The cost of woods for finish - as has already been said - varies in different sections of the country so extensively from time to time, that it is impossible to give any exact price by which they may be compared. In general, however, they bear a certain relation to each other which may be suggested by the order in which they are named. In most portions of the country, cypress and whitewood may be obtained at about the same price, the former having a considerable beauty of grain, and the latter varying in color from white to quite dark. It becomes more and more difficult year after year to obtain good stock in the cheaper finishes, especially in whitewood. While both shrink rather considerably, if anything, the advantage belongs with the cypress. Hard pine is a little cheaper and ash is more expensive than the first named materials for finish. Sometimes the latter may be used very effectively in a way that suggests oak.
Birch and cherry, or redwood and cedar are employed for standing finish in some localities, while of late years spruce has begun to be used in summer cottages, as it is somewhat cheaper and not much more objectionable than the "country pine," which is about the only variety of this wood that now comes within the range of the ordinary pocket-book. Both redwood and cedar are considerably less expensive in the western part of the country than in the east.
Oak is an expensive finish that is less used now than a few years ago, when its popularity almost equalled that obtained by black walnut in the preceding decade. In part this is because it is difficult to obtain it in the best grades, and often a selected ash will give a finish quite as pleasing as that of the lower grades of the more expensive oak. Mahogany still remains the favorite wood for Colonial finish and treatment, but on account of its expense, various substitutes for it are continually being used. Of these cherry and sycamore are the most common; and cherry, by the way, may in its turn be well imitated by selecting white-wood and then finishing it carefully over a stain.
Although possible materials are comparatively few in number; of variety of design in their finish and treatment there is no end. The word "finish" has, architecturally, two meanings. In one sense it applies only to the surface treatment and protection of the woodwork, in which case its consideration comes entirely within the province of the painter; but there is a broader meaning than this, where it applies to the woodwork used for the final covering on both inside and outside of the house, - when it is referred to as "interior finish" and "exterior finish," as the case may be. In this meaning not only is the kind of wood included, but also the general design and treatment in which this "finish" is carried out. It may be said that a room is "finished in hardwood"(there meaning the material alone); "finished in shellac" (here referring only to its painted applied surface); or "finished in the Jacobean style" (here referring only to the architecural design and treatment of the walls and ceiling of the room). Of the materials for interior finish something has already been said. As to its method of treatment by the painter, this should often be decided by the style of design of the room; to which certain finishes only are sometimes appropriate.