Without doubt, nothing excessively compliments a watercraft more than the glitter of well-varnished wood; however, to go in for that glitter, it is inevitable for anyone to encounter a tough time through the entire procedure of preparing the wood and at the same time in applying the varnish. This is why it really matters to invest in the best marine varnish to better protect your vessel.
Needless to say, marine varnish products these days come in not-so-affordable costs, reason why it is critical to select the one that surely lasts so you don’t end up spending more in the end. But, the real question here is, “which marine varnish is right for your vessel’s needs?”
In this post, you will learn that there is a great deal of marine varnishes sold on the market. And, perhaps you may be thinking that you can just simply shop from the nearest marine supply store or hardware in your area or buy online and you’re done! Well, the case is not like what you imagine because the truth is there is more to picking the right varnish than it may seem- pick the incorrect type of marine varnish and you will end up needing to deal with an overpriced mess.
The good news is that the product reviews shared above as well as the shopping tips will be your best buddy when it comes to selecting the one that you definitely need for your vessel.
Table of Contents
Best Marine Varnish Reviews of 2023
1. Rust-Oleum 1 Quart Marine Spar Varnish
With lots of options to consider when it comes to the best marine spar varnish today, picking the one that’s most suitable for your needs can really be challenging. But, not if you pick this spar varnish manufactured by Rust-Oleum.
This spar varnish is highly practical to utilize for exterior wood surfaces on top of the waterline, in railings, trim as well as wood furniture. It comes with an oil-based formulation that allows it to expand and contract with altering weather conditions.
Many sailors pick this brand because it is more durable as compared to traditional wood finishes and it has the capability to expand and contract with altering weather conditions. This transparent varnish can provide lovely gloss finish with utmost protection. This type of spar varnish is ideal in the Navy in terms of safeguarding the woodwork that is extremely exposed with salty air.
2. TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish
If you’re going to go over various marine spar varnish reviews, you will unveil that this brand is considered as one of the top of the line options that countless of sailors prefer.
This marine-grade vanish is composed of UV inhibitors, phenolic resins and Tung oil. This formulation enables it to render an impressive, clear amber finish. It is a practical choice in that it does a good job of fighting off moisture and UV damage. This makes it a top option amber transparent clear coat wood finish for both internal and external surfaces.
When you use this, it does not produce any bubbles at all and it has the capability to go on very smoothly. There is no need to thin the varnish as it can dry instantly enough to enable a number of coats in a single day. It is totally transparent and does a superb job of displaying the wood figure and grain. There is no added color and it glistens when the sun shines on the newly painted area.
It is available in different sizes such as in gallons, quarts and pints. This is absolutely capable of transmitting gloss, satin or matte finishes. So, even if you’re not a professional painter, this is easy to work with and apply in your watercraft.
3. Epifanes Clear Varnish
Are you looking for a marine varnish that comes with maximum UV protection feature? Then, you’ve got the perfect choice. This product is very popular in the world since it comes with topnotch quality conventional Tung oil marine spar varnish. Many boaters pick this brand because it can provide ultra-high gloss finish that you can’t find in other options. It is renowned for being the best outdoor ultraviolet resistant varnish made and it was actually top-rated in many well-known boat building forums.
It is interesting to note that Epifanes spar varnish is the answer if you opt for maximum protection and stunning appearance for outdoor wood. This does a sterling job when it comes to highlighting the natural aesthetics of the wood. It is not quite tough to apply and it could provide you with rewarding outcomes. It applies smoothly and tends to self-level a lot better as compared to a full-strength type of varnish.
4. TotalBoat Lust Marine Varnish
Are you having second thoughts of buying marine varnish for wood? Well, it is very natural to hold back purchasing one when you are not well aware of the best features for you to consider. But, if you’ll conduct a careful research, you’ll discover that you won’t have any regrets if you buy this lust marine varnish by TotalBoat.
This marine varnish can guarantee deep and rich finish; it is capable of building multiple coats in an instant and also features maximum ultraviolet protection. Moreover, it is highly recommended for internal and external applications. It can ensure clarity, durability, utmost ultraviolet resistance and excellent finish retention.
Many sailors like this product because it is an out-of-the-ordinary spar varnish that enables rapid recoating. Unlike other similar products sold on the market at present, it comes with instant-drying and high-build formula that allows users to apply several coats each day without the need to do sanding between coats.
Aside from all these, this makes a great choice for interior and exterior brightwork. Also, it comes with exceptional finish retention which, as you can see, can be hard to find with other similar options today.
5. Epifanes Wood Finish Matte
This wood finish matte varnish needs recoating. To do so, it is important to sand the surface lightly and execute the recoating. It levels properly if brushed and it is easier to be thinned as well as wiped on. This is reliable in terms of offering wonderful sleek satin finish. It is amazing to know that it is famous for being a marine product; however, it is also very exquisite when used on furniture.
