6 Best Varnish for Wood Reviews with Buying Guide

Have you ever worked with wood? Then, you know that without the right varnish, it'll end up being rough, course, and prone to damage. Varnish gives your wood the protection and durability it needs to stay in good quality for long periods.

However, they’re not all the same. They have different variations with various properties.

So, figuring out what’s the best varnish for wood isn't as straightforward as you might think. That's why we're here to make it easy for you; follow our guide, and you'll find 6 of the best solutions the market has to offer.

We've taken all their different properties into account before making this list. Thus, if you want the right varnish, you'll need to read through the article to the very end.

6 Best Varnish for Wood Reviews

It wasn't easy, but after various tests and experimentations, we could settle on the top 6 solutions. They all offer something new, so carefully read up on each review to see what fits your needs.

1. Epifanes Clear Varnish

Epifanes Clear Varnish

Epifanes is always a safe bet when it comes to quality protective solutions for wood. They've got a very solid track record of delivering some of the longest-lasting and durable varnishes out there.

There's a good reason why they're so renowned. Our favorite reason would be the sheer quality they bring to each of their solutions. This new varnish is proof of just that.

It uses world-class tung oil for wood to give this solution the strength and durability it needs to keep your wooden surfaces damage-free. Of course, it does a lot more than keep your wood safe. The clear varnish also gives the surfaces a gorgeous glossy texture.

Once you put this one, all your wooden furniture will become utterly gorgeous. The flow and gloss ease your eyes and transforms boring old wood into something new and exciting.

When it comes to durability, Epifanes offers advanced protection to ensure your products stay in tip-top condition. They even grant protection against UV lights to keep wooden surfaces undamaged when overexposed. No doubt, it’ll remain just as glossy and beautiful all the same.

Whether you need this for indoor or outdoor work, the Epifanes clear varnish is an excellent solution to any kind of woodwork. It’s incredibly versatile and simple to use too. Hardwood or softwood, every wooden surface will become gorgeous with a little help from this solution.


  • Advanced UV light protection
  • Uses incredibly high-quality tung oil
  • Superb glossy finish
  • Applicable to both indoor and outdoor furniture
  • Can help restore old wood to nearly perfect conditions


  • Not the best option if you want to keep the graininess of your wood
  • Requires some degree of patience to apply properly

2. TotalBoat Lust Marine Varnish

TotalBoat Lust Marine Varnish

One of the main reasons people apply varnish is to protect the material from the elements. However, when you're on a boat, your wood will be exposed to a lot of water. Rapid currents can easily wear down wood and eventually ruin its quality. So, can varnish really help you?

Absolutely! But you can't get away with any solution. You need top of the line varnish that was made specifically to handle the immense pressure.

TotalBoat is dedicated to providing some of the highest quality marine varnish you’ll ever work with. Its durability is on a whole new level as it can handle constant exposure to sunlight and water.

Yes, this solution provides heightened protection against UV lights. When you're out in the sea, you can't stay in the shade to protect your wood from the sun. Even when docked, your boat is going to stay in the sun to some degree. That's why you must keep your boat well-varnished.

TotalBoat’s solution offers exactly that. However, it actually does a lot more. You can go for a gorgeous matte or a glossy finish.

If you're a boat owner, then you know how it feels when you get your boat looking just right. When you apply this finish, your boat will end up looking absolutely spectacular. It'll definitely draw the attention of everyone at the dock.

Nevertheless, you might ask, “Won’t a finish this strong be hard to apply?” Generally, yes, but TotalBoat uses a fast-drying formula that’ll allow you to apply multiple coats.

You won’t even have to sand between every coat. As long as you sand lightly before the final coat, you’ll get an absolutely gorgeous and durable finish.


  • Astounding UV light protection
  • Easy and fast to apply
  • High resistance against water and waves
  • Pristine gloss or matte finish
  • Extremely durable through its oil-based design


  • You’ll need to thin out each coat by 50 or 25 percent for effective use
  • At its base, it’s very thick

3. Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish

Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish

If the previous marine varnish seemed too thick for your tastes, Rust-Oleum has a fantastic solution for you. They specialize in finishes for wood you'll keep outdoor.

