The Best Spar Varnish

Spar varnish is one of the best varnishes for outdoor wooden furniture and decorations. This varnish was originally developed as a coating for sail ships. The varnish was developed to resist harsh elements such as UV rays, wind, mineral exposure like salt, and even water!

With this type of coating, your outdoor furniture pieces will be protected from the harsh outdoor elements, so these items will stay beautiful even if you leave them out in the rain. 

The 5 Best Spar Varnish Brands to Buy Now

There are quite a few different varnish brands and product types on the market. In this guide, we are going to have a look at the best spar varnish options you can buy if you want to give your outdoor furniture the best possible protection. 

1. System Three 1855S16 Clear Marina Spar Varnish

System Three 1855S16 Clear Marine Spar Urethane Varnish Coating, 1...
  • Available in Gloss or Satin finish. Formulated to cure properly over System Three epoxy products
  • A high solids, VOC compliant finish
  • Designed for marine and exterior wood surfaces

Last update on 2021-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This is a great spar varnish if you need something completely clear and not quite as shiny. The System Three spar varnish has a satin finish that does offer some shine but not too much to alter the look of your wood. The varnish also enhances the natural wood colors without changing the color or hue of your wooden items.

This varnish is ideal for coastal homes because it protects your wooden furniture from salty air and UV rays. You can also use this varnish on all above-water wood items, including decks and patios. 

The varnish is oil-based and can be used as-is or thinned to a 1:1 ratio with thinners. Thinners are also required for cleaning your paint brushes after varnishing. 

Specifications

  • Weight – 2.2 pounds
  • Can qty – 1 quart
  • Color – Satin
  • Ingredients – Urethane varnish with epoxy
  • Finish – Satin (Also available in gloss finish)
  • Suitability – Marine and exterior wood surfaces
  • Protection – Salt air, water, and UV light
  • Medium – Thinners (1:1 to eliminate bubbles)
  • Included – 1 can of varnish

Pros:

  • The clear varnish won’t alter the natural look of your wood much
  • List ElemThe satin finish will bring out the natural colors of woodent
  • The varnish is easy to apply
  • You can thin it with thinners at a 1:1 ratio to prevent bubbles 
  • You can also get it in high gloss finish
  • The varnish offers good protection from UV rays
  • You also get protection from salt in water and in the air
  • It is ideal for all above-water wooden surfaces and products

Cons:

  • List EYou cannot use it on areas that get wet frequently, such as kitchen countertopslement
  • The varnish does have a strong smell
  • You will need to buy thinners to clean your brushes or thin your varnish
  • It is a toxic product in liquid form




Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish, Quart
  • Ideal for use on exterior wood surfaces above the water line, including trim, railings and wood furniture
  • Oil-based formula expands and contracts with changing weather conditions
  • Dries to the touch in 2 hours and covers up to 150 sq. ft.

Last update on 2021-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Rust-Oleum is a very popular brand and they develop one of the best spar varnishes out there.

This varnish is completely clear, which means it won’t alter the hue of your natural wood. The varnish is also high gloss and will offer a beautiful shine once your furniture pieces have been treated.

The varnish is ideal for outdoor furniture because it is UV, salt, and mildew resistant. You can use it on all above-water surfaces including boat railings or wooden decks. 

This varnish is oil-based and can be thinned with thinners if you like. It also offers a quick 2-hour dry time but at least 3 surfaces of varnish is recommended for adequate protection. 

Specifications

  • Weight – 1 pound
  • Can qty – 1 quart
  • Color – Clear
  • Finish – Gloss
  • Suitability – Exterior wood surfaces above waterline
  • Protection – UV, salt, mildew and water resistant
  • Medium – Oil based
  • Dry time – 2 hours
  • Coats required – 3 coats are ideal
  • Included – 1 Can of varnish

Pros:

  • The varnish is easy to use
  • The clear color won’t alter the natural hue of your wooden pieces
  • The varnish will enhance the natural colors of wood
  • It protects against UV rays
  • You also get mildew protection
  • Offers salt protection
  • The high gloss finish is nice and smooth
  • Each coat only takes about 2 hours to dry
  • The varnish is easy to use
  • The varnish expands and contracts with changing weather conditions
  • You can dilute it with thinners at 1:1 ratio to avoid bubbles
  • It’s perfect for all above-water wood surfaces

Cons:

  • You cannot use it in areas that get wet often such as kitchen countertops
  • Only available in gloss
  • The varnish can have a strong smell
  • It is toxic in liquid form




OLD MASTERS 92310 Spar Varnish, 12 oz, Satin
  • This product adds a great value
  • Can be used on interior windowsills and door frames for added ultra violet protection
  • UV absorbers for advanced sun protection

Last update on 2021-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you hate washing your paint brushes in thinners, then perhaps you should consider this spar varnish spray by Old Masters. This varnish cannot be used on large surfaces like decks or benches but it is ideal for areas like window stills or door frames. 

The varnish is very easy to apply since you can just spray a thin coat on the surface and allow it to dry. Any overspray can be cleaned by using a soft cloth with some thinner. 

The varnish will offer good UV protection but it isn’t resistant to too much moisture, which means you shouldn’t use it on boat surfaces. 

