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The Best Marine Varnishes

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

It’s impressive to see a nicely varnished boat or water vessel. You may see a toe rail or handrail and some wooden parts that are neatly done. These parts have different materials, and you may think that a meticulous process was done to achieve magnificent results.

However, you don’t have to miss or ignore the notable contribution of the best marine varnish. Getting this product means not only coming up with the coveted outcome, but by doing so, the application won’t be a tough job.

best marine varnish

You would probably think that you can just drop by at your local hardware or supply store to get it. Some may also assume that it’s easy to browse and place orders online. You have to make a wise decision as they’re not in a low price range.

To avoid wasting your money over, this review will guide you to get the most effective ones, just like the following products.

<strong>Top 1</strong>

TotalBoat Varnish

+ Oil-based premium formula
+ Doesn’t crack or peel
+ Clear final finish and durable

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<strong>Top 2</strong>

Rust-Oleum 207008

+ Perfect for exterior wooden parts
+ Flexible and durable oil-based formula
+ The odor is not too intense

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<strong>Top 3</strong>

Epifanes Clear Varnish

+ Gives durable, solid rock result
+ Has an extremely glossy finish
+ Made of high-quality components

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Top 12 Marine Varnish Reviews

1. TotalBoat Lust Marine Varnish

It is the best marine spar varnish for me as it keeps my boats looking good. By following the manufacturer’s instructions, I’m able to get the desired finish. Thanks to its classic spar formula with a modern twist. It’s ideal for exterior and interior wooden parts and brightwork on boats.

The premium formula is oil-based so I love how it doesn’t crack or peel. These things might happen on wood as the temperature can make changes, like contracting and expanding, on this material. All the wooden parts of my water vessels are taken care of by this varnish.

Its fast-drying nature is advantageous as I don’t need to wait for a long time to do the recoating. Sanding is not necessary between coatings. Hence, the final coat is accomplished in just more than a single day. It’s recommended to do all the processes with a temperature of around 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

I like its availability in matte or gloss shine finish. When I want the wooden part of my boat to exude the natural beauty of wood, I go for a matte finish. The high gloss finish is what I need for brightwork. It leaves surfaces shiny and it gives a wet and sleek look.

Aside from the nice looks that it brings, you can get the surface protected by applying six to eight coatings. This varnish is strengthened by UV stabilizers. It means that it becomes tougher as you add more layers. A gallon would be sufficient for 360 to 400 square feet.

You can make it thinner for expanded coverage but it remains durable and transparent. 50:50 varnish to thinner is the recommended ratio. But make sure you use the rest of the varnish as it turns dry after some months when kept.
  • Oil-based premium formula with UV stabilizer
  • Doesn’t crack or peel
  • Fast drying, all necessary coatings can be done in just a day
  • No sanding needed between coatings
  • Has two kind of finish: matte and glossy shine
  • Can be thin out or layer up as you wish
  • Clear final finish and durable
  • Dries up after a few months in storage
Using this product has no disadvantages at all as it gives the wonderful effects of the most reliable boat varnish.

2. Rust-Oleum 207008 Spar Varnish

It’s just expected that I would like the wooden parts of my boat to look great. I’m glad to have found this product from a marine spar varnish review. It works magically on exterior wooden parts that are above the waterline like railings and trims.

I like how flexible this varnish is as it has an oil-based formula. Thus, it can expand and contract as the weather changes. It can even endure the harshest weather. A marvelous clear finish will still be captured! I can say that it’s a perfect marine varnish for outdoor furniture.

I’ve also witnessed how durable the result is. This coating can resist salt, mildew, and UV rays. It’s the part that I appreciate the most. Aside from the beautiful gloss and the crystal clear finish, maximum protection is guaranteed. The surface is protected from water, chemicals, and sea spray.

It stands out among exterior varnishes as its durability is the same as the conventional wood finish. Its strength is even twice as much as the latter. The warm golden glow that it gives is simply stunning.

It takes two hours for every coating to dry, but it’s worth the wait. When durability means spending more time on the varnish, it’s not a problem then. Since I applied it on my boat, the wooden surfaces are firmer than before. I love how the odor is not too intense while I’m applying it.

