cans of paint

Types of Wood Finishes

December 17, 2019

When it comes to creating custom floors for your home without splashing out, wood finishes can be the way to go. Rejuvenating existing floorboards or creating a bespoke finish for new floors, there are plenty of options to choose from. From dye to oil finishes, stains to lacquers, creating custom flooring is easier than ever. So what are the differences in the wood finishes available? This guide provides a little insight into the best ones to get you started.

Read on to discover whether water-based finishes are best for your flooring. Or perhaps French polish or brushed and oiled boards are more up your alley. Whatever your choice of décor, we cover it all here:

What are the different types of wood finishes?

Your choice of flooring doesn’t end when you pick between oak or plywood. By using different wood finishes, you can transform standard floors into beautiful additions to your home. There are hundreds of different methods out there for woods. From UV oiled to cross cut, lacquered to laminate. Picking the right one is all about personal preference. Here are just a few different types to get you started.


Chosen for its wide range of different colours and finishes, a dye can completely change the colour of wood. This allows for a distinct effect that’s unlike anything else on the market. Available in oil-based and water-based forms, dyes are specifically designed for interior use and protection.


Instead of changing the colour of the wood, oils work to enhance the natural beauty of flooring. In the case of floors made of natural wood, dullness can happen over time. This is due to the natural oiled materials in the wood drying out. UV oiled finishes replace that healthy appearance and offer protection externally and internally.


A slow-drying, highly protective finish, varnish provides a beautiful sheen on woods. Created from solvents, resins and oils, varnishes do not affect the colour of the wood. Instead, they offer a clear coat over the top – allowing the true pattern of the material to shine through.

varnish wood finish


Stains are similar to dyes. They change or improve the wood colour, often to a darker shade. Unlike other finishes, stains don’t offer protection. However, brushed and UV oiled or brushed and stained woods have both the depth of colour and protection by combining multiple finishes.


A thin, solvent-based finish that is usually applied through spray the wood, lacquer is practical and fast-drying. There are several different effects available, including matt lacquered and satin lacquered, which change the appearance of the wood. Lacquer penetrates deeper into the wood, allowing the grain to be more apparent and giving a luxurious result.


Clean, bright and with little odour, water-based finishes are ideal for more natural-looking woods. This finish is thin and fast to dry and adheres to practically any material. The result is wood that is protected and shiny, but no unnatural-looking in the same way brushed and matt lacquered finishes might.

French Polish

A classic often-used technique for finishing wood. French Polish utilizes a combination of alcohol and shellac to create an incredibly glossy appearance and finish. Protective, visually attractive and expensive-looking, this choice is best for more luxurious or cross-cut wood floors.

There are many different options for those interested in applying finishes to woods. While all these methods alone can provide excellent results, finishes are often combined for greater protection. An example of this would be brushed and oiled or brushed and stained woods to create a bespoke effect.

Which finish is best for wood?

No one finish is best for wood. All of the options listed above are readily and consistently used on wood floors around the world. Each offers protection, and many can be combined for specific effects. However, those who have a specific vision of their flooring should pick a finish in line with that. For example, if you want a floor that’s a differing colour to its natural look, then a dye might be the best option. For those who wish to maintain the same colour and effect of their floor, water-based finishes may work best.

No one finish is ideal for all homeowners. However, oil finishes provide nourishment to the wood, which could be considered better for the wood itself. The choice of which flooring finish is best is entirely subjective to what you like. While UV lacquered flooring may be right for some, natural oiled boards might be best for someone else. Brushed and oiled, as well as brushed and unfinished, are popular choices for general household use. While French polish provides a more expensive and glossy final result.

What is the best natural wood finish?

For those who prefer to keep their wood natural, then oil may be the best finish. This type of finish aims to nourish and bring out details in the wood without detracting from its natural appearance. Natural oils are available specifically for this purpose. However, for those who want a natural finish that is exactly how it appears, varnish might be your best bet. A varnished finish provides a clear, protective coat that doesn’t affect the appearance of the wood.

Choosing the best finish for your wooden floor is an entirely subjective experience. Perhaps you want to alter the natural appearance using stains slightly. Or maybe you want to protect the existing appearance of your wood with a clear coat. Whatever your choice, there’s no wrong way to finish your floor. It’s all about your personal opinion – and your choice of décor. If you’re unsure what finish is suitable for you, many stores offer samples of the effect each finish provides.

If you’re considering investing in wood flooring, or you’re simply looking for a way to perk up an existing finish, look no further. At EBS Flooring, we supply the perfect floor for your needs. Drop us a line today to find out more about how we can help transform your home. Choosing the right wood finish is up to you.

Mon-Fri 8:00AM – 5:00PM
Saturday 10:00AM – 4:00PM
Sunday 11:00AM – 3:00PM
Call Us

Please fill in your details

  • Continue