5 Best Exterior Polyurethane (Tested & Reviewed!)

Ready to make your outdoor furniture last and shine? Dive into our best exterior polyurethane picks and unlock the secret to enduring, stunning outdoor pieces!

Best exterior polyurethane

Have you ever spent time wondering how to select the best Polyurethane solution for your exterior wood finishing needs? 

Trust me, once I’ve been there. 

Choosing the right exterior polyurethane from a wide array of options can feel like navigating a maze.

But fear not! If you’re seeking the best exterior polyurethane for your furniture or wooden creations, you’re in the right place.

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    When I first entered the field of exterior polyurethane, I was welcomed by different types, each claiming to be the best protective shield while enhancing the wood’s natural beauty. 

    Among those thousands of choices, I found myself confused and uncertain. 

    Because, I have known that a wrong pick could lead to bad results, turning what should have been a masterpiece into a disaster.

    To find the ideal exterior polyurethane, I delved deep into the world of wood finishes, conducting tests and trials to reveal the best solutions available. And now, I’m here to share my insights with you.

    So, Let’s dive in!

    Did you know fact about exterior polyurethane
    Did you know fact about exterior polyurethane

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    Best Exterior Polyurethane

    Exterior polyurethane is an essential protection for wooden surfaces, offering a protective shield against varying weather conditions, UV exposure, moisture, and temperature changes. 

    A quality exterior polyurethane not only enhances the natural beauty of wood but also ensures its longevity, making it a critical component for outdoor furniture, doors, windows, and more.

    With UV blockers and weather-resistant properties, the right exterior polyurethane prevents deterioration, greying, and fading of wood surfaces, making it important for maintaining the aesthetic appeal and structural integrity of outdoor furniture and wooden structures.

    Things to look for when purchasing a polyurethane for outdoor use
    Things to look for when purchasing a polyurethane for outdoor use

    Here’s a list of top-rated exterior polyurethanes for furniture, popular for their durability, protective capabilities, and ease of application:

    Let’s explore these options one by one.

    1. ZAR 32712 Polyurethane, QT, Satin

    ZAR 32712 Polyurethane is specifically formulated for superior performance on exterior wood surfaces. 

    ZAR 32712 Polyurethane, QT, Satin
    ZAR 32712 Polyurethane, QT, Satin
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    It contains ultraviolet radiation absorbers and antioxidants, offering a clear protective coating that enhances the natural beauty of wood. 

    Key Features

    1. Light Amber Finish: 
    • This feature is essential for those seeking a protective coating that not only protects the wood but also enhances its appearance. 
    • The light amber color adds warmth and meaning to the wood’s natural nature, effectively highlighting the grain pattern.
    1. Recommended by Leading Door Manufacturers: 
    • This recommendation indicates the product’s quality and effectiveness, especially when it is used on stained front doors. 
    1. Excellent Marine-Grade Finish: 
    • The ZAR 32712 Polyurethane’s resistance to moisture and adverse weather conditions is crucial for surfaces exposed to marine environments where wood surfaces are subject to constant moisture and UV exposure.
    1. Soap and Water Cleanup: 
    • Offering the convenience of soap and water cleanup is a practical feature. It simplifies the application process and cleanup and even reduces the time spent on maintenance

    Advantages and Disadvantages


    1. Ease of Cleanup: Offers the convenience of soap and water cleanup, simplifying the application process and minimizing the worries during the finishing process.
    2. Low VOC Content: Contains low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making it more environmentally friendly compared to many oil-based polyurethanes.
    3. Enhanced UV Protection: Provides efficient protection against harmful UV rays, helping to prevent fading and damage to the wood surface when exposed to direct sunlight.
    4. Versatile Application: This can be applied with various methods such as a brush, roller, or sprayer, offering flexibility in application techniques.

    Read to know the proper way of cleaning polyurethane brushes.


    1. Higher Price Point: The product may be relatively more expensive compared to some other exterior polyurethanes available in the market due to its premium quality and durability.
    2. Drying Time for Additional Coats: Some users have noted that additional coats might require longer drying periods, extending the time needed to complete multiple-coat applications.
    3. Spraying Application Concerns: While suitable for application via brushing or rolling, some users have found that spraying this polyurethane could be challenging.