You may use a thinner or not when using this product. I live in an area where there is a subtropical climate. Thus, I use 20% to 30% thinner so that the varnish becomes runny. Then I can do multiple coatings in a day.
  • Perfect for exterior wooden parts that are above the waterline
  • Flexible and durable oil-based formula
  • Resistant to salt, mildew, and UV rays
  • The finish protects the surface from water, chemicals, and sea spray.
  • Gives a warm, golden glow to the wood
  • The odor is not too intense.
  • Takes 2 hours for every coating to dry

All in all, Rust-Oleum 1 quart marine spar varnish will help you toughen wooden parts on your boat.

3. Epifanes Clear Varnish

You may find this varnish well-rounded as it can be utilized in many applications. It can also be the most trusted marine wood finish. The formula is composed of alkyd resins, tung oil, and phenolic. There are UV filters, too to form superior protection.

With its components of the highest quality, you can expect the best from this product. The excellent flow of this varnish is absorbed by the wood, and that’s why the finish is akin to solid rock. So the durability of the finish can’t be denied. It establishes exceptional longevity.

Since it can give out a durable result, my boat’s wooden parts, including the floor, will maintain its extremely glossy finish. It can be completed in just a single day. From what you can expect in varnishing, there’s no shortcut if you want to achieve the optimal effect.

The finest ability of this varnish is also applicable for furniture set and some stuff in the household. There are many ways to apply it: rolling, brushing, spraying, and tipping.

When having it on a horizontal area, it’s best to use a brush. It can be a lot of work, but there’s a purpose behind it. This method will allow you to lessen the formation of bubbles. I feel so happy after laying out this varnish on the floor. It pays off the hard work.

Although I need to wait for it to dry, the number of applications is lesser than other brands. So I will keep on using this varnish as I’m always satisfied with the result every time I use it.
  • Well-rounded product that is usable for boats, furniture, etc.
  • Made of high-quality components (alkyd resins, tung oil, and phenolic)
  • Gives durable, solid rock result
  • Has an extremely glossy finish
  • Can be applied in four different methods
  • Necessary application is relatively lesser.
  • Needs hard work when applying to horizontal surfaces
When it comes to a durable and glossy finish, nothing can beat this varnish.

4. TotalBoat Gleam Spar Varnish

It’s the best option for any type of interior and exterior wooden surfaces in your boat, kayak, canoe, and other water vessels. It can also be used on furniture, garage doors, tops, and more.

The classic varnish formula is just amazing. It is made up of premium tung oil and phenolic resins. UV blockers are also added to come up with a brilliant result that is transparent amber. It also oozes with a warm effect for both interior and exterior varnishes on any wooden surface.

Aside from the nice looks that it brings, it is also a durable marine varnish for wood. It’s due to its resistance to sunlight and being waterproof at the same time. The radiant result of this varnish is deemed to last. You can apply it with ease, as it can be done through a roller, brush, or spray gun.

There are two choices of this varnish: gloss and satin. The gloss varnish appears so clear and with depth. You should apply 4 to 6 coatings. The more layers, the better. I prefer using satin varnish on interior parts as it’s good at enhancing texture.

Applying this varnish once or twice a year is a part of my boat’s maintenance. Three applications are recommended per day. Recoating can follow in a matter of an hour. The coatings you have done in a day should be given 48 hours to dry up completely.

It may take some time, but it’s all worth it. The wood soaks up this varnish on the first coating, which is termed as a sealer coat. So it’s like the wood and the varnish become one. Using a good quality brush gets the job done.
  • Suitable for interior and exterior wooden parts
  • A mixture of premium quality substances
  • Has waterproof UV blockers for durability
  • Gives off a radiant finish of two kinds: gloss or satin
  • Can be applied by different tools
  • The varnish is soaked in the wood on the first coating.
  • Needs 48 hours for drying
This Totalboat gleam marine spar varnish is not only for the grooming of my boat but most importantly, for its maintenance.

5. Minwax 632000444 Spar Urethane

This product may be commonly used for woodwork, furniture, cabinet, paneling accessories, and doors. But it is included in many marine spar varnish reviews. Do you want to know the reason why it can be a great varnish on wooden parts of your boat?

