Eco-friendly natural oils and waxes or synthetic alternatives… Whether it’s the wooden floor or a piece of the furniture, you will need one of these wood finishes or combination to add more protection to it and to achieve the desired look of your wooden surface. Here’s a quick guide to different wood finishes.



Wood stains also known as wood dyes are designed to change the colour of the wood while living the grain visible. They come in different colours but the final result will also depend on the type of wood that you will apply it to. Apart from much thicker, specially designed stains for external use, most of them don’t provide enough protection to the wood and will need to be combined with an additional protective layer of one of the other types of wood floor finishes, (for example varnish).


Unfinished wood can look dry and dull. Applying oil will not only bring up the natural beauty of the wood, but it will also nourish it by replacing natural wood oils that dry out over time. Oil also can add a little colour to the wood by making it a little bit darker. It can also add yellowish tint to it, but the colour tends to be more natural when compared to stain. Some of the more popular oils are boiled linseed oil, teak, mineral, tung or danish oil. Again you can get some protection from using oil (more from some than the others) but it will be nowhere near as effective as varnish or lacquer. Danish oil will tend to do a better job here since it’s partly mixed with varnish.


Polyurethane is basically liquid plastic. It can be water based and oil based. Water-based will dry out quicker than oiled based but won’t bring that natural look of the wood that can be achieved with oil-based polyurethane. Polyurethane comes in matt, gloss and satin, and it is the most durable and hard wearing finish often seen on floorboards or table tops. The downside is that it can leave a plastic-like feel to it. It’s also worth to mention that while it’s water resistant, it isn’t fully waterproof and should be combined with another suitable finish to add full protection against water.


Shellack is a quick-drying older type of finish which basically is waxy resin scraped from the tree and mixed with alcohol solvent which makes it easy to apply. This very glossy finish is often used on antics and fine furniture. It’s much less durable than varnish or polyurethane and with age will become dull and cloudy.


Varnish is another old type of wood finish. It’s made up of solvents, oils (vegetable oils) and resins, and it’s usually used as a top coat finish. It dries quite slowly and isn’t as durable as polyurethane, however, it offers a better UV protection. It’s also cheaper than polyurethane. Spar Varnish is a special type that is often used on items susceptible to damage from water and sun (decks, wood boat, beach chairs, etc.).


Although the lacquer is often interchangeably used with varnish, or it is separately described as thin liquid varnish, typical lacquer is a type of solvent-based product that is made by dissolving plasticizers, together with pigments and nitrocellulose in a mixture of volatile solvents. Same as the other types of coatings, it can have a more natural or synthetic form. Because it is thinner than the other finishes, It can be applied via a sprayer giving the surface super smooth finish. It contains an evaporating solvent that makes it dry very quickly. It’s also very durable and doesn’t drastically change the colour of the wood. Typical solvent-based lacquer can have quite high flammability and incompatibility with other finishes and should be avoided in internal wood finishes.


Finishing wax is usually made of beeswax and is available in both: clear finish and different colours. It can add an extra protection to the wood against moisture, but most of all, it brings up the natural beauty of the wood. The finish itself is very matty and the surface needs to be buffed in order to give it shiny, smooth look. Since wax creates a protective seal over the wood, you won’t be able to apply another finish to it. If you want to apply more than one type of finish, you have to make sure the wax goes last. It’s also worth to know that it’s suitable only for internal use.

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