How to Choose A Wood Finish for Your Home? A Complete Guide

As you try to select how to finish your wood, you can have wrinkles from anxiety on your forehead. You have to make it work with the rest of the space without compromising on the appearance of the place. This can be a considerable challenge, and keeping this in mind, we’ve got you covered by explaining in detail what you are up against in this situation. You learn the answers to some of your questions, such as what are the types of wood, what is a wood finish, how to choose a wood finish, and your options when it comes to wooden finishes, as well as a few ideas to get you started.

What Is a Wood Finish?

Wood Finish
Wood Finish

Let’s start by understanding what exactly a wooden finish is. As the name suggests, it is a layer of a protective substance that is applied to shield it from the attacks of time. It is a layer that provides the wood with resistance to water and other environmental factors. The layer seals all the pores of the wood and gives it a smoothness that facilitates cleaning. The wood finish is what ultimately gives it the desired aesthetic appearance. With so many benefits to using it, it must be completed. The variety of finishes available ranges from the most basic to the most unusual colours, much like the myriad benefits they provide. So, before you start, you need to know where and what you’re coating. Let’s look at the various options available for the wood you own.

The way to the right finish…

Knowing the right finish begins with understanding what you are working with. This would be the wood onto which the coat goes. Once you get an idea of that, you need to know the different varieties and properties of the wood finish.

Depending on the aesthetic you are going for, you can finalise the coat. So, to get started, here are some facts about the different kinds of wood commonly used in households.

Know Where Your Wood Fits in: Types of Wood

If you are wondering how to choose a wood finish for furniture or the home, you must first know what wood you are dealing with. This is important as some wood finishes go better with certain types of wood. Let’s look at some references for you to identify your wood.

01. Natural Wood

Natural Wood
Natural Wood

Natural wood is the wood you find in nature, which can be categorised into softwood and hardwood. It is mainly about the trees that grow such wood rather than the softness of the wood itself.  Softwoods are woods derived from trees that produce needles and have cones, commonly known as coniferous trees. A few examples of these include cedar, fir, spruce, pinewood etc. They are commonly used in flooring, panelling, cladding, decking, structural framing, poles, benchtops, beams, furniture, and cabinets.

Hardwoods are woods derived from trees that grow leaves and seeds, called deciduous trees. Heavy furniture and flooring are usually made of hardwood. While not necessarily stronger than softwoods, they sometimes have beautifully distinct grain patterns. Examples include oak wood, maple, walnut, mahogany, banyan, deodar, babul etc.

Wood is the best option for furniture as well as flooring, but when it comes to wood flooring, there are two options for you, softwood flooring and hardwood flooring. So, know the difference between softwood and hardwood flooring, and choose your option wisely.

02. Engineered Wood or Man-Made Wood

Engineered Wood
Engineered Wood

Engineered wood, or man-made wood, is made out of the leftovers from sawmills. It is engineered in a way to incorporate certain properties into the wood as well as get sizes that are difficult to get in natural wood.

The wastes from sawmills go through chemical and heat processes to produce boards that are used as false ceilings, panels, engineered wood flooring etc. Examples of man-made wood include Medium Density Fibre Board, Particle Boards, Oriented Strand Boards, Composite Boards, Plywood, and Cross Laminated Timber (CLT).

If you are confused about which types of wood are best for your furniture, go through the blog below. Gharpedia has written a detailed blog on it. It will undoubtedly help you in choosing the best suitable wood options for your furniture.

Next, we have discussed how to choose a wood finish for your home’s wooden elements.

How To Choose A Wood Finish for Your Wood

Confused about how to choose a wood finish for your home?

Relax, here’s the solution: based on the type of wood you have chosen and the aesthetic it will have, you can choose the wood finish. This decision can be made correctly once you know the options you have to choose from. Let’s look at a few types of wood finishes that will spruce up your spaces in no time.

There are mainly two types of wood finishes; they are surface finish and penetrative finish. Following are the details.

  • Surface Finish
  1. Paint
  2. Polyurethane Wood Finish
  3. Wax Finish
  4. Lacquer Finish
  5. Shellac Finish
  • Penetrative Finish
  1. Wood Stain Finish
  2. Oil Finish
  3. Wood Varnish

Let’s dive in-

Surface Finish

Surface Finish
Surface Finish

Surface wood finishes stay as a protective layer on top of the wood, shielding it from moisture, weather, and other degrading factors that might harm the quality of the wood. They contribute to the aesthetics and texture of the wood. The following are the various types of surface finishes that are available.

01. Paint Finish

Paints are a versatile finish to use if you want to play around with your woodwork. The hue may liven up the environment and is very simple to apply. Instead of natural woods, these work well on MDF boards, plywood, and other similar materials. But, once you use a paint finish on wood, it tends to be permanent, and it can be extremely difficult and time-consuming to remove it and restore the natural beauty of wood.

02. Polyurethane Wood Finish

This type of finish is a plastic coating for any type of indoor wooden project that protects it from damage. It has clear finishes that vary in sheen from glossy to matte. The grain texture of the wood can be elevated by applying this. It is available in oil and water-based formulas, with the water-based formula being the most user-friendly option. However, you have to consider that it has the poor thermal capability and poor weather ability.

03. Wax Finish

Paste wax is one of the finishes that is now becoming popular. Although it doesn’t protect the wood from fire, it doesn’t provide it with water resistance. It can be easily applied using a cotton rag, and when applied properly, it adds to the beauty of the wood.

04. Lacquer Finish

This type of finish is very durable and resistant to damage. Due to its quick-drying feature, it is suggested that the process of applying can be done rapidly. Although the durability is high, it fades away over time to result in a discoloured and scratchable surface.