It’s a clear gloss formula that bears special oils. With these components, this varnish can expand and contract with the wooden surfaces. The changes in weather, temperature, and season won’t be a hindrance anymore.

The clear gloss finish won’t be prone to graying and fading due to the UV blockers. Once applied to the wood, it creates a protective barrier against moisture and rain. With the aforementioned characteristics, it is an undeniably essential part of any water vessel maintenance.

I use it for both the interior and exterior wooden sections of my boat. It’s like a custom as I do the application every year. I don’t need to look for a better product for I’m satisfied with this varnish.

I’m surprised that it dries quicker than what I expect from an oil-based formula. The result makes the wood a bit dark, but I’m not complaining. I do rather love the effects as it enhances the color and appearance.

The recommended tool for application is a natural bristle brush. In my opinion, the drying time of 24 hours is reasonable enough as it takes time to obtain the outcome.
  • Used on many things (woodwork, furniture, cabinet, paneling accessories, doors, etc.)
  • The formula contains special oils
  • Can adapt to the changes in weather and temperature, blocks rain and moisture
  • Gives a clear, glossy finish
  • Has UV blockers so it’s prone to graying and fading
  • Makes the wood appear a bit darker
I like the glossy finish of this product as it enhances the looks of the wood.

6. Rust-Oleum 250141H Ultimate Spar

It is recommended as a protective coating for exterior wooden surfaces because of its abilities. The layers of finish from this product are long-lasting, and I find its durability outstanding.

It’s spar urethane water-based as it can deflect water and is highly resistant to mold, mildew, scratches, and possible damage from UV rays and harsh weather. You may need to do some cleaning up to keep the gloss at its optimal appearance. Use soap and water to keep it neat.

Nonetheless, I also use it on the inside of my boat. I don’t want this area to be deprived of the amazing effects of this coating. It’s convenient and comfortable at the same time to apply it in the interiors as it has low odor. So I don’t get suffocated with some undesirable fumes.

When I went over the exterior wood finishes comparison, it dried quickly as it only needed thirty minutes. I love how easy it is to apply for its absolutely stunning effects. Just make sure you don’t do it when the temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Applying it when the temperature is high would make it dry before you achieve an even coat. A whitish tint will be the final result. I do re-coating after two hours, and it’s done four times as per the manufacturer’s recommendation. A quart of this product can cover 87 square feet.

I watch for drips within the 20 minutes of the application to make corrections if necessary. I don’t have troubles so far, but I still practice it just to make sure. You can choose from the satin finish, gloss finish, and semi-gloss finish.
  • Long-lasting and durable
  • Can deflect water and resistant to harmful factors
  • Can be cleaned with soap and water
  • Good for both exterior and interior areas
  • Has a low odor
  • Relatively dries quicker
  • Three choices of finish: satin, gloss, semi-gloss
  • Turns into a whitish tint when the temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit
I don’t only like the effects of this spar but the available choices too.

7. Epifanes Wood Finish Matte

I must admit I like matte, but I won’t turn into this wood finish if it’s not giving my boat the striking effect. The satin sheen that it gives is so nice, and it gives a soft matte attractiveness.

This finish can also be proud of its durable outcome as it has UV protection for wood, teak, and other hardwoods. Aside from having it on my boat, you can see its marks in my house as I love wood pieces more than concrete. You can rely on it to protect the wooden surface from outdoor elements.

It’s a one-component matte finish that has tung oil and phenolic-modified alkyd resin. Imperfections in the wood are concealed when applied. I think it’s because of the minute porosity properties. Due to this factor, sanding is not necessary between coatings.

The matte finish has a rubbed look effect, which I like the most. I read on marine varnishes reviews that it’s challenging to apply this substance that is more liquid. When applying with a brush, you have to be quick and put it evenly.

Knowing some techniques would make steps a lot better. I used mineral spirits to thin it out. I added 25% of it for the first coating and just 10% for the second one. I find it dead flat on the first coating, but I’m amazed on the second try as it showcases the perfect matte finish.

