Types of Wooden Finish in residential interior design
Ever wondered why an interior designer mentioned the type of wooden finish when they give you a quote? Or questioned what is a laminate finish or a veneer finish?
This question did not arise in the good old days when all woodwork was done using hardwood and a “finish” simply meant polishing it. A stain could be added for some colour different from the natural colour of the wood. As plywood, MDF and even particle board increase in popularity and replace hardwood because of cost, type of wooden finish becomes not just important but the most important.
A finish in this matter means the kind of material and / or polish that has been put on top of the base material which could be plywood or anything else.
Here are some of the wooden finishes that we typically work with in Simply Interiors:
Possibly the most common finish because its easy to implement and cheaper as well is the laminate finish. Laminates are sheets of craft paper which are printed with various patters and colors stuck on boards. These are then stuck on plywood to give the desired finish.
The advantage of laminates (also called sunmica which is actually one of the brands of laminate) apart from being cheaper is the even finish you get. Thats because they are artificially made in factory. They are also waterproof and easier to clean. A major disadvantage of laminates is that they are fragile and can chip of easily. In addition, laminated areas can have very sharp corners. Laminates can also not be bent and hence cannot be used in curved areas.
Having said this, there are costlier variations of laminates which can be bent.
Cost of laminates differs dramatically based on the quality and number of layers of craft paper used. While visibly, there may be no difference, a poor quality craft paper will start fading. Some good brands of laminates are Merino and Century. Royale Touche laminates are extremely high end and luxurious and a good investment if some extra amount can be spent.
Veneers are thin strips of natural wood. These are the next best thing if wooden textures and grains are something you love on your furniture but cannot afford the real teakwood or sheesham furniture. Veneers are stuck on top of plywood and then sanded and polished. Types of polishes vary from melamine (little gloss) to PU (matte to glossy) and polyester (high gloss).
The biggest advantage of veneers are the finishing. They are natural wood and hence they look like natural wood. Again, the quality of the veneers matter. Some local players, to keep the price down, use very thin or even wastage strips which start waving after some time. Do check the thickness of veneer in the quote.
The biggest disadvantage of veneers is the cost. Some veneers are really expensive. In addition to the cost of veneers, the carpenters who are fixing the veneers need to be experienced to ensure continuity of grains. In addition, proper polishing and sanding is essential to bring out the real charm of veneers. Our polish teams are trained by ICA which is an international industry leader in polishes.
Duco is the name of a brand but is widely used to denote automotive lacquer paint which was earlier done on vehicles and then started getting done on wood as well. The best surface for this is MDF and hence we put a layer of MDF on top of plywood before applying duco or any other paint mentioned later.
One big advantage of duco over other paint finishes is the price. It is the cheapest.
The disadvantages because of which duco is slowly losing out to others is that duco over time can fade and even become yellowish. Secondly, it is not recommended to be used in wet areas or where temperatures increase. Hence, kitchen in duco is not recommended.
We still suggest duco if budget does not permit PU finish.
PU (Polyurethane) Finish
PU is what is done on vehicles nowadays. PU is what can be done on wood as well. A good trained and experienced person can bring wonders to a wooden piece.
The biggest advantage of PU is its versatility. You can have completely matte or completely glossy finish and anything in between. You can have any color shade. In addition, since it is waterproof and easier to clean, it is a wonderful option for kitchens. The biggest disadvantage is the cost. It is somewhat similar to doing veneer with melamine and hence slightly costlier than duco. Apart from that, PU can also only be done in one solid color. Shades and textures are not possible.
As earlier mentioned, we ensure a good PU finish because our teams are trained by ICA.
Polyester (Polycoat or Lamination)
Polyester finish will leave you feeling as if the surface has a thin layer of clear glass on top. A typical polyester finish will require at least 10-12 coats of paint.
ICA has a whole range of polyester finishes which can even imitate marble since it can be done in various textures. In addition, over time, the only thing required to make it look as good as new is one round of buffing. The problem with polyester is its initial investment. Its prohibitive and in my honest opinion, one of the most expensive things that can be done.
We recommend the use of polyester on table tops or other highlight areas depending on budgets.
Acrylic and PVC Finishes
Acrylic sheets are becoming more and more popular in place of laminate because they are relatively better at handling scratches and the sharp corners of laminates are mitigated to some extent.
PVC is also bendable to a certain degree which adds to the advantages.
Acrylic and PVC from good brands is again essential as local low cost options can compromise on the quality of raw material which negates the entire reason for using acrylic. Each acrylic or PVC should could be double to triple in price compared to a laminate sheet and this translates into a higher cost of woodwork.
While this is not a typical finish on wood since glass can also be used by itself without wood, lacquer glass is also a finish which needed to be discussed here since it can also replace the many finishes listed above. Lacquer paint done on glass can end up giving some really great colored glass for use. These can then be stuck on plywood or put in an aluminium frame.
Saint Gobain is our primary partner for lacquer glass shutters. They provide us with finished shutters. The lacquer paint that they use is obviously top quality with no issues of chipping. One issue with Saint Gobain lacquer glass is the limited range of colours available. We do get other colours made as well but they are usually locally manufactured.
Apart from cost which is very high, lacquer glass shutters can also shatter because they are glass. For this reason, lacquer glass is used in limited areas only.
Apart from the above finishes, we do experiment with numerous other finishes like wallpapers, 3D MDF sheets, bison boards, cement boards etc. Mirrors and plain / tinted / frosted glass can also be used. All these can be used based on the designs and other individual tastes and requirements.