Best Finish for Kitchen Table

If you’re on the hunt for the best finish for a kitchen table, the first things you should think about are durability, ease of application, and the type of finish, among other things.

To help you shop, I’ve compiled a list of some of the top finishes available on the market. And if you wish to look at other options, I’ve also curated a handy buying guide.

Best Finish for Kitchen Table

A dining table is an essential piece of kitchen furniture. It’s where you serve and share hearty meals, and most of the time, where you converse with people that you love. So, it is important that it is safe, clean, smooth, and inviting. Besides picking your favorite wood and chair, choosing the right finish also comes into play.

The right product will help bring out the inherent warmth of the wood. It can also give your kitchen table long-term durability against cracking and swelling. But keep in mind that not all wood finishes are the same, and each product suits various applications.

So, whether you’re refurbishing your old kitchen table or wish to preserve a new one, picking the right finish could do wonders for your furniture’s durability and overall look.

In this article, I will explore the various types of products on the market, as well as their specific qualities to help you in finding the perfect finish for your kitchen table. And without further ado, let’s have a look at my top picks!

My Top Picks

ProductImageDetailsPrice
Best OverallGeneral Finishes Arm-R-Seal TopcoatGeneral Finishes
Arm-R-Seal Topcoat
– Oil-based
– 1 Gallon
– High-quality urethane resin
– Satin finish
– Durable and long-lasting
– Can be wiped on with a cloth or
applied with a foam brush
Check price
Best Quick DryingMinwax PolyurethaneMinwax Polyurethane– Oil-based
– 1 Quart
– Satin sheen finish
– Fast drying
– Protective and long-lasting
Check price
Best Natural OilHope's Pure Tung Oil Natural Wood Finish and SealerHope’s Pure Tung Oil
Natural Wood Finish and Sealer
– Oil-based
– 32 Ounces
– Penetrates into the wood fibers
– Protective against moisture, alcohol,
oil, and everyday wear
– Multi-use
Check price
Best for Maple TopsGrizzly Industrial - Emmet's Good Stuff Wood FinishGrizzly Industrial – Emmet’s
Good Stuff Wood Finish
– 1 Quart
– Clear finish
– Fast drying
– Water and alcohol resistant
Check price
Good OptionWaterlox TB5284 StainWaterlox TB5284 Stain– Stain- 1 Quart
– Medium sheen finish
– Penetrates and waterproofs
with multiple coats
– Durable and versatile
Check price

The Best Finishes for Kitchen Table

Creating a beautiful kitchen table requires diligence. And knowing which finish works best with your table can help you in achieving your desired result. So, I did the homework for you and looked at various finishes for a range of uses. And each has its own set of pros and cons.

Below are some of the best finishes to consider for your next DIY project.

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Topcoat – Best Overall

General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Topcoat

If you’re looking for an all-purpose topcoat that seals and protects, then you may want to consider the General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Topcoat. It is a urethane resin that you can wipe on with a cloth or apply with a foam brush to produce a finished, professional look.

What I like about this topcoat is that it dries hard, creating a long-lasting and stain-resistant layer. Something more to appreciate about this oil-based topcoat is its nice, warm satin finish without the artificial sheen you’ll see with certain varnishes.

The finish also imparts a gorgeous protective glow, allowing all of the natural tones to shine through and allowing the intricacies in your item to stay. It will give your kitchen table the protection it needs for several years.

Since it is an oil-based product, you should use it in a well-ventilated location. It is also flammable and dangerous while liquid, but is food-safe when it’s dry. It’s well-favored by many craftsmen. Plus, it comes in 1 gallon which makes this product such a steal.

Pros
• Multi-purpose
• Easy to apply
• Long lasting and protective
• Lends a glowing satin finish to furniture
• Food-safe
Cons
• Very thin compared to other finishes

Minwax Polyurethane – Best Quick Drying

Minwax Polyurethane

The Minwax Polyurethane may be a great consideration if you’re looking for a finish that dries quickly. This finish offers durable, long-term protection for your kitchen table. You can recoat the surface within 4 to 6 hours, which means you won’t risk messing up the previous layers.

