Finishes such as varnishes, shellacs, oil- and water-based products, vary on measures related to durability and working qualities. Each finish type has advantages and disadvantages. Here is a comparison chart of common finish products to help you choose the best finishes for your projects.
|Working Quality||Wax||Shellac||Nitro cellulose |
|Ease of application||Excellent||Good||Fair||Good|
Reactive finishes undergo a chemical change as they cure, making them not only more difficult to repair but also more durable (except for linseed and tung oil) than most evaporative finishes.
|Working Quality||Linseed oil||Tung oil||Oil-based varnish|
|Ease of application||Excellent||Excellent||Good||Good||Poor|
NOFMA: (now the National Wood Flooring Association) indicates that both oil- and water-based urethanes provide durable, long-lasting finishes. They offer the following descriptions for comparison purposes:
Water-based urethanes have four major formulations that determine the primary element in the finish: (1) Acrylic; (2) Acrylic Urethane; (3) Urethane Acrylic; (4) Urethane. Generally, the more urethane a water-based finish has, the more durable and harder the finish is (in contrast to water-based finishes with high acrylic levels).
However, water-based finishes with higher urethane levels typically require more finishing expertise. In terms of visual effect, a water-based urethane finish generally yields a clear finish that enhances or brightens the natural variations of hardwood and is normally applied thinner than oil-based materials.
Oil-based urethanes typically yield hard finishes and have slower drying times than water-based urethane finishes. They tend to give hardwood a "softer" appearance and lessen the contrast of hardwood's natural variations. They are normally applied thicker than water-based materials.