How To Finish Wood: A Complete Guide

You can never consider a woodworking project to be complete if it isn’t finished. There are several wood finishing techniques to choose from, each one with its individual aesthetic and functional traits. If you use the right finish, your project can be a wonderful masterpiece or the wrong one can ruin all your hard work. If you want to finish the different parts of your home the right way, read on here to find out what and how to finish wood.

How to finish wood floors

Finishing wood floors is a tedious job, but well worth the effort. It takes time to sand, stain and coat the floor with polyurethane to make it look new again. If you have wood flooring that needs a makeover, refinishing it yourself can save you a lot of money. Here’s how to finish wood floors:

  • Remove all furniture in the room and clean the flooring. Ensure that the floor is absolutely dry before you begin finishing it. If your walls and ceilings are dusty, wipe the dust off them.
  • Use cloth to cover all vents or openings into the room and for dust to get into the crevices when sanding the floor. Seal the doors too.
  • Wear protective gear before starting work.
  • Use floor sander to spread over the entire wood flooring until you see the wood below. First, use coarse grit on the sander and work till you get a fine grit.
  • Sand the edges of the flooring with a floor edger. Begin by sanding against the wall and then go backwards to the part still not sanded. Scrape the corners with a scraper.
  • Clean the room of all dust.
  • Touch up the wood flooring and prepare it for a good finish using a rotary polisher.
  • Choose a color for staining the floor and go ahead and stain it.
  • Once the stain dries, apply a coat of polyurethane and allow it to dry.
  • After three days, restore the furniture to the room. Remember that it could take a maximum of 21 days for the newly finished floor to be cured.

Here’s a tutorial on how to finish wood floors:

How to finish wood furniture

If you’re thinking of giving your wood furniture a good finish, here’s how to go about it:

  • Sand the surface of your bare wood using 150-grit sandpaper so that you’re free of any scratches and nicks and the pores of the wood grain open up nicely.
  • Use a tack cloth to wipe off any dust from sanding.
  • Apply wood conditioner and let it remain for 15 minutes.
  • Wear rubber gloves and open a tin of oil-based penetrating stain. Stir well and rub the stain into the wood using a circular motion.
  • If you find the stain excessive, wipe it off with a clean cloth and let it remain to dry for about eight hours.
  • Apply a cot of polyurethane varnish on your wooden furniture and finish giving it long and light strokes so that bubbles and lap marks go away.
  • If you have an antique piece of furniture, clean it using a soft and damp cloth and apply commercial wood cleaner. Take off an old finish by scrubbing furniture with a steel wool pad. Wipe off the old finish again with a clean cloth. To protect the stripped surface, apply a coat of polyurethane stain.

How to finish reclaimed wood

how to finish woodWhat you use to refinish your woodwork largely depends on what you want to achieve from your woodwork–a natural look or you want to protect your furniture so that it goes on for longer.

You can continue to leave your reclaimed wood in its unfinished state by just sanding it down every now and then. It will develop a silver patina as it ages and achieve a soft look. Alternatively, you can use poly to safeguard your furniture. You perhaps want a less natural look by having a coat of polyurethane over it.

Another good option to consider is to apply oil finish to your woodwork. This will show up the contrasts in color and character. Maintenance is very less with this as it only requires a re-touch with oil when the need arises.

How to finish wood countertops

Here again, the finish you choose for your wooden countertops depends on how you intend using your kitchen countertop, island top and your butcher block top. Generally, wood countertop finishes are safe for contact with food. However, those used as cutting surfaces have different finishes from those not used for cutting.

For kitchen countertops, bar tops, island tops and table tops, it’s best to go with a tung oil-based permanent finish that’s tough and waterproof, besides being stain and heat-resistant. This kind of finish will not wrinkle the wood, nor will it chip, crack or peel.

For cutting surfaces, tung oil or citrus finish is preferred for being non-toxic. Your wood surfaces, when treated with tung oil or citrus finish, will have a matte finish while also holding on to their natural look.

How to finish wood stairs

You can enhance the beauty of your staircase wood by applying one coat of polyurethane on it. They will continue to look like new for long, while protecting your stairs from moisture, stains and damage, and enable easy cleaning.

  • Begin finishing your stairs by cleaning them dry. Then, sand them with 120-grit sandpaper and clean it smooth with a tack cloth.
  • To avoid drip marks, it’s good to apply stains and polyurethane at the outset. Work should begin at the top of the stairs. Work in a way that no one uses the stairs for many hours while the stairs get enough time to dry.
  • If you’re looking to bring out your staircase wood’s natural beauty, you can stop at applying a finish to it. However, you may also want to darken the wood to bring out its distinctive grain.
  • By applying one topcoat of finish, your staircase will be protected against stains, moisture and damage.


Now that you know how to take care of your home’s many demands, you can swing into action to protect the wood of your home whenever required.

Here’s a short video on how to finish wood in 3 easy steps:

Author: John Clax

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