Tips for Using the Correct Wood Finishing Product

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive at our lumber store in Houston is what type of wood finish is best used for the lumber they’re purchasing. There really is no single way to answer this—there isn’t really a “best” finish, because your choice depends entirely on the look you’re going for, how much you care about protecting the wood and the level of maintenance you want to keep up with moving forward.

Therefore, to choose the correct wood finishing product for your needs, you should have a general understanding of some of the most common types of finishing products on the market. Here is a quick overview.


Varnishes provide a lot of durability, and you can find them in a variety of sheens, ranging from satin to glossy. They are most commonly oil based and contain synthetic resins.

The attribute that causes most people to seek out varnishes is that you can apply multiple coats, which allow for some excellent protection of the wood. A few thick coats of varnish will make for a plastic-like appearance and feel on top of the wood. You also have the ability to use thinner applications by wiping them on with a rag and taking a bit more care in the process.

Oil-varnish blends

These blends are very popular because they are easy to apply and also offer a pretty solid level of durability. They’ll contain additives such as dyes, pigments, UV inhibitors and driers. They may be able to build up a decent sheen on the surface of the wood as well.

The downside of using such a product is that the level of synthetic additives can make it difficult to be sure exactly what you’re getting in each product.

Rub-in oils

These are more “pure” oils than the other options already listed in that they are primarily based on natural ingredients. They are also very easy to apply—just rub them in with a cloth, wait a few minutes (or hours, depending on the application) for the oil to penetrate into the wood, then use another cloth to wipe off the excess oil.

The most common such oils are tung and linseed oils, both of which will easily dry or cure naturally, unlike other oils like olive or canola oil, which will stay wet and eventually go rancid.

Evaporative finishes

The most common types of these finishes are lacquer and shellac. They are made of solvents and resins, relying on the evaporation of the solvent to leave the resin behind. Both are very fast-drying options, build up a film on the surface of the wood and sit on the top of the wood rather than soaking into it. They fall in between varnishes and oil-varnish blends on the durability scale.

For more information about the various finishing products you can use for your woodworking projects, we encourage you to visit Houston Hardwoods Inc. or contact our lumber store in Houston today. We look forward to assisting you soon!