Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane Oil-Based Clear Satin: What It Is, How It Is

Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane Oil-Based Clear Satin

What It Is

Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane Oil-Based (Clear, Satin) is a coating that you apply to wood. In simple terms, it’s the smelly stuff that applies as a liquid but turns hard after a few hours and which requires clean up with a petroleum product, not water.

Easy or Not?

By definition, any oil-based coating, whether it is a paint or wood coating, will not be easy. From the moment you open the lid and the pungent odor hits you to the last brush stroke on the wood and clean up, you are fighting the product.

This is the nature of oil-based coatings. In return, they give you hard shell protection. Oil-based trim paint, in particular, is famous for producing a smoother, flatter finish.

But if you want easy, Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane Oil-Based is not for you.

How It Is

Clear Has a Color

No matter what this product says on the label–or many coatings that claim to be “clear”–it does have a color and it will tone down your surface a shade.

Satin Is Semi-Glossy

Jeld-Wen Interior Hardwood Door - What It Is

If you are accustomed to the satin sheen of paint, you will find that this satin is glossier than that.



Contractor Grade Paint vs. Regular Paint: Which Is Better?

Dedicated paint stores offer different “contractor grade” or “builder grade” paints in addition to regular paints.  What’s the difference between these two types of paints vs. regular paint and is contractor/builder-grade paint worse than regular?

Best Answer

Regular paint is better than contractor/builder grade paint, though exceptions abound and it depends on your definition of regular paint.  The amount of solids differs in each paint.  More solids delivers more physical product to your surface.


Rarely do paint stores actually call these paints builder or contractor grade.  Sherwin-Williams, for instance, says of their ProMar® 200 HP Zero VOC Interior Acrylic Series that it is “made for the commercial or light industrial jobs,” which means the same thing.  Some manufacturers, like Benjamin Moore, avoid these designations altogether.

Solids volume and weight are by no means the sole determiner of quality.  However, it does make sense that you want more paint remaining on your surface after application.  Or to put it the reverse way, when you end up with less product on your surface, you have less coverage.

Sherwin-Williams Paint Solids

As an example, Sherwin-Williams paints greatly differ in terms of paint solids.  A sampling of 10 paints show that solids volume and weight differ greatly, with Harmony® Interior Acrylic having the greatest amount of solids and ProMar® 700 Interior Latex the least, at about 43% less solids than the Harmony.

Solids Volume % Solids Weight %
Interior Latex
43 61
Extreme Cover
™ Interior Stain Blocking
41 57
ProMar® 400
Zero VOC
Interior Latex
29 48
Duration Home®
Interior Latex
A96-1200 Series
41 54
Interior Latex
41 56
Interior Acrylic
44 62
Interior Acrylic
Flat Enamel
D16-150 Series
39 54
ProMar® 700
Interior Latex
25 33
Builders Solution™
Interior Latex
34 52
ProMar® Ceiling Paint
Interior Latex
29 47
ProMar® 200
Zero VOC
Interior Latex
34 52

All paints flat or matte, white or extra-white.  All are +/- 2%.


“Regular Paint”:  This is the word that qualifies so much of this answer, because “regular” is so malleable.  Regular paint can range from ultra high premium $78/gallon paint down to bargain $10/gallon paint.  So, you could still have a “regular” paint that is low in solids.  For example, Benjamin Moore’s ben brand interior flat latex has a solids volume percentage of 31.5%, lower than Sherwin-Williams’ ProMar 200, which is considered contractor-grade.

Voices / Ranking

Paint Is Paint, Right? by Jeff Stec, Southern Painting.  Stec discusses volume of solids in paint, saying, “[S]olids are what is left after the “solvent” (water in the case of latex paints) evaporates out of the paint. It stands to reason that paints with a higher percentage of solids in the bucket will cover better than paints with lower percentages of solids.”

Sherwin-Williams:  The company’s site is a good source for Product Data Sheets (PDS).

Is Flat Really the Best Paint Gloss for Ceilings?

All you hear when it comes to paint gloss (or sheen) for ceilings is flat.  When you buy a can of ceiling paint is automatically comes in flat–no other choices.  Is flat really the way to go?

Best Answer

Yes.  If you had to pick just one sheen, flat would be the one that universally works for all rooms of the home.


Flat or matte paint sheen cuts down on ceiling reflection.  While there are exceptions to be made (below), flat tends to be the one sheen that universally works for most ceilings.  Also, because ceilings run continuously from room to room, with no division points (such as doorways and trim), it is difficult to change sheens throughout the house.  So, it is best to stick to one sheen.


  • “Universal” Means Democratic:  And in a democratic society, there will be winners and there will be losers.  The loser, in this case, would be the bathroom ceiling, where flat seems to be a farm for mold and mildew.  This is one room you would want to paint in semi-gloss or glossy paint.
  • When You Have Bumpy Textures:  If you have a textured ceiling, using a flat sheen can be detrimental.  Textured ceilings–popcorn, knock-down, or otherwise–can trap cobwebs, dust, and other debris.  Using a paint with an eggshell or satin sheen can help with cleaning the ceiling.
  • When You Want Effect:  You can also paint the ceiling in higher glosses for dramatic effect.  One blogger notes that she accidentally ordered Benjamin Moore Pearl sheen, and it made her ceiling look higher.  One designer said that she used a high-gloss sheen simply for dramatic effect.


Sources pretty much resoundingly say flat–truth or are they just parroting what others say?  Because the paint manufacturers will tell you whatever it takes to sell paint, I was especially interested in what DIYers, designers, and architects said.

Life of an Architect

“…you should always paint the ceiling with a flat finish.”

Designing Solutions

Flat.  “Painters once used semi-gloss finishes on kitchen and bath ceilings, thinking it would hold up better and show less staining from moisture and cooking…”

Maria Killiam

“Bottom line, use flat for ceilings–unless you are designing something very dramatic, like [a] high gloss ceiling.”

For the Love of a House

“… sheen between an eggshell and a semi-gloss” because “the ceiling with the sheen looks 2 inches taller!”