    While ZAR 32712 Polyurethane might come at a slightly higher price, its ability to beautify wood and provide strong protection against bad environmental factors, especially in marine environments, makes it a top choice for exterior applications.

    2. ZAR 34012 Gloss Ultra Fast Drying Exterior Polyurethane

    ZAR 34012 Gloss Ultra Fast Drying Exterior Polyurethane, a remarkable oil-based polyurethane finish is formulated with ultraviolet radiation absorbers and antioxidants to provide superior protection for wood exposed to direct sunlight. 

    ZAR 34012 Gloss Ultra Fast Drying Exterior Polyurethane
    ZAR 34012 Gloss Ultra Fast Drying Exterior Polyurethane
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    It not only shields the surface but also brings out the natural colors of the wood, leaving a satin finish that expels both class and contemporary aesthetics.

    Read to know Satin vs Semi-Gloss Polyurethane

    Key Features

    1. UV Protection: 
    • This polyurethane is formulated with elements designed to block ultraviolet (UV) light.
    • The presence of UV-blocking elements in this polyurethane helps prevent sun-induced degradation, preserving the natural color of the wood.
    1. Anti-Yellowing Properties: 
    • Incorporating anti-oxidants, this polyurethane resists yellowing over time. 
    • The anti-oxidants in this formula work to maintain the clarity and transparency of the finish, preventing the wood from developing a yellowish tint.
    1. Tough, Durable Finish: 
    • This polyurethane offers a tough, dry finish once applied providing protection to the wood against weather elements, moisture, and other external factors. 
    • Its toughness ensures the longevity of the coating, maintaining the wood’s integrity.
    1. Twice the Durability of Water-Based Options: 
    • In comparison to water-based polyurethane alternatives, ZAR 34012 Gloss Ultra Fast Drying Exterior Polyurethane has the ability to double the durability. 

    Advantages and Disadvantages


    1. Enhances Natural Wood Color: It brings out the true, natural colors of the wood, leaving a satin finish emphasizing its natural grain and appearance.
    2. Extended Durability: Compared to the water-based options, this polyurethane is noted as durable offering long-time protection and, reducing the frequency of reapplication and maintenance.


    1. Limited Shelf Life: One of the notable drawbacks of ZAR 34012 Gloss Ultra Fast Drying Exterior Polyurethane is its quality or effectiveness for an extended period if not used within a specific timeframe.

    ZAR 34012 Gloss Ultra Fast Drying Exterior Polyurethane is an exceptional choice for those seeking quick-drying, UV-resistant, and durable exterior polyurethane. 

    3. Interlux Brightside Polyurethane Paint

    Interlux Brightside Polyurethane Paint is a high gloss, single-package polyurethane specially formulated for top-side finishes. 

    Interlux Brightside Polyurethane Paint
    Interlux Brightside Polyurethane Paint
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    Offering superior gloss and a durable protective layer, this paint is designed to resist stains and scratches, ensuring long-lasting protection for wood surfaces. 

    Key Features

    1. Scratch Resistance with Fluoro Micro Additive:
    • The paint incorporates a fluoro micro additive, enhancing its scratch resistance. 
    • This feature ensures that the protective layer is better to endure daily usage, minimizing scratches and maintaining the surface’s appearance over time.
    1. Multiple Coating Capabilities:
    • This feature makes it highly convenient to achieve multiple layers or touch-ups within a shorter duration, reducing the overall time and effort spent on the application process.
    1. Enamel-Based:
    • The paint is enamel-based, making it user-friendly and straightforward to apply. 
    • Enamel-based formulations often offer smooth application properties, allowing for a professional-grade finish even without extensive experience in painting. 
    1. Superior Gloss Finish:
    • The glossy appearance adds a sleek, polished look to the wood or other surfaces, elevating their overall visual quality. 
    • This feature not only enhances the appearance of the treated area but also contributes to a durable and professional finish.

    Advantages and Disadvantages


    1. Scratch Resistance: The paint contains a fluoro micro additive that significantly enhances the scratch resistance of the protective layer. 
    2. Ease of Application: Being enamel-based, the paint offers ease of application. Users can achieve a professional finish easily.


    1. Strong Odor: This might be a concern for users, especially if they intend to use the paint in enclosed spaces, making it less suitable for such applications.

