If your ready to clear coat or apply stain to your wood trim, doors or furniture, you'll need to choose the appropriate finish for your intended project.

When choosing your clear coat finish or colored stain, you'll have to decide on whether the coating should just penetrate the wood or be a little more protective by sitting on top of your door, trim or furnitures surface.

Another consideration might be to have a combination of both penetrating and protective coatings

Below you will find a break down of the types of coating products you can use, and their specific purpose.


Water-based varnishes are safe, durable, non yellowing, fast drying, have low-odor, and can be easily applied.

The main problem with water based finishes is the water in the varnish can raise the grain of your wood resulting in extra sanding for you.

Even so, water-based varnishes are some of the best types of product to use on your wood work prior to baseboard installing, hanging those doors or throwing books onto a new unfinished shelf.

Another thing to keep in mind is, a water-based varnish can be applied as a top coat over a latex painted surface, like a faux finish.


Epoxy coatings are two part mixtures, making them the most durable, hard wearing finish you can apply.

I do not recommend epoxy, unless you have a good amount of paint and clear coat application experience.

Epoxy can be very difficult to use, they tend to yellow quickly, or cloud over and lose their sheen in a short period of time.

Epoxy should be applied by a professional painter or wood finisher.


Before the carpenters begin baseboard installing or hanging other types of wood trim and doors, I will first spray them with a lacquer finish.

Lacquer builds or layers well and the more coats applied, the greater durability, depth and shine it will have.

Lacquer is quick drying, somewhat water resistant, durable and beautiful looking.

As a disadvantage lacquer does take some practice to spray on and can be non-forgiving when it comes to sags or runs.

If you decide on lacquer as your coating of choice be sure to use a mask specifically made for lacquer application.

Filtering of lacquer prior to application may also be required.


Oil coatings, like tung, teak, danish, or boiled linseed are best for raw wood and should be used when a hard protective surface isn't needed.

Oils will give a natural look but tend to require regular applications to keep them in pristine condition.

If you're baseboard installing, or hanging oak doors and trim, then oil finishes usually would not be a good choice for you.


Plastic coat is one of the hardest surfaces you can apply to a surface.

Plastic coats are easy to use, fast drying and will not yellow over time.

Plastic coat can be expensive if you're doing a large job like baseboard installing or finishing doors and large furniture piece.


Doing a polish, French or otherwise, can add a distinctive beauty to any type of wood.

With a little practice and some elbow grease, almost anyone can complete this type of finish.


Prior to baseboard installing or hanging wooden doors and trim, a sanding sealer or wood conditioner, depending on the type of top coat used, and the wood surface itself, can work well to prepare wood prior to applying a stain or clear finish.

Sealers act like a primer for the top finish, making them easy to sand and seal the surface for an even coating while blocking bleed through from stains and contaminants.

Conditioners assist with making a stain more consistent in color.

Be sure the sealer or conditioner is compatible with the type of end product (clear coat, stain) you'll be using. For example a lacquer based sealer requires a lacquered top coat.


The application of shellac leaves a shinny durable surface on most wood projects.

Shellac is a favorite finish for professional wood workers due to it's durability, non toxicity, shine and overall look.

A refined shellac sanding sealer (non waxed) is one of the best multi purpose sealers to use but can be difficult to find.


Polyurethane can be used for both interior and exterior projects.

It's extremely durable, long lasting and resistant to almost anything you throw at it.

Urethanes do have a tendency to yellow over time and can be difficult to re-coat once they start to break down, especially on an exterior surface.

When using polyurethane, be sure to keep it in good condition by re-coating as soon as you see it start to become worn or discolored.

If you've used oil base products before and prefer their durability and leveling properties then before baseboard installing or hanging oak doors and trim, throw on two or three coats of urethane varnish.


Some stains can be bought with or without a clear coat added.

Stain/clear coat combos, work well, but seem to be less durable as staining then clear coating once the stain is dry.

Also, stain clear coat combos have less choice of colors to select from.

Stains come in an assortment of colors and consistencies e.g. liquids, solids and jells.

Type of stain used, depends in most part on the preference of the person applying the stain.

With that said, jells are usually but not always the easiest to apply, while solids tend to be preferred by the professional wood finisher and liquids are the choice of most painting contractor because liquid stains are economical, convenient and can be sprayed on if needed.


Prior to applying any type of coating be sure to ask your local building supplier or hardware store sales rep for assistance.

Clear coat and stains, unless recommended on the label, should not be shaken but stirred instead.

Also, always follow label instructions in regards to cleaning and application procedures.

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