How to Find the Best Marine Varnish

Boats are dynamic vessels that provide comfort, luxury, and possibly income. You spent a lot of effort and money on them. As a boater, your main priority is to ensure that your vessel is in good working order so it can serve your needs.

The woodwork is a crucial component of the boat that demands special attention. If your boat’s woodwork isn’t adequately cared for, it could lead to discomfort and irreversible damage. Losing a boat to something as minor as damage from the sun, rain, or wind can be disheartening.

This article will provide you with all the necessary information to choose the best varnish for your boat. I also provide you with some varnishes that I recommend.

What is a Marine Varnish?

To begin with, a varnish is a protective coating you can use on woodwork. The varnish provides protection against sun, rain, or chemical damage.

Marine varnish is simply a type of varnish meant for watercraft. It is transparent, but sometimes it has yellowish or dark brownish shades. The shades usually come from how the manufacturer made the varnish or the material it is made with.

What is a Marine Varnish Used For?

Boat Varnishing

Marine varnish is very similar to regular varnish. The only difference is that a marine varnish is used on watercraft, whereas normal varnishes are used on other surfaces.

Because boats are always outside and almost always on the sea, it’s a constant risk for sun damage, water, and other harmful elements.

Like I said earlier, the varnish protects against tiny scratches as well as weather-related severe damages. If the woodwork in your boat has no protection or proper maintenance, it dries out, making it vulnerable to potential damages.

Sometimes, these damages can be permanent and could cost a lot of money fixing or replacing the damaged part.

Furthermore, on the other hand, a marine varnish protects the wood and enhances its attractiveness. It makes it gleaming and glossy, giving your boat an elegant appearance. Also, nobody really likes to look at ugly dried wood.

What are Marine Varnishes Made of?

As a science geek, I usually like to know what is inside any product I get and what they do, especially when it has to do with something as big as a boat. So, if you happen to be as curious as I am, then here you go! But if you are not, feel free to skip to the next paragraph of this article.

Fundamentally, there are five main ingredients in marine varnish, and they are:

  • Oil – The oil provides a soft, shiny, and natural look to the wood.
  • Resin – Resins add a glossy effect to the wood. It also makes the color and grain of the wood shiny, giving it that elegant look.
  • Solvent – Solvents serve two purposes. First, they can be used to melt down the resin to be applied to the wood. And secondly, they can also be used to thin the finishes, making them easier to apply.
  • Driers – This helps the marine varnish to dry faster.
  • Additives – The additives help the marine varnish last longer by protecting it from the sun. It is designed to protect the wood from the harmful effects of sunlight.

Factor to Determine When Choosing a Marine Varnish

In order to find the best marine varnish for your boat, there are a few things you must consider.

Here they are:

How Long Will it Last on the Boat?

As you know, the most important thing about any product is how long it can last. When it comes to marine varnishes, it is essential to understand the durability of the product. This is because the boat is constantly exposed to substances like rain, sun, etc.

Some marine varnishes last much longer when compared to others, and some require special procedures like extra coatings. At the same time, some last up to two to three years before recoats are needed.

So, when buying your marine varnish, I advise you to try to ask your dealer all questions you can think of about the durability of the product so you can make the right decision according to what you want.

How Long Will it Take to Dry?

The second thing you should consider when looking for a marine varnish is how long it will take to dry.

If you happen to be working on a limited timeframe and need to have your boat completely coated and ready for use in a day or two, then this is a factor you should consider. In this case, you should only look for varnishes that dry much faster. Some dry in a matter of hours.

If you are not in a rush, you don’t have to worry about this so much. But still, look for marine varnishes that can serve your timeframe.

How Easy or Difficult is it to Use?

I would advise you not to ignore how difficult or easy any product is to use, especially when it comes to marine varnishes. To avoid wasting a lot of money, please find out everything you can about the brands and how to use them. If it is what you can handle, then go for it!

How Glossy is It?

This might sound funny, but yeah, glossiness does matter a lot. Most times, high-glossed varnishes happen to be the best durable because of the thickness. Plus, it also adds to the attractiveness of boats. So, it is safe to say, the glossier the varnish, the better!

