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Now what-refininshing interior trim?

Ok, I've removed all the paint and used Formby's furniture refinisher and steel wool to remove the old finish from my wood work. I like the color it is now but wouldn't mind it being darker. How do I go about protecting it now? Should I just use Tung oil or should I use some kind of other protective coating? Additional info: this is a 1924 Craftsman Bungalow-I've stripped everything in every room of the house: base boards, window trim, mantle, doors, and doorways. Thanks for the advice!

Re: Now what-refininshing interior trim?

When the wood is wetted with a solvent of some kind (the Formby's will do if you don't have any alcohol or lacquer thinner about).....is it dark enough then? (The color you see when the wood is wet is what you'll have if you apply only a clear sealer/varnish/lacquer/shellac or a tung oil or similar)

Before we can suggest some appropriate finishes, we need to know what room is involved and what specific woodwork is involved. For instance, what would be appropriate choices for a living room might not be at all appropriate for a bathroom, kitchen or for window sash/trim.

Species of the wood is.......?

Re: Now what-refininshing interior trim?

I do like the color it is when wetted with a solvent, that is dark enough for me, and I'd really like to avoid staining. Every room has been stripped: living, dining, kitchen, bath, laundry, and bedrooms. There isn't much original trim left in the kitchen and baths though and in the rest of the rooms it will be primarily just the trim I will need to protect, all windows have been replaced. We are pretty much dealing with base boards, window trim, mantle, doors, doorways, and a built in bookcase. I'm not 100% sure, but I think the trim is pine. Thanks again!

Re: Now what-refininshing interior trim?


I agree. If the wood is pine, I'd personally avoid using a stain on it as it's apt to come up blotchy if you do. Perhaps not though, in that there might be enough finish residue in the wood yet to prevent any severe blotching.

There are some considerations before choosing your finish. There are always trade-offs involved. Those finishes which are the most water/wear and chemical resistant....... think "tough"....... are also those that are the more dificult to repair or overcoat.......if they can repaired/overcoated at all.

Shellac and nitro-cellulose lacquer allow for very easy repair/renewal. (Deft "clear wood finish" is an example of a nitro that can be applied by brush, but don't confuse that particular product with Deft's polyurethane.) I would not, however, recommend these finishes for bathrooms, kitchens or window trim. If you use them there, you will mostly certainly find yourself takng advantage of their "easy to repair/renew" quality.

Polyurethanes are touted and promoted these days by many folks as a panacea for all finishing needs. I don't agree with that at all. However, if you want/desire to use just one finish throughout the house that will serve you well and long-term........it probably is a polyurethane. Although these are more difficult/laborious than shellac or nitro to overcoat/repair, you shouldn't find much need to do that so long as the finish doesn't get deeply scratched/abraded. It's dang tough stuff and there are many products in this product line which are DIY friendly, meaning they don't require spray equipment/skills (which the catalyzed finishes do).

Oil-based polyurethanes are, IMO, the easiest for a DIYer to handle. They level well and aren't that persnickety as regards ambient temp and humidity. They do off-gas considerably though during the first 6-8 hours of drying/curing and so some ventilation is necessary if being applied in an occupied residence. That....and/or.......isolate the room in which you're finishing by closing the door to adjoining rooms/halls and block off any cold air returns so that the AC or furnace doesn't circulate the air from the room to all the others in the house. OB poly will also amber with the passage of time. Likely this is a good thing for your particular situation because that bit of ambering will add warmth to the appearance.

Water-borne polys are somewhat more demanding as regards ambient temps and humdity levels. They tend to "flash off" much faster (when applied in "normal" temps and humidity) and so there's usually less time to brush the finish without causing problems. IOW, you'll need to work as rapidly as is practical....and don't go back in with the brush once the material has started to flash-off. Basically, the same rules as for applying a latex/waterborne paint. If the ambient temp and humidity conditions inside the house are outside of the "normal" range one would expect to find inside a residence.....you may experience some problems with the drying/curing of the finish. Cold temps with very high humidity will not be your friend, nor will very high temps accompanied by bone-dry conditions.

Water-borne poly doesn't give off as much "perceived" gas/vapor/fumes while drying and curing, but be ye not decieved. It's still giving off some vapors that are/can be harmful to your respiratory and nervous system. Use the same basic precautions as you would for applying an OB product.........or any solvent based finish, for that matter. The only real difference here is that water is the solvent/carrier for a WB finish.

WB poly will not amber. It will/should remain water-clear with the passage of time. Your call as to whether that's a problem........or a desirable trait.

You can apply umpteen coats of an OB poly, but WB is usually limited to 2 coats....or 3, max. Applying more WB than that will likely lead to curing problems (it may not fully cure at all.......ever).

WB poly is also not as alcohol, acetone and ammonia resistant as OB poly is. OB poly is pretty mcuh indestructable once it's cured (about 6 weeks total to reach full cure, although it can be put into "service" after just a few days.)

Whatever finish you choose, use gloss for all coats except the last coat you apply....if you should, for instance, desire a semi-gloss or satin sheen. This will help maintain finish clarity while still giving you the desired sheen level. If you use semi or satin for several coats, a bit of "cloudiness" will develop with each successive layer.

I would also recommend that you avoid using any of the "wiping" type poly finishes that you may find on the shelf. Reason being that by their very nature, each coat is exceedingly thin and it will take you 3-4 times as many coats to achieve the same final protective film thickness. I have better things to do myself.

Hope this helps a little. Finishing is a huge subject and can't really be covered in full depth on a forum. But if you have more questions, feel free to ask and I'll try to answer those.

Initial recommended reading if you'd like to learn more a bunch more about wood finishing would be Bob Flexner's "Understanding Wood Finishing". Look for it at Amazon or similar.

PS- One more thing now occurs to me; IIRC, you said you used steel wool in the process of stripping the wood. If so.......be forewarned; any little strands of that steel wool which remain on/in the wood WILL RUST under an WB poly finish.

Also........don't cheap-out when it comes to buying a brush. Prepare to spend $15 or more. For OB, you'd want a natural bristle brush and for WB, you'd want a synthetic bristle brush. Worthy brushes would include the upper end of brands like Purdy, Baker and/or the contractor-grade brushes at Sherwin-Williams or other name-brand paint stores. Take care of the brush and it will last you for many years.

Re: Now what-refininshing interior trim?

Goldhiller, thank you so much for replying! I would like to use the same finish throughout the house and I'm leaning towards oil based poly, I look forward to the ambering after time and I'd like something heavy duty. Do I need to worry about using steel wool on the rest of the house? If I use OB poly am I safe continuing with it? I'll definitely pick up the book you recommended. Thanks for taking to the time to give me a detailed answer, this novice renovater really appreciates it!!

Re: Now what-refininshing interior trim?


You're more than welcome.

I wouldn't worry about using steel wool in combination with an OB poly finish. It's never caused a problem for me over the course of some 33 years of finishing wood......although it can cause problems if using some type of waterborne finish. (There's a growing number of WB finishes on the market these days which include WB lacquers and varnishes. Expect the selection to increase more with the passage of time.)

Your project is an example of why it's usually important to decide what finish will be used before proceeding with surface preparation. The more you know about the different characteristics, pitfalls and performance of the available finishes, the better your odds of choosing the one that's really appropriate for a given application. I'm sure you'll learn much from Bob's book....and will put it to good use.

Re: Now what-refininshing interior trim?

You are an absolute fountain of useful, informative and accurate information. Glad to meet you.

Re: Now what-refininshing interior trim?


Thank you for the kind words. And allow me to return the same to you for the same reasons. :-)

Good to make your acquaintance, also.

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