The Ultimate Guide to Wood Finishes

There are a variety of different finishes that can be used for wood and the one that you choose can be entirely based on your preference. If you’re thinking about applying a finish to a piece of furniture, rest assured that it’s a relatively easy process. Let’s review different options for wood finishes.

Clear Stain

One of the reasons why a lot of people prefer a clear wood stain is because it allows you to see the natural appearance of wood. You can apply a clear stain with a paint brush and then use a towel to wipe off any excess. Even though you’re applying a clear stain, you’ll still need to apply a clear coat finish. The clear coat is used to prevent water damage, which is especially important when you’re staining table tops. Once both applications are complete, you’ll need to let it dry for several hours, but preferably overnight.

Natural Finish

Another way to enjoy the natural appearance of wood is by choosing a natural finish without any additional color. A clear coat wood sealer is used to achieve a natural finish because it allows you to preserve the wood. After applying the wood sealer, you’ll need to sand wood because it naturally has a rough surface that becomes smooth when sanded. Most people prefer to apply two coats of wood sealer. You can either spray on the wood sealer or use a paint brush, depending on the product that you choose.

Solid Stain

Solid stains are often used when you don’t like the wood pattern because it completely covers the wood grain. Most people use a solid stain to trim furniture as opposed to using it to cover the entire item. It’s also commonly used for sidings. Sold stains can be applied with a paint brush.


Varnish has been used for many years as a way to combat the effects of harsh weather. It’s often preferred because it’s resistant to chemicals and it isn’t necessary to use a clear coat for protection. Varnish is actually both a stain and sealer combined. Prior to adding varnish, you’ll need to sand the wood to obtain a smooth finish and make sure it’s free of any dust. It’s best to apply at least two coats of varnish and use sandpaper to smooth the finish between coats. As with other types of finishes, you can apply varnish with a brush or a rag.


The use of paint on wood provides many options because you can use either latex or oil paint. If you want a wood surface that can be cleaned with water, latex is the best option. Oil paints are different because they are a bit more difficult to clean, but it’s more durable than latex paint.

Evan Shaner