I once applied the first coating in high humidity and within the temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The waiting time is a total of 72 hours. You may not like it when it’s still wet, but you will truly appreciate it after it’s dried.
  • Gives satin sheen and a soft matte finish
  • Durable with protection against UV rays
  • Great for exterior use
  • Conceals wood imperfections
  • Sanding not necessary between coatings
  • Humidity is fine for the first coating.
  • The application should be made quickly
It’s the best choice for those who prefer a matte finish. Take the challenge and see the amazing result!

8. Pettit 1-Spar Captains Varnish

You just can’t underestimate old school, just like this varnish from Pettit. It’s still among the most favorite marine polyurethane varnishes, and it gives the same result for 55 years. I don’t know if it sounds funny, but patronizing this product has been handed from my grandfather to me. My boat teak as well as pieces of furniture benefit from its gloss finish.

What makes me and my family use it most of the time is its durable finish, just like how I keep using my boat teak all year round without looking worn out. It’s like an inch thick that seems to project a nice-looking 3D surface.

Its toughness is also tested on the mahogany door at home. This door is exposed to direct sunlight. It’s in its second year now, and I think I need to wait for another two before reapplying.

Thus, it is considered as a spar varnish to exterior door. The credit goes to the UV protectors which prolongs its life. It’s the ultimate shield from the harshest environment.

All these wonderful things happen because it is a water-based, marine grade polyurethane gloss varnish. It’s rich and obviously, of high quality. You can also use it on interiors too aside from brightwork exteriors. The clear and smooth finish reveals the natural beauty of the wood.

The texture of this varnish is like wet honey. When you use a new paintbrush for application, try to apply the varnish first on a spare surface. It should be done to avoid loose hair.

What I did first is dying the wood with the color that I like. I think this step is favorable to everyone. You may also use tung oil to create more depth. It’s all up to you. Then, use this varnish for the final coating. The tolerance from this product allows me to make the looks that I want for my boat teak.
  • Can be used for boats and other things
  • Has a gloss, thick, durable 3D-looking finish with UV protectors
  • Ultimate shield from the harshest environment
  • In high quality, suitable for both interior and exterior use
  • Clear and smooth finish to showcase the natural beauty of the wood
  • Allows you to make the looks that you prefer
  • Have to apply first on the spare surface to avoid loose hair from the new brush
It’s nice to make your preferred looks when using this varnish. That’s the reason why I continue incorporating this marine varnish for teak with my boat maintenance.

9. System Three 1855S16 Spar Varnish

I have built canoes and kayaks made of wood for many years. This varnish is what I ever wanted. It’s best among the ones that I tried. The solution went through proper curing as the system contains three kinds of epoxy. It’s available in satin and gloss finish.

When it comes to marine varnish comparison of easy application, this coating excels among the rest. It can be applied by spraying, so it doesn’t require much more effort than using a brush or roller. You will achieve a smooth satin or gloss finish without working so hard.

This varnish is formulated for marine and exterior surfaces that are made of wood. It doesn’t only look good, but it’s also tough enough to withstand sunlight and other outdoor elements.

One of its components is the ultraviolet light absorbers. Front doors exposed to sunlight can be well protected by this coating. The finish is also protected from water and salt air to remain stunning for a long time. It is VOC compliant with its high solids.

I’m grateful for this product as I can make striking kayaks and canoes. I receive a lot of compliments from my customers, and referrals come from time to time. Hence, it keeps my earnings at its peak.

The application can be done in a breeze, but it’s important to know the varnish ratio to the thinner. The aim is to eliminate bubbles during application. Since it’s extra thick, you can add 25% thinner for the first few coatings. Then it will be 1:1 when doing the final layer. It dries fast too.
  • A convenient way to apply is by spraying.
  • Available in satin or gloss finish
  • Has the protection from water and salt air
  • Hasultraviolet light absorbers to withstand sunlight
  • The finish remains stunning for a long time.
  • VOC compliant with high solids
  • Fast-drying varnish
  • Should know the right ratio to avoid bubble formation
This coating makes every wooden surface beautiful, and it lasts for a long time.

