Prefinished boards are good to go right out of the box. Bare wood has to be sanded, stained (if you choose to), and covered with top coats before you can move the furniture in. Here's what you need to know about finishes:
Oil-based polyurethane Long the gold standard for durability, it imparts an amber hue to wood. Wait 24 hours between coats and allow three days to cure.
Water-based polyurethane Goes on milky but quickly dries to form a crystal- clear finish. Two coats can be applied in one day. Virtually no odor. Give it three days to cure.
Stain Uses penetrating pigments to darken wood color and enhance its grain. Apply before the protective finish coats.