Hardwood Design Trends and Help

A Primer on Polyurethane

by Roy Akirov
August, 2017

Polyurethane is a form of liquid plastic. It is a polymer that has a wide range of uses and can take on a number of different textures. It is produced through a series of chemical reactions involving a reactive substances called isocyanates. The raw materials are sourced from food items like fatty acids, gelling agents, binders, sugar alcohols, and a few other derivatives.


To produce polyurethane, the materials undergo a series of of heating and cooling cycles, until the desired consistency and texture is produced. The material can then be shaped using a blowing agent like Carbon Dioxide, in a similar way to glass.


Polyurethane was first produced in Germany in 1937 as a coating for airplanes parts. This lightweight and durable form was later used to shape cars. DuPont and Bayer advanced the production of polyurethane in the 60’s, and found multiple uses. When the material is left in liquid form it can be used as a coating agent on anything from wallets to flooring.


Along with its many applications, polyurethane also has an interesting reaction when exposed to heat and light. When polyurethane is made with aromatic isocyanates, the chromophores discolor into a reddish brown, which can accentuate a wood coloring. The chromophores are the part of the molecule that give it color. The effect on color is greater when using oil-based coat as opposed to a water-based coating.


A few of the benefits of a polyurethane coating on a floor include-

  1. A tough material that helps protect your flooring. The seal keeps out dust, moisture, and dirt from impacting the wood flooring.
  2. Some coatings are also UV Resistant, and won’t easily discolor.
  3. Once applied and dry, polyurethane releases very few emissions, making it a safe and ecological choice.
  4. Easy to Maintain and care for in comparison to other finishing.


One disadvantage to keep in mind is if the polyurethane coating is scratched, it cannot be repaired by simply recoating the scratch.


If you have any questions regarding a polyurethane coating, its application, and its use as a finishing, please contact us at Rhodium Floors.

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