Top Ten Marine Varnishes

There are several marine varnishes on the market today. However, I have picked out the top ten products based on the criteria above (durability, drying ease, ease-of-use, and glossiness).

They are:

TotalBoat 482869 Lust Marine Varnish

TotalBoat 482869 Lust Marine Varnish

The TotalBoat Lust is the brand’s top product and a top product in the marine varnish industry. Their varnish is extra thick, which provides your boat with maximum protection.

The TotalBoat marine varnish has a U.V. and weather resistance, which makes it the perfect choice for brightwork and more. U.V. means ultraviolet light, means the sun.

The TotalBoat Lust marine varnish is the first one-part marine spar varnish. Usually, when applying varnish on the wood, after each coating dries, you are supposed to scrape the surface with sandpaper so the next coat can stick. However, you don’t need to do that with the TotalBoat Lust because it’s a one-part varnish.

Aside from the safety and convenience features of this product, it does enhance the beauty of the wood. Due to the thickness of this product, it’s able to give your boat an elegant look by adding the shine and glossy effect.

Pros and Cons

The TotalBoat lust marine varnish is an excellent product, but it has a few downsides.

Here we discuss a few pros and cons of the products, which will help you decide if it is something you can handle or not.

Pros

  • Easy to use – Generally, the product is easy for anyone familiar with varnishes. But if you’re not very familiar with this, don’t worry, it becomes easier as you practice.
  • Durable – Because the product is an oil-based formula, the wood will not crack or peel when it’s exposed to change in temperature or weather. It is compatible with all types of wood.
  • Good shine and finish – This product provides a clear tone, enhancing the wood grain and lasting longer.
  • U.V. and Weather Resistant – Provides reliable U.V. resistance and waterproofing to the wood.
  • Dries Quickly – When applied on the wood surface, the TotalBoat Lust marine varnish dries very quickly in a matter of hours. This makes it an excellent choice for you if you’re working on a limited time frame and you need to be done in a day or two.
  • Versatile – This can be used almost everywhere. It can be used on the interior, exterior, and bright works on boats.
  • Enhances Wood Appearance – It enhances the appearance of your boat by brightening the color, adding glossy effects.

Cons

  • Requires a lot – Because of the extremely thick nature of the TotalBoat lust marine varnish, you have to apply a lot of it to cover every area.
  • Not Ideal for Beginners – Because this product is extremely thick, you’ll need to thin it down to at least 50% before use. A beginner would likely miss this.
  • Low Shelf life – It cannot be stored for a long time, so it must be used on time.

Price

The TotalBoat 482869 Lust Marine Varnish comes in two sizes:

  • Quart – The quart cost about $68.50
  • Gallon – The Gallon costs about $167.12
  • Buy here

The prices are the same for both satin and matte.

Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish

Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish

This is similar to the TotalBoat Lust marine varnish. If all you want is straight-up protection from the sun and moist conditions, then the rust-oleum marine spar varnish is for you.

This product is made to protect the wood from weather damages, and it is very reliable. It can be used on any type of wood in the sailboat. It also enhances the appearance of your boat with glossiness.

The Rust-Oleum marine spar is easy to use as long as you thin it down to 10% to 30%. It dries up quickly when applied to the wood, and there would still be enough to go around.

I recommend getting a new foam brush to get the best result with this product. Using the brush with every coat makes the finish very smooth. Also, it can help it last longer.

Pros and Cons

Here we discuss a few pros and cons of the products, which will help you decide if it is something you can handle or not.

Pros

  • Very Strong U.V. and water protection – Provides excellent protection again U.V. rays, water, and harmful moisture.
  • Excellent Finish – Offers an excellent finish.
  • Easy to Use – Does not require any complicated procedure for application.
  • Good For Beginners – This product is generally very easy to use.
  • Highly Efficient – This product performs just as well as other top marine varnishes at a lower price.

Cons

  • Low Shelf Life – Cannot be stored for a long time, so it has to be used on time.

Price

  • Quart – The quart costs about $23.00
  • Gallon – The gallon costs about $00.00
  • Buy here

System Three 1855S16 Marine Varnish

System Three 1855S16 Marine Varnish

Like every other marine varnish on this list, the System Three marine varnish is good. However, the unique feature about this is how long it can last. So if durability is your top priority with a little bit of everything, then this is the way to go.

