What Is The Best Finish For Desk Top That Is Made Of Wood?




Undoubtedly, a dull and old desktop looks very ugly. But what is the solution to this? Should you throw this away or should you replace this?

No need to do any of them! You can simply apply a finish to your desktop and make it look like a new piece of furniture. But there are many finishes available. Among them, which one is the best finish for desk top? Keep reading and get your solution.

What Is The Best Finish For Desk Top

Best Finish For Desk Top

Many finishes are available in the marketplace and all of them are not the best choice for your wooden desktop. Some best finishes for wooden desktops are polyurethane, conversion varnish, shellac, wood stain, etc.

Keep reading ahead because there is a lot that you need to know. Let’s dive into it!

Some main facts-

  • The best finishes for wooden desk tops are polyurethane, varnish, shellac, wood stain, oil finishes, Lacquer, etc.
  • Among these best finishes, you can choose finishes for your desktop according to your preferences, desires, needs, budget, and the durability of the finish.
  • The same finishes are not suitable for all types of wood. Each type of wood has its own structural factors and the finish should be applied accordingly.

Does Wooden Desk Have Different Types Of Finish?

If you are wondering if there are different types of finishes available for wooden desks, let me help you with a short answer: yes, there are many different types of finishes for any wooden desktop. Depending on your desired look and needs, you can use the finishes accordingly.

There are many types of finishes such as durable finish, protective finish, water-based finish, etc. You can choose the perfect finish to achieve the desired look according to you. But make sure you are choosing the right finish for the wooden desktop. You can apply these finishes to your oak table, pine table, wooden table tops, kitchen table, etc, and you can get a beautiful finish as well. You can apply the finish after fixing the roll-top desk.

What Are The Best Finish For Desk Top?

You may know many kinds of finishes available in the market for wooden furniture. However, are all of them suitable for your desktop? What are the best finishes for your wooden desktop? Without wasting time, let’s explore this:

What Are The Best Finish For Desk Top


Polyurethane is popular because it is the most durable finish for wood desk tops. The clear coating can protect wooden desks from any kind of damage, such as scratches, dents, spills, etc. Water-based polyurethane is the best choice to protect the desk from spills and warping. Oil-based polyurethane is also available in the marketplace.


Looking for a shiny, glossy, and beautiful finish for your desk that is also durable and can protect your raw wood desk from damage? Conversion varnish is undoubtedly the best choice for your desktop. It protects the surface from heat, moisture, and abrasive chemicals. You can use varnish to refinish an oak desk as well.


Because of its quality and specialties, lacquer is a very popular choice for wooden desks. You can apply it easily to your desk surface. Basically, it dries very quickly. It can provide you with a protective layer to the desktop with a durable finish.


Needs a finish that can provide a warm and natural finish look to the wooden desk? No worries, I have a suggestion for you. Shellac is definitely the best one for you. It is a traditional finish and easy to apply. This finish can provide you with a protective layer against moisture and heat.

Wood Stain

Want a Change? Want to change the color of your desktop? You can choose any color of your choice if you choose stain to finish the desktop. It would be the best choice so far. But what is the best stain for a desk top? According to me, the water-based wood stain would be the best one for you as it can protect the desktop from spills.

Oil Finishes

Many oil finishes are available in the market such as linseed oil, Danish oil, and tung oil are popular for increasing the natural beauty of any piece of furniture. These are really easy to apply and provide a desirable look as well.

I hope you get  what is the best finish for a table top. So, stop wandering around right now and grab the right one for you.

How To Choose The Finish For Your Desk Top?

Many finishes are best for the wooden desk top. Confused about them? Wondering which one would be the best for you? No worries, here are some tips to help you choose the finish for your desktop:

How To Choose The Finish For Your Desk Top

Desired Appearance

Prioritize your desires and needs. Different types of finishes provide different types of finish or look, such as matte, glossy, shiny, natural, etc.


Think about the level of protection you want. There are a few finishes that might be helpful and protect your desk from scratches, dents, etc. Choosing a durable wood finish for desktop is a wise decision.