What I like most about this oil-based, clear top coat is the warm beauty it adds to both finished and unfinished wood projects. But it’s worth noting that the hue may change slightly because of the oil in the composition.

Regardless, you have the option to pick from a variety of shades, based on what best compliments your furniture. You may also need to coat it several times to ensure durability. But the good thing is that it dries quickly so no dust or debris will be caught in it, so once you’re through, you may sand it.

It is also very easy to apply, requiring you to use only a soft foam or bristle brush, or lambswool applicator.

Pros
• Saves time as it dries fast
• Highly durable and protective
• Easy to apply
• Great for both finished and unfinished woodwork
• Comes in various shades
Cons
• Color might slightly change
• Needs several coats to ensure durability

Hope’s Pure Tung Oil Natural Wood Finish and Sealer – Best Natural Oil

Hope's Pure Tung Oil Natural Wood Finish and Sealer

There are many oil-based finishes on the market that contain additives and solvents. But Hope’s Pure Tung Oil Natural Wood Finish and Sealer is 100 percent pure and natural and gives your fine wood surfaces that classic “hand-rubbed” finish. Simply wipe on and let the product cure at room temperature.

This natural oil coating is a wonderful finish for bare hardwoods. However, it requires some patience. You need to apply it with a cloth, rubbing it in a small amount at a time. Then, let the oil penetrate and accentuate the grain. It protects your surfaces from alcohol, water, as well as vegetable and fruit acids.

One of the downsides of this wipe-on finish is that it takes around 12 hours to dry. Which I find inconvenient, especially for large woodworks. You may also need to do multiple applications to achieve a protective gloss. But once you’re done, you would love the end result.

Another caveat is that you can’t use it on softwoods unless they have been sealed to avoid excessive penetration. But I like that it’s non-toxic when dry since it’s made of natural oil. It is also ideal for cutting boards, butcher blocks, wooden cutlery, and other similar items.

Pros
• Natural and non-toxic
• Lends a hand-rubbed finish
• Penetrates deeply into wood fibers and accentuates the wood grains
• Durable and protective
Cons
• Takes a long time to dry
• Requires multiple applications to form a protective gloss
• Not suitable for softwoods

Grizzly Industrial – Emmet’s Good Stuff Wood Finish – Best for Maple Tops

Grizzly Industrial - Emmet's Good Stuff Wood Finish

The Grizzly Industrial – Emmet’s Good Stuff Wood Finish may be a product worth checking if you’re planning to work on a maple tabletop, or just any wooden kitchen tables. This oil-based urethane gel provides strong protection to unpainted kitchen tabletops.

What I like about this wood finish is that while it’s on a slightly thicker consistency, you can easily apply it in the same manner as you do with a wipe-on poly. It contains synthetic oils to speed up drying, but it needs around 4 hours to dry between applications. Just as quickly as the Minwax one.

For optimal protection, you may apply three coats. It also does low penetration and lends tabletops the look of brush-on polyurethane. The finish also resists water and alcohol, and it is completely food-safe when dry. Although it has a mild odor, you still need to make sure that your area of application has enough ventilation.

This tabletop finish is best suited for maple woodwork, leaving it with a low sheen finish. Which I think is a perk since super glossy wooden table tops tend to look plastic. 

Pros
• Provides strong protection
• Non-toxic urethane
• Easy to apply – requires only a few coats
• Mild odor
• Lends a very natural stain
Cons
• Leaves brush marks

Waterlox TB5284 Stain – Good Option

Waterlox TB5284 Stain

Another great option for waterproofing your kitchen table might be the Waterlox TB5284 Stain. When you apply several coatings, it penetrates deeply into the wood fibers. This makes it a very protective waterproof finish. It provides a durable and elastic finish to protect the surface against moisture and spills.

If you have a DIY project with oily and exotic woods like teak and rosewood, this finish will adhere deeply. But the number of coatings it requires depends on the porousness of the wood.

It’s also very easy to apply that one of the customers used a regular brush and it came out surprisingly smooth and hard. While the manufacturer says that sanding between coats isn’t necessary, if you want a very smooth finish, you can totally sand it.