    Interlux Y4359/QT Brightside Polyurethane Paint – White, Quart offers exceptional scratch resistance and a durable, high gloss finish suitable for top-side finishes on wood surfaces. 

    Its ease of application and multiple coating capabilities make it a favorable choice for long-lasting protection.

    4. Deft Clear Defthane Interior/Exterior Polyurethane Gloss

    Deft Clear Defthane is an oil-based polyurethane designed specifically for hard-use areas, offering excellent finishes for both interior and exterior surfaces. 

    Deft Clear Defthane Interior Exterior Polyurethane Gloss
    Deft Clear Defthane Interior Exterior Polyurethane Gloss
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    It is renowned for enhancing the durability and longevity of wooden structures, making it a versatile choice for furniture cabinets, doors, floors, and marine applications above the waterline.

    Key Features

    1. Durability Enhancement:
    • Deft DFT20 Clear Defthane’s protective qualities make it ideal for surfaces subject to heavy use, such as floors, outdoor doors, furniture cabinets, and even marine applications.
    1. UV and Water Resistance:
    • The formula includes elements that make the finish resistant to both UV rays and water.
    • This feature significantly contributes to protecting wooden surfaces from the effects of sunlight exposure and moisture, preventing discolouration, deterioration, and damage over time.
    1. High Solids Oil-Based Formulation:
    • The polyurethane’s high solids oil-based formula flows out smoothly, minimizing brush marks during application. 
    • This characteristic contributes to a more even and professional-looking finish, enhancing the overall appearance of the wood surface.
    1. Recoat Time and Coverage:
    • While it dries in approximately 2 hours, the recoat time is around 6 hours, providing adequate time between applications. 
    • Additionally, a quart of this polyurethane can cover approximately 500 to 600 square feet, offering substantial coverage for various projects.

    Advantages and Disadvantages


    1. Versatile Use: This versatility allows for its application on various wooden structures.
    2. Enhanced Durability: Deft DFT20 Clear Defthane adds to the durability and longevity of wooden surfaces, offering strong protection.
    3. Ease of Application: Users have control throughout the application process, making it even more suitable for those handling their first project.
    4. UV and Water Resistance: This provides resistance against UV rays and water ensuring added protection against sun damage and moisture, contributing to the preservation of the wood.


    1. High Cure Time: One of the drawbacks of Deft DFT20 Clear Defthane is its longer cure time. The recoat time can extend over 6 hours, which might be considered slow for some users. 
    2. Drying Time: The product might have longer drying times per coat compared to some alternative polyurethane brands. This might inconvenience users who prefer quicker drying times for their projects.

    Accordingly, despite a slightly longer curing and drying time, this polyurethane offers a robust gloss finish suitable for both interior and exterior wood surfaces.

    5. Deft Clear Water-Based Polyurethane Gloss

    The Deft Clear Water-Based Polyurethane is a versatile water-based oil-modified polyurethane designed for both interior and exterior use. 

    Deft Clear Water Based Polyurethane
    Deft Clear Water Based Polyurethane
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    It offers exceptional protection against severe weather conditions, UV rays, and moisture, ensuring durability and longevity for various surfaces like exterior doors, floors, windows, tables, and more.

    Check out the Best Polyurethane for Table Tops: Manually Tested!

    Key Features

    1. Innovative Water-Based Formula:
    • This polyurethane combines water-based properties with oil-modified technology, providing a transparent finish that works effectively on glass and wooden surfaces, enhancing durability without yellowing.
    1. UV Protection and Weather-Resistance:
    • Formulated with superior UV protection, it prevents exterior surfaces from fading or dulling due to prolonged exposure to sunlight. 
    • The watertight seal ensures excellent resistance to moisture and weather elements.
    1. Ease of Application:
    • Can be applied using brushes, swabs, or sprays, making it versatile for different application methods. 
    • The product dries quickly, allowing recoating within two hours, reducing application time.

    Advantages and Disadvantages


    1. Innovative Water-Based Oil-Modified Formula: Mixes the benefits of water-based and oil-based polyurethanes for superior protection and durability.
    2. Versatile Use: Suitable for both interior and exterior surfaces, making it a versatile choice for various projects.
    3. Transparent Finish: Dries clear on glass and wooden surfaces, enhancing the natural appearance of the wood grain.
    4. UV Protection and Quick Drying: Offers excellent UV resistance and quick drying times, saving time during application.


