Polyurethane is the most popular among existing wood finishes for logical reasons. Basically, there are two types of poly finishes – water based and oil based. While the former represents technological advancement, the latter has passed the test of time, mostly because of its durability. The words “polyurethane finish” still refer to the oil-based options, while you have to mention “water-based polyurethane” specifically for the other one. Our current article is devoted to letting you know details about oil based polyurethanes.
Best Oil Based Polyurethane Finish List – Different Purposes
As we have researched, not every polyurethane finish is suitable for all purposes. These are produced to meet specific, a few, or sometimes different purposes. Suggesting top finishes according to the category, suitability, and use is, therefore, best for users. Here is a list of best-in-class oil based polyurethanes:
Best for Indoor – Rust Oleum 9041H
Best for Indoor & Outdoor – Minwax Helmsman Spar
Fastest Drying – Minwax Fast Dry
Best for Marine – Rust Oleum Spar Varnish
Best Oil Based Gel – General Finishes SQ
Best Oil & Wax Combo – Tried & True Original
Best Stain & Polyurethane – Minwax PolyShades
Types of Oil Polyurethane Finishes
Based on the sheen, there are four types of oil polyurethane finishes: matte, satin, semi-gloss, and high gloss. Besides liquid formulation, oil-based polys are also available in “Gel” form. Some also count the blend of oil & wax, or stain & poly as a type of oil-borne finish.
What is the Most Durable Oil Polyurethane?
Generally, the poly withstanding more than others against high-traffic and wear and tear for a long is considered the most durable. Considering that, the hardest and most durable oil based polyurethane finish is Duraseal. A few other oil polys compete with Duraseal’s durability – amongst those include Rust-Oleum Premium.
Where Can You Use Oil Polyurethane Finishes?
As long as you don’t fear the risks that oil-based polys contain or need any other particular wood finish (waterborne poly, shellac, or epoxy resin), you can use oil polys for most indoor and outdoor wood projects. That includes hardwood surfaces, doors, floors, tables, kitchens, furniture, patio, shelves, wood trims, and other wooden objects. Oil polys look richer and keep the applied surface extra-protected for a long time.
Matte, Satin, Semi-gloss, High Gloss – Which Sheen to Choose?
It totally depends on your taste, meaning what look you prefer on your wooden surface determines the selection. Regarding performance and durability, all are equal. Just two things to remember:
- The glossier the oil finish, the more it prons to make the underlying imperfections visible.
- The matte finish, by default, reduces the visibility of existing/future scratches and wear and tear.
Exterior or Interior Oil Polys – Some Basics
Outdoor oil polyurethanes are suitable for indoor use, but indoor oil polys are not right for outdoor use. Wooden objects, exposed to sunlight, become a victim of UV radiation. It causes photo-oxidation – decay of wood’s lignin (an element that makes wood cell walls hard and strong) – leading to wood damage.
Therefore, buy the particular finishes labeled with “for outdoor use” to prevent such damage, as they contain anti-UV additives.
Wipe On, Brush On, or Spray – What’s the Right Method?
For all polyurethanes, including oil-borne solvents, the application process varies according to their type and formulation. Producers market each sediment with a specific application method, basically any of the three modes – brushing with a brush, wiping with a cloth or foam, and spraying (canned). The third method is less likely suggested, while the first and second methods are standard.
- Brushing (use of brush as an applicator) is preferred on flat surfaces and a wide area. Where you need a thick coating, the brush-on method should be a must.
- Wiping (use of cloth, pad, or foam) is recommended where brushing may generate drips. Therefore, it is best for contoured wood surfaces like stair balusters and crown molding. When you want a thin coating, it should be your way.
- As long as you can get your job done with brushing or wiping, do not use spray cans, as they will give you a less tough coating. However, for hard-to-reach spots, where you have no other way, this should be your remedy.
Oil Based vs Water Based Polyurethane
These two are very different by nature and going simultaneously with their share in the wood coating industry, expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.25 % from 2019 to 2026. Oil-based polys are unparalleled in strength and durability, while water-based polys are topper at safety and fast-curing!
Those who ask – is oil based polyurethane better and harder or waterborne? – should go through the following table.
|Fact||Water Based||Oil Based|
|Applicability||Wooden floors that requires a truly clear finish with quicker drying||High-traffic spots requiring long durability; where warm amber required|
|Advantages||Ease of application; fast drying; less VOCs, less odor, and eco-friendly; non-flammable; less yellowing; smooth and shiny; easy clean up||Inexpensive; super durable; moisture-resistant; less amount is enough for desired result; warm amber effect; UV resistance|
|Downsides||Takes more amount for desired result; less fit for high-traffic spots; scratch and scrape visibility; less UV resistance||Slow drying; high amount of VOCs; health risks; flammable; tend to get yellow over time|
|Decision||Water-based polyurethane is a great choice for indoor floors and where you need a true clear finish||Oil-based polyurethane is good choice for outdoor floors and where you need a warm amber color|
How Long Does it Take to Dry and Cure Oil Polys?
Generally, dry time between two coats of oil polys is 12 to 24 hours. In extraordinary conditions, it may reduce to 4 hours (fast-dry oil solvents) or increase up to 72 hours (on already sealed surfaces). Curing is a different thing, which may take 15 to 30 days.
How Many Coats Of Oil Based Polyurethane Do I Need?
Generally, 2 coats of oil poly finish supported by another coat of lacquer sealer is suggested for most wooden projects. But for extra-protection of high-traffic floors, outdoor patios and some other projects, experts may recommend up to four coats (five coats in extraordinary cases).
Is Oil Based Polyurethane Waterproof?
Waterproof means impervious to water. In that sense, neither oil-based nor waterborne polys are waterproof, meaning they don’t make woods impervious to water. But both make the surface water-resistant or water-resilient, meaning capable of resisting water penetration up to a certain degree, not entirely.
How Long Does Oil Based Polyurethane Last?
Gloss oil-based poly and varnish last longer with a lifespan from 10 years to 20 years. But satin oil finishes have less durability – it can last up to 10 years – as the flattering agents and pigments of satin finish incapacitate the driers.
However, among the available wood finishes, oil-based polys are cheaper and long-lasting. Whatever you compare oil polys with either water-based coatings, shellac, wax, or oil-sealer, it outplays others. But some other wood finishes like aluminum oxide, moisture-cure urethane, and acid-cured finish simply outplay oil polys regarding durability.
Problems with Oil Based Polyurethane – Does It Turn Yellow?
Oil generated finishes are diluted with spirits or other flattering agents. Wrong ratio and timing may lead to discoloration, imperfection, or even a total mess. But the most common problem is yellowing over time. Generally, it happens when applied in light color paints or to white wooden surfaces.
How Do You Fix Yellowing Polyurethane?
You can not remove the amber hue but can prevent a total mess with caution. Avoid applying the oil polys on light color coats or light-color woods. But what if it’s already turning to be yellow? Use 220-grit sandpaper and scuff the old finish to apply a new coat.
Can You Mix Tung Oil with Polyurethane?
Yes, you can. It is indeed a great way to get a custom finish compatible with your wood structure. Tung oil helps achieve a more rustic and rich look, giving the impression that you applied too much time to make the finish more vintage, visible, and attractive.
We’ve tried to cover the facts most relevant to oil based poly finish. We’ve been very precise on what we tried to mean. That means information seems brief but the most accurate so far. We believe it will help in your research for quality polyurethanes.