Best Polyurethane For Outdoors in 2022 (TOP 5) & Basic Guideline

Are you looking for a coating to shield up your beautifully constructed piece of wood? Then missing out on using the best polyurethane for outdoors on it is just unforgivable! They just do not take time to fully dried and can finely protect your exterior.

While giving your wooden piece of exterior an exquisite finish, even better if being applied with the best polyurethane for outdoor furniture, they can prevent unexpected scratches, cracks, or build-up.

Getting the best polyurethane for outdoors might be a bit challenging for some of us, especially when there are lots of products with the exact same similarity being introduced out there.

So, some studies and research have been done independently and shared with you via this writing, you will be introduced to some highly recommended items, short by their special features, and throughout some noticeable pieces of knowledge.

In a rush? Here is a list of the best polyurethane for outdoor wood with actual ratings, and reviews.

And if not, a deeper look was prepared based on multiple aspects, advantages, or disadvantages.

So, shall we begin our journey?

The Top-Rated Polyurethane For Outdoors (Recommendation)







Noticeable Information Around The Best Polyurethane For Outdoors

1. Varnish  Or Polyurethane Is Better For Outdoor Application?

best finish for cedar outdoors

Polyurethane is a liquid plastic-like form, often both a completely manufactured plastic or a mixture with gum.

You may have multiple options to choose from others but with polyurethane, the only option is either oil-based or water-based.

In this type of outdoor wood finish, you can choose the sheen you desired for the wood surface even though some of them may get milky as you stir them up, but this means nothing as you put the polish on the wood and start the magic show.

In terms of safe, water-based polyurethane products lately had their reputation for inflaming materials and safety features, which means it would be safer for children when playing around the finished outdoor furniture.

If you want a finished surface that can handle numerous traffic and weather affection, then you should go with polyurethane finishes due to their heat and water-resistant.

best wood finish for outdoors

Varnishes are made in a thick liquid form, specialized made for outdoor projects like benches or fences, this type of polish is not well-known for their sheen coating for the outers damages protection they give but the high UV resistance and less toxic than others.

The disadvantages of the varnish are it usually takes more time to be completely dried and requires more coats to protect the surface from little scratches, dents, or major marks, the varnish does not perform so well at this point.

Being said, if you are an expert and all you want from an exterior wood polisher is to protect the wood from damages and only use it for outdoor uses, this will be the one, but for experts only.

3. The Difference Between Water-based And Oil-based Products:

There are two main types of finishes being sold on the market and home supply centers, and each one of them has its own key to success, shall we take a closer look at two of them to find out?

best finish for outdoor cedar furniture

This type of finish gives a more pleasing look to the wood and more durable, particularly natural woods.

These usually have more base on them, appearance, and shines.

And some of the most concerning aspects, oil-based products take more time to be fully dried and have some odor, nevertheless come at a lower price tag if being compared to water-based products.

best finish for outdoor wood sign

At the upside-down, water-based products tend to dry faster, are less damaging to the environment, and leave no smell while using, these are some noticeable things that need to be concerned with care.

Furthermore, water-based polyurethanes only contain 30-35% bodies, so you will need to combine more coats of water-based and this can lead to cost more than oil-based products.

4. Satin, Matte, Gloss, And More…

There are many types of finishes out there, using the wrong one may lead to unsatisfied coloring, money loss, or even worse, the time to repair and the headaches come along with it.

On the other hand, having the right one can be quite pleasing and easy to use, it is not difficult, let me show you some!

best finish for outdoor wood table

It has a bit of shine, the most basic type of paint coating used in homes as a coating for interior as it works well for the exterior furniture.

Satin finishes tend to featured with mildew and fading resistance, making them perfect for outdoor use.

They’re also quite easy to clean and maintain.

Matte paint is not meant to reflect light, which makes it ideal to hide surface stains like nail pops, patches, and stitchings.

That makes it an excellent coating for a cover, outdoor armchairs, could be one of the best finish for outdoor wood table.

Some shortcomings, they can be quite tricky to clean and maintain.

what the best finish for outdoor wood furniture

These types of paint have more than just a touch of a sheen than satin.

It is additionally increased in resistance to moisture than others, making it excellent for constant contact with water areas like pools or exterior chairs and tables for example.

High-gloss paints are extremely reflective when exposed to sunlight.

So, this makes it perfect for surfaces that often get exposed to lights such as doors, window frames.

Especially, it stands out against walls applied with less reflecting coatings like satin or matte.

However, high-gloss paint can betray you by showing stains if not being clean properly and requires more extra finishes than others.

Best Polyurethane For Outdoors Shortlist (Updated List)

Product imagesProduct namesEditor's ratingPrice
MINWAX 632054444.6Check
RUST-OLEUM 250241H4.5Check
RUST-OLEUM 93414.4Check

*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can be changed

The Best Polyurethane For Outdoors

best polyurethane for outdoor furniture


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Being considered as a leader of A-class, one of the very few most trustworthy and reliable products out there on the market.

