Everything you need to know about buying unfinished wood furniture

buying unfinished furniture
buying unfinished furniture

Unfinished wood furniture means the piece of furniture has been put together by craftsman, but still needs a finish (such as stain or varnish) to be applied.

It seems simple, but it opens up a whole realm of possibilities for those who want furniture that’s more personal than picking something out of a big-box furniture store where everything is mass-produced.

With unfinished wood furniture, the sky’s the limit. If it can be made with wood, then you can find it unfinished to match how you’d like. TV stands, dressers, mirror frames, piano benches, the list goes on.

Wood is a trend that will never fade thanks to its durability, versatility, and natural beauty. Whether your decor is rustic, modern, or contemporary, you can finish a piece of wood furniture to perfectly fit your aesthetic.

Who should buy unfinished wood furniture?

Most people can benefit in some way from buying unfinished wood furniture. The only real exceptions are people on a time crunch or not interested in getting their hands dirty.

For those on a budget,​ going the unfinished furniture route is your ticket to getting solid wood, beautifully crafted furniture at an affordable price. As long as you’re willing to put in some elbow grease, you’ll end up with furniture built to last many generations.

Since you took the time to learn how to finish it, you’ll save money on repairs as you’ll have no hesitation jumping in to fix any nicks or stains to the surface.

If ​personalization​ is important to you, buying unfinished is the easiest route for customization.

Making changes to the build is much faster (and therefore cheaper) if the piece hasn’t been finished.

Want your table a specific height, or dolphins carved into your vanity? Now’s your chance! Once you have the exact piece you want, you then get to finish it the way that pleases you.

How to pick the right piece

It’s important to know what you want out of the specific piece first, so do your research on the features of each piece you plan to buy. When looking for a computer desk, you’ll want to think about how tall it should be and how many drawers you want. If a coffee table is on your shopping list, consider the dimensions and whether or not you want under-table storage.

The biggest thing all unfinished wood furniture has in common that you want to look for is craftsmanship. You don’t need to be an expert to judge the quality of a piece.

Unfinished furniture provides a unique opportunity to see exactly what you’re buying.

You’ll see the raw wood grain, joinery, and any defects it may have. Take a look at what the furniture is made out of; if you want solid wood furniture, it’ll be easy to tell if that’s what you’re getting.

Along with the construction and aesthetics, you may want to consider what kind of wood the furniture is made from. Each has its own characteristics, and one may be better suited for your lifestyle than another.


Parawood, AKA rubberwood, comes from the rubber tree. It’s considered an environmentally-friendly renewable resource because once a rubber tree stops producing its sappy material, it’s then harvested and used as wood.

Parawood is a durable hardwood with a pale yellow color and compact grain that makes it ideal for long-lasting furniture, which is why it is what we stock most here at CO Lumber.


Pine is a softwood frequently used in more rustic decors but has the versatility to be used in a variety of settings. It’s a very light color wood, often with dark knots that give each piece its own character.

Pine is usually on the cheaper side and is easy to move thanks to it being more lightweight. However, it can take some effort to maintain because the softwood can be easy to scratch.


Oak is a slow-growing, dense hardwood that’s popular in furniture making for its stability and gorgeous wood grain. It ranges in color from very light tan to darker brown with interesting grain variations possible.

It’s ideal for a timeless, hard-wearing piece that can be passed down generations.

However, it tends to be more expensive than other types of wood due to its slow growth and is extremely heavy.

What you need to know about finishing and caring for your new furniture

Once you take the time to learn how to finish wood (good old YouTube), you’ll wonder what you ever felt nervous about.

Watching your furniture transform is an exciting process and takes very few tools. The best part is if you mess up, you can sand it down and go again.

What kind of finish is best?

This hugely varies depending on what the piece is, the type of wood, how durable it needs to be, and what you want the finished product to look like.

Your best bet is to talk with one of our unfinished furniture specialists about how you want your finished piece to look, and they can point you in the right direction.

There are a few basic finishes that you’ll likely come across as you decide how you want your new furniture to look.

Stains come in a huge variety of colors, all with varying levels of coverage. If you want to change the color of your furniture, a stain will be an important part.

There’s a variety of oils that can also be used to finish furniture. Each one has different properties in how it will affect the color of your wood, make the grain pop, and what level of protection it provides.

For more durability, you’ll be looking at a clear coat like lacquer or shellac.

Can you leave it as is?

Well, maybe, and you wouldn’t be alone. But you’re taking a risk as there is nothing on the wood to protect it from stains.

If you spill some wine on the table, for example, that wine is going to stain deeper than you’ll be able to sand out. Now you’re stuck with staining it a dark color to hide the evidence of the spill.

The wood can also be marked by something as simple as the oil on your hands.

If you go with a protective clear coat, it will bring out the natural beauty in the grain while ensuring spills and fingerprints can be wiped away.

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