Polymer or Polyurethane? What’s the Difference?

We talk about our products being manufactured from polymers or fiberglass or polyurethanes. Builders, designers and manufacturers bandy these words about easily. But what exactly do these terms mean? What is the difference between a polymer and a polyurethane? Or between polyurethane and fiberglass?

I decided to do a little research on Wikipedia.com and Artlex.com to help distinguish the similarities and differences between the three terms for all of our readers and customers. This is what I have come up with.

A polymer is a chemical compound that is formed of large connecting molecules. These molecules, when arranged together, make up natural or synthetic (man-made) resins. Resins are sticky substances used to create paints, plastics and nylon. Polyurethane is one type of material made of polymers.

Polyurethanes, then are any of a variety of polymers which contain urethane. A urethane is a “crystalline compound that is used as a solvent and as the basis for polyurethanes” (Artlex.com). Urethane and polyurethane are used interchangeably to refer to the same type of substance. Polyurethanes are actually chains of organic polymers that are joined together by urethane links. These can vary in characteristics such as flexibility and rigidity.

Polyurethanes are found in many items. They are used in resins, adhesives, fibers, foam padding and insulation. They come in several forms, such as rods, sheets and liquids.

Polyurethanes are frequently used as an alternative to such materials as wood, plastics, metal and rubber. And for good reason. Polyurethanes are resistant to wear and tear, weather, impact, scratching and erosion. They are also more cost-effective as an alternative as well.

Other uses for poyurethanes, in addition to those mentioned above, include: fibers, seals, gaskets, condoms, hard plastic parts, carpet underlay and sealants. Items such as domed ceilings, moldings and ceiling medallions are easier to construct of polyurethane foam rather than wood.

In its most flexible form, polyurethanes are found in upholstery fabrics, while the more rigid foams are used inside the metal and plastic walls of most refrigerators and freezers. They are commonly utilized to make up paints, varnishes and glue. Your computer mouse-pad bottom is most likely made of polyurethane foam.

Variants are also used in tires, roller blades, skateboards, wheelchair tires, bicycle tires and auto parts like steering wheels and bumpers. Tennis grips, electronic parts, some surfboards and the foam used in chairs, couches and mattresses is of polyurethane foam. Polyurethane is also used in furniture, school tables, furniture found in hospitals and banks and shop counters and displays.

Wow!! Quite a versatile substance. It’s low cost, lightweight and anything you can do to wood, you can do to polyurethane. Sounds like the greatest invention since sliced bread.

Finally, we come to fiberglass. Fiberglass is sometimes referred to as spun glass. It is also a light and durable product. Fiberglass is composed of a plastic resin fortified with glass fiber. These glass fibers are very minute and they are used to reinforce polymer products. Then we call them fiber-reinforced polymer or glass-reinforced plastic, both of which are commonly referred to as fiberglass.

Fiberglass is found in mats, insulation and fabrics that are heat resistant, corrosive resistant and high strength. Ceiling medallions, ceiling domes and moldings can also be constructed of fiberglass.

Fiberglass products are often as economical as polyurethanes. They are light weight and resist erosion, wear and tear and weather. They can be sanded, nailed, planed and painted, just as polyurethane products can be. Fiberglass products provide yet another alternative to more costly products as wood, ceramic or plaster, which are also more difficult to work with.

So there we have the nitty-gritty behind polymers, polyurethanes and fiberglass. I know I learned a bit more about each and I hope that you also found this to be an informative resource.

Visit GoCeilingMedallion.com to see the decorative ceiling products offered that are constructed of these amazing substances.


January 8, 2007. Blogroll, Home, Home Decorating, Home interior, Uncategorized.


  1. elinorloewen replied:

    Thanks for this post, I’ll have to keep it bookmarked so I can link it when some loony throws up on my blog.

  2. indir replied:

    thank you 🙂

  3. burak replied:

    thanks for that’s useful knowledge:)

  4. Surjendu Ssekhar Lahiri replied:

    Thank you for the information.

  5. mp replied:

    Great post. Thanks so much for clearly making the distinctions and giving examples.

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