Polyurethane or Varnish – Which Is Better for Your Hardwood Floor?

When it comes to protecting and enhancing the beauty of your hardwood floors, choosing the right finish is crucial. Two popular options for finishing hardwood floors are polyurethane and varnish. Both have their own set of advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to understand the differences between the two before making a decision. We will try to delve into the benefits and drawbacks of polyurethane and varnish to help you determine which is better suited for your hardwood floor.


Polyurethane is a synthetic resin that creates a durable protective layer on hardwood floors. It comes in two main types: oil-based and water-based. Oil-based polyurethane offers a warm amber hue to the wood, while water-based polyurethane dries clear, preserving the natural color of the wood. One of the main advantages of polyurethane is its superior durability and resistance to scratches, spills, and wear and tear. It also provides UV protection, preventing your hardwood floors from fading over time. However, polyurethane can be more challenging to apply than varnish, requiring multiple coats and longer drying times.


On the other hand, varnish is a traditional natural finish made from resins, oils, and solvents that forms a hard protective coating on hardwood floors. Varnish enhances the natural beauty of wood with its rich amber tone and deep luster. It is easier to apply than polyurethane as it typically requires fewer coats and has quicker drying times. However, varnish may not be as durable as polyurethane and can yellow over time due to exposure to sunlight. Additionally, varnish tends to require more maintenance in terms of refinishing compared to polyurethane.

What to Choose?

When deciding between polyurethane and varnish for your hardwood floor, consider factors such as foot traffic in your home, desired level of sheen, maintenance preferences, and budget constraints. If you have pets or children who are hard on your floors or if your hardwood floors receive a lot of sunlight exposure, polyurethane may be the better choice due to its superior durability and UV protection. On the other hand, if you prefer a classic look with rich color tones and don’t mind occasional maintenance touch-ups, varnish could be an ideal option for your hardwood floors.

In conclusion, both polyurethane and varnish have their own unique qualities that make them suitable finishes for hardwood floors. Ultimately, the best choice for your hardwood floor depends on your personal preferences and lifestyle needs. Whether you opt for the durability of polyurethane or the classic elegance of varnish, ensure that proper preparation and application techniques are followed to achieve a beautiful finish that will protect your hardwood floors for years to come. Make sure to consult with flooring professionals or interior designers if you’re unsure which finish is best suited for your specific needs.