Best Polyurethane for Stairs and Floors | Our Top 5 Picks

Last Updated on January 19, 2023 by Heenan

Best Polyurethane for Stairs and Floors

You’ve installed wooden stairs at your home, both indoors and outdoors.

You boast your neighbor with their stunning and mesmerizing look. Wood comprises such beauty that no one can resist showing off.

Look, indoor stairs and floors are meant to get huge foot traffic, right?

Whereas outdoor stairs must conquer heavy sunlight, storm, rain, and whatnot. And as time goes on, they tend to wear down, which also hits your pride.

But you can’t let the stairs and floors fall like that, can you? You need to protect them.

And what else other than the best polyurethane for stairs can do that?

We know you’ll drown in the sea of many polys in the market. That’s why we’re here. We’re going to simplify the quest for you. So, stay with us.

5 Best Polyurethane for Stairs and Floors Reviews

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Polyurethane is not a candy we could just put in the mouth to taste and then keep the good and throw out the bad ones.

Since it takes hours to dry, you can imagine how much time we spent testing each product.

We also talked with the experts so that deep inside, we have the confidence that we’re delivering the best products. Well then, let’s check them out.

#1. General Finishes Water-Based Polyurethane


  • Water-based topcoat to offer the utmost durability
  • Easy to apply owing to a solid formulation
  • Dries up very quickly
  • Protects from the crack by the UV stabilizer
  • 1 quart to coat 100 square feet


  • Leaves yellowy if painted on white paint
  • Reportedly much more glossy than Satin

Looking for the best polyurethane for floors that offers a high-quality coat? Then nothing can come close to the water-based polyurethane from General Finishes. It provides the hardest durability of any water-based polyurethane topcoat on the market.

Since we’re talking about durability, this water-based polyurethane gives a unique durable satin look on your floors and stairs.

And you know what the best part is? The best part is that if you don’t want a satin finish, it offers a gloss, flat and semi-gloss finish to meet the craving for a different look.

Plus, this water-based polyurethane from General Finishes is made from a solid formulation. That’s why you can apply it pretty quickly on the surface.

Unlike other coats that take days to dry, it takes only 1 or 2 hours. As a result, you won’t need to get the ladders to reach the second floor.

The benefits of its satisfying formulation don’t end here. Instead, it offers a brilliant UV stabilizer feature.

Thus your outdoor stairs will neither crack nor break down under extreme sunlight. Man! It’s going to be a good finish for your surfaces.

Besides, just because it offers variants doesn’t mean that any of them lacks quality. Instead, each product performs as equal to the original product.

And since it comes in a 1-quart bucket, it’ll be enough for you to cover an area of 100 square feet at ease with the best finish.

#2. Bona Mega Finish Satin Wood Floor 1 Gallon


  • Ensure durability with the OCP formula
  • Offers three options for versatility
  • Safe to use for being odorless
  • 1-gallon poly to cover 600sq. Ft.


  • It needs several coats to get a smooth finish.

To beautify your stairs and floors, the second product on our list that we include is the Mega satin finish from Bona. Though it’s a new polyurethane, it has earned appreciation from users for its great effectiveness. Well, then, let’s check it out.

If you have a wooden stair that needs to make it durable, then this polyurethane will back you up. It’s a water-based formulation that is also called OCP or Oxygen Polyurethane.

Due to this formulation, it has active oxygen that will make your stairs outstandingly durable.

Are you upset seeing only the ‘satin’ mentioned in the title? Don’t be, because it also offers a gloss and semi-gloss option.

Whether you go with the Satin or other option, you’ll still get the wooden surface with a beautiful natural glow. You’ll love the satin finish, as it’s neither too shiny nor too matte.

Now you might have people living in your home who have breathing problems. You must be worried, as typical poly tends to have a strong odor.

Not to worry because this poly wood finish from Bona Mega doesn’t produce odor, making it one of the best polyurethane for wood stairs.

So, you can know that your pet or a family member can safely stay around it.


Moreover, you’ll get this poly in a 1-gallon bucket. If you’re planning to coat a small to medium area, it will be adequate.

Ensure you’re wearing socks instead of shoes, as it may result in permanent marks on your surface.

#3. Varathane 200041H Ultimate Polyurethane


  • Increase longevity by preventing scratches and stain
  • Quick-dry out for fast use
  • Effortless to clean by using water and soap
  • 32fl Oz bottle to cover 125 sq. ft.
  • Polished look due to the gloss finish


  • Very expensive
  • Reportedly a bit thicker

Is your house loaded with wood furniture? Need something that can take care of your stairs and other wood surfaces? Then 200041H polyurethane from Varathane is what you need. It can effectively protect all indoor wood surfaces.