Consider the maintenance after finishing the desk. Some finishes may need too much effort in maintenance, and some are really easy to maintain.

Wood Type

All of the finishes are not suitable for all types of wood. So try to match the characters and choose the suitable one for your wooden desk.

Environmental Impact

If you are looking for an eco-friendly finish, then you can choose a finish that is labeled as low VOC (volatile organic compounds). These kinds of finishes are eco-friendly.

Budget Issues

If your budget is low, choose the cheaper finish that goes with your budget along with your desires and needs.

You can follow these tips to choose the perfect finish for your wooden desktop as well. Choosing a suitable finish is really important.

Can’t You Use The Same Finish In All Types Of Desk?

If you are deciding to refinish your wooden desktop, one question might poke your mind, that is can you use the same finishes for all types of desk? If the answer is no then why is it so? Well, the answer is simple, every desk’s structure is not the same.

They may have different levels of durability, moisture, or aesthetics requirements. Therefore, you need to understand some finishes are not suitable for all types of desks and you need to choose the suitable one for your desk.

How To Give The Perfect Finishing On Your Desktop: Step-By-Step Guidelines

Now that you know what the best finishes for your wooden desktop and how to choose the suitable one to refinish a desk, you might be excited to learn how to apply the finish on the desktop. Aren’t you? No worries, here are the step-by-step guidelines for you;

Gather The Necessary Tools And Materials

Before you start finishing the desktop with the best finish for desk top, it is necessary to collect the tools and materials that are needed to perform the process. Such as damp cloth, fine-grit sandpaper, sanding block, steel wool, finish, paint brush, lint-free cloth, etc.

Prepare The Desktop

Start the process by cleaning the desktop using a damp cloth. Clean the surface properly and remove all the dust and debris. Let the surface dry before moving forward to the next step.

Sand The Surface

Now it is time to remove the old existing finish from the desktop. Using a steel wool or fine-grit sandpaper sand the surface in the same way as the wood grains. Be gentle when removing the existing finish. After removing the finish, clean the area with a soft cloth and remove all the dust and debris. Sanding the surface is a necessary step to fix cracked marble countertops.

Sand The Surface

How to Remove Stain from Wood Furniture | Stripping Detailed Wood

How to Remove Stain from Wood Furniture

Choose The Right Finish

After sanding the surface, you need to choose the right finish for your wooden desktop. Pick a finish that goes with your desired look, and level of protection, and is easy to apply to avoid making it the toughest finish process.

Apply The Finish

Start applying the finish on the raw wood with the help of a paint brush or roller according to the grain pattern. It will help you to get a smooth finish. Apply a thin layer of finish and let it dry. You can apply more coats of finish if needed. You can finish the desk while choosing an alternative to use instead of desk legs.

Let It Dry

After applying the first layer of the finish, allow the finish to dry completely. Let the finish dry before applying more coats of finish. It is necessary to get a beautiful finish and avoid stickiness.

Sand And Buff The Desktop

Let me suggest a beneficial thing, between each coat of finish, sand the surface very lightly for perfection. This also helps to achieve a smooth finish for your desktop. Most importantly, after applying the final layer buff the surface with a lint-free cloth with a polish to get a shiny and glossy desktop.

These are undoubtedly the perfect guidelines to apply finish perfectly to any wooden desktop. Try these guidelines step-by-step and finish your desktop perfectly.

How To Make Desktop Look Shiny Like New?

Still, want to make your desktop shiny? Looking for a perfect solution? You are in the right place. The perfect way to make your desktop more shiny like new is;

How To Make Desktop Look Shiny Like New

Apply Polish Or Wax

The only way to make the desktop look shiny and glossy is by applying polish or wax after finishing the desktop. You can apply polish while restoring a tanker desk. Pick a high-quality wooden furniture polish or wax for the piece of furniture. Now, apply a thin layer of the chosen one with the help of a soft cloth or an applicator evenly. Let the polish or wax dry before you move forward.

Buff The Desktop

After the polish or wax dries completely, it is time to buff the desktop. With the help of a clean soft cloth gently buff the desk surface in a circular motion. If needed, you can apply more coats of polish or wax. It will help you to achieve a shiny, glossy, and excellent finish for your desktop.

