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Difference between Polyurethane and Varnish

Difference between Polyurethane and Varnish

When it comes to protecting and preserving surfaces, it can be hard to know where to start. Though both polyurethane and varnish provide similar benefits, they are two distinct products with unique properties. With the right knowledge in hand, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on which product works best for your project and ensure the optimal level of protection you need. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between polyurethane and varnish so that you can decide which option is best for whatever surface(s) you may need to be protected or preserved!

What is Polyurethane?

Polyurethane is a type of sealant commonly used in various construction projects. Polyurethane is a two part chemical agent that when mixed together swells to become an adhesive foam.

  • This foam sets and hardens, creating an airtight seal that stands up well against movement, moisture, and everyday wear and tear. Polyurethane can be used both indoors and outdoors with great success, acting as a protector from winds, dust, dirt and other elements.
  • Polyurethane forms of sealant come with a number of benefits as it’s completely waterproof as well as highly durable and easy to apply with very little preparation or cleanup needed afterward.
  • It’s also one of the most cost efficient products on the market today, making it popular for DIYers on tight budgets. Whether the job is small or large scale, Polyurethane forms of sealant are an excellent choice when looking to complete any project quickly and efficiently.

What is Varnish?

Varnish is one of the most common forms of sealant used for a variety of tasks. It has the ability to act as both a clear adhesive and as a protective layer over surfaces that are otherwise vulnerable to damage.

  • Varnish is generally composed of either natural or synthetic resins, oils, and solvents, allowing it to form an impermeable coating that can be both highly durable and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Varnish comes in a number of finishes – from glossy and semi-glossy surfaces to rough, textured appearances – making it suitable for any number of applications.
  • As such, Varnish has quickly become one of the preferred forms of sealant for those looking for protection, versatility, and beauty all in one product.

Difference between Polyurethane and Varnish

Polyurethane and Varnish are both forms of sealant that can be used to protect a surface from scratches and other damage, but there are distinctive differences between the two.

  • Polyurethane is a liquid when applied, forming a durable plastic layer on a surface. It’s often used for protecting harder surfaces like wood or concrete.
  • On the contrary, the varnish is basically a suspension of synthetic resins in solvents; it contains no plasticizing components, so when it dries – usually taking several days – it takes on a hard and relatively low-luster finish.
  • Polyurethane will generally give you a more glossy sheen while varnish will provide more even coverage that needs little to no sanding in order to achieve a successful application.

Ultimately, based on your project goals and the intended result you’re looking to achieve with your sealant needs, choose either polyurethane or varnish!


If you’re still unsure of which product to choose for your project, we suggest testing a small, inconspicuous area with both varnish and polyurethane. You can then compare the results after they’ve had time to dry completely and make a decision based on your own observations. Whichever finish you ultimately decide on, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure the best possible outcome for your piece. apply these tips when considering what kind of top coat will best protect and enhance your own woodworking projects!

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