Acrylic enamel and polyurethane are both synthetic coatings. Whereas the latter can be brushed or sprayed, the former is almost always sprayed. While they give similar protection, acrylic enamel is primarily used on metal while polyurethane is manufactured for general use.
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Polyurethanes are a type of rubber and have a more complex chemical structure than acrylic enamels, which are plastics. This makes them more resistant to chemicals and gives them a brighter gloss.
Polyurethanes are generally not as hard as acrylic enamels, which also means they are more flexible and adhere better. Thus a polyurethane finish is likely to last longer without cracking.
While both products can be sprayed onto metal, polyurethanes manufactured for wood finishing can also be brushed. There is no comparable acrylic enamel. Both products are available in two-part formulas, but single-part polyurethanes are also common.
Resistance to Sunlight
Both products have comparable resistance to sunlight although, owing to its complex structure, polyurethane gives superior protection from UV with successive coats.
A two-part polyurethane for spraying on metal surfaces costs more than a two-part acrylic enamel.
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