It will also work as a protective layer by protecting the desktop from getting any kind of damage like scratches, dents, fading, etc. In this chance, you can put a grommet hole in the desk as well.

I have tried this method to make my desktop shiny like a new one. Surprisingly, the result came out really amazing. You can try this method to make your desktop shiny like a new one.

What Are The Costs Of The Finishes?

Wanna know the price range of each finish so that you can make a decision and choose the suitable finish for you? No worries, let me help you with this.

The FinishCost
Oil Finishes$10-$30

The Cost & Duration Of The Finishing Process, And Skills You Need To Finish The Desktop

You might be excited to know about the cost of the process, the time it takes to complete finishing the desktop, and the skills you to finish the desktop on your own. Let me help you to get an idea about these all. Here you go;

The Cost & Duration Of The Finishing Process, And Skills You Need To Finish The Desktop

The Estimated Cost To Finish The Desktop

The estimated cost to finish the desktop is different for the DIY method and professional service. Professional service is kind of expensive.

DIY Method

Paint brush or roller$5-$15
Polish or wax finish (if needed for shininess or protective finish)$10-$30
Total estimated cost$40-$120
The Estimated Cost To Finish The Desktop

Professional Services

Finishing service$150-$500 (the cost can increase for any additional service)
Professional Services Cost

The Estimated Duration Of The Process

DIYProfessional Services
24 hours to a few days (depending on the structure of the desktop and your skill it can increase or decrease)24 hours to a few days (depending on the difficulties and the structure of the desk it can increase but professional service is faster than the DIY method)
The Estimated Duration Of The Process

Skills You Need To Apply Finish To The Desktop

perfectly and to get the best result on your own, you may need some skills. Such as the ability to sand the desktop, the ability to choose the right finish for your desktop accordingly, applying the finish evenly, etc. Most importantly, you need to have patience, attention, and carefulness throughout the entire process for the best outcome.

Some Tips To Maintain The Desktop After Finishing

Maintaining the desktop after finishing it is necessary. But what is the best treatment for a wood desk? Let me help you with this. Some tips are given below to maintain the desktop after finishing;

  • Clean the desk surface regularly using a soft cloth. Remove the dust and dirt from the desktop every day.
  • Do not forget to use protective mats or coasters before placing any hot objects on the desk directly such as coffee mugs, tea cups, hot plates of snacks, etc.
  • Wipe off the spills immediately from the desktop. Because it can result in watermarks or stains, and warping to the desktop.
  • Do not place any sharp objects on the desktop directly as it can cause scratches on the surface.
  • Do not place the desk in direct sunlight as it can cause fading or discoloration.
  • Over time, if the piece of furniture becomes dull you can apply a coat of finish to the desktop to regain the beautiful look again.

Maintaining the desktop after applying the finish is necessary. It will help your finish to stay new for a long time and also help you to protect the desktop from any kind of damage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Application Techniques Can Be Used For Desk Finishes?

Application techniques like brushing, rolling, and spraying can be used to apply finish to a desk.

What Paint To Use On A Desk Top?

Paints like acrylic or latex can be used on a desktop.

Are Certain Finishes Better For Specific Wood Types?

Certain finishes are obviously better for specific wood types as they provide durability and protection.

Can I Use The Same Finish For Both Indoor And Outdoor Desks?

No, you can use the same finish for outdoor and indoor desks as different environmental factors do matter.


Now you may know what is the best finish for desk top that is made of wood. You can easily choose the best finish for your desktop to finish it according to your desires, preferences, and needs. You can apply polish to make your wooden desktop more shiny. But remember, it is crucial to maintain your desktop after applying the finish to make it long-lasting.

To learn more about restoring a Desk, stay with- Desk Restore.

Richard Journey

Written by

Richard Journey

Meet Richard Journey, the Antique Furniture Maestro. With a Fine Arts degree in Furniture Restoration and Conservation, he’s a guardian of historical craftsmanship. His accolades include the Golden Chisel Award, and he’s your guide to discovering and restoring antique treasures.

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