10. Epifanes Varnish in 250 ml

I like the effect of the varnish on the wooden parts of my boat. It doesn’t alter the original color as other products do. The red or orange result only pisses me off. I’m glad I chose this product as it leaves a color that is something around amber or brown.

If your color preference is the same as mine, this is the Epifanes marine varnish for you. I always achieve a flawless finish from this product. I think it’s because of its contents which are tung oil, phenolic, and alkyd resin. I’m in awe of its extremely glossy finish.

It’s a varnish that is not just for display but it guarantees durability as well. Its formula is fortified with UV filters. That’s why you can’t only use it on interior parts but with exterior too. Aside from being a marine grade lacquer, it is usable on furniture and other wooden stuff in your house.

The application of this varnish applies to new pieces of wood. It’s also useful for restoration. It’s great on both hardwood and softwood as it will still leave a deep clear finish that everyone is looking for. Thus, you can have it for maintenance or just a newly made water vessel.

The acceptable methods of applying this varnish are by spraying, brushing, tipping, and rolling. The texture is fairly thick but you can still end up with an even result. So you don’t need to questionthat its popularity as it has the highest quality for a traditional tung oil marine spar.

However, sanding between coats is necessary for the sake of adhesion. I don’t mind doing this step as long as my boat can retain its gloss for a long period. Thus, it’s worth the money.
  • Leaves a nice color of amber or brown
  • Gives a flawless and glossy finish; ends up with even result
  • Fortified with UV filters
  • Can be used for restoration and new wood
  • Can be applied in various methods
  • In highest quality tung oil
  • May require sanding for adhesion
The hard work and time that I spent applying this varnish are all worth it. You will have fulfillment once you see the result.

11. TotalBoat Halcyon Marine Varnish

This is the top-rated marine polyutherane that you can rely on. It reduces the things that I need to do when maintaining my boat in good condition. Once the brightwork is done, only minimal maintenance is necessary. It is one of the marine grade finishes that provide satin or hard gloss results.

The varnish solution is super flexible as it naturally expands and contracts despite weather changes. It remains in its superb look without yellowing, lifting, or cracking. The excellent adhesion adds up to its durability.

This varnish can effectively block harmful UV rays. Harmful factors like moisture, scratch, and abrasion can also be prevented from happening. Whether you apply it on the exterior or interior sections, the finish remains brilliant. You may also utilize it in enhancing the appearance of furniture.

Even though this varnish gives a beautiful result, handling and application are both a piece of cake. It’s in a resealable pour pack for convenience and no mess usage. This feature also makes it uncomplicated to store while you avoid wasting a single drop of the varnish.

This substance is low VOC, and it can be applied by spraying, brushing, or with a roller. I love how my nose is not bothered by any fume and how it dries quickly. So you have to make your movements nimble. It implies that you can finish fast as five coatings can be done in a day.

Keep in mind that the more coatings you apply, the more depth the color and the clearer the finish becomes. No sanding is needed in-between coatings, so you complete your job fast without doing a lot of procedures.
  • Makes boat maintenance minimal
  • Can have a satin or hard gloss finish
  • Anti-UV, durable and not prone to damages
  • Suitable for exterior and interior
  • Convenient and ease of use; can be applied in various ways
  • Dries quickly; no sanding is needed
  • Need to make nimble movements as it dries quickly
I like doing things quickly, and this product backs me up for what I want.

12. McCloskey or Valspar Spar Varnish

The most important part to me is that the varnish creates a durable finish. I find this product trustworthy for protecting the wooden surface of my boat. Maximum UV blocking is included in its formula, and that’s what I need when summer comes as I often go out with my boat this season.

The finish is also water and salty air resistant. It’s also not prone to damage that can be caused by bad weather conditions. It gives the boat a nice appearance, and it keeps the beautiful surface as time goes by. So I feel secure that my boat can keep the shiny surface for a long time.

The clear satin finish is just awesome. It won’t only look good on the boat’s wood trim above the water, but also with outdoor wooden furniture, planters, lamp posts, interior window frames, and mills.