05. Shellac Finish

Made from the secretion of the female lac bug and a solvent like alcohol, this product has a traditional finish. It gives the surfaces an amber finish. It is sensitive to heat and not recommended to be used for finishing tabletops. It is applied easily using natural bristled brushes.

Penetrative Finish

Penetrative Finish
Penetrative Finish

These are finishes that coat the surface of the wood and take a bit of time to dry. As it dries, it penetrates the wood deeper than the surface finish. As a result, they dry inside the wood. They also provide the wood with a more natural finish. The following are the various types of penetrative finishes that are available.

01. Wood Stain Finish

The wood stain finish is the penetrative finish that accentuates the grain of wood while adding colour as well. As the protection given by the stain is weak, it is always better to use it in combination with a surface finish. It can be used with a cotton rag or brush.

02. Oil Finish

The oil finish enhances the natural colour and texture of the wood, making it appear brighter. It might create the illusion of giving the wood a glossy finish, but instead, it is more in the range of matte or semi-glossy. Oils are usually applied heavily first and then wiped down; it is best applied using cotton rags.

03. Wood Varnish

A wood varnish is a natural finish made using a solvent, resin, and oil. As it is translucent, it brings out the natural features of the wood it is applied to. In addition, it provides the wood with resistance against damages like scratches and dents. It is easily thinned with mineral spirits and can be removed from surfaces with lacquer thinner and sandpaper. Once completely removed, it can be reapplied with a natural bristle brush for a new coat.

Do you know that various types of linseed oils are used in paints and varnishes? Gharpedia has written a detailed blog on it; click on the link below to read it:

Before you choose the right wood finish, you need to be aware of the properties of the wood finish, like its durability and the texture it provides. These aspects are discussed in the section below.

Properties of the Wood Finish

With so many different types of wood finishes, there are a few factors based on which you can choose to go about selecting the right one for you.

The Durability of the Finish

Durability of the Wood Finish
Durability of the Wood Finish

The most important thing to look for is a finish that provides the wood with the necessary durability. Any wooden object, furniture, or floor will be subjected to wear and tear over time. This will depend on the frequency of its use.

Polyurethane, varnish, paint, and lacquer are the four preferred wood finishes for furniture to give the needed results. Being water-resistant, they can protect the surface of the wood from external moisture as well as moisture from the air.

Wooden objects that are subjected to less heavy wear and tear require less protection, though coats can be applied to enhance their appearance. Coats of oil and stain can be used for this purpose even though they are not technically finished.

The Final Finishing Texture

The Final Finishing Texture
The Final Finishing Texture

Next comes the aesthetic factor of the wood. Firstly, you need to decide whether the piece of wood is to be coloured or not, after which the final coating and how much sheen it will have can be decided.

Coloured wooden surfaces can be easily made with paint to fit a specific aesthetic, but leaving them natural also has a powerful attraction. High gloss, semi-gloss, satin, matte, and other sheens are among the options. Oils can give a matte or satin finish, while the lacquer is glossy.

The Ease of getting it Done

The Ease of getting it Done
The Ease of getting it Done

Getting the job done becomes the final step in the process, but also an important one. If you want to save money on hiring someone to do the job, the application method for your selected wood finishes for furniture needs to be easy.

Some finishes require the use of a brush, while others only need you to rub them in with a cloth. The drying time for each finish can also vary, from hours to days. You can opt for lacquer and other types of polyurethane, which can be sprayed onto the surface.

Since rookies are more likely to make mistakes, this could take even longer than drying. So make it a point to know how much time you will need for the process and how to do it before jumping in. Then, you can spend a lot of time on it accordingly as well.

Next, we have provided a few inspiring ideas to get you started.

Some Pro Tips to Get Started with Wood Finishing

Classy Wood Finish
Classy Wood Finish

Before you head into the land of numerous combinations with these finishes, here are some suggestions you can base it on to get a grip on what appeals to you the most.

  1. Using a rich colour with a glossy finish for furniture pieces against a muted decor backdrop can bring a lively vibe to the space.
  2. Colourful finishes can opt for a more bohemian aesthetic where there is an amalgamation between prints, colours, and earthy tones.
  3. Light-coloured or dark wood in its natural aesthetic can be minimalist and modern. A coat of matte or semi-gloss finish can tie up the setting.
  4. Staining the wood to a desired shade to match the aesthetics is another option to consider.
  5. If you are not looking for a finish to match your decor, you can go with a protective coat of polyurethane or varnish to add to its durability.

When it comes to long-lasting things such as wooden finishes for furniture, it is always key to ensure where and how you will do it. The right information on each aspect of the process will help you decide how to proceed.

On a final note, choosing a wood finish based on practical and aesthetic aspects would be wise. Once you fix that, the major aspect of the process will be done. Then all you need to do is carefully apply the right finish and let it work its magic.

I hope you liked the blog on choosing a wood finish, and now it’s easier for you to select the best suitable option for your home. Before you leave this page, here is the complete guide to waxing and French polishing your furniture. It will guide you through your task.

An Insight into Waxing and French Polishing

Author Bio

Saili Sawantt – She is an Architect and Interior Designer by profession. Writing is what she treats as her passion. She has worked as an Architectural Writer, Editor, and Journalist for various design as well as digital portals, both national and international. Formerly she has also worked with Godrej Properties Limited (GPL) Design Studio, Mumbai, due to her keen interested in learning about Sustainability and Green buildings. Apart from this, she runs her blog ‘The Reader’s Express’ and is a practicing Architect & Interior Designer.

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