blue wood coating being applied with three rollers

The right wood coating extends the lifespan of the surface

Wood is a wonderful, versatile building material that has been used for thousands of years to construct everything from walls and floors of the family home to the furniture and cabinetry that fill it. In order to keep wood functioning at its best and most beautiful, it needs to be protected from abrasion, chemicals, moisture, UV radiation, weathering, and attack from microbes such as fungi and mould. This is the job of a wood coating. With such a wide range of substrates and applications  it is no surprise that wood coatings is a billion dollar industry with a glut of players and products.

In this article we provide an overview of wood coatings technologies and products, and the big brands and companies that make up the industry. As well as traditional coatings such as stains and varnishes we look at newer technologies such as powder coating, polyurethanes, and specialised wood coatings.


Defining wood finishes – terminology and coating types

Varnishes, shellacs, stains, lacquers, polyurethanes, epoxies, and other wood finishes all have properties which work best when paired with the right application. Which wood coating you need depends on the type of wood and the end use of the substrate. A lot of these terms are used to refer generally to wood finishes, even though they denote specific finishes. Below is a brief description of different wood coating types and their properties.

wood oil applied as a wood coating

Wood oil is one of the wood finishes that enhances the natural beauty of wood

  • Lacquer is a form of finish in which the resin is dissolved in a solvent (unlike shellac which uses alcohol). It is harder than shellac, and is used to give a clear or coloured shiny, glossy finish for furniture. The high VOC content in lacquer makes it a less  popular option than water-based varnishes.
  • Shellac is a softer form of finish which uses naturally-occurring resin (the shellac) dissolved in ethanol to provide a colour and high-gloss finish for wood products. Shellac is now mostly used for furniture and instruments as it is not as durable as varnish, and alcohol spills will cause the shellac to dissolve.
  • Wood oils offer protection while letting the surface retain its natural beauty. The oils are additionally easy to apply and maintain. The oils are sold as Danish, teak, linseed, mineral and tung oil.
  • Wood paint does not penetrate the wooden surface but forms a transparent or opaque film on top of it. The paints also form a uniform surface hiding the texture of the surface. Before applying wood paint, applying a primer is recommended.
  • Varnish is a transparent protective finish that dries hard and usually glossy (though they can be matte or semi-gloss). The basic components of varnish are a drying oil, resins, and a solvent, and the resin can be acrylic, oil, polyurethane, epoxy, and others. A varnish is a hard-wearing finish which is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use as it is waterproof, durable, tough, and versatile. Deck paint is an example of a varnish.
  • Wood stain is a coating which consists of dyes or pigments dissolved in a vehicle with a small amount of binder. When applied it soaks into the wood substrate and, depending on whether it is transparent or opaque, accentuates the wood grain or flatten out the wood with a colour. Stains are used to give wood a particular colour, and not for protective properties. If protection is needed a clear varnish is often applied over the top.

Choose the best wood coating for softwood and hardwood

Any type of wood is suitable for a protective coat. However, the best wood coating product may differ for different kinds of wood.

Softwood:
Examples: Spruce, Larch, Pine, Douglas, Cedar and most types of regular timber
Soft wood types can have trouble absorbing wood coating evenly, which can create a splotchy look. A pre-stain conditioner or primer applied to the wood prior to coating can smooth out the finish on these softwoods. After applying the stain of your choice to your project, you need a durable top coat that will keep your wood finish looking great for years to come.

Recommended products: Primer + Stain + Polyurethane Wood coating or oil or wax based products

Hardwood:
Examples: Maple, Bamboo, walnut, red birch, cherry, teak, pine
Most unfinished hardwood floors require one coat of sealer and at least two coats of protective finishing. Staining is not a good idea for most exotics, because of their cell structures and hardness. Furthermore, we recommend a water-based coating for most types of hard wood, unless you have chosen a dark-coloured wood where an oil based wood coating will enhance the beautiful dark colour.

Recommended products: Sealer + Water or Oil based Polyurethane Wood coating + top coating


Updating protective coating for wood – the newest developments

Wood coatings are not just about protecting the substrate while letting the beauty of the wood shine through. With technologies improving all the time, there is now protective coating for wood that protects it from fire, or makes a deck paint anti slip, and it is even possible to powder coat wood substrates. Below is more information on these specialty wood coatings.

  • Wood powder coating – Powder coating is the process of using electrostatic charge to cause a dry powder to adhere to a substrate and then baking and curing the powder in an oven. The resulting coating is immensely durable and attractive, as well as being environmentally friendly due to the lack of solvent. Powder coating wood is now gaining widespread popularity, particularly for coating furniture.
  • Fireproof systems for wood – Fire is one of the greatest dangers for wood. The two types of fireproof protective coating for wood are coatings that act as passive fire protection measures for wooden substrates: intumescent and fire retardant coatings. Intumescent coatings swell up in the presence of extreme heat, forming a protective layer of char between the wood and the fire. Fire retardant paints work by releasing flame-damping gases to prevent ignition.
  • Making wood slip resistant – Wood surfaces can be very slippery when wet, whether decking, stairs, ramps, or walkways. Anti skid paint works through the inclusion of a non-slip aggregate or by creating a rough surface that provides more grip in wet or dry conditions.

Wood coating Australia products – Find a coating your project needs!

The wood coating market is filled with recognisable and trusted brands and products. Globally, the big players are Sherwin-Williams, Axalta, Rust-Oleum, AkzoNobel, and PPG through brands such as Flood, Sikkens, and Sher-Wood.

CompanyAddress
OSMO Australia18 Mercedes Drive, Thomastown 3074 VIC
Bunnings3rd Floor Nexus Building, 96 Mt Gravatt-Capalaba Road, Upper Mt Gravatt, QLD 4122
Howard Products Australia33 Griffin Avenue Tamworth, NSW 2340
U-Beaut Enterprises74 Anomaly Street Moolap Vic 3221 Australia

If you would like more information about the best wood coatings for your project, let us know! Our experts are here to help. In collaboration with our coating partners, we will find the coating solution for your needs and help you to get the best results possible for your project’s finish. Simply click the button below and tell us a little about your project to get started. The quote service is completely free, get in touch today!


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