The durability is outstanding. It can preserve the good state of these things. I recommend using it on the front door, which receives a lot of sun rays. You will benefit a lot from this varnish if you live in a hot area.

A good bristle brush or a foam brush can be used for the application. The consistency is not similar to honey, so you can lay it out easily. It will be dry to the touch in a matter of four to six hours. Three or four coatings are needed. A light sanding can be done in between.

I’ve been using this product many times, and it never ceases to prove its efficiency. Then you can easily clean the finish if it’s necessary.
  • Has maximum UV protection
  • Resistant to water, salty air, and bad weather
  • Can maintain the good appearance of the wooden surface
  • Creates a clear satin finish
  • Can be used on boats and household stuff
  • Efficient and dries quickly
  • Can be cleaned with ease
  • The need for slight sanding
Durability is one of the reasons why we varnish the wooden areas of the boats. This varnish is a great thing.

What is Marine Varnish and How Does It Work


The other name for a marine varnish is spar varnish. It has a formula that is specially crafted for marine exposure. Tung oil, phenolic, and alkyd resin are the usual components present in it. It is deemed as an excellent varnish that forms a finishing suitable for the wooden surface.

It was made for the pole of wood found in sailing ships in the past. Changes are inevitable until it’s the scope of use includes all the wooden areas of the boat. It’s done as a part of maintenance and for beautification purposes nowadays.

The result from the marine varnish is sturdy. It can withstand bad weather conditions, water, and salty air. Its coverage is great on an unpainted wooden surface. People in every corner of the world would call it water-resistant exterior varnish.

Using a marine varnish, you are creating protection not only with your boat but also for furniture and projects with wooden materials. What’s under the covered deck can be in wooden form. So it means that it is exposed to different weather and harsh exterior elements.

To cite an example, UV rays are not too friendly towards the wood. Thus, chalking and cracking occur, and they destroy this material. So a marine varnish is an essential thing to your boat or other vessels. Doors displayed to the sun’s heat all the time can also be protected by the varnish.

When it comes to application, the general recommendation has three coatings. The first one should be thinned with 50% mineral spirits to give way to diffusion. The next step would need two full strength, and sanding may be required between coatings.

Types of Marine Varnishes

Tung Oil

The classic varnish is extracted from a resin tree. The thicker one that is present these days is a combination of tung oil, alkyds, and phenolic resins. Furniture pieces were the ones that are receiving the gloss, but later on, boat masts started to take the coating too.

Masts bend with the wind, so varnish moves with it rather than cracking. Thus, a single part consists of a tung oil base, which is also called spar varnish. It is dissolved in solvents, and it’s being hardened right away after application. The first coating should be hardened first before the succeeding coating.

You have to give every coating adequate time as the solvent that’s under the layer will tend to evaporate.


This oil-based varnish is composed of one part polyurethane. Chemicals that are similar to epoxy are in their content. Its usage is applied to covering clear epoxy resin. One way to make layers quicker is to apply epoxy on wood in just a matter of three or four coats of polyutherane with UV protection.

Polyutherane can either be water or oil-based. The advantage of water-based polyutherane is that you can easily clean the crystal clear finish. On the other hand, oil-based lasts longer, and it gives a bit of yellow color. It’s up to you if you prefer color enhancement.

Both of the bases should be hardened first before applying the next coat.

Exterior Varnish

It is formulated for outside utilization, and it specializes in providing UV protection. This varnish is microporous, which means that the wood can breathe. Therefore, mildew and mold don’t have the chance to assemble and rot the wood.

Yacht or Spar Varnish

It is mainly formulated for boats to counter the persistence of water. This solution is suitable for outside timber.

Acrylic Varnish

It is considered non-toxic and dries quickly. It’s quite flexible as it can be used on the inside and outside areas. Ultraviolet-light protection is its best feature. It can also be seen on other kinds of surfaces aside from wood.

The finish that acrylic varnish gives is so clear, but then it doesn’t penetrate the wood. There’s no complication when using it, so it’s user friendly. However, it would be difficult to spread the formula evenly.

Two-Part Varnish

Mixing is what is done with the two-part varnish. The base and the hardener are bought separately and then combined. Resistance to abrasion and durability are the highlights of its features.

