Types of Finishes for Wood

Oct 27, 2023

Welcome to Artsy Home, your ultimate guide to all things related to wood finishes. Whether you are a homeowner looking to refinish your furniture or a contractor working on a flooring project, understanding the different types of finishes available is essential for achieving the perfect result. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various finishes, techniques, and tips to help you make informed decisions and achieve stunning outcomes.

Why Choose the Right Wood Finish?

Choosing the right wood finish is crucial for preserving the beauty and longevity of your wooden surfaces. A well-applied finish not only enhances the natural charm of wood but also offers protection against moisture, UV rays, scratches, and other daily wear and tear. Additionally, the right finish will accentuate the unique grain patterns and texture of different wood species, allowing their natural beauty to shine through.

Understanding Different Types of Wood Finishes

There are various types of finishes available in the market, each with its own characteristics, advantages, and application techniques. Let's explore some of the most popular options:

1. Varnish

Varnish is a durable finish that provides excellent protection and enhances the natural beauty of wood. It is available in various sheens, including gloss, semi-gloss, and satin, allowing you to choose the level of shine you desire. Varnish is commonly used on furniture, paneling, and doors due to its high resistance to scratches, heat, and chemicals. It can be applied with a brush, roller, or spray gun, depending on the project requirements.

2. Stain

Stains are designed to penetrate the wood fibers, enhancing the color while still allowing the grain pattern to show through. They are available in a wide range of shades, from light to dark, allowing you to choose the desired level of richness. Stains can be oil-based or water-based; both options offer their own unique attributes. They are suitable for projects like flooring, cabinetry, and furniture.

3. Lacquer

Lacquer is a popular choice for achieving a smooth, glossy finish on wood surfaces. It dries quickly, making it ideal for projects that require fast results. Lacquer is available in different formulations, such as nitrocellulose, acrylic, and catalyzed. Each type offers distinct advantages in terms of durability, flexibility, and ease of application. Lacquer is commonly used on musical instruments, cabinets, and decorative wood items.

4. Shellac

Shellac is a natural finish made from the resin secreted by the female lac bug. It offers excellent adhesion and provides a protective layer against moisture and heat. Shellac is available in various colors, ranging from clear to amber tones, allowing you to achieve the desired look. It is commonly utilized on antiques, wooden toys, and small projects due to its ease of application and repairability.

5. Oil Finishes

Oil finishes, such as tung oil and linseed oil, are renowned for their ability to bring out the natural beauty of wood. These finishes penetrate the wood fibers, providing exceptional moisture resistance while allowing the wood to breathe. Oil finishes are suitable for tabletops, cutting boards, and other wooden surfaces that come into contact with food. They require periodic reapplication to maintain their protective properties.

Tips for Achieving the Perfect Wood Finish

Now that we have explored some of the popular wood finishes, let's discuss a few tips for achieving excellent results:

1. Surface Preparation

Before applying any finish, ensure that the wood surface is clean, smooth, and free of dust or debris. Sand the surface using progressively finer grit sandpaper to achieve a silky-smooth finish.

2. Application Techniques

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the specific finish you are using. Whether brushing, wiping, or spraying, apply the finish evenly and in thin coats, allowing adequate drying time between each layer.

3. Ventilation and Safety

When working with wood finishes, ensure you are in a well-ventilated area and wear appropriate safety gear, such as gloves and a mask, to protect yourself from any harmful fumes or particles.

4. Finishing Touches

After the final coat has dried, consider using a fine-grit sandpaper or steel wool to smooth out any imperfections, and apply a top coat or wax for added protection and a polished appearance.

5. Regular Maintenance

To extend the life and beauty of your wood finishes, regularly clean them with a mild detergent and avoid abrasive cleaners or harsh chemicals that can damage the finish.


Choosing the right wood finish is essential for preserving and enhancing the beauty of your wooden surfaces. From varnish and stain to lacquer and oil finishes, each option offers unique characteristics and advantages. By understanding the different types of finishes available and following the recommended application techniques, you can achieve outstanding results that will stand the test of time. At Artsy Home, we believe that the quality of your wood finish is a reflection of your attention to detail and dedication to excellence.

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types of finishes for wood
Vincent Rossi
Great resource, learned something new!
Nov 7, 2023
Stan Trepetin
Informative and helpful guide!
Nov 4, 2023