According to costumers reviews and researches, this is the best when it comes to durability. In a typical case, three years is the highest a varnish can last before it begins to show signs of a recoat. However, the System Three marine varnish can last up to 3 and a half years without undergoing significant peeling or cracking.

It also provides excellent U.V. and water protection, with a very attractive finish. You can thin it down if you want, but you don’t need to thin it if you use an HVLP spray gun.

But keep in mind that it does not dry very quickly with a thinner. So if you happen to be working a limited time frame, this isn’t the best option.

Pros and Cons

Here we discuss a few pros and cons of the products, which will help you decide if it is something you can handle or not.

Pros

  • Excellent Durability – Product will withstand the elements for a long time.
  • Very attractive finish – Glossy nature of this product makes your boat more attractive.
  • Easy to apply with a sprayer – It is easy to use with a spray gun.
  • Has Gloss and Satin Options – Comes in gloss and satin options, so you can whichever one you prefer.

Cons

  • Does not dry very quickly – Without a thinner, this product dries very slowly.
  • Not easy to use without a spray gun – Without a spray gun, you might find it challenging to use.

Price

  • Quart – The quart costs about $40.00
  • Gallon – The gallon is about $81.00
  • Buy here

Epifanes CV.500 Clear Varnish

In the boating industry, a lot of people like this particular product. It provides durability to the boat as much as it gives an excellent finish. If you want your boat adequately maintained while looking good, you might want to consider this.

The Epifanes Clear Varnish is the best when it comes to providing your boat with an attractive finish.

Apart from the durability and the finish, it is also easy to apply. Although you can if you want, you don’t really need to sand every coating, except for the last one, which guarantees a smooth finish.

And of course, it does provide excellent U.V. protection; it Is a marine varnish, after all. It is also compatible with all kinds of wood, and its finish can last up to 2 years.

Pros and Cons

Here we discuss a few pros and cons of the products, which will help you decide if it is something you can handle or not.

Pros

  • Very good shine and finish – It enhances the beauty of your boat with a very shine and finishes.
  • Excellent U.V. protection
  • Easy to use – Does not require any complicated procedures for application.

Cons

  • Does not dry very quickly – It takes a long time to dry, so it may not be the best option if you are working on a limited time frame.
  • Low Shelf Life – It cannot be stored for a long time, so it must be used on time.

Price

  • Quart – The quart costs about $36.39
  • Gallon – This gallon costs about $73.26
  • Buy here

TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish

TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish

The TotalBoat Gleam marine spar varnish is another product from the TotalBoat brand, just like the TotalBoat Lust marine varnish.

The TotalBoat Gleam marine spar varnish is considered the most versatile of them all. It is a combination of ease of use, fantastic finish, and above-average durability. It comes in different finishes and sizes, so you can choose the exact one you need for your project.

Unfortunately, the TotalBoat Gleam marine varnish is not as strong as the Lust. The finish can last up to 2 years, and sometimes less, if your wood is constantly exposed to elements.

Pros and Cons

Here we discuss a few pros and cons of the products, which will help you decide if it is something you can handle or not.

Pros

  • Versatile – Can be used both on the boat and household wood.
  • Very good satin finish – Provides a very smooth and clear satin finish.
  • High gloss protection – Because it’s glossy, it provides maximum protection against easy damages such as scratches, etc.
  • Not complicated to use – This product is very easy to use, as long as you thin it out properly.
  • Comes in varieties of shine and sizes – This product offers multiple options for different shines and finish such as glossy, satin, etc.

Cons

  • Not very durable – This product does not last very long under tough elements.

Price

  • Quart – The quart costs about $24.99
  • Gallon – This gallon costs about $109.99
  • Buy here

McCloskey 7509 Man O’War Spar Marine Varnish

McCloskey 7509 Man O'War Spar Marine Varnish

This marine varnish offers durability, deep ember tint, caramelization, and versatility.

Although it takes a long time to dry, it is very easy to use. It provides excellent U.V. protection and is waterproof. Also, it is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.

This protection has a positive reputation for professional sailors. This can last for a few years without showing any signs of flaking, chalking, cracking, or peeling.

