Varieties of furniture varnishes and features of their application

With so many options on the market, selecting the best varnish for your furniture can be difficult. Furniture varnishes are essential for maintaining and adorning your furniture because they protect it from damage and enhance the natural beauty of wood. This post will discuss the various types of furniture varnishes and the important factors to take into account before using them.

When choosing a furniture varnish, one of the most important things to keep in mind is the kind of finish you want. Depending on your desired finish—matte, satin, or glossy—a varnish formulation is available to suit your needs. Shiny, reflecting surfaces are provided by glossy varnishes, which draw attention to the depth and inherent beauty of the wood. Matte varnishes offer a smooth, non-reflective surface for a more subdued appearance, while satin finishes offer a subtle sheen that strikes a balance between gloss and matte.

The kind of wood you’re working with is another important consideration because different varnishes may react differently with different wood species. Certain varnishes are made especially for hard woods like oak, mahogany, or cherry, while others work well on softwoods like cedar or pine. You can select a varnish that preserves the integrity of your wood while enhancing its natural color and grain by being aware of its characteristics.

The approach and instruments you employ when applying can have a big impact on the outcome. A professional-looking finish can only be achieved by using correct technique and even coverage when applying the varnish, whether by brushing, spraying, or wiping. To ensure a smooth and uniform coat, it can also be helpful to use high-quality brushes or sprayers made specifically for applying varnish to reduce streaks, drips, and other imperfections.

Finally, think about the varnish’s effects on the environment and human health. Some varnishes contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can release harmful fumes during application and drying, posing risks to both your health and the environment. While still offering your furniture exceptional durability and protection, low-VOC or water-based varnishes can help lower these risks.

Types of Furniture Varnishes Features of Application
Nitrocellulose Varnish Fast-drying, suitable for indoor furniture, needs good ventilation when applying.
Polyurethane Varnish Durable and water-resistant, ideal for outdoor furniture, requires careful application to avoid drips.
Acrylic Varnish Quick-drying and low odor, suitable for indoor furniture, easy to clean up with water.

The main varieties of materials

Transparent varnish, in contrast to paint, preserves wood’s natural pattern while shielding it from moisture, UV light, mechanical stresses, and the development of rough spots. However, not every material is appropriate for use at home and has the same qualities. Consequently, in order to achieve the desired outcome, one must navigate their varieties clearly.

Depending on their intended use, furniture varnishes are classified as follows:

  • water -repellent;
  • atmosphere -resistant;
  • heat -resistant;
  • heat -resistant;
  • shock -resistant.

These materials are categorized by type as follows:

  • half -gloss;
  • glossy;
  • semi -dummy;
  • matte;
  • Color.

They differentiate based on composition, which is:

  • acrylic;
  • oil;
  • alkyd;
  • polyurethane;
  • epoxy;
  • craquelure;
  • Nitrolaki.

Varnishes are made as sprays and solutions, which make it simple to process in hard-to-reach areas.

The main characteristics of the materials

The characteristics of working with the material are also differentiated based on its basis.

Water based

Matte or glossy water-based acrylic varnishes with organic solvents are the best options for enclosed spaces. They

  • do not smell;
  • do not support combustion;
  • do not cause allergies and are absolutely harmless to human health;
  • do not change the natural shade of wood;
  • have high strength indicators;
  • Dry quickly enough.

This coating’s sensitivity to moisture is its sole drawback. It is therefore advised to use it in spaces like children’s rooms, living rooms, cabinets, and bedrooms. Acrylic varnish is applied with a specialized roller. There is also a spray version of this material available.


However, water-based polyurethane varnishes add moisture resistance to the list of characteristics found in acrylic analogues, making lacquered furniture much easier to maintain. Because of this, they are the most widely used protective materials and allow wooden products to be covered both indoors and outdoors. For a children’s room, polyurethane materials are perfect because kids can paint or wet-wet the furniture.


Matte oil varnishes are a better option if you want to give furniture different shades. They are produced using organic solvents, vegetable oils, and resins. When these substances dry, they create a thick, colorful film that is transparent on the wood’s surface.