So, you better believe they have excellent UV light protection for all your projects. Though mainly for boats, this varnish offers flexible use for any piece of wood you plan on keeping outside.

Like the previous unit, it offers a ton of protection against the elements. Of course, when you leave something outside, it has to deal with UV lights, rain, snow, and a lot more. If you don’t use the right finish, your wood will waste away and become more brittle as time goes on. That’s why Rust-Oleum’s solution is a must.

Next up, we have to praise its drying speed. In just 2 hours, the varnish will dry to the touch and make your projects ready for use. Applying coats become easy, and the quality of each coat is nothing to scoff at. Rust-Oleum's innovative formula is smart and effective no matter how you look at it.

How so? Well, this oil-based varnish reacts intelligently to changing weather conditions. It expands and contracts when needed to protect itself from different weather conditions. Ultimately, you get an incredibly durable and high-quality varnish that’ll last you throughout the ages.

No amount of salt or mildew will wear down your wood. Instead, you have a solution that’s bound to last you through the ages. With incredible durability and fantastic quality, this finish is worth every dime.


  • Outstanding resistance to UV lights
  • Perfect for outdoor projects such as boats
  • Crystal-clear glossy finish
  • Protects against both salt and mildew
  • Highly resistant to changing weather conditions


  • Requires some extra coats on furniture
  • People might not like the 2-hour drying time

4. TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish

TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish

We’re back again with another finish by the legendary TotalBoat. Yes, both this one and the previous formula of the company offer fantastic and durable finishes for boats. However, there's a lot about these varnishes that separate them from the last one. Let's take a look at how.

The biggest difference lies in the fact that this is a spar varnish. These are specially designed to work on outdoor materials. So, while you could use them indoors, they are much more effective and efficient when used for outdoor items.

Therefore, whether you’re going to finish a boat or a park bench, the Gleam varnish has your back.

Outdoor finishes must have two things – excellent UV protection and unparalleled water protection. Thankfully, this formula excels in both. You'll be left in awe of just how much quality the varnish provides for its price.

The finish both looks and feels utterly fantastic. You can even pick between a gloss or a satin finish based on what you like.

Applying this varnish is incredibly fun and rewarding. It dries up really quick, and you can get through all 3 recommended coats in just 1 day. That's right, in just 1 day, you'll be ready to set sail in a highly protected and glossy vessel.

Moreover, the solution is self-leveling and dries quite quickly. It even accounts for the temperature changes to enhance quality by many folds.

Overall, there’s no denying just how superb this varnish is. While it’s not very effective for indoor projects, you’ll be nothing short of satisfied with its performance on boats, benches, garden tables, and so on. No matter where you are or what season, the Gleam Marine Spar Varnish is perfect for you.


  • Outstanding durability and protection against UV lights
  • Water-resistance keeps your wood safe from rain and waves
  • Easy to apply due to self-leveling and quick drying
  • Transparent amber finish to preserve the original feel of the wood
  • Comes in Gloss or Satin finishes


  • Need to buy the gloss version as well if you want to apply satin textures
  • Ineffective on indoor items

5. Old Masters 92304 Spar Marine Varnish

Old Masters 92304 Spar Marine Varnish

For our penultimate entry, we're going to introduce one final spar varnish. If you’re someone who does many outdoor projects, the Old Masters varnish is an absolute treat for many reasons. Mainly, its exceptional UV protection and weather resistance.

Before we get into that, let's appreciate its versatile use. Of course, you shouldn't use spar varnish for indoor woods. However, this is an excellent formula to apply to your doors and windowsills.

You'll see just how expertly it handles environmental conditions. It's even effective on bathroom doors for that sweet water resistance. To tie it all off, the finish is absolutely gorgeous.

It takes a while to dry. You'll have to have quite a deal of patience to wait for it to dry off. However, we can assure you that it's worth it. More than worth it, in fact, as the protection it offers is incredible.

The oil-based solution uses a unique blend to adapt to the many weather conditions and keep our projects safe and in tip-top condition.

Let's not forget how easy it is to sand between coats. This essentially allows you to maximize quality. You can mold any piece of wood to look like you want it to. This freedom level makes it appealing to anybody who has a specific vision for how they want their projects to look.

