Best polyurethane for cornhole boards

When it comes to choosing the best polyurethane for cornhole boards, there are a few factors to consider. The primary purpose of applying polyurethane to cornhole boards is to protect the wood from weathering, moisture, and general wear and tear. You’ll want a polyurethane that provides a durable, long-lasting finish while enhancing the appearance of the boards.

Here are a couple of factors that are worth checking out before making a puchase

5 Factors to Consider:

Durability

When selecting a polyurethane for your cornhole boards, durability is a crucial factor to consider. The polyurethane should provide excellent protection to withstand frequent use and exposure to the elements. Look for a product that is specifically formulated to be tough and resistant to scratches, moisture, and general wear and tear. Most exterior polyurethane will be top choice.

Water-based vs oil-based polyurethane

Consider the ease of application when selecting a polyurethane for your cornhole boards. You’ll need to choose between a water-based or oil-based polyurethane, each with its own advantages and considerations.

Oil-Based Polyurethane

Oil-based polyurethanes are generally easier to work with during application. They have a longer open time, meaning they take longer to dry, allowing for more forgiving application. This gives you more time to work with the polyurethane and ensures a smoother finish. However, one drawback of oil-based polyurethane is its slow drying time. It can take several hours or even days to fully dry and cure. Additionally, oil-based polyurethane tends to have a strong odor that can linger for up to 30 days, requiring proper ventilation.

Water-Based Polyurethane

On the other hand, water-based polyurethanes may present some challenges during application. They have a shorter open time, meaning they dry relatively quickly once applied. This requires more skill and attention to detail to ensure a smooth and even application. However, the quick dry times, allows layering multiple coats within the day hence faster project completion. They also tend to have minimal odor, making them more pleasant to work with.

Consider your comfort level with the application process and your desired timeline for project completion when choosing between water-based and oil-based polyurethanes. If you prefer more forgiving application and don’t mind longer drying times and odor, oil-based polyurethane may be a suitable option. Conversely, if you prioritize quick drying, minimal odor, and superior protection, water-based polyurethane may be the better choice. Ultimately, selecting the right type of polyurethane will ensure a smooth and successful application on your cornhole boards.

Desired appearance

cornhole boards ready to receive coat of polyurethane

When considering the finish for your cornhole boards, you have a few options to choose from that will impact the overall look and aesthetic. Let’s explore these options and their implications.

  • Satin Finishes: Satin finishes provide a more subtle sheen compared to glossy finishes. They strike a balance between a high-gloss shine and a more natural appearance. This finish is a popular choice for those seeking a refined and elegant look for their cornhole boards.
  • Matte Finishes: Matte finishes maintain the original appearance of the wood, offering a more understated and rustic aesthetic. These finishes have a low sheen or no sheen at all, giving your cornhole boards a more muted and natural look. Matte finishes are often preferred by those who appreciate a more organic and textured appearance.
  • Gloss Finishes: Gloss finishes offer a high-shine, reflective surface that brings out the natural beauty of the wood grain. This finish is often chosen by those who prefer a bold and polished look for their cornhole boards. Gloss finishes can create a visually striking appearance, especially when applied to high-quality, well-crafted boards.
  • Yellowing and Aging: It’s important to note that some polyurethane finishes may have a tendency to yellow over time, especially when exposed to sunlight. This aspect is where the water-based vs. oil-based debate becomes relevant. Water-based polyurethanes typically exhibit less yellowing compared to their oil-based counterparts. This is an important consideration if you want to maintain the original color and clarity of your cornhole boards over the long term.

UV Protection:

If your cornhole boards will be exposed to sunlight, it’s essential to select a polyurethane that offers UV protection. UV rays from the sun can cause fading and discoloration of the wood over time. Look for a polyurethane that has UV inhibitors or additives designed to block or minimize the damaging effects of UV radiation. UV protection will help preserve the vibrant colors and overall appearance of your cornhole boards, ensuring they stay visually appealing for longer periods.

Now lets check the best polyurethanes for cornhole boards

Best polyurethane for cornhole boards

General Finishes Exterior 450 Water Based Topcoat
$39.00

General Finishes Exterior 450 Water-Based Topcoat is the ultimate solution for durable and water-based polyurethane finishes. Specifically designed for outdoor projects, this exceptional clear coat provides unparalleled protection against moisture damage, including warping, swelling, and rot. With its mold-resistant properties, it defends against the growth of mold and mildew caused by moisture. The incorporation of UV absorbers ensures that your outdoor wood retains its vibrant color and resists fading from sun exposure. Choose General Finishes Exterior 450 Water-Based Topcoat for reliable and long-lasting protection, making your outdoor projects stand the test of time.

Top Qualities

  • Durable
  • Low odor
  • Fast drying
  • UV absorbers
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This water-based polyurethane stands out for its exceptional durability and ability to withstand heavy use. It dries quickly, has low odor, and offers excellent clarity, enhancing the wood grain of your cornhole boards. In addition to protecting against moisture and scratches, it provides UV protection to prevent fading and yellowing over time.

Reasons to pick:

  • Offers exceptional durability and withstands heavy use.
  • Dries quickly, reducing project time.
  • Provides excellent clarity, enhancing the wood grain.
  • Offers UV protection to prevent fading and yellowing.

Reasons to avoid:

  • May require multiple coats for optimal protection.

