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Choose the Correct Wood Finish for the Job:

Consider the Function and Looks of Trim, Cabinets, and Siding

© 2008 by all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

Box with Zebrawood Drawer Faces

For your selection of which wood finish product to apply on cutting boards, kitchen cabinets, fascia boards, and wood siding the options are many. Would you like an oil finish, paint, or a wood stain?

There’s no doubt about it; there are many more wood finish products to select from than there ever has been. So how do you select the correct wood finish for each DIY project? The first thing you should consider is this: How is the wood going be used? Will it be subjected to the elements? What’s the project’s purpose?

When to Paint Wood Surfaces

In the course of a home remodel or during new construction, there are many wood objects associated with the house that are right for a painted finish. But it’s important to select the correct paint for the object in question.

As an example, when you’re remodeling your kitchen cabinets, a water-based latex with a semi-gloss or gloss sheen is ideal.

A slick surface on your kitchen woodwork reflects ambient light. This opens up the space visually and makes possibly dangerous work, such as cutting with sharp knives, safer. Additionally, either gloss or semi-gloss paint lend itself to easy cleaning.

When you paint exterior wood objects like siding and fascia boards, be sure you use a paint that’s labeled for exterior use. Look for one that incorporates a fungicide ingredient. If it involves wood, Rockler has the tool!

Painting wood paneling has its own considerations.

Any open-grain (unfinished) wood surface needs to be primed using the correct primer (oil-based primer or water-based latex primer) prior to being painted.

When to Use a Wood Stain

Using a wood stain product is the correct way to alter the color or shade of unfinished wood. Kitchen cabinets may benefit by being stained, as well as door casing and window trim, crown molding, stair banisters, and more. Putting a urethane coat onto this rounds out the finish.

Why would you use a wood stain anyway? One reason is when you use a less expensive wood species like pine, and dress it up to resemble a more costly species like cherry, oak, or mahogany.

Some wood stain formulations are already infused with sealers right from the factory. Applications for a product of this type include refinishing and weatherproofing decks and porches. Additionally, think about using a wood stain sealer with a wood siding like western red cedar.

When to Use an Oil Finish

Using oil finishes brings out the natural beauty in the the grain of the wood. This is especially true of high-quality domestic hardwoods like cherry, maple, red oak, and walnut. Think about using an oil finish on imported exotic woods as too.

Some woods that fall in this class are purpleheart, ebony, zebrawood, and cocobolo.

All oil-based finishes are not created equal. For example:

  • Linseed Oil: Both the regular linseed oil as well as boiled linseed oil can be used, however the boiled oil is usually chosen because it boasts a shorter drying time. Linseed oil should only be applied on interior projects. A good example is when restoring antique furniture that already has a linseed finish.
  • Danish and Teak Oil: Both Danish and teak oils are superior for brand new woodwork without a previous finish. How does Danish differ from teak? Danish is a low luster finish and teak oil is brighter. Your personal preference is the deciding factor.
  • Mineral Oil: Mineral oil is ideal on surfaces that need to be non-toxic, such as butcher block countertops. A regular application of mineral oil will keep a pizza peel in good shape. (The large paddle for sliding it onto and off a pizza stone in the oven.)
  • Tung Oil: Tung oil is perfect for any woodwork that’s around a lot of moisture. This makes it ideal for marine applications. Applying three coats (buffing with #000 steel or bronze wool between each coat) results in a beautiful sheen.

Wood Finish Wrap-Up

These are only the primary categories listing the most popular wood finishes commonly available. Each category has an abundance of derivatives in it. Producers like Behr, Minwax, Tried & True, and Glidden are just a few who have busy R & D departments, striving to bring new and environmentally-friendly wood finishes to market.


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© 2008 All rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission.