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I am building a new home at Little Hartley ( near Lithgow NSW). It is 800 m above sea level and it gets quite cold in winter (sometimes snow) and hot in summer. I have been reading quite conflicting stories about water based vs oil based stains. Can you give me some objective advice please.

Woodsolutions Answer +

That’s a difficult question since we don’t run any tests on finishes ourselves and rely largely on personal experience and information from the manufacturers. There seems to be general agreement that the water-based finishes last longer, eg. Cabot’s Aquadeck which is guaranteed to last twice as long as oil-based decking products – more info here: http://www.duspec.com.au/duspec/file/audw1311.pdf. You will need to investigate what the guarantee actually means, particularly how long is ‘twice as long’. It would also be advisable to look at both types of finish when applied to samples of timber to satisfy yourself as to the appearance of each. Oil-based finishes are claimed to penetrate better but since spotted gum is a dense wood there would be little penetration with either finish. Hope this is some help.


I am looking to use birch plywood for indoor furniture. The furniture will be a dining table top.

I am interested in applying a black Japan stain and then possibly a matte polyurethane finish. I am unsure if the polyurethane finish will be suitable.

I would like to apply seal / finish the timber with something durable and robust and suited for a dining table (will get wet often). A matter finish is preferred.

Are you able to recommend a suitable finish for this application?

Woodsolutions Answer +

We agree that polyurethane is the most practical coating for your dining table, as long as it is compatible with the black japan stain. A satin or matt grade will provide a low-key finish which is easy to wipe clean. It’s necessary to avoid scratching, for example with earthenware platters and similar rough items, but otherwise polyurethanes are quite robust. Oils and waxes are less robust and more inclined to show marks from food and liquid spills.


What is the best product to finish a plywood ceiling?

Woodsolutions Answer +

A plywood ceiling will accept all the usual timber finishes. If you want to highlight the natural look of the plywood we suggest a satin or matt grade of polyurethane. Oils and waxes are likely to attract dust and grime in the long term. Alternatively plywood can be painted successfully.

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