This finish can also lend a warmer tone to wood surfaces. Plus, it works like a primer, a sealer, and a paint additive. This protective finish is great for countertop-grade butcher blocks, tabletops, and more.

Pros
• Durable and waterproof
• Penetrates deeply
• Easy to apply
• Lends a warmer tone to wood surfaces
Cons
• Too glossy

Factors To Consider in Choosing the Best Finish for Kitchen Table

There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting the best finish for your kitchen table. These factors include durability, ease of application, and finish types. You should also consider the length of time it takes for a finish to cure, as well as the location you’ll be working in. I’ll go over these factors below.

Durability

A durable finish creates a very protective barrier for your kitchen table surfaces. If the product can not withstand normal frictions and strong sanding, it is not your best option. Going for a less durable finish will have you end up refinishing your wooden surfaces.

Before selecting your finish, you need to make sure it’s durable. Ideally, you should opt for urethane and polyurethane-based coatings. Such products can withstand a decent amount of heat and protect your kitchen table against moisture and water. However, polyurethane coatings can last for many years if not maintained.

Varnishes, however, build skin on the wood’s surface. A satin finish is a good alterative for high-gloss versions of varnish that often appear almost like plastic. Make sure you apply varnish correctly to avoid a milky discoloration. Oil and wax make scratches more visible and penetrate into the wood grain.

Ease of Application

This is an important factor to consider if you are new to painting and finishing. It’s always best to opt for a product that glides on smoothly over the wood and wipes on fast. If you’re a skilled craftsman, then you’ll know what works for you.

Going for a spray-on application means you’ll need to consider whether or not your wood choice is suitable for this technique. Oils and waxes are often applied using a cloth or brush. They need greater physical effort, however, newer formulas are more user-friendly than their traditional counterparts.

But the fastest and easiest way to finish a kitchen table is with polyurethane varnish. Once you brush it on, most of them flow smoothly and leave minimal marks. Which is why it’s the most sought-after product when it comes to ease of application. Before you start coating, make sure to read the product label carefully.

Types of Finishes

Furniture coatings come in a range of finishes. Before picking the best finish for the kitchen table, you must understand how each one works.

Oil-Based Finish

Oil-based finishes offer excellent protection while also adding color to bare surfaces. These finishes boast quality and bring out wooden surfaces’ natural beauty. Which is why they are ideal for kitchen tables. They simply lend a perfect balance of inherent and rich color.

The Hope’s Pure Tung Oil Natural Wood Finish and Sealer, for example, is one of the most popular oil-based finishes by professionals. It requires fewer reapplications like any other natural oils like linseed oil.

One disadvantage of utilizing oil-based products is that they can impart a yellow tone with time. And they will need further refinishing to maintain the finish for more years. It can also have some resistance to moisture and water. However, it will be flexible with your wood as humidity changes.

Water-Based Finish

Since water-based finishes are thin and offer a dry feel, they are thought to be the best polyurethane for kitchen tables. This type of finish is a time-saving option and beginner-friendly since they dry fast.

It is also useful for ensuring that the finish you’re using has a mild odor. This is due to the fact that water-based finishes have a very slight odor during application and dissipate as it dries. And although it’s fast drying, it can still lend your surface a nice glossy finish.

Varnish

Thid is a clear finish that lends your kitchen table some sheen. Varnish, which is composed of oil, resin, and solvents, is ideal for outdoor uses. This type of finish provides UV sun protection, so you can expect it to safeguard your outdoor furniture.

However, this finish takes a long time to dry and requires skilled expertise to use. It works well when combined with dye.

Shellac

Shellac lends a high gloss finish to wood surfaces while also adding a layer of protection. It’s also a time-saving option since it dries quickly. Since it is heat-sensitive, you’ll want to avoid using it on surfaces where you’ll be cooking food.

Also, it’s not dangerous for liquids containing alcohol. You may also need to use it in combination with other surface finishes for added durability.

Shellac is made of solvents with wax. It offers easy application but it’s not ideal if you intend to use your kitchen table heavily.

French-Polish Shellac

This method employs a combination of Shellac and oil finishes. When you apply the products, you will dip a cloth in the mixture, but do not soak it. Then, rub it into the surface in circular motions.

