Select the Right Finish for Your Wooden Furniture Restoration Project

Remember a few months ago when I refinished a piece of furniture for our Master Bedroom?


If you’re wondering what the hold-up is on revealing the finished Master,  it’s that I’ve found 2 more pieces that I want to refinish and add to the room! HA! A glutton for punishment I must be! And I’m learning more and more about how it works as I go along.

Transforming old pieces of furniture into shabby-chic masterpieces is a popular hobby for many people. It’s really easy to pick up an old table or chest of drawers for next to nothing. Often the piece will already be painted, but whatever the current finish is, with a little bit of effort on your part, you can give it a new lease of life and make it beautiful again. So what are the best finishes for wood?

Adding a finish to a furniture project is the final step on a long and painstaking journey. It takes time to patiently sand down wood, particularly if you are doing it by hand. You might also have to repair some parts of the item, which again will take time. For a woodworking enthusiast, these aspects of furniture restoration are what they enjoy whereas applying an appropriate finish is far less interesting. But the right finish is important. The finish protects the piece from everyday wear and tear and prolongs its life. But in order to do this successfully, you need to choose the right one.

There are many wood finishes available. Here is a quick guide to the different ones.


Paint has been used for many centuries to protect and decorate wooden furniture. In the world of shabby-chic, paint is a very popular finish, for you can use color to create an attractive piece of furniture. Eggshell paint offers the best finish, and for really good results, always use paint roller to apply the paint, or brush marks will be evident once the paint has dried.


Lacquer dries quickly and adds a richness and depth to the wood that is particularly attractive. Lacquer is usually made from an alkyd and resin. These are mixed with solvents, which evaporate upon application, leaving a tough, waterproof finish. The main drawback with using lacquer is that some types of lacquer turn yellow over time.

Pure Oils

True oils such as linseed and tung oil are readily available. They provide a more natural finish and are amongst the easiest of wood finishes to apply. Natural oils penetrate the fibers of the wood and offer a high level of endurance. Once the oil has dried, it is waterproof and resistant to solvents, so the item is less likely to sustain damage from the solvent used to thin them. However, they are susceptible to damage from other chemicals and heat. For more information about wood oil and tung oil, visit


Wax is less of a finish and rather more of an addition to another finish. Beeswax can be used to give extra shine to a lacquered or oiled item of furniture, but it won’t provide the same level of protection as varnish, lacquer or paint.


Varnishes are very tough and durable; more so than oil. They are also more resistant to heat, water and chemical solvents. Oil can be applied with a brush or a rag, but make sure there is plenty of ventilation in the room because the fumes will be quite strong.

Oil and varnish blends offer a good alternative to other pure finishes. Oil and varnish mixes are the best of both worlds in that you have the protective qualities of varnish combined with the quality of oil.

Of course, depending on what you will use your refinished furniture for, make sure you check the toxin levels of your chosen finish and make sure the final product will be safe for your family!

Have YOU refinished any furniture lately? Do you have a favorite type of finish?

Due to the amount of comments from all of my wonderful readers, it is not always possible for me to respond to each one. However, I absolutely do read them all, and if you’d like to address something specific, or have a question for me, please don’t hesitate to email me at I will respond to your email as soon as possible! Thank you for visiting the blog!

12 thoughts on “Select the Right Finish for Your Wooden Furniture Restoration Project

  1. This was a really interesting read. I’ve never done any restoration projects like this, but I love seeing the results. I’ve always wondered how people chose what to do with their pieces.

  2. This is awesome to know. I have a few wooden pieces we’d like to restore, and I just haven’t been too sure where to start. So this is great to know.

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