Two-part varnish dries quickly as the moisture and air react to it. It shows that it lessens the weight of the job. The coating becomes very hard, too; thus, you can expect a long life from it. So you can go easy on maintenance.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Marine Varnish


The main reason for varnish application is to give your dear boat or any water vessel optimum protection. Investing in the top-tier marine varnish is a wise move. A boat is much more expensive than a can of varnish.

Choosing the ideal product, tool, equipment, and marine varnish can prolong the good condition of your boat. With marine varnish, you are given assurance that protection against damages is provided. It does an excellent job of safeguarding wooden surfaces.

A marine varnish can impede the accumulation of mildew and mold as well as water penetration and inevitable wear and tear. It does a wonderful job of enhancing the looks of your vessel. Your boat may even look like an expensive one.

The drawbacks of applying marine varnish exemplify the saying – ‘no pain, no gain’. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be hurt. What it takes is patience, and it requires more time. You can’t get it done in just a snap of a finger.

The drawbacks would start with slow drying, so a lot of time is needed. Thus, dust built-up can also happen. Some boat owners will just be surprised about the incompatibility of the lacquer or water-based varnish. Issues may arise during stripping or repairing.

Buyer’s Guide

These are the things that you have to check when deciding what marine varnish to buy:


Most of the marine varnish is at a high price. So make sure that you pay for something worthwhile. You should have the initiative to check important information about the product. So you can avoid financial strains if you get the ideal product.

Cleaning Up with Ease

Even though you are careful, it can’t be avoided that there is some amount of varnish drops. With a formula that is easy to clean, you will find it effortless to eliminate the spill.

Easy Application

Applying the varnish can be challenging, especially for newbies on woodwork. If you are one of them, better use a product that is easy peasy for you to handle. Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendation of the best method of application.


The finish should serve you and your boat for a decent period. Who would want to go back and forth for repairs? Thus, it hinders you from spending money just to make corrections.

Time of Drying and Curing

Minimizing the drying time makes varnishing convenient for you. In this matter, you have to estimate the time that you will spend on your project. So you can manage your schedule.

Care and Maintenance

Although marine varnish is consumable, you still need to be conscious of how you carefully take care of it. In this part, you have to be knowledgeable about the part by reading the label. Take note of precautions for everyone’s safety.

It should be away from the reach of children. Bear in mind that spar varnish is combustible. Don’t place it near open flames, hot surfaces, sparks, and of course, direct heat. Smoking beside it is hazardous to your lungs. It’s like giving yourself ailments as you breathe horrid substances.

When you apply varnish on your boat, you have to be in a well-ventilated area. You have to be outdoors. Protective gear is also necessary, such as gloves, a shield for the eyes and face, and a respirator.

Frequently Asked Questions


Who makes the top-rated marine varnish?

TotalBoat marine varnish and spar varnish, RustOleum marine varnish or spar, Minwax spar urethane, Pettit varnish, System Three coating, McCloskey varnish, and Epifanes matte finish or Epiphanes marine varnish.

What is the difference between spar varnish and regular varnish?

Spar varnish is designed for outdoor use due to the consideration of different weather and temperature. Its formulation is different from a regular varnish. Humidity can cause the wood to expand and contract. When you use a typical varnish, it will easily crack and get damaged under this circumstance.

Aside from the protection that is provided by spar varnish, flexibility to UV rays is one of its features. So it extends the surface’s life, and it means durability. That’s why spar varnish is deemed to surpass the rigorous condition of marine life.

The difference between spar varnish and regular starts with the oil ratio. The former has more percentage of oil, which will soften the solution. It results in a more flexible finish. Meanwhile, the latter tends to crack when the wood expands or contracts.

Is marine varnish waterproof?

Yes, it is, but you have to take note of the components as each of them specifically works well with a certain kind of wood. For instance, some waterproofing methods are suitable for exterior or interior finish. Some are great for light or dark grained wood.

Make sure the components are compatible with your purpose of varnishing. If you wish to have an attractive and hand-rubbed finish, tung oil and linseed are the right components. It will be the first step that you need to take.