Best Water-Based Polyurethane

Varathane Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane
$14.47

This top-of-the-line polyurethane boasts outstanding durability, ease of application, and rapid drying time. Its water-based formula ensures a smooth, seamless finish while providing robust protection against moisture, UV rays, and everyday wear. Varathane's crystal-clear coat enhances the natural allure of wood, revealing its beautiful grain patterns and colors.

Top Qualities

  • No yellowing
  • Low odor
  • Quick drying
  • UV protection
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This water-based polyurethane is an excellent choice for cornhole boards due to its durability, ease of application, and quick drying time. It forms a protective barrier against moisture, UV rays, and scratches, ensuring your cornhole boards remain in top condition even with frequent use. The crystal-clear finish enhances the natural beauty of the wood, providing an appealing aesthetic. Additionally, its water-based formula means it emits fewer harmful fumes and has minimal odor during application.

Reasons to pick:

  • Offers excellent durability and protection against moisture, UV rays, and scratches.
  • Easy to apply with a brush or roller.
  • Dries quickly, allowing for faster project completion.
  • No yellowing.

Reasons to avoid:

  • May require multiple coats for optimal protection.
  • Can be less resistant to heavy wear compared to oil-based polyurethanes.

Most durable Urethane for Cornboard

Minwax Helmsman
$22.98

Experience the unrivaled durability and protection of Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane. Seriously this is one of the most durable urethanes available in the market. This advanced formula is specifically designed to defend your wood surfaces against the toughest challenges, from moisture and UV rays to extreme temperatures. With its exceptional water resistance, your wood will remain untouched by warping or decay. 

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For those seeking maximum durability and weather resistance, this oil-based polyurethane is an outstanding option. It provides a tough, glossy finish that enhances the appearance of your cornhole boards while offering exceptional protection against water, sunlight, and general wear. However, it’s important to note that oil-based polyurethanes tend to have a stronger odor during application and require longer drying times. Adequate ventilation is necessary when using this product.

Reasons to pick:

  • Provides maximum durability and weather resistance.
  • Offers a glossy finish that enhances the appearance of the cornhole boards.
  • Excellent protection against water, sunlight, and general wear.

Reasons to avoid:

  • Stronger odor during application.
  • Longer drying times compared to water-based polyurethanes.

Maximum protection against moisture

Rust-Oleum Marine Spar Varnish
$19.98


When it comes to achieving all-around reliability and protection from sun and moisture damage, this varnish is the top choice. It is highly recommended for various wood applications, including sailboats, such as furniture, railings, and even the bow. With its exceptional maintainability and attractive finish, this varnish has consistently delivered satisfying results. Over time, it has been observed to develop a glittery effect, adding an extra touch of allure to past projects. It can be thinned up to 30%, allowing for quick drying and the application of multiple coats within a day.

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If your cornhole boards will endure frequent exposure to moisture, this oil-based polyurethane is a reliable choice. It provides outstanding water resistance, protecting the wood from rot, mold, and mildew. The high-gloss finish adds a beautiful aesthetic touch to your cornhole boards, while the product also offers excellent UV protection.

Reasons to pick:

  • Provides outstanding water resistance, protecting against rot, mold, and mildew.
  • Delivers a beautiful high-gloss finish.
  • Offers excellent UV protection.

Reasons to avoid:

  • Stronger odor during application.
  • Longer drying times compared to water-based polyurethanes.

Easiest polyurethane to apply

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Topcoat
$44.95

This remarkable topcoat delivers unbeatable toughness and durability, rivaling that of polyurethane, while ensuring a flawless finish without any brush marks or bubbles. Perfect for furniture, cabinets, millwork, and case goods, Arm-R-Seal's wipe-on or foam brush application method eliminates the risk of drips and sags, allowing for a smooth and even application every time. Its unique formulation deeply penetrates the wood, forming a hard and resilient protective layer that is resistant to household chemicals, water, and everyday wear. Not only does Arm-R-Seal provide exceptional protection, but it also enhances the natural beauty of the wood, offering a rich and timeless aesthetic.

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Renowned for its exceptional durability and long-lasting protection, this oil-based polyurethane is an excellent choice for cornhole boards. It offers a warm, amber-toned finish that enhances the natural beauty of the wood while providing excellent resistance to water, chemicals, and general wear.

Reasons to pick:

  • Easy applications with a rag
  • Enhances the natural beauty of the wood with a warm, amber-toned finish.
  • Offers excellent resistance to water, chemicals, and general wear.

Reasons to avoid:

  • Stronger odor during application.
  • Longer drying times compared to water-based polyurethanes.
wipe on polyurethane on cornhole boards

Conclusion: Best polyurethane for cornhole boards

When it comes to selecting the best polyurethane for cornhole boards, several factors come into play. The primary goal is to protect the wood from weathering, moisture, and wear and tear while enhancing its appearance. Durability is crucial, so opting for a polyurethane that is specifically formulated to be tough and resistant to scratches, moisture, and general wear is essential. You also need to decide between water-based and oil-based polyurethanes, considering factors such as ease of application, drying time, and odor. The desired appearance, whether it’s a satin, matte, or glossy finish, should also be taken into account. Additionally, considering factors like yellowing and aging, UV protection, and the most durable options, such as General Finishes Exterior 450 Water Based Topcoat, Varathane Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Minwax Helmsman, Rust-Oleum Marine Spar Varnish, and General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Topcoat, will help you make an informed decision. Choose the polyurethane that meets your specific requirements and ensures that your cornhole boards are protected and visually appealing for years to come.