All the Ways to Use Polyurethane Paint

yellow Polyurethane paint on steel structure

Protective and decorative polyurethane paint

A polyurethane paint  (PU paint or PU coating) is a hard-wearing, highly-resistant coating used in industrial and architectural coating systems for steelwork, concrete, wood, and other substrates. It is a reaction polymer, a combination of a polyol resin and an isocyanate hardener or curing agent. Essentially, a polyurethane coating is a liquid plastic which dries to form a paint-like film on a substrate. The properties of a polyurethane can be manipulated by the types of isocyanates and polyols which are used to make it, and so it can be modified to suit a wide range of projects. Polyurethane paint provides durability, resistance to chemicals, water, abrasion, and temperature, as well as an attractive glossy finish.

In this article we outline the benefits of a polyurethane coating, as well as the applications and industries that rely on it. We also look at the different types of polyurethane paint and where best to apply them.

The strengths of polyurethane paint

The physical properties of polyurethane paint are greatly influenced by the choice of base components, with different formulations strengthening certain qualities over others. It is this versatility which is one of polyurethane’s main strengths. It can be made to purpose for any number of applications. Some of its other strengths are:


  • Quick drying and easy to apply: Polyurethane paint is fast curing, meaning less downtime and associated losses. Like an  epoxy it is easy to apply, but polyurethane has faster return-to-service times than epoxy.
  • Water and chemical resistance: Resistance to water, steam, moisture, and most chemicals means that PU coating is a waterproof barrier, preventing corrosion of the substrate.
  • Extreme durability: When cured, polyurethane forms a hard, durable surface which provides protection from mechanical abrasion, stains and scratches.
  • Attractive finish: Whether high gloss, semi gloss, or matt, polyurethane coatings provide a flawless finish which resists color fade.
  • Weather resistance and UV stability: Polyurethane can withstand harsh environments, from underground to offshore, as well as being stable when exposed UV radiation and having thermal stability across a range of temperatures.

Note that polyurethane paint is not the best option for industrial heavy duty areas due to the fact that it lacks epoxy’s durability and the extreme chemical resistance of phenolic coatings. Polyurethane is also sensitive for humidity especially during the application phase.

Applying polyurethane coating in 4 industries

Because of their extreme versatility, polyurethane paints have applications across the coatings industry. There are polyurethanes formulated for the architectural, industrial, automotive, and marine coating markets. With that breadth of application in mind, we have listed some of the most common ways of applying polyurethane paints and what properties they bring to each.

1. Coating vehicles – applying polyurethane for a soft touch

applying polyurethane paint to car interior

Polyurethane paint is a plastic-like coating often applied to car interiors.

The automotive coatings industry covers everything from a vehicle’s color coat to underbody protection and internal plastic coatings. Polyurethane paint’s abrasion and weathering resistance is used for the protective undercoating on a car, and for a vehicle’s clear top coat which seals and protects the color. The soft touch coatings that make a dashboard, armrest, or steering wheel feel soft and luxurious are polyurethanes. Polyurethane is applied mostly as an OEM coating in the paint shop, but underbody coatings are often part of vehicular refinish coating.

2. Architectural paints – protect and beautify

Polyurethane is a popular protective coating for the architectural industry. They can be used for steelwork, paneling, infrastructure, as a clear topcoat, a vibrant color, or as a varnish for wood, metal, concrete, and plastics. Applying polyurethane as a finish on wood flooring, a topcoat to an epoxy cement flooring, and surfaces in laboratories, hospitals, leisure centers with pools and spas, and more protects them from abrasion, water, chemicals, and .

Example product: Coo-Var P101 2 Pack Polyurethane Varnish. A clear aliphatic polyurethane coating which provides a hard wearing protective coating for wooden floors, inside or outside.

3. Pipe and tank protection – high performance protection

Tanks and pipes present a particular problem for protective coating. The substrate needs protection both from the external environment and from the possibly corrosive contents it is storing. As well as that, they need to protect the contents and the local environment from contamination. For this task polyurethane is used in storage and process tanks, reservoirs, wastewater treatment tanks, secondary containment, water pipe lining and oil and gas pipelines. Polyurethane’s excellent ability to withstand exposure to chemicals, high temperatures, harsh environments including salt water, wind, sand, wet soil and more, as well as being UV stable make it the perfect candidate.

red polyurethane paint on metal stairs

Polyurethane paint on metal is common due to its anti rust effect.

Example product: International Interdur 8860 (AkzoNobel). A two component acrylic polyurethane coating giving excellent durability and long term recoatability with a high gloss finish.

4. Rust prevention – anti corrosion coating

Polyurethane coating provides a waterproof barrier between a substrate and the environment. When combined with its UV stability and its ability to withstand harsh weather and environmental conditions, this makes polyurethane an outstanding anti corrosion coating. Polyurethane is often applied over epoxy coating, as an anti-corrosion system to provide the best possible protection against all kinds of corrosion.

Example product: International Interthane 1026 (AkzoNobel). A two component, high build, acrylic polyurethane primer/finish providing anti-corrosion barrier protection and long term recoatability.

Get in touch with a polyurethane paint specialist in the US

Polyurethane paints are available in the US for every segment of the market. Companies and brands such as BASF, Coo-Var, International (AkzoNobel), Rust-Oleum, Teamac, and PPG all have products in the US. If you would like more information about polyurethane, or have a more specific need for your project, use the search box above and follow the links. If you need polyurethane coating for a project, our experts are here to help! Let us, in cooperation with our coating partners, connect you with a coating solution. Take advantage of our 100% free quote service by clicking on the “Request a Quote” button below.

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