    1. Limited Color Suitability: Best suited for non-white colored surfaces, might not be ideal for projects requiring a white finish.
    2. Size Variety Limitation: Availability in limited container sizes might be a drawback for larger projects or specific volume requirements.

    However, some users mentioned limitations concerning color suitability and container size options but praised its overall performance.

    So there you have it, some fantastic options for your exterior polyurethane needs. 

    Choosing the best one for your project might feel difficult, but armed with this information, you’re in a much better place.

    Remember, the key to picking the right exterior polyurethane is understanding your project’s specific demands. 

    Look for that perfect balance between durability, ease of application, and how it deals with your wood type and color.

    How to select polyurethane for outdoor use
    How to select polyurethane for outdoor use

    Check out the Best Polyurethane for Stairs (Reviews and Buyer’s Guide)

    What to Consider When Choosing an Exterior Polyurethane

    Choosing the right exterior polyurethane isn’t just a selection between different brands or types. 

    It involves a comprehensive understanding of various factors that directly impact the performance and longevity of the finish. 

    Here are crucial considerations to keep in mind when going through  the options available:

    Durability and Strength

    • Oil-based vs. Water-based: 

    Assess the strength and longevity offered by oil-based polyurethanes, known for their durability, compared to the ease of application and lower odor of water-based options.

    • Scratch and Impact Resistance: 

    Look for polyurethanes that protect against scratches, impact damage, moisture, pests, mold, and UV rays. 

    Go for options that form a robust coating to resist weather factors.

    Appearance and Yellowing

    • Natural Wood Aesthetic: 

    Prioritize polyurethanes that preserve the natural beauty of wood grains, stains, or paints.

    • Yellowing Over Time: 

    Acknowledge that most polyurethanes tend to yellow with age and exposure to various outdoor situations, impacting the appearance of the wood. 

    Consider options with minimal yellowing effects, particularly for light-coloured woods.

    Ease of Use and Application

    • Application Methods: 

    Evaluate the ease of application, drying time, and odor. 

    Water-based polyurethanes are often thinner, less odorous, and quick-drying compared to the more viscous nature of oil-based alternatives.

    • Mixing and Preparation:

    Consider whether the polyurethane requires mixing before application or comes ready to use, ensuring a hassle-free application process.

    Water and UV Resistance

    • Waterproof and Water-Resistant: 

    Choose polyurethanes that provide waterproofing properties to shield outdoor wood surfaces effectively against moisture and mold. 

    Consider marine polyurethanes for superior water resistance.

    • UV Protection: 

    Prioritize products consisting of UV blockers to endure direct sunlight exposure, preventing not only yellowing but also sun-induced damage to the finish.

    Toxicity and VOC Emissions

    • Assess the VOC content, preferring options with lower emissions for reduced toxicity. 
    • Water-based polyurethanes typically contain fewer VOCs compared to their oil-based options, making them more environmentally friendly.

    Wood Compatibility and Flexibility

    • Surface Flexibility: 

    Consider the flexibility of the polyurethane in adapting to wood’s natural expansion and contraction due to temperature and humidity changes.

    • Compatibility with Wood Types: 

    Make sure the chosen polyurethane is suitable for the specific type of wood surface you’re treating, ensuring optimal adhesion and performance.

    Additional Factors

    • Drying Time: 

    Consider the drying time of the polyurethane, crucial for project timelines and efficiency.

    • Longevity and Recoating: 

    Evaluate the product’s durability and expected lifetime to minimize the need for frequent recoating, reducing long-term maintenance costs.

    • Cost and Value: 

    Balance cost-effectiveness with quality, acknowledging that certain products may have a higher basic payment cost but offer better long-term value due to durability and performance.

    By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision when selecting the best exterior polyurethane for your specific needs. 

    It will assist you with ensuring lasting protection and aesthetic enhancement for your outdoor wooden surfaces.