Curing Time

The duration of curing is another crucial factor to consider. The faster your finish dries, the better.

However, curing times vary greatly. Although polyurethanes dry quite fast, they might still require several hours. There are also finishes that need re-coats in a few hours, while others may take a long as 24 hours before you can apply a second coat.

The good news is that you’ll find many fast-drying options on the market. A product like the Minwax Polyurethane is one of the best fast-dry finishes and allows your kitchen table to have that sparkling look in no time. The Grizzly Industrial – Emmet’s Good Stuff Wood Finish would also be a great quick-dry option.

A finish that takes forever to dry can cause a major hassle. If you have pets, for example, they can ruin your coatings. Also, dust and debris can adhere to the surface easily. So if you wish to use a product that takes a long time to dry, make sure that the area is closed or fully vacuumed.

Odor

During application, you must keep safety in mind at all times. If you have respiratory problems or have low tolerance to strong smells, you should opt for a low-odor finish.

Take note of oil-based varnishes as they can produce a strong, awful smell and induce dizziness or breathing issues. Wearing protective equipment such as goggles, safety glasses, and gloves is always a good idea. You should also carry out your project in a well-ventilated space.

Your Finishing Area

Various wood finishes you find on the market contain harsh chemicals. Which means that they can produce powerful odors. As mentioned above, you should work in a location where there is enough ventilation if you must use a product with intense odor.

Water-based finishes are a great option since their smells are less powerful than their oil-based counterparts. They work well in spaces with limited ventilation. But if you’re applying a spray-on or brush-on finish to your woodwork, it’s important to have good ventilation.

Ease of Cleaning

If your chosen product offers ease of application, it should be easy to clean, too. For oil-based finishes, you can clean the brushes with solvent. You should be mindful of throwing away used cloth as it may cause fire. 

Certain oil-based finishes might suddenly combust. Reading manufacturer’s labels can help avoid accidents. Water-based formulas, on the other hand, are not as dangerous. And, cleaning is as simple as soap and water.

Surface Finishes vs. Penetrating Finishes

The main difference between these two types of finishes is evident in their names.

Surface finishes adhere to the wood surface. It also acts as a scratch-resistant barrier. They are ideal for furniture that is subjected to heavy wear and tears. Penetrating finishes, on the other hand, soak into the wood while still providing a protective layer on top for added durability.

If your surface has bubbles or scratches in the piece that you didn’t notice while sanding, your kitchen table may require several coats. You need to also consider how much time and labor you are willing to spend on maintenance.

Whichever type of finish you choose, make sure to pick a finish that will give enough protection and reduce.

Sanding 101

When it comes to final sanding, it’s always ideal to do it by hand. This way, you’ll have better control over the pressure and spots that need sanding. With regular sanding, a regular orbital sander is a great choice. Polishing the final layer by hand for a few minutes can help remove any traces left by an electric sander.

Also, it’s important that you sand evenly since tweaking any part of the surface at this point might alter the final finish. Imagine sanding the coating with an 80-grit paper when you’re halfway through your project. It’s not a good idea to sand the final coating with 100-grit paper.

Supplies You Need

You will find the tools you need to refinish a kitchen table in many local hardware stores. You will find the tools you need to refinish a kitchen table in many local hardware stores.

Sanding Tools

A sanding block or sanding paper are two of the most often-used supplies. But make sure that the grain you choose is acceptable for your furniture.

If the surface has deeper cuts or cracks, then you’ll need something with a higher grain count to smoothen it out. But if your kitchen table already has a smooth surface but wishes to make it much smoother, sanding it with a lower grain count will suffice.

Cleaning Cloth

When it comes to cleaning, rags and towels will come in handy. They can also protect and help improve the application process. Most hardware stores sell rags and cloths for applying stains and finishes, as well as fr cleaning.

Best Finish for Kitchen Table FAQs

What finish should you use on a kitchen table?

Polyurethane varnish offers a quick and easy solution to finishing a kitchen table. It flows nicely when you brush it on a surface and leaves only little to no marks. Just make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions as finishing a table surface usually requires two to four coats of varnish.

