When looking for furniture to complete the look of your home, wood furniture is almost always the perfect choice. And finding the perfect piece is just the beginning. Now you have to choose which finish is right for your home. And you may be wondering why deciding on a finish is so important. There are many factors that go into which finish works best for your lifestyle, and we are going to provide you with a guide to help make your decision just a little bit easier.
Since wood is a natural product, everyday life and environmental conditions can take a toll on your furniture, if left unfinished. Natural wood has a tendency to crack and swell, which will cause your piece to deteriorate over time. And left in its natural state, wood will lose its luster and beauty. Experts will always recommend a finish to your wood furniture, whether it is brand new or passed down through generations.
But where do you start? Well, let’s start with the basics. There are two types of wood finish, penetrating and surface finishes. Penetrating finishes do just what they say, they penetrate the wood and offer a natural look and luster. While surface finishes are applied to create a barrier between your wood furniture and the elements. There are several options within each of these two types of finishes that we are going to explore.
Let’s start with the penetrating finishes, since there are fewer options in this category. There are 3 popular types of finishes in this group: linseed oil, tung oil and cedar oil. Each of these have unique characteristics that replace the normal loss of oils and enhance the wood’s natural grain.
- Linseed Oil – product of the flax plant seeds, linseed oil soaks into the pores of the wood to result in a shiny appearance with a yellow warm glow that will darken with age. This oil is best used for recreation sporting equipment such as cue shafts, bats and surfboards.
- Tung Oil – it is obtained from the tung tree seeds or nuts, tung oil is the most common. It will enhance the natural appearance and add a warm glow. The tung oil is ideal for boat decks and floors.
- Cedar Oil – also known as cedarwood oil, this finish has a distinct woody smell. It can increase the lifespan of your furniture due to the natural repellents to insects and rot resulting from moisture and water. Cedar oil is the ideal choice for wood furniture.
Next, we will explore the category of surface finishes. This class of finishes is a bit more extensive, as there are more choices and ingredients used to achieve a barrier between the wood and the environment in which your furniture will be located, whether it is inside or outside, and how your furniture will be used.
- Shellac – is an eco-friendly wax finish that comes from the lac bug. Shellac comes in a variety of colors and enhances the natural beauty of the grains of wood furniture that is made from hardwoods such as walnut, fine veneer and mahogany. It is not the most durable as it will dissolve in water and solvents like alcohol. Shellac works best on outdoor furniture.
- Lacquer – although it is a surface finish, lacquer is a thin solvent-based finish that reaches into the wood to nourish and improve the wood’s grain with a glossy finish. Lacquer is the perfect choice for furniture pieces such as cabinets, doors and shelves. The drawback of lacquer is that it can scratch and can be damaged when in contact with water.
- Varnish – as the most common type of finish, varnish leaves the wood furniture with a glossy to high-glossy finish that has no pigments or very little color. Varnish will create a hard, durable barrier to last in just about any environment. This finish is ideal for both indoor and outdoor furniture, floors and cabinets. It will also provide UV protection, although over time, it may achieve a yellow tinge.
- Wax – also known as carnauba, wax finishes are not very popular. This is mostly because they do not offer long-term protection against scratches and wear. This finish has to be applied repeatedly over the life of the furniture piece.
- Polyurethane – when looking to achieve a durable, long-lasting finish, polyurethane is an ideal choice. This finish creates a plastic coating on the wood surface that will resist water, scratches, and everyday life. Polyurethane is an excellent choice for almost any wood furniture, cabinet, doors and more.
- Wood Stain – if you are looking to change the color of the wood furniture or you want to enhance the grain of your piece, then wood stain is a great option. The pigments of the stain will bring out the natural beauty of your wooden piece. The depth of color will depend upon the layers of stain that is applied. Wood stain will not protect the wood, so a protective finish will need to be applied.
- Paint – one of the easiest finishes to apply is wood paint. This process will hide the natural beauty of your wooden piece, but it can also hide any damage that may have marred your furniture as well. When looking for a cost-effective way to create a new look and bring life to an older furniture piece, paint may very well be a viable option to consider.
As you can see, there are many options to choose from when trying to match your wood furniture to your home and décor. Always consider the environment and elements that your furniture piece will be in. This will lead you to making the best decision for your wood furniture finishes.