Best Type of Finish for Dining Table

Timber dining tables have always been stylish, and I doubt there will ever be a time when they’ll go out of style. However, keeping them in top shape depends on the type of finish you choose. So which is the best option?

The best type of finish for a dining table is epoxy resin. It has the longest lifespan and is resistant to damage from water, scratches, heat, and more. Epoxy resin finishes are also fireproof and easy to apply. 

In this article, you’ll learn more about how to choose the best furniture finish for your dining table. I’ll also get into the different types available in today’s market.

Tips for Selecting the Best Dining Table Furniture Finish

There is a wide variety of furniture finishes available for wood dining tables. Before you decide on the most suitable option for you, it’s best to keep the following factors in mind:

  • Durability: Most modern families spend a lot of time at the dining table, and not just for eating. Consider which products are more durable. Ask yourself whether the furniture finish will withstand regular use and how long it will look good as new.  
  • Odor: The smell of furniture finish can feel especially strong. This could become a problem, especially if you have kids around the house. Some products have a mild smell or a smell that will air out faster. 
  • Final Look: The aesthetics of your furniture finish should be a major factor in deciding which type you will use. You wouldn’t want to disrupt the interior design theme of your dining area.
  • Ease of Application: Factor in how easy it is to apply the furniture finish, especially if you intend to do it yourself. Ask yourself whether you have the skills to apply them or whether hiring a professional is necessary.
  • Curing Time: Different finishes cure at varying rates, and you will need to keep your dining table vacant during the curing time. Consider how much time you can allot toward curing.
  • Cost: While there are certainly options for every price point, you’ll need to consider your overall budget and how much you are willing to spend on the finish. 

Surface Finish vs. Penetrating Finish

Whether looking for a furniture finish or a wood finish for hardwood floors, you’re likely to come across the comparison between surface and penetrating finishes.

To simplify the difference, surface finishes coat the exterior of the wood, giving a natural look. On the other hand, penetrating finishes go deep into the wood for more protection but don’t give it a natural look. 

There are applications for both types of wood finishes, and you can use any of them on your dining table depending on the importance you give to durability and looks.

Reviewing Finish Types for Dining Tables

There is a lot of overlap between several kinds of wood finish. In order to decide which finish type is best for your dining table, here’s an overview of the most commonly used furniture finishes available today:

Epoxy Resin

In my opinion, this is one of the best furniture finish options. Here are a few of its many advantages:

  • Durability: Epoxy resin finish is known to last for years.
  • Nonflammable: For a dining table, it’s good to know that the finish won’t catch fire. Great for baked Alaska and similar fancy dishes. 
  • Odorless: Most people don’t mind the very faint odor that epoxy resin has, and it often goes unnoticed. 
  • Chemical resistant: Never worry about spilling anything on your dining table because it will be protected well.
  • Scratch-resistant: Kids can have a seat at the table, and you won’t worry about cutlery scratching the fine wood because the epoxy resin is highly resistant to scratching. 
  • Water resistant: No water rings from spills and wet dishes. Of all the wood finishes, this is the most water-resistant. 

My favorite brand of epoxy resin is the Pro Marine Supplies Clear Table Top Epoxy Resin, which you can buy on In addition to all the other advantages of epoxy resin, this brand is UV resistant and spread evenly on its own. Whether you’re a pro or a DIYer, this is very easy to use. 


With eight different wood staining types available, there are certainly enough choices under this category of furniture finish. This method is preferred by many because of the aesthetically pleasing results—wood staining enhances the appearance of wood by making the grains more noticeable and leaving a glossy finish on the wood after the second coat of finish is applied.

Choose wood stains for your dining table if you want to showcase the luxurious wood underneath. Not only is it DIY-friendly, but wood staining is also a quick-drying method.

I recently restored a friend’s dining table, and I bought a can of Varathane 262009 Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain from The gorgeous cherry black dried within an hour, and it was really easy to apply.


The lac-bug (native to India and Thailand) secretes a resin called shellac, which has been used for centuries as a wood finish. This type of finish is non-toxic, making it perfect for use on a dining table. It’s also UV-resistant, suitable for use in sunny dining rooms with lots of light. 

However, it’s worth mentioning that shellac wood finish does not provide any water resistance and is less durable compared to synthetic finishes. If you want to use shellac as a finish, I highly suggest using it in combination with another type to get the most out of your finishing.


A lacquer wood finish is solvent-based and dries fast. This is a type of wood finish that requires a little more know-how to apply. First, the solvent is mixed with the correct amount of lacquer. Then, the finish is sprayed onto the wood and left to cure for a long time (around 3 hours) as the solvent evaporates. 

Lacquer finishes are penetrative and provide nourishment to the wood, so they increase its durability. The final finish is glossy and showcases the beauty of the wood. I found the Rust-Oleum Watco 63041 Lacquer Clear Wood Finish on It dries within an hour and makes your dining table resistant to scratches.


Some of the oldest wood finishing techniques use oils—most commonly linseed oil. While the final results look less polished or “unfurnished,” the oils form a protective layer by penetrating the wood. Wood dining tables that are treated with an oil-based finish are more durable. 

The idea behind oil-based wood finishes is that they replace the natural oils that tend to dry out of the wood over time. Nowadays, you can find oil-based wood stains and other furniture finishes that combine oils and other types.


Speaking of wood finishes that are often combined with oils, wax is a wood surface finish that helps bring out the beauty of the wood used in your dining table. The main advantage of using wax is that it helps preserve the original color of the wood. Also, it lasts a very long time despite not protecting the wood underneath.

However, I wouldn’t recommend wax for use alone as a dining table finish. Wax stain does not fare well against heat from food and scratches from rubbing against plates and cutlery. 


For a finish that will penetrate deeply into the wood and provide impressive durability, opt for a polyurethane-based wood finish.

This penetrating finish is considered a synthetic varnish, and there are two types:

  • Water-based polyurethane finish: best for preserving the color and increasing durability. 
  • Oil-based polyurethane finish: best for heat resistance and chemical resistance. 

This type of wood finish will result in a dull shine, as opposed to the glossy results from other finishes. Some woodworkers combine polyurethane finish with other types to get a better sheen while still taking advantage of the durability of polyurethane.

Keep in mind that polyurethane varnish requires between 24 to 48 hours to dry, and multiple coats are necessary for proper protection. If you’re not willing to part with your dining table for a couple of weeks or so, skip this option. 

Polyester Resin

For a quick-curing and affordable option, you might want to consider polyester resin. This is a synthetic resin finish that has a low price due to lower manufacturing costs. However, I wouldn’t recommend this option for dining tables because it is water-permeable and not very durable.

Still, it’s a budget-friendly option for those who can’t afford more costly types of wood finish. Even though it’s prone to scratching, you can easily polish the scratches away. 

If you choose this option, I’d recommend applying a few coats so that it cures hard and you add more durability to the final result. 

Final Thoughts

I personally prefer to use an epoxy resin finish for a high-quality finish. Many people also recommend oil-based wood stains as a finish for wooden dining tables because it is fast drying and protective. Given the variety of options available in today’s market, I highly suggest you research the best option for your specific dining table.

Damien Madeira

Damien has been doing woodworking for the last 5 years. He began as a hobbyist with hand tools and slowly worked his way up to own larger machines and mill rough wood into beautiful creations. While still considering himself a hobbyist, he has a passion for woodworking and enjoys working with epoxy as well.

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