You should probably know that stains and scratches ruin your stairs as time passes. But with this water-based polyurethane, you don’t need to stress out as it will protect your stairs from them.

It will increase the durability to such an extent that you won’t feel like going for another option.

Plus, the 200041H poly from Varathane is entirely dissimilar to other products you can find in the market. How? Unlike other poly that takes hours to dry, it takes only 30 minutes to dry out.

What’s more? You can start to recoat the stairs immediately after 2 hours. Such convenience will be beneficial for you.

Not only it dries out quickly, but it is also pretty easy to clean. The cleaning process is straightforward as well as straight.

All you have to do is, use water and soap during cleaning. Cleaning this up will be just like a walk in the park.

As it stands, it comes in a 32 fl. Oz bottle, which is sufficient to let you coat 125 square feet. And since it’s a gloss finish poly, your wooden surfaces will get a stunningly clean and polished look.

#4. Bona Traffic HD Satin Review (Commercial Satin)


  • Low VOC to safely use around everyone
  • Resist scratches with the strong formula
  • Highlights true wood color owing to being colorless
  • 1 gallon offers 400 sq. ft. coverage


  • Peels if applied on oily or sanded floors

Many products can deliver a satisfactory finish. But what if we give you something that can outperform the best ones? Yes, try out the Traffic HD satin finish from Bona. The thing that grabbed our attention is its low VOC.

VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. It releases harmful gas that causes long and short-term health issues. Since it’s a certified low VOC product, you can safely use bona traffic around the elderly, pets, kids, and everyone else.

Scratches are the peskiest thing that destroys the beauty of your wood surfaces. But with the Traffic HD commercial from Bona, it won’t happen again. This poly integrates potent formula that can effectively resist general wear, yellowing, and scratches.

Besides, you’ll be glad that this bona traffic poly is colorless and transparent when it dries out. As a result, the natural color of your wood floor will be highlighted. And as time passes, this poly won’t even change color.

Though the title only mentions Satin, this water-based poly offers two more options for you: semi-gloss and extra matte. The best thing about the different matte finish is that it is highly slip-resistant.

Are you anxious to know how much area the Traffic HD can cover? Well, per gallon of it gives the coverage of 400 square feet.

Since it is recommended to give two coats, you need to measure your space to determine how much poly you need.

#5. Minwax 63333444 Protective Finish Polycrylic  1 quart, Satin


  • Very durable to protect the wood surface
  • Suitable for white surfaces due to non-yellowing
  • Crystal clear to use on light woods
  • Quick-dry up to apply recoat in 2 hours
  • It offers several finishes for versatility
  • 1 quart to deliver 125 square feet of coverage


  • Reportedly a little thin
  • It may leave a few brush marks

The last polyurethane finish on our list is 1 quart 63333444 Protective finish from Minwax. And the reason behind this is that it comes with a mark of ‘ultra-fast drying.

Let’s dive down more into it to check out its other potential.

Woodwork, cabinets, and furniture cost a good amount of money. So you can’t just watch them wearing down over time, right?

You should coat your wood surfaces with this water-based poly to protect them. Not only will it protect your wooden stuff, but it also will add up beauty to them.

Moreover, it doesn’t leave behind any yellow color on the wood. Thus, you’ll get to see the actual color. The 63333444 protective finish is also made purely odorless so that you can use it around your child and pet with peace of mind.

Besides, how many types of wood surfaces do you have? Maple, birch, ash? Just name it, this protective finish from Minwax can cover them all.

And since it’s a crystal clear finish, it’ll be a perfect match for using over light wood like the ones you have.

Now comes the part that attracted us toward this finish. It contains a formula that offers ultra-fast drying, which will be helpful in many cases. As a result, you can apply recoat on your surface in nearly 2 hours.

You should sand before applying the second coat. And when you’re done applying the coat on your preferred surfaces, you can easily clean it with soap and water.

On top of that, this waterborne poly offers several options for you. It offers satin, semi-gloss, gloss, ultra-flat and matte finish.

You, therefore, can choose whatever finish you want according to your working space. As it comes in 1 quart, it can give you coverage of 125 square feet easily.

How to Choose the Best Polyurethane for Stairs and Floors?

Now that you’ve viewed our products, you need to know some essential factors before buying your product. Without knowing them, you may end up with the wrong polyurethane coat.

We’ll focus on the main factors underneath so that you can choose the right one for your stairs and floors with certainty.

The Amount

The most important thing that you should acknowledge is how much amount of polyurethane coat you need for your stairs. You’ll find more extensive as well as smaller options in the market. There are options for up to 32 ounces.

