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How to choose the wood or finish that’s right for your next renovation

4 most common types of lumber for a remodeling project.


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The key to a successful renovation is making the right decisions and having a plan. From fixtures and fittings to materials and the overall layout of the space, the choices you make before work even begins are critical to how your project turns out.

So when it comes to choosing a type of wood for your DIY project, you need to have a good understanding of the benefits, drawbacks and maintenance considerations of each option.


A simple and stylish alternative to solid wood, veneer is a thin layer of wood that’s uniformly thick. Logs are sliced or peeled to create veneer, then a variety of techniques are used to create a range of wood grain patterns to make it a versatile choice for any project.

Veneer typically comes as a thin layer attached to a base or as a thin sheet. From floating floors to DIY cabinetry, veneer offers a cost-effective option that can add natural warmth to your furniture for any DIY project — it’s also much cheaper and environmentally sustainable when compared to solid lumber.

The one downside is that veneer is more prone to damage. Water can cause warping — scratches and dents are another potential risk.


There’s preventative maintenance you can perform to offset future damage. Any water or moisture that hits the surface should be wiped away as soon as possible. Use a soft cloth and wipe in the direction of the grain for general cleaning.

Harsh cleaners should never be used on veneers. Instead, use cleaner designed for wood furniture, or a good-quality polish that is suitable for use on veneers.

How much does it cost?

Prices vary according to the type of veneer used, but it’s typically about $3 to $5 per square foot.


Multifaceted and stylish, plywood is a popular wood selection for many DIY projects. It’s cheaper than solid lumber and is also flexible enough to be used in a wide range of situations.

Manufactured from veneers bonded together using heat and pressure, plywood is known for its strength. This strength is created by the direction of the grain on each layer of veneer — one layer has the grain running vertically, the next has the grain running horizontally, and so on. An uneven number of layers is used so that the outer layers both have the grain running in the same direction.

There are several types of plywood available and the right type will depend on your project. Plywood for interior projects can be made from both hardwood and softwood and can be used in ceilings, wall lining, furniture and more. However, there are more moisture-resistant types of plywood available for outdoor use, as well as plywood designed for strength and structural use.


Durable, lightweight, flexible and cost-effective, plywood is also relatively easy to maintain — but it does have a few downsides. Its multi-layered design means water damage is a risk if it’s exposed to a leak for an extended period.

Washing interior plywood surfaces regularly to remove dirt and grime is recommended to prevent mold. If mold develops, use a cleaner that’s specially made to remove mold from wood.

How much does it cost?

Plywood prices vary depending on the thickness of the panel and the purpose for which it’s been designed, but it generally costs about $2 to $4 per square foot.

Reconstituted wood products

Next on the list of wood options for your home renovation project are reconstituted wood products. This category includes wood boards and sheets made from reconstituted wood fibers such as wood chips, sawdust or off-cuts.

Products available include particle board, medium and high-density fiberboard (MDF), oriented strand board, Masonite and more. These wood products have a wide range of uses and also their own unique pros and cons.

MDF is manufactured from wood fibers and is best for indoor doors and panelling. While it’s inexpensive and can easily be painted or stained to look just like the real thing, it has a poor moisture resistance. Oriented strand board, on the other hand, is manufactured from thin wood strands and is used for structural purposes.

Before you choose any type of reconstituted wood product for your DIY project, do some research to find out whether it’s right for your renovation.


Maintenance for reconstituted wood products will vary depending on the type of product used. MDF should be stored in a dry area out of the sun and wind and should never be made too wet when cleaning. An all-purpose cleaner will often do the trick for these types of wood. However, particle board can be lightly sanded to remove any stains.

How much does it cost?

Reconstituted wood products can cost anywhere for $3 to $10 per square foot depending on what type you buy.

Hardwood and softwood

Its warmth, earthiness and versatility are hard to beat and the huge array of solid wood available means you’ll find the right lumber to suit just about any project.

Lumber is split into two main groups: softwood and hardwood. Softwood is strong and lightweight, making it easy to transport and work with. From structural frames and beams to kitchen countertops, panelling and flooring softwood can be used for nearly anything. Although, it may not have the unique look or durability that hardwood has.

Hardwood is strong and durable, making it ideal for structural uses (roof beams ), stairs and internal or external flooring. The long life of hardwood also makes it highly recyclable, but the main downside is its weight, as it can be difficult to transport.


The care and maintenance depends on what you’re using the wood for. Hardwood floors are best treated with a cleaner that has a Ph neutral balance, while a furniture cleaner should be used on wooden pieces indoors. There’s also a wide choice of oils and stains available to offer protection and create the perfect look.

How much does it cost?

To give you an idea for pricing, hardwood can range anywhere from $8 to $13 per square foot, while softwood while typically be less expensive.

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Different types of finishes

The finish you apply to the wood is crucial to the overall look and feel of your project. Finishing refers to protecting and improving the appearance of wood, but the type of finish you use will vary depending on the type of timber you select and where and how it will be used.

Before any finish can be applied, the wood will need to be sanded or planed — after that, the choice of finish is up to you.

  • Oil is durable, easy to apply and enhances the natural color and grain of the wood, but it doesn’t offer a high level of protection. Polyurethane varnish offers high protection and durability, but it’s more difficult to apply.
  • Wax is another popular finish and it’s commonly used on indoor furniture pieces. However, waxed surfaces may require maintenance every six months. A stained or colored finish is generally used to promote the natural color and grain of the wood

The finish you use on your deck could be very different from the finish applied to a kitchen countertop or cupboard door, so make sure you know the features and benefits of each type before choosing a finish.

Bottom line

Renovating your home or taking on a small project around the house is exciting. But before you get started, do some research to make sure you’re within budget so your future remodel turns out as expected. Remember, always measure twice and cut once.

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