Natural Wood Finishes

Natural Wood Finishes

10 Jun 2021

Today we are going to talk about the possible finishes for wood. We will make a compilation with some of the best known, talking about their characteristics, in which cases they should be used and how they can improve our environment.

Among them we find varnish, paint, lasur, oils, stains and wax, although if we are well informed we can find more.


Varnish is one of the most common wood finishes for protective and decorative purposes. 

A varnish is a combination of resins dissolved in a solvent (chemical solvents or even water) that creates an elastic and impermeable layer on the surface to which it is applied. It can have different characteristics: resistance to friction, resistance to UV rays, resistance to insects, different colors, gloss level...

There is a huge variety of varnishes on the market, there are varnishes for almost any use: decorative, for exterior, for marine environments, etc.


Paints create an impermeable layer on the wood that offers a variable resistance to abrasion and humidity. They represent the wood finishing option needed to change its color to smooth tones and hide the natural grain of the wood.



  • Acrylic. It is a water-based enamel, which, among other advantages, does not give off strong odors and dries quickly. They offer good resistance and elasticity.
  • Synthetic. Obtained from the mixture of alkyd resins and pigments in a solvent base. They offer a more elastic and resistant surface than that offered by acrylic enamels.
  • Plastic paint. Although not the ideal choice, plastic paints can be used on wood. They dry quickly, have good cleanability and washability, low odor and are water-based. On the other hand, be aware that they can swell the wood slightly.
  • Chalk paint or chalk paint. It is a combination of acrylic paint, plaster and other compounds. They have a high hiding power, dry quickly and are easy to apply, although they offer limited resistance to abrasion. 
  • Base paint or primer. Although it is not a type of paint, it is a complement worth mentioning. Primer or base paint is applied to bare wood to primarily seal the pore and improve the adhesion of the paint to be applied later. In the woodworking world, paint is used mainly on interior furniture and woodwork. In exteriors the paint tends to crack and does not offer the protection that the wood needs.


Lasur is a protective finish for treating wood outdoors and/or outdoors. Over time it has been imposed and replaced the varnish in this area.

It is an open pore finish, i.e., it penetrates the wood allowing it to breathe and does not create a film that can crack. It can be found with fungicide and insecticide compounds, and with filters against solar radiation.

Basically there are two types. Solvent-based and water-based. The latter represent a substantial improvement in the evolution of the product. They are available in different gloss levels and colors.

Outdoor wood protection: Pergolas and other structures, doors, windows, decking, coverings...

Wood Oils

They represent the natural option for the care and treatment of wood.

They offer protection for the wood and a natural looking finish, although pigments may be added to alter the color of the wood. Product application and renewals are quick and easy.

Types: There are several types of wood oil, each with interesting and differentiated properties. 

  • Linseed oil. Oil obtained from the pressing of linseed. It is mainly used to protect and nourish exterior woods.
  • Tung oil. Natural oil obtained from the seed of a tree native to Asia. It is characterized by its high resistance and durability, even in marine environments. This oil is used as a base for the manufacture of all kinds of wood protection products.
  • Teak oil. It is mainly used to protect outdoor wood: decking, coverings, terrace furniture, etc. It nourishes and moisturizes the wood without creating a film.
  • Danish oil. This is not a natural oil, but a compound that includes natural oils, mainly tung or linseed, together with chemical compounds. It is easy to apply, penetrates the wood without forming a film and offers a finish that maintains the natural beauty of the wood.

On the other hand, if we had to talk about disadvantages, we would have to talk about durability. The surface resistance they offer is very limited, especially against certain aggressions. For example, oil is not a finish that I would use on a bar counter or a dining table where, in addition to hot utensils and knocks, it will suffer under the action of cleaning products. However, they are highly recommended for decorative items and furniture, turnings, paintings, etc.

Wood Stains

Wood stains are characterized by altering the color of the wood, leaving its natural grain visible. The stains by themselves do not offer any protection, that is to say, they are a type of purely decorative finish. Therefore, usually after the application of a stain, the wood is protected with colorless varnish, or the stain is a component of some other finish.

There are different kinds of wood stains, the most common are:

  • Water-based. Medium-fast drying, less pollutants, low odor and wide variety of colors. With these it is possible to highlight the grain of the wood more easily.
  • Oil-based. Slow drying and very penetrating. Ideal for complex works.

Mainly furniture and interior carpentry. In exteriors, stain is not usually applied directly on the wood, but it can come as a component of the wood finish finally used.

Wood Wax

Waxes are a very popular wood finish for those who are looking for a natural solution that is easy to apply and requires virtually no additional material.

There is a wide variety of wood waxes, not only in terms of format (liquid, solid, paste), but also in terms of color, hardness level and composition.

You can apply wax over many types of finishes, but never apply another finish over wax.

Wood wax also offers some protection, although it is obviously not the same as that offered by other finishes. It is very easy to apply and offers a variable gloss finish.

There are mainly two types of wax used as a wood finish: beeswax and carnauba wax.

Wood waxes are mainly used on interior furnishings. It has also been common to wax wood floors, however, this practice has fallen into disuse, since the renewal of the waxing, although simple, should be relatively frequent.