Do You Have To Put Polyurethane Over Stain?
You do not have to put polyurethane over the wood stain, but you will probably want to. The reasons to use or not use polyurethane vary. To decide if you want or need to use it on your wood project, think about the purpose of your project and how it will be used.
Protects The Wood
The main reason why so many people use polyurethane on their wood projects is that it protects their work. Polyurethane helps prevent the wood from getting scratched and it can protect the wood from getting stained by water and other liquids.
Also, wood stain can raise the grain of the wood and cause it to trap and hold dust. Polyurethane will smooth the grain texture, making the wood easier to dust and keep clean.
Care For Wood Without Polyurethane
Care will need to be given to wood that is not treated with polyurethane.
First, the stained wood must be kept out of the elements. Rain, snow, moisture, and the sun will damage unprotected wood.
Second, wood furniture without a topcoat is not recommended for heavy everyday use. Kitchen tables and office desks should have a protective coat of polyurethane on them due to everyday use. Purely decorative wood pieces, however, may not need a topcoat.
To clean wood without a polyurethane layer, use a trusted brand of wood cleaner as needed. This will clean the dirt and dust that has collected in the grain of the wood.
Water-Based And Oil-Based Polyurethane
There are two different types of polyurethane and each has its pros and cons.
First, there is a water-based polyurethane. It has a quicker drying time than an oil-based coat and it does not smell as strong. It is best used on furniture that won’t get a lot of sunlight or exposure to heat, such as a bookcase or nightstand. It requires more coats than oil-based polyurethane.
Oil-based polyurethane is a stronger topcoat than water-based. It does have a stronger odor than water-based and it will develop an amber tint over time. The drying time of oil-based is longer than water-based, but it requires fewer coats. Oil-based polyurethane also protects wood better than water-based and is best put on projects that will be used on a daily or near-daily basis.
For many, the objection to using polyurethane is that it can make furniture look too shiny. If seeking a more natural wood finish, it is best to use a matte or flat polyurethane.
Matte polyurethane gives wood the protection it needs against the elements and use, but it does not sacrifice the natural look of the wood.
There are alternatives to using polyurethane. Linseed oil is a popular non-toxic choice for protecting wood projects. Shellac, made of resin from the lac bug, is yet another natural choice.
For a strong shine, lacquer is readily available and commonly used by furniture manufacturers. If looking to bring out that natural look of a wood project, Danish oil will do the trick and you will be able to avoid having to stain the wood.
As with oil and water-based polyurethane, each of the alternatives has its pros and cons. It is always best to research a project and the materials needed before starting it.