Also, there is no need to sand after the initial coat of the matte. This could last long before it will need varnish again. The best of all, it is marine grade, with a cost to match. No wonder this is one of the favorites of professionals.
6. MCCLOSKEY Mow Spar Varn Gloss
Many professional sailors highly consider this product as one of the best boat varnishes available today since it can remain firm after a few years without revealing any signs of flaking, chalking, cracking or peeling in direct sun exposure. Additionally, it is capable of contracting and expanding with the wood and is quite flexible to use and apply.
It is worth mentioning that what sets this product apart from other options is that it comes with superb gloss and adhesion, and is more versatile as compared to other forms of varnish. This is dependable in sealing and shielding woods and comes with fade-proof feature as well. As you can see, these are the vital features that a high quality marine varnish must possess.
7. TotalBoat Halcyon Gloss Marine Varnish
According to marine varnish review, TotalBoat is one of the most trusted brands for marine grade varnish products. And, one of its varieties is the Halcyon Gloss Marine Varnish that is highly acclaimed for being long-lasting, hard, comes with lustrous finish brightwork that is not complicated to tidy up and is low maintenance.
Similarly, you can apply by up to a total of five coats per day; it does not require sanding between coats. What is amazing about it is that the more coats you apply, the greater the glaze, depth and clarity achieved. This works best for exterior and interior application above the waterline. It’s easy to utilize and comes with low VOC. And, since it is formulated to be water-based, you won’t need to suffer from headache-causing headaches.
8. System Three Clear Marine Spar Urethane Varnish Coating
To boot, this marine varnish is a fabulous option that you should not ignore. This is the right solution if you opt for an impeccable gloss that can defy harsh weather. It can work well on furniture too making it a great deal for being multipurpose. Undoubtedly, this is a nice application and is extremely sturdy. It’s capable of offering a wonderful finish and goes on easy and sleek.
If compared with other similar marine varnish options, this can work wonderfully after it was restained and restriped. You’ll be stunned of the shine it could offer to where you apply it. Since it is formulated to be durable, it can last for a few years even when exposed to direct sunlight.
9. Epifanes Wood Finish Gloss
It is not surprising why many boat owners love this product. In reality, there are lots of good features to like about this brand, it is top quality and is backed up by friendly and reliable customer service support. This does not indicate signs of weathering and can combat tough weather conditions too.
Basically, while drying period might take longer than advertised, within 3 days, this won’t need sanding between coats anymore. It requires waiting for good results, but you’ll see for yourself that the wait is worth it. The shine is impressive and it is a child’s play to apply, beginners can attest to this!
10. TotalBoat Marine Wood Finish
Beyond any doubt, if you wish for a marine wood finish that is not a pain in the neck to apply, can guarantee extreme durability and is especially reinforced by ultraviolet inhibitors, then you may stop your search because the right product for you has finally arrived.
Many consumers prefer this marine wood finish’s flexible and breathable finish features that are supported by utmost all-weather shield. As you can see, this does not merely focus on unleashing the natural beauty of wood but it also safeguards it from any harsh elements that may bring about damage.
Be reminded though that you need to allow at least two days before you consider recoating. This is to ensure that you obtain the kind of result you have long been dreaming of. Don’t worry; the waiting period may be a bit longer; however, the final outcome is truly worth waiting for.
11. Waterlox Satin Marine Finish
This satin marine finish product is concocted using roughly 90% of the resin percentage of the formula that originated from natural and renewable resources. As proof of its long-standing service and sturdiness, this is capable enough to create elastic and protective finish against tough weather conditions, extreme UV and moisture exposure. Apart from this, it also comes with water-resistant feature that significantly aids in prolonging the shelf-life of the object you are varnishing.
So, if you like something that is good enough to provide a satin glaze appearance for your wood, then this makes a good choice and it would definitely put a smile on your face. Make sure to follow the application instructions accordingly so that you can achieve the best possible outcome. Don’t worry about the costly price tag; focus more on the many benefits that you can take pleasure in once you invested in this product.
12. Interlux Schooner Varnish
It is worth sharing that this schooner varnish is designed with excellent silky application, water resistance and durability. Its super strong UV inhibitor feature allows it to safeguard the wood from being damaged by extreme sun exposure. Once the wood is properly varnished, you will witness for yourself the fabulous glossy finish that comes with classic golden color.
Further, this varnish flows on without any trouble and is quite easy to work with the aid of some careful successive coats. You can execute the job successfully by merely using a natural bristle brush. As you can clearly see, the application process is not even demanding at all. Even if you are not a pro, the job will still turn out fine so long as you properly adhere to the application procedure.