Pros and Cons

Here we discuss a few pros and cons of the products, which will help you decide if it is something you can handle or not.

Pros

  • Excellent U.V. Protection – Provides maximum products again sum rays.
  • High resistance to bad weather – This product is resistant to water, salty air, and bad weather.
  • Good finish – Maintains the excellent appearance of the wooden surfaces.
  • Good satin finish – Creates a clear satin finish.
  • Versatile – Can be used on both boats and household wood.
  • Easy to use and clean – This product is easy to apply and clean.

Cons

  • Needs sanding – Requires a little sanding after each coating.
  • Limited Availability – It is not always on the market.
  • Slow Drying – This product takes a little longer to dry.

Price

  • Quart – The quart costs about $32.48
  • Gallon – This gallon costs about $95.00
  • Buy here

Epifanes WFM.500 Wood Finish Matte

Epifanes WFM.500 Wood Finish Matte

The main charm of the Epifanes WFM.500 Wood Finish Matte is its marine-grade durability. It provides excellent U.V. protection for hardwood. So if you are working with a hardwood such as teak, you should consider this.

The Epifanes WFM500 Wood Finish Matte also offers an excellent finish. It enhances the attractiveness of the boat by giving it a lovely satin sheen and soft matte effect.

Aside from the nice things this product offers, it is not the best start for a beginner, unfortunately. It requires a lot of attention. It has to be thinned appropriately, applied evenly with every coating, and quickly.

Pros and Cons

Here we discuss a few pros and cons of the products, which will help you decide if it is something you can handle or not.

Pros

  • Excellent durability: This product lasts very long.
  • U.V. Protection: Offer protects against sun rays.
  • Good satin and matte finish: Offers a very good satin and soft matte finish.
  • Flows Smoothing – Flows very smooth without thinning.
  • Enhances the attractiveness of the boat – It brings out the beauty of the wood very well.

Cons

  • Requires quick application – You have to apply the product very quickly, especially if it isn’t thinned.
  • Not beginner-friendly – It might be complicated for a beginner.

Price

  • Quart – The quart costs about $31.87
  • Gallon – This gallon costs about $87.75
  • Buy here 

Minwax 63200444 Helmsman Spar Urethane

Minwax 63200444 Helmsman Spar Urethane

The Minwax offers just about everything you need from a marine varnish. It is very durable, easy to use, and provides a good shine.

The Minwax marine varnish can be used on both the interior and exterior woodwork on the boat. It provides a protective barrier again rain and moisture when applied to the wood.

Pros and Cons

Here we discuss a few pros and cons of the products, which will help you decide if it is something you can handle or not.

Pros

  • Easytouse – It is generally easy to use.
  • Beginnerfriendly – It is not complicated to use for beginners.
  • Good enough durability – Just as durable as average marine varnishes.
  • Dries quickly – Although it is an oil-based product, the Minwax dries very quickly.

Cons

  • Not marine-grade – It is not precisely a marine grade varnish, so it might not be very effective.
  • Affects the color of the wood – It makes the wood look a bit darker.

Price

  • Quart – The quart costs about $19.00
  • Gallon – This gallon costs about $65.99
  • Buy here

Rust-Oleum 250141H Ultimate Spar

Rust-Oleum 250141H Ultimate Spar

If you look for the perfect marine varnish for exterior wood, this might interest you. The durability is good, and it offers maximum protection from mold, scratches, U.V. damages, and rough water.

It also offers a very good glossy finish, which you may need to maintain by cleaning with soap and water. This will keep the gloss as its optimal appearance.

Pros and Cons

Here we discuss a few pros and cons of the products, which will help you decide if it is something you can handle or not.

Pros

  • High durability – Like most Rust-Oleum marine varnishes, this is also very durable.
  • Water and bad weather resistance – High water resistance and harmful moisture resistance.
  • Can be cleaned – You can wash with soap and water because it is high water and moisture resistant.
  • Good for interior and exterior areas – This product can be used both on the interior and exterior areas of the boat.
  • Dries faster – Does not take time to dry.
  • Three finish choices – It comes in three finish choices: satin, gloss, and semi-gloss.

Cons

  • Affect the color of the wood – When the temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, it turns into a white tint.

