Stains, oils and clear coat­ings play a big role in your in­te­rior decor. De­cide what’s right for your timbers.

Timber Home Living - - Product Guide -

Just like the per­fect birth­day cake, your home’s timbers need the right ic­ing. Stains, oils and clear fin­ishes are the top­pings that give wood in­te­ri­ors their pic­tureper­fect ap­pear­ance.

“All un­pro­tected wood is greatly af­fected by its en­vi­ron­ment,” says Rich Dun­stan, Pres­i­dent of Perma-Chink Sys­tems, Inc. “Your home needs an ex­cel­lent guard against the el­e­ments and the proper fin­ish al­lows the gorgeous prop­er­ties of your home’s wood to re­main.”

Dun­stan goes on to ex­plain that “be­cause in­te­rior timbers aren’t ex­posed to rain, snow, wind and di­rect sun­light, home­own­ers have more flex­i­bil­ity when choos­ing the color and ap­pear­ance of their in­te­rior wood sur­faces.” No mat­ter if you choose to fin­ish your timbers with a clear coat­ing or a rich mocha stain, you’re sure to ap­pre­ci­ate wood’s en­dur­ing beauty, as dif­fer­ent fin­ish­ing op­tions will im­part dif­fer­ent looks to your decor. Our clear-cut guide will help you make sense of it all.


With so many fin­ish­ing op­tions avail­able, choos­ing the right prod­uct can seem a bit over­whelm­ing. So, how do you know what kind of fin­ish is right for your wood?

“The very first choice you’ll have to make when you step into the stain-and-fin­ish aisle is whether you want a wa­ter- or oil-based prod­uct,” ex­plains Bruce John­son, au­thor of The Wood Fin­isher. “Oil bases are more pop­u­lar with tra­di­tion­al­ists, and they give you more work­ing time, since they don’t dry as quickly.”

How­ever, wa­ter-based prod­ucts may be more suit­able when ven­ti­la­tion con­di­tions aren’t ideal. Wa­ter-based stains dry quickly, which could lead to lap marks, if you’re not care­ful. But you can avoid this un­sightly prob­lem by work­ing in small sec­tions.

Once you make the oil-or-wa­ter de­ci­sion, it’s time to se­lect your spe­cific fin­ish­ing prod­ucts. Here’s a run­down of what’s avail­able:

STAIN. Avail­able in nearly in­fi­nite hues, stains pen­e­trate into wood to color rather than pro­tect it. Opac­ity ranges from solid and semi-solid to trans­par­ent (clear) and semi-trans­par­ent (with a slight tint).

FIN­ISH. While this term is of­ten used to re­fer to any wood fin­ish­ing treat­ment, it de­notes the clear pro­tec­tive coat­ing that sits on the sur­face of the wood. The fin­ish lays on top of the wood and

uni­ver­sally pro­tects it from wa­ter, sun and other el­e­ments. Typ­i­cally, fin­ish is ap­plied as a sep­a­rate, fi­nal step a day or two af­ter a stain is ap­plied. If an oil­based stain was used, then an oil-based fin­ish should be se­lected.

VARNISH AND POLYURETHANE. Though they are rel­a­tively easy to ap­ply with a brush, varnish and polyurethane are prone to dust ad­he­sion, since they have a slow dry­ing time. A thinned first coat may help al­le­vi­ate this prob­lem. Varnish is com­posed of cook­ing oil and a resin; polyurethane is a type of varnish made with polyurethane resin. De­spite its ten­dency to at­tract dust dur­ing ap­pli­ca­tion, polyurethane is touted for its dura­bil­ity and pro­tec­tive qual­i­ties.

COLOR OP­TIONS. Once you’ve de­cided on the type of prod­uct that’s best for your timbers, you’ll need to think about the color and style you want to cap­ture. Some home­own­ers opt for light stains; others for dark. “Just keep in mind that the color swatches you see in home out­let stores are only a rough in­di­ca­tion of what your stain will look like,” ad­vises John­son. “Your fi­nal re­sult de­pends on your wood type, how long you let the stain soak in and your home’s light­ing con­di­tions.”

What’s the best way to avoid a stain­ing catas­tro­phe? Ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. “It’s im­por­tant to ob­tain wet sam­ples of the stain that you will use,” says Dun­can. “Ap­ply those sam­ples on wood sur­faces that are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the wood that you are go­ing to stain, mak­ing sure that the same prepa­ra­tion tech­niques are used on your sam­ples as on the house that you are pre­par­ing for the fin­ish job.” With min­i­mal re­search and a lit­tle ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, you can elim­i­nate the fear fac­tor when it comes to tak­ing that first pass with the stain brush. With the right prod­uct and color in hand, you could even call it a “stroke” of ge­nius.

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