This water-based polish is the toughest and most durable shield for a wooden surface that can be bought commercially.

The durability is founded on UV light blocking, moisture resistance, and the mentioned super-hard coating helps to prevent outer damages such as weather damages, scratches, holes, and marks, all of that just in a layer of finish and you will be offered with four different coatings (flat/satin/semi-gloss/gloss)

Also, this finish can be named after the Flash because of its fast-drying polyurethane formula.

This is perfect for those who are not a fan of waiting or usually get involved in close deadlines.

Though some noticeable things must be known before applying on the wood surface, as with all of the rest water-based products, this one can be used and clean effortlessly and avoid using it on white surfaces because it may get yellowed in a short time.


  • Extra durable
  • Offer an elegant finish
  • Superfast drying
  • Easy to apply
  • Multiple coatings offered
  • Waterproof
  • UV lights resistant
  • Trustworthy manufacturer
  • Easy to clean
  • Low odor
  • Value for money


  • Can be a bit pricey
  • Not suitable for white surfaces

And you may wonder, what is the best finish for outdoor cedar furniture or any kind of wood, this is a loud and clear answer.

This is all you need even if you are new in the game or already a professional, missing out on this one is just unreasonable.


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This item is a good choice for light-colored woods. Especially for external fittings like doors, windows, or outdoor furniture.

This means you can use it on multiple external furniture or even pool floors without worrying that it may be damaged easily because of the weather and UV light resistance.

The manufacturer of this product made it to be an A-class product, which means it can handle nicely in both terms of protection and appearance.

Speaking of looking, this one offers a clear satin finish with beautifully shining and featured with yellowing resistance.

As with every of the most water-based products out there, you can easily apply or clean this finish to almost every kind of wood as long as they are well prepared.

With this water-based product, you can quickly finish your woodworking project effortlessly thanks to the fast-drying yet very durable formula, but you will want to apply three of four coatings for extra protection because the coating offered is quite thin.


  • Durable
  • Clear satin finish
  • Fast drying
  • Easy to apply
  • Non-yellowing
  • Reputable manufacturer
  • Easy to clean
  • Low odor
  • Value for money


  • Requires many coating

All you need to do when working with this oil-based product is stir it up and you are ready to work with your project, do not shake it up because it will produce bubbles, and bubbles are not meant for finishing any kind of wood.

Overall, what is the best polyurethane for outdoor furniture you may wonder, with all the mentioned features above, I think this should be the one that you are looking for.


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Are you that person that is looking for a quality product yet affordable product for a budget project?

Then this one should be one of the most trustworthy products that must be carefully considered by everyone. Shall we take a closer look?

This one is from oil-based for a reasonable price tag, but all the favorite features are all ready to satisfy your needs such as long-lasting coating, fast-drying processes.

You can use it on almost every kind of wood you have.

The shield offered will satisfy you with its durability and beauty, while still having a good looking appearance, you will have a finished wooden surface featured with a long-lasting coating, prevent major marks and dents, sounds quite suitable for external furniture!

Pro tips, the best way to apply this product is by using a bristle brush for the most pleasing result, those sponge brushes can create bubbles, and speaking of bubbles, you are advised to stir before use, shaking creates bubbles and they are not ideal for finishing.


  • Durable
  • Multiple size options
  • Can be used on any kinds of wood
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to clean
  • Provide a beautiful coating


  •  Leave weird smell
  • Takes time to be fully dried

If you are new in all this woodworking and not the type of person that wants to pay attention to small projects, then this is exactly what you want, one of the best polyurethane for outdoors on the market.


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As one of the most trusted brands on the market for years and are highly recommended by many users, Rust-Oleum did a great job when making and offering us this water-based polyurethane finish, curious?

Let me tell you why!

Just like mentioned, this one is too, water-based made, which means it has all of the advantages of the water-based finishes products such as fast drying, no weird smell, easy to clean, and can be applied easily.

Sound good? Fasten your seatbelt, there’s more!

This one has many features like UV blocking, water resisting, or non-yellowing preventing, protecting your piece of external furniture from the weather, unexpected damages such as cracks or scratches yet still deliver a beautiful appearance.

The manufacturer offers three different types of coating (satin, gloss, semi-gloss) when getting it, which means you will have multiple options of coating to work on your projects.


  • Long-lasting
  • Provides a classy look
  • Water and moisture resistant
  • Easy to use
  • Dries quickly
  • Easy to clean
  • Three different coatings offered
  • Well-known manufacturer
  • Low odor
  • Non-yellowing
  • Value for money
  • Can be used for multiple types of wood


  •  Requires many coating
  • Thin coat

In short, if you are looking for one of the best water-based products to befriended with, then this one right here should be a considerable choice for you with its many needed features.


