Which wood finish fits your furniture and lifestyle?

You’ve heard the fancy wood finish names tossed around: lacquer, shellac, varnish. But what do they have to do with that table you’ve been eyeing for the dining room?

Wood finishes protect furniture. They prevent wood from rotting, guard against stains and can give a pop of color to the wood and grain pattern.

However, not all finishes are created equal. Some are great at preventing water damage but give no protection for that pan set on the table without a hot pad.

Here are a few types of finishes to consider before your next furniture purchase.

Pre-catalyzed conversion varnish – Pre-catalyzed has good resistance to water stains, is durable, and protects wood from heat. Furniture with this kind of finish can be considered both in kitchens and out.

Catalyzed conversion varnish – This finish is very tough and durable, generally more so than pre-catalyzed. This finish won’t yellow with age. It can also protect wood against heat, so you don’t have to worry about this wood in your kitchen.

Varnish – This finish provides one of the best protections against water and heat. It generally has a glossy appearance and brings a warm color to the wood it protects. Because it darkens the wood, it may not be best for light-colored furniture.

Shellac – Shellac finish gives wood a vibrant, warm tone, though, the finish does little to protect against heat and water. In fact, water can sometimes cause white spots to form on the shellac finish. A fun fact about shellac: the finish is created by scraping resin secreted by bugs in Asia from tree bark. The orange flakes are combined with alcohol to form the finish!

Lacquer – This finish resists water, but is sensitive to heat. Some types of lacquer yellow with age, but, overall, lacquer gives rich tones to the wood it covers and provides a nice pop to the grain pattern.

Water-based finishes – These finishes don’t provide as great of protection as their oil-based counterparts. They do, however, stay true to the hues of lighter-colored woods and aren’t nearly as flammable as oil-based finishes.

Wax – Wax finishes give a transparent covering and require little maintenance. They don’t provide great protection against heat or scratches, but will guard against liquid spills.

Oil – This finish enhances the beauty of the wood, but requires some maintenance and little protection against heat.

Now, you’re prepared to make informed finish-related decisions. Happy homemaking!

by Teresa Gish

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