Specifications

  • Weight – 12 ounces
  • Can qty – 12 ounces
  • Color – Satin
  • Ingredients – Tung oil and ultraviolet absorbers
  • Finish – Satin
  • Suitability – Window Sills, door frames and other exterior wood surfaces
  • Protection – UV protection
  • Medium – Oil based
  • Coats required – 3 coats 
  • Included – 1 can of spray varnish

Pros:

  • The spray is very easy to apply
  • No paint brush required
  • No thinning required
  • Clean up messes using thinners
  • Offers UV protection
  • Ideal for window sills and other dry outdoor areas
  • The satin finish offers a smooth and silky look
  • The clear varnish won’t alter the look of your natural wooden items
  • Natural wood colors will be enhanced

Cons:

  • Streaking can occur if you don’t hold the can at the correct angle
  • Tape areas off that shouldn’t get any spray on them like window glass
  • The smell is quite toxic
  • The product is dangerous to inhale
  • Not intended for wood items that might get wet
  • Not suitable for decks




Last update on 2021-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This varnish by Pettit is ideal for outdoor surfaces if you love a rich amber color for your furniture. The varnish is amber colored and will tint your furniture pieces slightly. It is also high gloss and will offer a beautiful glossy shine once properly coated. 

The varnish will offer good UV protection but shouldn’t be used below the waterline or on surfaces that get a lot of moisture such as kitchen countertops. It is also oil-based so you can thin it with thinners to get a bubble-free coating.

The varnish is ideal for protecting your outdoor furniture pieces such as outdoor lounges or lamps so these will continue to look good for many years to come. 

Specifications

  • Weight – 2 pounds
  • Can qty – 1 quart
  • Color – Amber Color
  • Finish – Gloss
  • Suitability – For outdoor wood surfaces above waterline
  • Protection – UV protection
  • Medium – Oil based
  • Coats required – 3-10 depending on desired finish
  • Included – 1 Can of varnish

Pros:

  • The amber color is beautiful
  • Perfect for creating a richer color in wood
  • You can use it on all above water wooden surfaces
  • The thinners offer good UV protection
  • You can dilute it with thinners to prevent bubbles
  • The varnish offers a high gloss finish for a natural shine
  • You can apply up to 10 coats for an ultimate smooth finish
  • It is very easy to use

Cons:

  • The varnish does have a strong smell
  • Brushes need to be cleaned in thinners
  • Not suitable for underwater wooden surfaces
  • Some might not like the amber color




Last update on 2021-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Some people prefer to invest in smaller varnish cans because left-over varnish can start to dehydrate and become hard over time. The varnish of a freshly opened can is always in better quality compared to those who have been stored for a while.

This pint can is the smaller version of the bigger quart can. It contains the same high-quality gloss amber product but in a smaller can size. 

The Pettit varnish offers good UV protection so your outdoor furniture won’t be damaged by harsh sun rays. It is also suitable for humid climates but you should preferably keep furniture with this type of coating away from too much water and humidity. 

Specifications

  • Weight – 1.6 pounds
  • Can qty – 1 pint
  • Color – Amber color
  • Finish – Gloss
  • Suitability – Outdoor wood surfaces
  • Protection – UV protection
  • Medium – Oil Based
  • Coats required – 3 Coat minimum
  • Included – 1 Can of varnish

Pros:

  • The can is nice and small
  • The amber color is beautiful
  • It creates a richer color on wooden surfaces
  • The varnish offers good UV protection
  • It is suitable for all outdoor wood surfaces including decks
  • You can dilute it with thinners before application to avoid bubbles
  • The varnish is easy to apply

Cons:

  • The varnish does have a strong smell
  • In liquid form it can be toxic if ingested
  • Brushes are tough to clean
  • Not everyone like the amber color
  • The can is small




Buying Guide

We are quite sure that any of these varnishes will give your outdoor wood furniture the best protection while enhancing the natural look of your wooden pieces. But if you are not quite sure about which varnish brand to get, this guide can help you decide! 

The Best-Colored Varnish

If you prefer a varnish with a red or reddish-brown color, consider the varnish tins by Petit. These varnishes have a beautiful amber color that will enhance the natural look of your wooden surfaces while adding a slightly reddish sheen. 

The Best Clear Varnish

If you prefer a clear varnish then you can consider the System Three, Rust-Oleum, or Old Masters brands. These are all clear varnishes that will enhance the natural look of your wooden items without altering the color in any way. 

Spray Varnish

Some prefer spray varnishes because you don’t need a brush for application. If that is the case, then you should consider the can of Old Masters Spar varnish we included on our list. This varnish isn’t suitable for all surfaces, such as decks, but it is ideal for treating your window sills, door frames, and other areas.

The Best for Coastal Homes

If you live near the coast, you should consider a varnish that offers good protection against salt and mildew. The System Three varnish is superb since it offers good UV and salt air protection. Rust-Oleums varnish is also a good pick since this one offers good UV, salt, and mildew protection.

Applying Varnish

While all of these varnishes are superb, there is one important thing you should keep in mind when applying your varnish. Application technique will affect the final result. Any varnish can become bubbly if you apply it too thick. Any varnish will be uneven if you are not careful to prepare your surface and sand in between layers. For smooth application, you should learn about the best way to apply your varnish or you could end up disappointed with your product even though the product itself isn’t to blame at all. 

Varnish also has a very strong smell and most of these products do contain toxic chemicals in liquid form. You should also work in a well-ventilated area and use the right safety equipment to ensure that you stay safe while applying your protective coatings. 

Final Thoughts

We hope that you found a good-quality varnish to help you protect and preserve your outdoor furniture for as long as possible. 

And if you are looking for other superb quality woodworking tools and products such as the best CNC machines, the best marine varnish, the best beginner table saws, or the best woodworking books, then we welcome you to have a look at some of our other guides! 

Last Updated on January 7, 2021 by Tom Bradly

Tom Bradly