Are polyurethane coatings better than paint?


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Painting can be a messy and time-consuming chore, but a necessary one in many cases to protect wood surfaces from wear. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last forever, so you can consider it an ongoing issue, especially if we’re talking about outside projects. Having to paint house siding is one particularly big one.

You may be wondering if there is a better way of protecting wood than with just paint. And not just wood either, what about finding a durable concrete coating? One option is polyurethane. How does it measure up against paint around the house, both inside and out?

What is Polyurethane?

If you are considering using polyurethane coatings, you need to know a bit more about what you’re dealing with before you can compare it to using paint.

First of all, it’s actually a clear coating of liquid acrylic plastic that is used to protect surfaces. Plain polyurethane acts as a coating for existing treatments like paint or stain, but it will bring out the grain in the wood if used alone. You can purchase tinted blends of polyurethane that will add more colour to your projects.

It comes in water-based and oil-based formulas, with the oil-based version being the stronger and more durable of the two. The water-based polyurethane dries much more quickly and has fewer fumes to it.

Comparing with Paint

When it comes to durability, there is no comparison. Polyurethane is far tougher than paint and will last longer, especially in areas where knocks and scrapes are common (kitchen cabinets are a prime example).

You’ll get a much broader colour spectrum to choose from if you are going with paint. Then again, you can have it both ways if you don’t mind the extra work and treat your surfaces with paint and then a coating of clear polyurethane.

Paint does win out in terms of cost though. Poly products are more expensive, which is why most people don’t just polyurethane their whole house.

Drying time varies as well, but it will depend on the specific products you are considering. Oil-based paints take a long time to dry, and that makes them comparable to polyurethane products (dry to the touch in around 8 hours). Latex paints dry much quicker, less than 2 hours, which can make them a lot more suitable for some projects than using a poly product.

What about coverage? If the intention of your project is to cover up marks, discolourations or other problems in the wood, then using just a poly coating won’t do the trick. It goes on a lot like a stain, meaning it’s translucent to some degree. For actual opaque coverage, you’ll need to stick with paint.

As you can see, there are a lot of different aspects of these two products that set them apart. For protection and durability, the polyurethane coating is your best choice, but for most standard household projects, you can stick with paint. Using both may be time-consuming but it can provide the best of each one.


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