Best Finish for Kitchen Table – Your Guide for Tabletop Finishes

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All of us spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so if you have a kitchen table made of wood, you will want to ensure you have the best kitchen table finish. Since you use kitchen surfaces everyday and food will inevitably come into to contact with it, you need tough and food safe table top finishes.




Kitchen Table Finishes short Review

There are a few products you can choose for a kitchen table finish and some are easier to use than others. For example, varnish is difficult to apply, tung oil requires numerous coats and takes forever to dry, and shellac is just not durable enough.

So, when it comes to someone who just wants to do a quick DIY job, the best finish for kitchen table would be a wipe-on, oil-based polyurethane. This is the best finish for wood kitchen table, as it has the appearance of an oil-rub finish, the application is simple, and it offers great surface protection. Another advantage is that is dries fast, faster than a brush-on polyurethane. This means your surface remains safe from dust particles.

best polyurethane for table top

Depending on what effect and properties you are looking for, you can also get wipe-on water-based polyurethane. These, however, dry crystal clear and may not be what you are going for.



Most effective Kitchen Table Finish


#1: GRIZZLY Good Stuff Wood Finish For Maple Tops

This is the best finish for wood kitchen tables, as it provides a durable finish and will last a long time. Your surface will also be completely waterproof, which is why many use it on an undermount sink. The product is non-toxic, and any odor will disappear quickly, and you do not have to stay out of the kitchen after application. Even if you have never done this before, it does not matter, as the finish is extremely easy to apply. You will notice that the consistency is more gel-like than liquid, which makes it easy to apply onto your wooden surface using a cloth.

The GRIZZLY INDUSTRIAL Good Stuff Wood Finish
  • Easy-to-use polyurethane gel for raw or unfinished wood surfaces
  • Resistant to moisture and stains, water and alcohol resistant,
  • Fast-drying - no brushing, safe for food contact
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  • It provides a waterproof layer
  • Simple application
  • Provides durability
  • Appearance is excellent


  • Can be costly

The price might be a bit more than other finishes, but if you want good results, then paying a bit more is worth it.

#2: GENERAL FINISHES Arm-R-Seal Urethane Topcoat

This product can offer a great kitchen table finish, as it is durable and strong. You can purchase it in different sizes, which is perfect if you only have a small project to complete. The tin has a pry off lid so you can easily get to the urethane resin inside.

When using the product and following all the instructions that go with it, you are sure to produce a long-lasting and perfect finish. This might be the best finish for kitchen table, as it can handle things like disinfectant wipes. Application is fairly simple, using a foam brush or cloth, which should help to prevent any drips. If you do see any drips, remove immediately, as you do not want it to dry that way. When working with the urethane topcoat, you should make sure to do so in a workspace that has good air circulation.

There are some issues to think through when using this product. One factor is that it dries and appears amber in color. This is okay if this is what you are going for, but if not, it can be a problem. Since it is oil-based, the curing time tends to be long and the manufacturer even recommends you do not clean the finished surface until 30 days has gone by.


GENERAL FINISHES Arm-R-Seal Oil Based Kitchen Poly
  • Made with a high-quality polyurethane resin
  • Natural look, extremely durable and long-lasting
  • Wipe on with a cloth or apply it with a foam brush
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  • Has a waterproof finish
  • Comes in various sizes
  • The odor is not an issue
  • Extremely durable


  • Has a long curing time
  • May form bubbles

Given that it is oil-based, and the application process might be difficult, we recommend the product more for professionals or those with extensive knowledge on the best finish for a kitchen table. However, if you do follow the entire process properly, you are sure to end up with a professional look finish.


#3: MINWAX Fast Drying Polyurethane Clear Finish

This is the best polyurethane for table top and can be applied to both unfinished as well as finished wood. This is a good idea if you are not quite sure about applying a primer or not. Easy to apply, using either a foam brush, a bristle brush or lambswool applicator.

Minwax, when using thin layers, has the benefit of drying extremely fast. Great if you are busy in a dusty environment or outside, as no dirt or other debris will be able to settle onto the surface. Each coat or finish will only take a few hours to dry, then use some sandpaper to roughen the surface and then apply another layer if needed.