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One more affordable product comes from our well-known manufacturer – Rust-Oleum with some considerable features, you are going to be surprised with the following highlighted advantages, let’s take a deeper dig!

Being said, if you are working on a budget project and you need the most reliable finish that comes at a low price, this is the one.

This oil-based product can quickly dry in just two hours, no more waiting in the schedule.

While delivering a beautiful satin look, the polished surface will be protected from outer weather conditions such as UV light and moisture resistance, which makes it extra suitable to be used on outdoor furniture thanks to the oil-based nature.


  •  Durable
  • Multiple size options
  • Can be used on any kinds of wood
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Three different coatings offered
  • Easy to clean
  • Dries up quickly
  • UV protection
  • Give a fine coating
  • Water-resistant


  •  Leave weird smell
  • Some users claim that it get yellows with time

So, what is the best polyurethane for outdoors on a budget?

This is supposed to be the one that you are looking for, you will be offered three various coatings (gloss/Semigloss/satin) and multiple needed features.

Considerable Things For The Best Polyurethane For Outdoors

best polyurethane for outdoor wood

Every piece of furniture has its specific features and purpose, finishes for wood are just the same, each of them has its own character and benefit as well as advantages and disadvantages, having the most suitable one will help so much in the woodworking processes.

Here is a list of things to check in order to have the most reliable and trustworthy product for your wallet and your project.

So, what the best finish for outdoor wood furniture for your needs? Let’s find out!

1. Odor

is polyurethane good for outdoors

If you are a person that hates the weird smells of polishes, then you shall have your comfort and joy when working with water-based polyurethane finishes while they are the one that produces the least odor but the cost can be a bit pricey as mentioned.

On the other hand, if you are getting used to the odor or having a budget issue, then you should go with the oil-based products as they produce a weird smell odor, takes more time to be fully dried but comes at a lower price tag.

Or are you fresh new in the game and confused in choosing between both of them?

In terms of quality, both are the same as drops of water, a few things that matter is the price and smell.

Moreover, some elements in the formula are added to promote the drying process of oil-based products.

2. Durability

best finish for outdoor adirondack chairs

Being said, the most certain thing when finishing a wood surface is the endurance of the coating.

Some are a bit thin so they may require extra layers of coatings while the thick can save you some valuable time.

You will not want to refresh the coating frequently.

So using the best wood finish for outdoors is the best solution for almost every carpenter or woodworker at many phases of skill, from novices to experts, mass production to high-end production.

3. Price

Clearly, none of us wants to spend charges of cash for a product that isn’t worth it.

Yet, some products might seem too high-priced for the naked eye.

However, after an additional study of the features, you will know what worth your money and what doesn’t.

Though you shouldn’t worry about this, as you can see, there are products classified based on many aspects and price tags.

Thing People Also Ask About The Best Polyurethane For Outdoors

is polyurethane good for outdoor use

1. Is Polyurethane Good For Outdoor Use?

As being said, polyurethane coating is the toughest of clear exterior finishes. You can apply them favorably outdoors with their waterproof and ultraviolet protective shield.

2. What Is The Best Finish For Outdoor Paint?

Facts must be said, there is nothing which is the best one out there, only the one that suits your needs, your wallet, and your skills.

With all the things mentioned above for careful consideration, choosing the most reliable finish for yourself is now easier.

3. Will Water-Based Polyurethane Be Best For You?

best polyurethane for outdoor use

As you may already know, some extra advantage of using water-based polyurethane is the reality that they mainly have the least odor so they can be used both indoors and outdoors. Moreover, they will also dissipate quicker, which is good news for the environment.

4. Should I prioritize products with fast drying time?

Yes, just like mentioned, the time that takes the finish to be completely dry can be very valuable. Especially if you are working in a rush by deadlines.

Fortunately, there are lots of choices that have been listed above and chances are you have a well understanding of them.

As you can see, most oil-based polyurethane finishes can take more time to dry in comparison with water-based finishes products.

It is all understandable because, at the end of the day, some products have an affordable price than others.


Polyurethane is one of the most worthy candidates to be used for outdoor furniture, they are tough, durable, protective, and deliver a better appearance, using them is a journey of joy.

In case you are lost in translation, here is a rewind!

If you are someone living with the free of finance issues, then you will find the GENERAL FINISHES HIGH PERFORMANCE indeed the most reliable one with all of the top quality.

Or if you are on a budget and looking for a valuable product at a low price, then the MINWAX 63005444 CLEAR FINISH should be the one for you.

Hopefully, after scrolling through this writing, you shall have the knowledge needed to find the most suitable product for yourself or perhaps, the best polyurethane for outdoors.

Further Reading: 

Tags: natural color, expand and contract, mineral spirits, soap and water, exterior surfaces

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