors.

Polyacrylic has a comparatively brief floor drying time, however requires a minimal 4 hour wait, making each polycrylic and polyurethane a tough promote in a busy family.


Once you want sturdiness, there’s no better option than oil-based polyurethane. Polycrylics are a superb second selection and could also be the only option for lighter wooden surfaces.

Warmth Resistance

Oil-based polyurethane is the clear winner right here, arms down. Water-based competitors might discolor or in any other case undergo injury from warmth publicity.


VOCs are a rising concern worldwide. Current in virtually each family cleansing provide and even our bathe curtains, these poisonous substances have been linked to a variety of well being and respiratory points.

Formaldehyde particularly is extremely poisonous, and fumes are sometimes emitted from handled wooden. As security is all the time a priority, you might end up selecting a much less sturdy end when coping with infants who may very well be chewing in your end.

Water-based lacquer is by far the most secure selection, with extraordinarily low toxicity (and a few are even toxin-free). It must be famous that polycrylic truly is available in second right here, with a tremendously diminished VOC content material than polyurethane and solvent-based lacquers.


Nothing beats lacquer for sheen. Nonetheless, that’s to not say polyurethane can’t do an analogous job with little or no sacrifice made (most individuals received’t even discover, relying upon the room and pure lighting).

Each create a matte or shiny end, and whereas polycrylic additionally provides some gloss, it received’t make facet tables look as enticing as lacquer.

See Additionally: Finest Paint for Storage Partitions (Sort, Sheen, and Shade)

Water Resistance

That is basically a tie, with oil-based polyurethane providing the most effective general safety, particularly outside.

Nonetheless, the flexibility of lacquer to soak into wooden surfaces offers it a long-term edge that makes it the only option for safeguarding vintage furnishings. Paired with a wax topcoat, and lacquer can deal with ground spills like a champ.

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