Alkyd varnish is a colorless substance that is strong and resistant to moisture. Alkyd resins combined with organic solvents form the foundation of the coating. One of the drawbacks is that the drying process takes 72 hours. Nevertheless, the formula was refined by the manufacturers, who also added unique hardeners to the varnish, bringing down this indicator to 24 hours. The coating can be applied with a roller or sprayed on, which helps it dry more quickly by turning it into a spray.

Finishing under the old days

Modern materials covered on antique furniture don’t look very natural. It would be wiser for her to select a matte craquelure varnish instead, as it can simulate an aged surface. The reason for this effect is that it can dry out paint that has been applied from above. There are two phases to coloring technology. The craquelure varnish is first applied, and then paint is applied after it has barely dried.

Small cracks appear between them during drying, giving the objects an aged appearance.

On Nitronsov

If not for the harmful solvents that are a part of Nitrolaki’s composition, this material might be referred to as the best option for furniture protection due to its superior adhesive properties, high strength coefficient, elasticity, and resistance to moisture. Additionally, even though these materials evaporate when they dry and pose no health risks to humans, you shouldn’t use them to adorn children’s room furniture. When working with nitrolaki, it’s best to do so outside or in a room with good ventilation and to wear dependable eye and respiratory protection.

Since babies frequently bite the wooden components of cribs and arenas, you should buy varnishes that have been certified to withstand saliva when processing furniture in children’s rooms.

Experts advise selecting a universal varnish that is free of dyes and made of natural ingredients like rosin, ricin oil, and other kinds for use in children’s public spaces.

This article delves into the vast realm of furniture varnishes, elucidating their various varieties and practical applications. We will talk about the distinct qualities of each type of varnish, from contemporary water-based alternatives to conventional oil-based varnishes, as well as their uses. Knowing these varnishes and their characteristics can help you, whether you’re a professional woodworker or a do-it-yourself enthusiast, achieve the ideal finish for your furniture projects.

Working rules

If you’ve made the independent decision to restore furniture by applying varnish to its surface, you should follow these guidelines:

  1. Work should only be carried out in rooms with good ventilation.
  2. The availability of open fire sources cannot be allowed.
  3. Processing should be carried out in gloves, respirator and glasses (exception can be water -based varnishes).
  4. Carefully read the instructions and follow all its points.
  5. In the presence of the old coating, it must be carefully removed, without leaving even small "islands".
  6. If, after cleaning on the furniture, cracks, bulges or hollows were formed, they must be putty, and then polished very high quality.
  7. Before applying varnish, it is worth covering the surface with one or two layers of primer.
  8. It needs to be applied with thin layers, giving everyone enough time to dry.

The durability and appearance of your furniture can be greatly improved by selecting the appropriate varnish. To make an informed choice, it is crucial to comprehend the distinctions between the different types that are available, each with distinct characteristics.

Oil-based varnishes give wood surfaces a classic finish with rich color and depth. They are deeply ingrained in the wood, providing superior resistance to wear and moisture. But they can take longer to dry, and you might need to apply several coats to get the desired effect.

Conversely, water-based varnishes are becoming more and more well-liked due to their short drying times and subtle smell. Although they might not offer as much depth as oil-based varnishes, they are eco-friendly and offer great clarity. They work best with indoor furniture and well-ventilated spaces.

Polyurethane varnishes offer a clear finish and durability—the best of both worlds. They are appropriate for high-traffic areas such as kitchen cabinets and tabletops because they are resistant to heat, chemicals, and scratches. They offer versatility in application, with options for both water- and oil-based formulations.

To get the desired effects, preparation is essential before applying any varnish. Make sure the surface is dust- and debris-free, smooth, and clean. For a smooth finish, sanding in between coats can be beneficial. To maximize the varnishing process, take additional variables like drying time, application technique, and ambient conditions into account.

In the end, the varnish you choose will depend on your tastes, the demands of the project, and the kind of wood you’re working with. You may improve the beauty and long-term durability of your furniture by experimenting with various types and techniques to find the ideal finish.

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Daria Yakovlev

Interior designer, author of online color design courses. I will help you create a harmonious interior using color.

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