MINWAX Wood Finish Penetrating Stain
  • Biggest selection of colors (28 color tones)
  • Can be used to add beauty to any bare or stripped wood surface
  • Penetrates deep into wood fibers to highlight the grain
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  • Will last a long time and it is exceptionally durable
  • Helps to prevent stains
  • Variable application methods


  • May produce a yellowing effect when applied over paint
  • Sanding is required between layers
  • Have to apply a number of layers

Considered by many as the best polyurethane for kitchen tables, because it is easy to work with and will produce amazing results. However, even though the finish has a clear look, it might sightly change the color of the underlying wood. This is happens because of the oil present in the finish. The color change might be minor but can still be seen. This is the best polyurethane for table top if you are looking for more of a warm look to the wood.

There are a few disadvantages to the Minwax product. The main issue being the quantity of layers required. You will need to apply at least two or three coats, but if you use the surface a lot like a kitchen table, you need about four or five layers to improve durability. Taking into account the application, the sanding and drying time, it will take quite some time to complete your surface.

For those of you who have enough patience and are willing to go through the process, you will be rewarded with amazing results. Since it requires such close attention to detail, this product is aimed more at the professional woodworker.



Consider these Factors for your Dining Table Top

To achieve a great looking wooden kitchen table, you are going to need quite a bit of patience. You need to make sure you choose the best finish for a kitchen table and you also require the necessary skills to do a good job. Consider these actors before starting your kitchen table project.


Ease of Application

When looking for a kitchen table finish, you need to find out how easy is the application process. If you are a novice, a product that is easy to apply, or can be wiped on, is the best choice. The simpler the application, the less likely to make any mistakes.

best finish for wood kitchen table


Types of Table Top Finishes

There various types of wood finishes you can choose from, such as:


Oil-based Finish

These provide great protection and also provide a color to unfinished surfaces. These are excellent for kitchen applications.


Water-based Finish

These are perfect if you are looking for a product with no odor. When applied, there is extremely little odor, and this dissipates after it has dried. The coats tend to be thin, so the drying time is quick. Those looking to save some time, may want to consider the water-based variety of finishes.



Varnish is perfect for outdoor applications and is made up of oil, resin, and solvents. The product offers protection from UV sunlight, so items that are going to be in the sun will benefit and will not be damaged.

The final finish is intense and quite attractive. The only thing that might cause problems is its drying time, as it take a long time to properly dry.



This is formed from a combination of solvents and wax. This product application is easy, but when it comes to surfaces that are used often, it does not last.


Simple to Use

If you are a novice when it comes to working with wood, it is important to get a product that is easy to use. If you do try a product that requires more of a process, and you do not know what you are doing, the final result is going to be a failure. The money would have been squandered and a ruined project is something you want to avoid.

best finish for dining table top

You want to get a kitchen table finish that has an easy application process, and you can easily find such a product, so there is no real excuse. Simply follow our recommendations or do a little research to find the best finish for you.



If you have breathing issues, or you simply do not like strong odors, then choosing a low-odor finish is the right way to go. You will have a much more pleasant work time without any interference.


Best Finish for Dining Table Top: Durability

Since a wooden kitchen table goes through quite a lot of wear and tear, as it is used every day, you will need a finish that can handle this. In most cases, finishes that are the most durable also cost more but it is worth the money in the end.

The best polyurethane for kitchen table as well as varnish, are both long-lasting. Other finishes that also offer durability are Tung and Linseed oils. The one finish that does not last long, is the shellac products.

table top finishes


Your Work Area

Many table top finishes produce strong odors and should, therefore, be used in a well-ventilated space.


Cost of Wood Finish

This all depends on what you are looking to achieve and how much you are willing to spend. You need to be aware of pricey products that do not deliver. But if the price is quite high, but the properties and features are good, then it is worth paying that bit extra for excellent results.



A Basic Guide to an Excellent Kitchen Wood Finish

Here are some tips to help you achieve the perfect finish for your wood project.


Tips on How to Sand

When you do the final sand, consider doing it by hand. When it comes to the general sanding, a random orbital sander will work great. But sand by hand for a few minutes on the final coat to finish off, as it will help to remove any swirls or marks left by the electric sander.