What to Look For When Buying a Marine Varnish
Some of the considerations that must be highly contemplated on when shopping for marine varnish include:
- Price. Is it affordable enough to meet your budget? But, make sure that quality is not overlooked here.
- Go for the one that features maximum UV protection, can help inhibit mildew or mold growth on the wood.
- Ease of application and use. Is it user-friendly even for beginners?
- Is it easy to clean, store, and maintain?
- Durability and long-lasting performance. It must not be instantly peeling, cracking, chalking and easily gets damaged from harsh weather conditions and other elements.
Other Important Factors to Consider
What is a marine varnish?
Marine varnish is also known as spar varnish. This is specifically formulated for marine exposure and generally contains phenolic and alkyd resin, as well as Tung oil for its components. It is known for being a very outstanding wood finishing varnish that was primitively developed for coating the sailing ship’s pole of wood.
This varnish is typically sturdy, resistant to harsh weather conditions and practically applied to unpainted wooden spots, particularly on vessels. In essence, it is a well-known exterior water-resistant varnish around the globe.
How does it work?
Marine varnish does a valuable role in safeguarding a vessel and many other furniture and wood-related projects. Any wooden pieces that are utilized under a covered deck or used outdoors or exposed to marine environment must have marine varnish applied. A spar varnish is specifically intended to protect the wood from being chalked or cracked off easily due to various weather conditions, extreme ultraviolet exposure and other harsh elements.
Generally, three coats of varnish are necessary to be applied. Take in mind that the first coating should be thinned 50% with mineral spirits – this is to allow better diffusion, then followed by a total of 2 full strength, and make sure to execute the sanding between coats.
What are the different types of varnishes?
Exterior Varnish. This is intended for outdoor use. It features maximum UV protection. It is formulated to be microporous that enables the wood to breathe and resist mold or mildew accumulation.
Acrylic Varnish. This is non-toxic and dries up fast. It features ultraviolet protection that makes it a good option for internal and external use. This can be used with other materials aside from wood. It is highly clear, but does not infiltrate into the wood. It is water-based, user-friendly but does not spread evenly as compared to other varnishes.
Yacht or Spar Varnish. This is purposely designed for boat use and its objective is to ward off water from penetrating into the wood. It is good for use on outside timber; however, this is not recommended for surfaces that people commonly walk on.
Alkyd Varnish. This refers to modified vegetable or natural oil.
Polyurethane Varnish. This is usually utilized for areas and floors that are prone to wearing away. It can fight off heat and offers tough and clear finish. This is durable and can resist spills of various chemicals.
Why do you need a boat varnish?
The primary reason why boat owners try their best to invest in the best spar varnish is to provide utmost protection to their most cherished vessel. As you know, boats are expensive these days, so it is just right that you purchase the right products, tool and equipment to ensure their safety and longevity.
A marine varnish does a wonderful job of safeguarding the wood materials in your vessel. It helps inhibit mold and mildew accumulation, and avoids water penetration onto the wood as well. Aside from these, it can make the wood look more glossy and impressive, giving your vessel a more appealing and expensive look.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most trusted marine varnish brands?
As what you have learned from this post, there are different marine varnish brands for you to select from. But, if you would really like to invest in the best brands that are highly recommended by professional sailors and wise consumers, the most trustworthy brands that you can consider are the following:
Spar Varnish vs. Spar Urethane: What’s the difference?
Spar varnish is manufactured with a base of natural oil that includes soya, linseed or Tung. Such oil is mixed with solvents, driers, ultraviolet protector and resins in order to form a glossy surface. This varnish is meant to shield the wood from stain, water, solvent discoloration and heat. Its formulation enables it to move with the wood all through each season. This is generally scratch-proof, can be re-applied repeatedly since it will sooner or later chalk or crack off in the long run.
On the other hand, spar urethane is a type of synthetic product that is manufactured either as an oil-based or water-based product. Oil-based spar urethane necessitates a number of hours between coats and a thin application is needed to avoid drips. Water-based spar urethane comes with less foul odor, easy to tidy and instantly dries up.
Please be guided that the primary distinction between spar varnish and spar urethane is that the former will ultimately chalk or crack off in the long run, while the latter will sustain a tough and glossy surface.
When it comes to application, spar varnish is applied to a surface with the aid of a soft white bristle brush and it requires at least one day for it to dry between coats –this will of course rely on the type of climate. Also, a number of thin coats are needed to accomplish a solid surface.
Meanwhile, spar urethane is applied to a surface using a household paintbrush. Hinging on the climate, it necessitates roughly half an hour for it to dry between coats. In line with this, approximately 2 by up to 3 coats are needed to accomplish a solid surface.
Can I use marine varnish on a steel door/aluminum boat?
No. marine varnish is purposely designed to be used for vessels wherein its main objective is to guarantee that water won’t be able to penetrate into the wood.
