The Finishing Touch

Once you have chosen the timber for your staircase, you have to consider the finishes you wish to apply.

The number of ways to treat, protect and even colour timber has dramatically risen over the years.  Whilst once it was a straight choice of oil or varnish, there are now entire aisles dedicated to timber finishes at your local builders merchants or hardware store.

The factory will offer a number of finishes as standard, but you might want to receive the timber elements ‘raw’ for on-site finishing.

Let’s have a look at the options.


Still the most popular finish which offers an instant sealing of the timber and a long lasting, hassle free finish.  Modern varnishing is generally matte as opposed to glossy and is sprayed in the factory for an even finish.  Even many of the off the shelf products now come complete with special application pad for a consistent finish.


Oiling can enhance the grain of the timber but does require time and effort.  Any factory applied oil will need to be reapplied once delivered and probably several timber for the first few weeks.  A raw piece of freshly cut timber is hungry and regular oiling in its early life will satisfy this hunger.

Looking at the products on the market there are many ‘natural’ finish oils, but also those with various tints or colours within the product to enhance and customise the overall finish.


Staining is essentially adding a subtle colour to the timber whilst maintaining its grain.  It is generally combined with oiling or varnishing as the staining itself doesn’t offer as much protection on its own.

Many of the varnishes and oils you will find at your local B & Q will have a dark / light / white stain built into the product offering you the colour and the protection at the same time.

It is worth remembering that the stain will only alter the colour of the timber.  For example – If you are trying to match a beech tread stair to a walnut sideboard, staining might offer you a colour match but the grain and density of the timbers will always be different and might be especially noticeable if they are side by side.


Painting the timber can create a very dramatic affect providing it is done in the factory and sprayed on for a smooth, consistent finish. We would not recommend painting the timber after delivery as the application needs to be done with the right equipment in a particle free environment.

One downside is that any scratches will be much more noticeable on a painted tread and is probably best left for secondary stair or those that will not be used by shoes.

What To Go For

We find that the vast majority of customers opt for the factory finished matte lacquer.  This is a subtle varnish which seals and secures the timber and makes for a more user friendly finish in a domestic setting.  Any subsequent application is only needed over a longer period of time and any spills can be easily wiped clear.

Given the range of products on the domestic market we are noticing more customer requesting untreated treads so they can supply the finish.  One point to note that if the treads are supplied ‘raw’ they need finishing on delivery as they are vulnerable to moisture and light in their ‘naked’ state.

Want to discuss your timber options?

Get in touch with us now to discuss what timber you’d like to use for your staircase project.

You can call us on 01794 522 444 or send an email to

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Staircase Timber Finishes (Blog)