But first, you have to measure how much area you will coat. Depending on that knowledge, you can calculate the coat needed for your project.

Now it’s common sense that if your project is big, you’ll need more coats. And if the space you’re planning to coat is smaller, why would you buy the excess coat?

Water-Based or Oil-Based polyurethane

Another fundamental thing to consider before you buy a polyurethane coat for your stairs is the type of coat. Well, there are two types you’ll find; one is water-based, and another is oil-based polyurethane.

Water-based coats won’t ask you to go deeper into your pocket. Plus, they don’t spread much odor. The most beneficial feature of this type of coat that you may like is that they take very little time to dry out.

On the other hand, oil-based polyurethane coats cost a bit extra than water-based coats. And they even have odors that may not be comfortable for you. They also take a long time to dry out, which can be critical if you coat stairs inside your home.

However, both types of coats are renowned for providing durability and a posh look. By the way, there is a flat version available on the market that can give you the best of both worlds.

The Color and Aesthetics

Why do you want to coat your stairs or floors? To make it look beautiful for a long time, right? If yes, you must consider color and aesthetics before buying a polyurethane coat.

You’ll most likely get three options they are Satin, semi-glossy and glossy. The satin finish is mainly used because it donates a cool look to your stairs. Likewise, if you want to shed some shiny look on the stairs, you can go for a glossy or semi-glossy coat.

We recommend you do some research on color and aesthetics before you buy the polyurethane coat. Cause, in the end, you want satisfaction, right?

The Drying Time

Can you afford to wait for a blue moon to step on your stairs after applying a polyurethane coat? Of course not! Well, that’s why you should consider the drying time of the coats.

There are different types of coats with different drying times. And you have to choose the right one depending on your needs. Generally, you must wait a minimum of a day to step on your coat. Within four days, you can start to use the stairs roughly without facing any problems.

All told, some coats offer fast-drying features. If you get such a super-fast drying coat, you can start using your stairs and floors soon.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

#1. What is the best polyurethane for stairs?

Answer: Bona Traffic HD is the best you can get if you talk about waterborne best polyurethane for stairs. And you can take Duraseal if you want oil-based polyurethane.

#2. How many coats of polyurethane do I need for the stairs?

Answer: The number of polyurethane coats you need to apply thoroughly depends on the type of condition and wood of your stairs. Ordinarily, if you use oil-based polyurethane, two or three coats will be enough. But be aware that such coats take a long time to dry.

#3. Should I polyurethane my stairs?

Answer: Yes, you should. Because though staining beautifies the wood grain, they need to be protected from heavy foot traffic. Well, that is the reason why you should use polyurethane. Not only will it protect the stairs, but it also will give a glossy sheen so that you can clean it effortlessly.

#4. What is the best polyurethane for floors?

Answer: You’ll find very few polys for floors considered the best so far. Bona Traffic HD and Bona Mega are the most popular among the best.

#5. What is the most durable polyurethane for hardwood floors?

Answer: Oil-based polyurethane is considerably more durable than waterborne but has strong odors and leaves yellow color on floors. But if you want to preserve the light wood color and not want odor, you should get water-based polyurethane.

#6. What is the best oil-based polyurethane for floors?

Answer: Though you’ll find some of the best oil-based polyurethane for floors, Dura-Seal is very popular for its inexpensiveness and durability.

#7. What is the most durable polyurethane?

Answer: You’ll get two options of polyurethane to choose from. One is water-based poly, and another is oil-based polyurethane. When it comes to the most durable polyurethane, then oil-based polyurethane comes first.

#8. How much polyurethane do I need for the floor?

Answer: Depending on the condition of the floor as well as the intended appearance you want, you need to determine the number of coats. However, 3-5 coats are enough for a water-based polyurethane coat, whereas for oil-based polyurethane, 2-3 coats are good.

Final Verdict

As a short reminder, waterborne poly is as durable and practical as oil-based polyurethane. They dry out quickly and are odorless, while oil-based polyurethane takes time to dry and has odors.

We’ve encompassed almost all the things that are necessary to help you to pick the best polyurethane for stairs.

All of our poly works excellent on even wooden floors and furniture also. So waste no more time and choose the suitable polyurethane before your stairs and feet get cracked and damaged.

Related Reading:
Recommended Brushes For Water-Based Polyurethane.

Meet the Authors

Heenan, Cannon, Mack, and Theodore are four outdoor enthusiasts. Each of them is a handyman and off-road adventurers. Dealing with different tools, automotive accessories, products related to home like sealers are some of their day-to-day tasks. They run this website to share their thoughts on various items they think are good or bad for others. Learn how they started as The Handyman Guru, and why they decided to start this blog..

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