    Tip for selecting a polyurethane product for outdoor use
    Tip for selecting a polyurethane product for outdoor use

    How to Apply Exterior Polyurethane

    To apply exterior polyurethane effectively, follow these steps:

    1. Surface Preparation: Begin with a clean, smooth surface. Sand the wood lightly and remove all dust.
    2. Applying the First Coat: Use a high-quality brush or applicator for oil-based polyurethane. For water-based poly, a synthetic brush or foam applicator is ideal. Apply evenly, following the grain of the wood.
    3. Drying Time: Allow the first coat to dry as per the manufacturer’s instructions. This could range from a few hours to overnight.
    4. Sanding Between Coats: Once the first coat is dry, lightly sand the surface to ensure a smooth base for the next coat. Clean off any dust.
    5. Applying Additional Coats: Apply at least two more coats for durability, sanding between each coat. The number of coats depends on the product and the level of exposure to elements.
    6. Final Drying: Allow the final coat to dry completely before using the surface. This could take up to 24 hours or more, depending on conditions and product specifications.

    Remember, the specifics can vary based on the type of polyurethane (oil-based or water-based) and the environmental conditions, so always refer to the product’s instructions for the best results.

    You can avoid many polyurethane mistakes by following the above techniques.

    How Many Coats Of Polyurethane Should I Use Outdoors?

    For optimal protection and durability of outdoor furniture, applying a minimum of three coats of polyurethane is generally recommended.

    The specific number can vary based on the type of polyurethane (oil-based or water-based) and the furniture’s exposure to environmental elements.

    Each coat should be allowed to dry thoroughly before applying the next, and light sanding between coats is advised for better adhesion and a smoother finish.

    This ensures a robust protective layer against weather, UV rays, and wear.

    How Long Will The Polyurethane Last On Exterior Furniture?

    The longevity of polyurethane on exterior furniture depends on several factors, including the type of polyurethane used, the exposure of the furniture to elements, and maintenance.

    Typically, a high-quality exterior polyurethane can last between 1 to 5 years before needing a recoat.

    Water-based polyurethanes may require more frequent reapplications compared to oil-based variants.

    Regular maintenance, such as cleaning and minor touch-ups, can also extend the life of the polyurethane finish on outdoor furniture.

    That’s it, folks! Now you know all the best exterior polyurethane products to increase the durability of your loved outdoor furniture with an enhanced appearance.

    Tip for selecting a polyurethane product for outdoor uses
    Tip for selecting a polyurethane product for outdoor uses

    So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions.


    What is the best type of finish for exterior polyurethane?

    The best finish depends on personal preference and the project requirements; options include gloss, satin, and matte finishes.

    Can exterior polyurethane be used on any type of wood?

    Yes, exterior polyurethane can be applied to various types of wood, but it’s important to check compatibility, especially with lighter woods prone to yellowing.

    Do I need to apply a sealer before using exterior polyurethane?

    Most exterior polyurethanes do not require a sealer, but it depends on the specific product and wood type.

    Is water-based or oil-based exterior polyurethane better?

    Water-based polyurethane is easier to apply and has lower VOCs, while oil-based is more durable but takes longer to dry.

    Is exterior polyurethane UV resistant?

    Yes, most exterior polyurethanes contain UV blockers to protect the wood from sun damage.

    Can exterior polyurethane be used on indoor furniture?

    Yes, exterior polyurethane can be used on indoor furniture, offering robust protection, though it’s often more durable than necessary for indoor use.

    How does temperature affect the application of exterior polyurethane?

    Extreme temperatures can affect the drying time and finish quality, so it’s best to apply in moderate conditions.

    Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Best Exterior Polyurethane

    In this article, I deeply discussed the best exterior polyurethane products with their features, pros, and cons.

    The best exterior polyurethanes for enhancing and protecting outdoor wood surfaces include ZAR 32712 Polyurethane (Satin), ZAR 34012 Gloss Ultra Fast Drying, Interlux Y4359/QT Brightside (White, Quart), Deft DFT20 Clear Defthane (Gloss), and Deft DFT257 Clear Water Based Polyurethane. Each offers unique benefits like fast drying, UV protection, and durability.

    Furthermore, I answered some frequently asked questions as well.

    Hope you learned all you wanted to know about the best polyurethane for exterior furniture and now you have to select the one that suits your purpose and budget the most.

    Happy wood finishing!

    Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him! Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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