When sanding, make sure to do it evenly. Any change while doing this can have an affect on the final finish. For example, say you have no more 80-grit paper to use when you are only halfway finished with the initial sanding. You might want to jump into using the 100-grit paper, but this is not a good idea. This will only create uneven treated areas and the stain will then also look different in areas.

water based polyurethane spray

Try not to go overboard with sanding. Many experienced woodworkers will tell you to quit at a 150-grit paper when sanding coarse-grain woods such as oak. For fine-grain woods like maple, 180-grit is the number to stop at. This applies only to the face grain, if you are sanding the end grain, which may show scratches, it is best to use sandpaper up to 220 or 320-grit.


Finish Application

  • You must work fast during application, as oil-based finishes could turn sticky in a few minutes, depending on the surrounding conditions. Water-based finishes dry quickly, so you will need all your equipment, and everything prepared before you begin. Also, once you start, you cannot leave until everything is finished
  • Applying oil-based finishes with a roll-on brush is a better option when it comes to larger surface areas. The finish might appear horrible to begin with, but any bubbles will quickly disappear. You will be left with a clear and smooth surface, a much better result than when using a normal brush. Use lighter coats when using a roller brush to avoid any edges or issues when rolling back and forth. We recommend a microfiber mini roller for finest outcome. However, do not use a roller when applying a water-based finish
  • When applying a finish to a wooden table, make sure to add a coat underneath as well. Wood easily absorbs moisture and can swell or shrink. If you do not coat the top and bottom of your wood, it will warp and ruin the table
  • To avoid any damage to the wood, apply at least three layers. This will also make sure the table lasts longer and it will be easier to revive the finish when the time comes. You may find that some finishers require even more layers
  • Sealing the end grain of the wood table. The end grain will usually soak up a lot of the finish, which causes a darker appearance compared to the face grain. If you want to avoid this, apply some finish before you begin to the end grain. This will help to reduce the amount absorbed when applying the main coat. You can use sanding sealer, wood conditioner, shellac, or a polyurethane, which has been thinned by half. Use an artist brush to apply the seal and avoid getting any on the face grain
  • Clean white residue after sanding. If any is left on the surface, it will be caught up in the next coat applied and will remain there for all time.


best finish for a kitchen table


View our Tabletop Finish web story here.



Questions and Answers


Is there a Best Finish for Wood?

The best finish for a wooden kitchen table is varnish, as it is durable and provides a clear finish.


What is the Best Polyurethane for a Wood Surface?

Water-based polyurethanes are best used when a clear finish is required over a deeper finish. If not, you can then use the oil-based polyurethane. But there are also many other pros and cons between the two that need to be considered.


Do I need to Apply a Kitchen Table Finish?

The simple answer is yes. In many instances, the bare wood can sometimes not look very appealing. Also, applying a finish to the wood will increase its durability. Wood surfaces that have not been given a finish, especially if it is used a lot, will not last very long.


Can you Apply a Polyurethane Coat over a Painted Surface?

Yes, a coat of polyurethane can be added as a finish over a painted surface. The one thing that is needed for successful results, is to prepare the painted surface before applying the polyurethane.


What are the Basic Actions needed for Applying Table Top Finishes?

When sealing wood, it passes through the wood and offers durability and protection.

Follow these basic actions when applying your finish:

  • Clean the surface thoroughly, remove any dirt, dust, or grime. Anything remaining on the surface will affect the adhesion qualities of the finish
  • Using a paintbrush apply the sealer to your wooden surface using long brush strokes. Try to avoid streaks.
  • Let the sealer dry, you can add a second layer but, in most cases, this will not be necessary


Once Varnished, can you Paint over it?

Yes, painting over varnished wood is okay, as long as the wood and the varnish are still in good condition.

Since varnish creates a protective layer over the wood, the paint might have difficulty in adhering to the surface. You will then need to do some sanding and apply a primer before painting over the surface. If you do not want to sand the wood, you can use an oil-based primer, which adheres to a finished surface. Remember, in every situation, the surface must be uncontaminated before painting over.