How long does marine varnish last?
Generally speaking, two-part marine varnishes that tops in terms of sturdiness can last for about two by up to three years. Exterior varnish will commonly last two up to three years prior for it to begin cracking off or appearing chalky.
On the other hand, please take into account that wood coatings are barely presumed to last longer than 24 months in the marine environment.
How to apply spar varnish properly?
Spar varnish commonly necessitates a number of coats, and it is imperative to wait for a few hours in between each coat to enable it to fully dry before you apply the next coat. To apply the varnish, you will need foam brushes or natural bristle brushes. Meanwhile, to provide you with a tidy finish on the final coats, you may consider using badge hair brushes.
Take into consideration that it could also be essential to varnish your watercraft or canoe in a spot that is free of wind, dust and extreme sunlight exposure. This is to ensure that it remains tidy and dry evenly.
How to use or apply?
- Prepare the wood. Sand the wood and clean it properly before applying transparent sealer. To do so, use low grit paper, start from 80 and then by up to 220. This may require some time to work on; however, when applying transparent finishes, preparation is the most critical stage.
- Apply the marine varnish. To execute this, utilize a neat bristle brush to gently coat the furniture or wood. Make sure to use several thin coats. Allow the varnish to dry fully prior to executing a light dry sanding with the aid of more 220 grit-paper.
- Then, wipe the dust using a drenched rag. Apply a second coat, this must be very thin. This is the period when the wood will start to obtain some sheen that you are aiming for.
- Go over the surface again with the aid of polishing pad or steel wool after the second coat has completely dried. Afterward, use a wet rag and wipe down the surface to get rid of the dust.
- For the third coat, apply adequate amount of varnish to make the surface appear drenches. Be sure to impede puddles and drips and execute this by not laying it on too thick all together. The third coat will require more time to dry up, so it is highly advised to leave it overnight.
- Finally, gently polish the wood using polishing pad or steel wool. Do not scrub the surface; just lightly brush it properly. The wet rag will lift off any of the fluff, and from there, you could apply the final coat of marine varnish.
What is the warranty?
When it comes to checking the warranty of the marine varnish of your choice, please be guided that the type of warranty you can avail of will rely on the brand or manufacturer. Fortunately, all the products reviewed in this article were all backed up by different warranties.
To learn more about the warranty of the marine varnish product you prefer, you may check the product description or contact the manufacturer through their customer service support and directly ask them with regards to the warranty your chosen product is backed up by. Generally, there are limited time period or lifetime warranty offers, replacements for defective products received or money back guarantee offers.
Where to buy?
Marine varnish products are quite easy to find these days. As a matter of fact, you can immediately shop for them in nearby hardware stores in your area, in some local marine supply stores and through online shopping sites of course.
Fundamentally, if you plan to shop for one through online shopping sites, make sure that you only choose online shopping sites that are legit and highly renowned for selling authentic and top quality products like Amazon.
Luckily, both shopping in local stores and through online stores can offer you a wide range of options that will suit your needs and style. Often times, if you are lucky enough; you can even take advantage of some coupons, freebies, promos and discounted prizes.
However, when shopping online, see to it that you’re negotiating with real deals where refund or replacements of defective items are possible.
How to care and maintain?
To provide proper care and maintenance for your marine varnish, it is crucial to go over all safety information on the product’s label and in the safety date sheet prior to utilizing it. This must be stored in a cool dry place away from children.
Also, spar varnish products are highly combustible; hence, it is paramount to keep it away from hot surfaces, sparks, open flames and direct heat. Also, you should not smoke nearby. Do not breathe gas, spray, mist, dust, fumes and vapors as these could damage your lungs and may cause other illnesses.
Note that this must only be utilized in a well-ventilated area, outdoors. It is a must to wear protective clothing, gloves, face and eye shield and a proper respirator.
In summary, you have learned from this post that there are lots of many other varnish formulations on the market nowadays; nevertheless, no other clear one-part coating is more heavy-duty in the marine environment than the best marine varnish.
In reality, a considerable number of boat owners do not care about the formulation of the marine varnish so long as it goes on instantly and can ensure long-standing service. But, it is still quite imperative to check out the formulation of the varnish you are eyeing to purchase because some marine varnish products are not that adept when it comes to drying faster, sticking well and in providing the best possible shield for your vessel.
Hence, for you to ensure getting the right marine varnish for your boat; the product reviews tackled above and the other marine varnish buying-related information discussed in this article will definitely help you as you make a well-informed purchasing decision. Keep in mind that it pays off when you conduct a thorough research first before buying one.
I am Dave, Marine Talk’s content creator. Boating experiences matter when planning a boat trip for your family or going by yourself. Therefore, I am here to tackle all things relevant to boating so even the inexperienced ones can start their boating safely.