I was browsing over all the old posts on my blog and could not believe that this is a topic that I’ve missed writing on. Choosing the right finish for woodwork is something that puzzles almost all home makers and making the wrong choice compromises the entire design and the look of the place, not to mention the additional cost of rework in case the finish chosen is incorrect for the space or the application.
In the paragraphs below, we will go through each finish and its pros and cons, where it should be used and where it should not. So, without further ado … here goes
This is by far the most common finish available in the market primarily due to the ease of application of laminate on plywood. Almost all factory-made modular furniture available in the Bangalore today is made in laminate. This is because factory machinery can only process laminate and not some of the other finishes that we will discuss later.
Laminate basically is a 1mm or 0.8mm sheet in different finishes that can be stuck easily (using regular adhesive like Fevicol) on ply. Readymade furniture available in the market sometimes uses what is called a “paper laminate” this is a very thin film that is pasted on top of either particle board and MDF.
The good thing about Laminate is
- Its ease of application,
- Its ability to withstand rough use,
- No post application finishing required
- Carpenters know how to use it
- It is cheaper compared to most other premium finishes
Where Laminate does not do too well is
- Edges need to be managed – if not done properly the edges look bad
- It tends to chip at the edges – especially the one in 0.8 mm or less
- Aesthetically, laminate finished furniture does not give a premium appeal
- Not recommended or Hi Gloss finishes as the waviness of the backing ply is sometimes visible if not applied correctly.
Acrylic is similar to laminate in terms of the fact that it too is sheet that is pasted on top of ply/ MDF/ HDF. Nowadays shutters with acrylic sheets from 1 to 3 mm are available in the Bangalore market. The good thing about acrylic is that the sheets come factory pasted – some vendors also import pre-pasted acrylic sheets from abroad – this is a 8 feet by 4 feet board and the only thing that it needs is cutting as per your shutter size and edge banding. Due to factory pasting the finish is unblemished and even in hi gloss finish there is no waviness. For this reason, Acrylic is slowly becoming the norm for Hi Gloss finishes.
The only negative side of acrylic is that the range is limited to Hi Gloss finishes, even there -the colors are fairly limited. In addition, Acrylic is primarily available from unbranded vendors and importers hence there is no standardization in quality and one needs to be careful and do a thorough vendor background check before procurement.
I had written a detailed article on Lacquered glass finish sometime back – we will hence not dwell upon it here. You can read the earlier post at https://thestudiobangalore.com/blog/2019/07/lacquered-glass-finish-shutters-for-home-interiors.html
There is again a separate post available on Polymer finishes – you may read about here https://thestudiobangalore.com/blog/2019/03/polymer-shutters-for-kitchen-and-wardrobes.html
Since the time this earlier post was written I have found Polymer shutters to be fairly limited in colour options, also the overall finish does not feel “premium” after some use. Its hence best to limit use of polymer
PU stands for Poly Urethane, it is a coating put on top of paint to protect it from the elements and to give it a particular finish – either glossy or matte. You would have seen some wood surfaces – especially boardroom tables and other premium furniture having a glassy surface finish – that finish is PU. You do also get a matte in PU which, as the name suggests, will not be glossy J
PU is a great finish for all “showcase” units – what I mean by SHOWCASE is that it should be used for surfaces and places that are ornamental and not functional. PU due its chemical nature is extremely hard and brittle (something like glass), this hence leads to easy chipping and cracking when hit. It is hence recommended to limit PU to rigid / non-moving furniture that is unlikely to face rough use. A number of clients have lately been asking me to do their Kitchens in PU and I nowadays use a long questionnaire to determine whether the family would be able maintain such high maintenance product before recommending whether they should go for it or not.
Also note that PU needs a fairly capable polisher to do justice to the finish – do not give it to just about anyone. Also ensure that you ask the worker to do you a small sample before giving him the entire furniture to do in PU. In addition, the cheaper variety of PU would get a yellow tinge over time (note that PU is just the transparent coat, though you do get stained PU but we won’t get into that now), it is hence recommended to go with the premium range of PU only and not really worry about the budgets at this stage when you have already decided to go in for a premium finish.
Duco is another “paint” based finish and comes with the same set of constraints as PU. Duco is the same as car paint and when used correctly, and for the right furniture pieces, like PU, it gives a premium look to the home and its interiors.
This is the last one that we will cover for this article today (as I am kind of done writing and should be getting back to work 🙂 )
While Veneer comes in plain single colours, it has traditionally been used to give the WOODY look to plywood. With the gradual passing away of solid wood and the advent of Plywood for making furniture Veneers were a compromise arrangement to give the woodgrain finish to ply. Veneered surfaces do need finishing and a coat of polish to protect them from the elements and to harden the surface for use. Veneer still remains one of the most exquisite but abused finishes due to the fact that while carpenters can easily install the veneer, getting a good polisher to finish it is difficult leading to what I call home maker heartburn. It is hence important to know the capability of your polisher before deciding on Veneer for your home
Again, like paint-based finishes, Veneers should be limited mostly to static furniture unless the family can manage the high maintenance. Veneer is also not moisture proof hence not recommended for wet areas.
Paper Laminate is the new kid on the block and I thought that I may as well mention this one … (I just can’t get myself to stop writing but this one IS definitely the last 🙂 ).
Well, Paper laminate REALLY is not a new kid, just that only now it is available to end customers. Furniture manufacturers/ factories have been using paper veneers/ laminates for ages, however, lately a sticker type paper laminate has been introduced in the Bangalore market that can very easily be used to cover and finish “non-active touch” surfaces. By non-active touch surfaces I mean surfaces that will hardly be exposed to a human touch – things like false ceilings, wall panels, some parts of a wardrobe shutter are some examples.
Paper laminate is extremely easy to install and leaves a nice, premium finish. In India it is still a niche product and not actively used but I do feel its use will grow as more folks come to know of it.
That’s it for now, feel free to leave your comments and questions and I will be happy to revert
Back to work now