The second part is sealing the wood with lacquer and polyurethane. Of course, the final part is simultaneously waterproofing the wood. Use a stain-sealant combo for this process.

Is marine varnish better than polyurethane?

You can’t exactly say that varnish is better than polyurethane as each of them serves different purposes. It will depend on your purpose and preference too. The varnish turns into an amber or faint yellow shade. Its appearance is similar to the result of oil-based polyurethane.

The varnish is usually applied on water-exposed boats, outdoor decks, or deck chairs. What makes it suitable for these things are its water resistance ability and high solid content.

The formula of varnish has low toxicity, so it’s safe to utilize on exterior doors. The variant called marine varnish or spar offers flexibility and protection against UV rays. So most woodworkers are fond of it. They would apply it to softwoods that are known to flex under extreme conditions.

When it comes to varnish application, you must do it correctly. You also have to see to it that you give it enough time to completely dry. If you fail to do these things, the finish will likely crack, peel, or form some bubbles.

The wood can be susceptible to damages from the surroundings if you don’t do the necessary procedures properly. Several layers should be applied to achieve the optimal result. Give each layer six hours to dry so you can get the photo-finish result.

In the case of polyutherane, its texture can be compared to a liquid plastic. This attribute is based on its content, which can be resin or pure synthetic plastic. The milky appearance turns into a clear coat in just a single or two coatings.

Polyutherane is abrasion-proof, and it can correct a scratch. It is available in water or oil base and something in between called sheen. DIYers like it a lot as there are options like satin or glossy.

Since the content or base can be different, you should know the right designation of use. The water-based polyutherane gives off a revitalizing finish as it maintains the natural color of the wood. Perhaps, for its strength is the low toxicity level, you can clean its coating with soap and water.

The oil-based counterpart is usually seen on hardwood floors. It is capable of providing protection that is more robust than the water-based. So it’s not likely to just give up on UV damage and heat. You can rely on it so that it won’t crack.

The oil-based type is also heat tolerant. Its outcome enhances the wooden tone as it transforms into an amber tone.

To conclude, it can’t be claimed that varnish is better than polyutherane or the other way around. It all depends on the purpose of application or coating.

How long does marine spar varnish last?

The lifespan of marine spar varnish will depend on the environment. Exposure to direct sunlight can reduce its longevity. Rub spots because of hard service require fixing, which leads to the need to apply some coatings or layers.

Recoating should be done in cases of scaling. The affected area is sanded first to reveal the wood for recoating. A good six to eight coatings would remain to look awesome for 4 to 8 years.

You may have done every step properly, so coatings formed well on the wood. Maintenance has a big part too in prolonging the life of spar varnish. Keep it clean all the time.

Where can I buy it?

You don’t have to look high and low for marine varnish. You can get it from a home depot or any of your local hardware stores. You can also opt for online shops but make sure you access a legit website that provides a quality product.

There’s an array of brands both online and offline. When you check online, you can have more ideas about the product. So you can decide which one will work for you best.

What are some tips when applying marine varnish?

Applying outdoors is best done in the morning during the time that the dew has dried. Doing it in the late afternoon or the evening would lead to improper drying and loss of gloss.

Direct sunlight is not also good as it will make the varnish dry quickly. It’s not a recommended method. When you’re varnishing the interior sections, air ventilation is acceptable for drying.

It can’t be avoided that varnish may fall off at the wood edges due to the less film thickness. So what you need to do is to apply extra coatings. The first two coatings need to be thinned by 20% or 25%.

Sanding in between coats can be an extra job, but it is sometimes needed to achieve a flawless finish. It is a chance for you to correct mistakes like drips and runs. Make sure the previous coating is completely dried before you proceed to the next one.

When it comes to the brush that you need for marine varnish, you can try badger brushes. The most important thing that you have to pay attention to is the cleaning and maintenance of this tool. Always start the application with a damp, clean brush.


Think about the best marine varnish that can serve your purpose and application well. The formulation varies to suit the needs and preferences of users. So, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to check the components of a specific marine varnish they’re eyeing to buy. After you read this review, you’ll surely know what’s best for your boat or water vessel.

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