Price

  • Quart – The quart costs about $34.00
  • Gallon – This gallon costs about $
  • Buy here

Duralux M738-1 Spar Varnish

Duralux M738-1 Spar Varnish

The Duralux M738-1 Spar Varnish is known for its durability and versatility. If you are looking for a marine varnish on the exterior areas, maximum protection and durability is usually the goal. This product provides you with both.

When applied, Duralux M738-1 Spar Varnish can keep your boat protected and shiny for a year and a half and more. The shine is excellent, and the finish is pretty decent.

Duralux M738-1 Spar Varnish does require regular sanding after coating. However, it does not yellow over time.

Pros and Cons

Here we discuss a few pros and cons of the products, which will help you decide if it is something you can handle or not.

Pros

  • Good enough durability – This product offers very decent durability.
  • Good finish – Provides a satisfying finish and shine.
  • Easy-to-use – Not complicated to use.
  • Does not yellow – Does not yellow over time.

Cons

  • Does not dry quickly – It takes time to dry.

Price

  • Quart – The quart costs about $23.00
  • Gallon – This gallon costs about $67.00
  • Buy here

The Most Reliable Marine Varnish Brands

Evidently, we can see that there are numerous marine varnish brands on the market today. But, in order to make the selection easier for you, I have highlighted the most trusted brands. These ratings are based not only on my opinions but also on professional sailors and consumers. Here they are:

  • TotalBoat
  • Rust-Oleum
  • Epifanes

FAQ

Question: How Long Does it Take for a Marine Varnish to Cure?

Answer: An average marine varnish dries to touch in 4 to 6 hours. But, under normal conditions, you should it to last from 8 to 16 hours before recoating.

Question: Is it Necessary to Sand Between Every Coating?

Answer: Although some marine varnishes are so good, you may not need to sand as much or at all.
But, in a normal case, it is always good to sand between coatings. Sanding does two things to the finish: first, it brings down any high knocks, making it smooth and even. And second, it creates tooth for the next coating so it can stick.

Question: How Long Does it Take for Marine Varnish to Completely Dry?

Answer: It totally depends in the thickness of the coating. For thin coats, they usually dry within 24 hours.  Also, it depends on the product you are using, I recommend you ask your dealer or a specialist for complete specifications.

Question: What is the Difference Between Curing and Drying?

Answer: Drying is when the solvent evaporates from the surface of the film, leaving it yack free.
When leftover solvents are removed from the film, it begins to bind with oxygen in the air, resulting in increased strength, toughness, damage tolerance, and chemical resistance.

Question: Is it Good to Put Marine Varnish Over Stain?

Answer: It depends on what type of stain. Marine varnishes are meant for exterior woods, and it can be used on unfinished wood surfaces. Both of which are likely to be stained, but they all have to be a dried completely.

Question: Can Marine Varnish be Painted on a Painted Surface?

Answer: Varnish can only adhere to a water-based paint. If, however, the surface you want to paint has oil-based paint on it, then you have to put a water-based primer to it, before applying varnish.

Question: Is Marine Varnish Oil Based?

Answer: Yes it is. Marine varnish is a natural oil based products, designed to protect the wood on our boats.

Question: Does Marine Varnish Darken Wood?

Answer: Generally, it does not. However, some marine varnishes does affect the color of the wood. Some give it a yellowish shade, and some makes it darker while some are just transparent. Also it depends on the thickness the varnish.

Question: What is the Longest a Marine Varnish Can Last?

Answer: For an average marine varnish, it can last up to 2 to 2 and a half years. While some really good ones can last up to 3 to 3 and a half years.

Conclusion

Marine varnishes are very important, especially if you care about the wellbeing of your boat. Today, there are so many brands producing all kinds of marine varnishes.

This makes it challenging to get the perfect one for you, especially if you don’t know much about marine varnishes. I have highlighted the top ten marine varnishes in this article with their features, pros, and cons. This will help you decide which one is best for you.

I like the TotalBoat 482869 Lust marine varnish the most. It provides maximum wood protection while equally enhancing the appearance. The high glossy nature of this product total helps it accomplish this effect.

If you think like you can handle the thickness of the product, I don’t see you facing much challenges with its application.

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