Handyman: All wood finishes are not created equal

Glenn Haege

One of the more common DIY projects is staining and re-finishing the many wood items around the home, such as doors, cabinets, furniture or floors. While picking the right stain is a vital part of any wood refinishing project, so is deciding what type of finish to put on the wood after it is stained. And all wood finishes are not created equal.

“There are lots of different finishes you can choose, so it is important to pick the products that work best for the project you are doing,” said Brian Eisbrenner of Shelby Paint and Decorating, (586) 739-0240,

“If someone is finishing or re-finishing an exterior wood door that is exposed to the weather, I recommend using a good spar varnish.” he said. One company he likes is Old Masters,

Eisbrenner said you have a choice between oil-based and waterborne finishes. While the oil based generally lasts longer, it is a little more difficult to work with.

“Both oil and waterborne wood floor finishes have come a long way, baby” according to John Shanley of Crandall-Worthington Company, (248) 398-8118, There is a category of oil-modified water-based products. He explains that DuraSeal Waterbased Polyurethane is a single component urethane resin that provides the amber look and durability of traditional oil-based polyurethane with the ease of water cleanup.

“Some folks want an economy finish, while others are after a high traffic or what we call the dance floor look,” according to Shanley. Another product line from Bona,, gives consumers that wide range of water-based wood floor finishes to choose from.

When it comes to interior wood, you also need to think about the look that you want to achieve. Similar to the different sheen rates of paint, clear finishes generally come in three finishes: satin, semigloss and gloss.

Satin gives you that natural appearance and is a good choice for high-use areas such as window sills, floors and table tops. Semigloss is a little shinier than satin and is good for floors, tables and furniture, depending on the aesthetic you are looking for. If you want a high-end look with a lustrous finish, gloss is the way to go.

A unique clear coating that’s perfect for the top of a wood bar in your man cave is Envirotex Lite from Environmental Technology Inc., One application of this high-gloss polymer coating puts a shiny waterproof finish on wood. Use multiple coats to embed decorative items into your bar top, such as bottle caps or playing cards, to fit the room’s theme and decor.

There are many other companies that make quality clear finishes for wood, including Deft (, Minwax (, UGL (, and Valspar (

So, if you are planning to refinish your kitchen cabinets or stain the front entry door, make sure you choose the right wood finish for the job.

If you would like to suggest a question for this column, email If you want to talk to Glenn Haege, call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can be heard on more than 130 radio stations.