How many coats of polyurethane should you put on a kitchen table?

The polyurethane coat needs at least three coatings to give the table a beautiful finished look. You can also add more layers to make the kitchen table look glossy and polished. Then, allow enough time for each application to dry completely.

What kind of polyurethane do you use on a kitchen table?

Minwax Fast Drying Polyurethane is a popular polyurethane for wooden kitchen table surfaces. You can use it on both unfinished and finished wood. If you’re hesitant to use a primer, this would be a great option. It also offers easy application. You can apply it using either a foam brush, bristle brush, or lambswool applicator.

What is better, polyurethane or lacquer?

Polyurethane is a more durable option and it comes in different types. It is thick and provides a solid coating. Lacquer, on the other hand, is thinner and can penetrate the wood surface. It is likewise a durable finish, however, it is prone to scratches and discoloration after a while.

What is the hardest clear coat for wood?

Polyurethane is a great clear coat for wood surfaces. Finishing wood cabinets and furniture with polyurethane adds depth and richness to the surface. It also protects the wood from impacts, scratches, and the weather.

What happens if you don’t sand between coats of polyurethane?

Nothing will happen if you don’t sand between layers of a certain type of polyurethane. But, most polyurethane won’t adhere effectively if you avoid sanding dust and traces of brush on the finish. The layers can eventually peel off the surface or become warped.

Do you sand after final coat of polyurethane?

There’s no need to sand the final layer of polyurethane. But if it’s not smooth enough, you can sand it.  When you apply polyurethane, you may encounter issues including dust nibs, bubbling, and streaks.

Is water-based or oil-based polyurethane better for table?

Oil-based polyurethane is commonly thought to be better for kitchen tables. The oil-based substrate carries the polymer. This will make the coating on the surface last longer. It also has better protective properties against moisture and abrasion.

What is the difference between satin and gloss polyurethane?

The shine is what distinguishes gloss polyurethane from satin. Gloss polyurethane has a high gloss finish that reflects a lot of light. Satin, on the other hand, has a dull luster and reflects less light. Since both solutions are extremely durable, you can use them on high-touch surfaces.

What’s the best finish for a coffee table?

For coffee tables, you can opt for a polyurethane varnish. It’s extremely durable, relatively resistant to heat. It’s also simple to apply and typically looks good.

Both oil-based and water-based formulations are viable options, although most oil-based ones tend to lend an amber tone, which most people don’t mind. Most oil-based formulas also dry slowly.

Is polyurethane safe for food?

Once cured, all finishes are food-safe. There are no reported risks related to polyurethane varnish. But, no finish is food-safe until completely cured. It’s advisable to thoroughly cure the surface for 30 days at 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Is lacquer a good finish for a kitchen table?

If you’re a restaurateur who needs basic solid wood tables, a lacquer finish would suffice. Lacquer-finished tabletops are durable and easy to repair.

So, What Is the Best Finish for Kitchen Table?

The General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Topcoat is my favorite and is one of the most preferred options among craftsmen because it is multi-purpose, allowing you to use it on various surfaces. It is also durable and lends a glowing stain finish to kitchen tables while adding a protective layer. Plus, it’s easy to apply and food-safe.

But if you’re looking for a fast-drying option, then you may consider either the Minwax Polyurethane or the Grizzly Industrial – Emmet’s Good Stuff Wood Finish. The Minwax poly saves time, is easy to apply, and is highly durable and protective. It is great for both finished and unfinished woodwork and comes in various shades.

The Grizzly Industrial finish is a non-toxic urethane that also dries quickly and imparts a very natural stain to wood surfaces. And just like any good finish, it provides strong protection and is easy to apply, requiring only a few coats. But what I like best about this product is that it has a very mild odor.

Lastly, if you’re looking for another great option to seal and waterproof your tabletop, the Waterlox TB5284 Stain would be a durable option. This finish penetrates deeply into wood fibers and lends a warmer tone to surfaces. It is also easy to apply.

I hope you’ve found the ideal finish for your kitchen table from my carefully curated selections. And don’t forget to check out these dependable products so you can start finishing (pun intended) your DIY project as soon as possible! Good luck!

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