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Guide to Internal Door Finishes

Choosing the right finish for your internal doors is crucial for both aesthetics and durability. This comprehensive guide will help you understand the various options available, including prefinished, unfinished, and primed doors, so you can make an informed decision.

Key Takeaways

Finish Type Description Advantages Disadvantages
Prefinished Factory-finished, ready to install Consistent quality, time-saving Limited customisation options
Unfinished Raw wood, requires finishing Customisable, cost-effective Time-consuming, requires skill
Primed Pre-primed, ready for painting Saves time, ensures better paint adhesion Limited to paint finishes only
Laminate Durable, easy to maintain, neat and clean Various colours and finishes, easy to match May not offer the natural look of wood
Veneer Thin layer of hardwood glued to door material Natural wood finish, affordable Requires protective coating for durability
Paint Popular, relatively inexpensive Wide range of colours and finishes Less durable, shows wear and tear over time
Stains Enhances natural wood grain Durable, ideal for high-traffic areas Can be difficult to apply evenly
Varnish Clear, protective coating Excellent durability, enhances wood beauty May require sanding and refinishing if worn
Lacquer Protective coating, ultra-matte to high gloss Durable, available in any colour High gloss can be labour-intensive to apply
Wax Provides a natural look and feel Easy to apply and touch up, soft sheen Less durable, requires frequent maintenance

Types of Door Finishes

1. Prefinished Doors

Prefinished doors are factory-finished and ready to install upon delivery, offering a consistent quality and hassle-free experience.

  • Advantages:
    • Consistent quality
    • Time-saving
    • Hassle-free installation
  • Disadvantages:
    • Limited customisation options

Prefinished Oak Door

2. Unfinished Doors

Unfinished doors are raw wood doors that require sanding, staining, or painting, allowing for high customisation but requiring more time and skill.

  • Advantages:
    • Highly customisable
    • Cost-effective
  • Disadvantages:
    • Time-consuming
    • Requires skill and proper tools

Unfinished Oak Door

3. Primed Doors

Primed doors come pre-primed and ready for painting, saving time and ensuring better paint adhesion, but are limited to paint finishes only.

  • Advantages:
    • Saves time
    • Ensures better paint adhesion
  • Disadvantages:
    • Limited to paint finishes only

4. Laminate

Laminate finishes are durable, easy to maintain, and designed to keep doors neat and clean, available in various colours and finishes to match decor.

  • Advantages:
    • Durable and easy to maintain
    • Available in various colours and finishes
    • Easy to match decor
  • Disadvantages:
    • May not offer the natural look of wood

Laminate Oak Door

5. Veneer

Veneer finishes feature a thin layer of hardwood glued to the door material for a wood-finished texture, offering a natural wood look without the expense of solid wood.

  • Advantages:
    • Offers a natural wood finish
    • More affordable than solid wood
  • Disadvantages:
    • Requires a protective coating for enhanced durability

Veneer Oak Door

6. Paint

Paint is a popular and relatively inexpensive option, offering a wide range of colours and finishes that are easy to apply and match decor.

  • Advantages:
    • Wide range of colours and finishes
    • Easy to apply and match decor
  • Disadvantages:
    • Less durable
    • More likely to show wear and tear over time

7. Stains

Stains are used to enhance the natural grain of the wood, offering durability and various colour options, but can be difficult to apply evenly.

  • Advantages:
    • Durable and ideal for high-traffic areas
    • Available in various colours
  • Disadvantages:
    • Can be difficult to apply evenly
    • May leave streaks or brush marks

Osmo Oil Stains


Varnish provides a clear, protective coating that offers excellent durability and enhances the natural beauty of the wood, available in different sheen levels.

  • Advantages:
    • Excellent durability
    • Enhances the natural beauty of the wood
    • Available in different sheen levels (matte, satin, gloss)
  • Disadvantages:
    • If worn or chipped, the door may need to be sanded back to bare wood and refinished

Varnished Oak Door


Lacquer is a protective coating that can be ultra-matte, satin, or high gloss, offering durability and availability in any color, with high gloss finishes being particularly striking and modern.

  • Advantages:
    • Durable
    • Available in any color
    • High gloss finishes are striking and modern
  • Disadvantages:
    • High gloss finishes can be labor-intensive to apply, requiring up to 24 hours of polishing

Lacquered Door


Wax provides a natural look and feel, enhancing the wood's character with a soft sheen, and is easy to apply and touch up.

  • Advantages:
    • Easy to apply and touch up
    • Offers a soft sheen
    • Enhances the wood's natural character
  • Disadvantages:
    • Less durable than varnish or lacquer
    • May require more frequent maintenance

Waxed Oak Door

Factors to Consider

1. Room Lighting

Consider the lighting in the room when choosing a door finish. Darker finishes can balance out bright rooms, while lighter finishes can brighten darker spaces.

2. Traffic Level

High-traffic areas benefit from more durable finishes like stains or varnishes. Darker colours can also hide dirt and fingerprints better.

3. Desired Appearance

Clear finishes enhance the natural grain of the wood, while opaque finishes like paint offer a more uniform look. Consider the overall style and decor of your home when making a decision.

4. Maintenance

Think about the ease of cleaning and maintaining the finish. Washable finishes like satin and gloss paints are practical for busy households.

Application Tips

  • Preparation: Remove hardware and lightly sand the door surface before applying any finish.
  • Testing: Always test the finish on a small area to ensure it meets your expectations.
  • Direction: Apply stains and varnishes in the direction of the wood grain to avoid streaks.

Door Maintenance Wax

By carefully considering the factors mentioned in this guide and understanding the various door finish options available, you can select the perfect finish for your internal doors, ensuring they look beautiful and stand the test of time.

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