There's no doubt that this varnish deserves to be on our list. Everything about it seems to work wonders. What's there not to love? It has excellent environmental protection, an appealing finish, and smooth application covered. All in all, it's a product that we absolutely love and must recommend.


  • Offers clear solutions with a slight amber tint
  • Highly effective for outdoor projects
  • Incredible UV and rain resistance
  • Flexible for a spar varnish
  • Easy to sand between coats


  • Takes a long time to dry
  • Not very good for indoor furniture

6. TotalBoat Envy 2 Part Varnish

TotalBoat Envy 2 Part Varnish

We had to include TotalBoat one last time before we finished off our listing. Why? Because they just have so many outstanding varnishes that each formula deserves your attention to some degree.

Of course, they're not all the same. They each offer a unique quality that makes them different. So, what does Envy 2 offer that Lust or Gleam does not? Longevity.

Don't get us wrong, both the Lust and Gleam models will last you a really long time. However, Envy 2 is on a whole new level. You can practically grow old with the finish as it can last you 5 times longer than most other varnishes can.

Plus, you’ll be surprised just how effective this formula is to offer support for this long while providing intense durability.

It's even easy to apply! If you're very particular about your projects' look and feel, you can choose to sand between coats. However, it's highly optional. If you prefer, you won't have to sand at all. Simply recoat it until you think it's ready! This makes application as easy as a breeze.

The Envy 2 offers a superior formula that offers enhanced protection. TotalBoat minimized their use of volatile organic compounds to enhance gloss and keep your projects in top condition. You'll get high resistance to abrasions and ultra-violet lights.

There’s no doubt that TotalBoat has expertise in quality varnishes, and the long-lasting Envy 2 is bound to leave other formulas jealous. Though it's a bit pricier, the money you'll save from not having to apply again makes it highly worth it.


  • Lasts much longer than other varnishes
  • Strong protection against abrasions and UV lights
  • Uses minimal VOCs
  • Quick to dry
  • Does not require sanding between coats


  • Gives off a strong initial smell
  • A bit pricier than other models

Things to Consider Before Buying

In our last section, we’ve gone over some of the best varnishes the market has to offer. However, you can’t just grab one of them and call it a day. You need to know what kind of finish you need for your own projects, whether it's for indoors or for outdoor wood paints.

That’s why you should go through this buying guide to figure out what you need exactly to get the finish you want. So, the following is a list of things you need to look out for.


The reason why anybody applies a finish is to protect the wood. If they can't, then there's no point. So, this is practically the first thing you need to look at.

Varnish for Wood

Can the varnish handle intense exposure; can it handle grinding against other materials; will it be able to prevent wear? These are the things you need to ask yourself when you check each product-description.

Make sure whatever you buy will prevent any forms of scratches and other hazards to keep your projects or furniture in good condition for as long as it can. Simply put, you must consider durability before you buy.


This goes hand in hand with durability. What’s the point of durability if it struggles against certain conditions? For example, floor paint for wood requires the highest level of resistance from different elements.  And there are lots of factors that can affect the quality of your finish.

It could be water from rain, the light of the sun, or even natural abrasion. Thankfully, many brands think ahead and make sure their varnish is as resistant to the elements as possible.

However, the degree of resistance varies. You won't have to shell out tons of cash on rain-resistant varnishes when you're finishing something that's going to stay indoors. So, consider what your items will go through before you settle on what resistances the varnish must-have.

Indoors or Outdoors

Indoor and outdoor varnishes are actually quite different. They have different formulas to specialize in each area. So, you shouldn't use indoor finishes on park benches or outdoor finishes on sofas. They just won't be effective.

Varnish for Wood

Therefore, you need to consider what you'll apply the varnish on in the first place. Are you making a boat? Then, get a spar varnish to enhance its resistance to the elements. Think like that, and you'll find the right varnish for you.


Finishes come in all sorts of appearances. Gloss, matte, satin are just some of the many options you have. This lies completely in personal preference. So, feel free to choose whichever finish you'll like.

However, there's a bit more to it. Not all varnishes are clear and transparent. Meaning, they can alter the appearance of the wood entirely. So, make sure you check what kind of tint the varnish gives off before you actually buy it.

While we would recommend clear and transparent finishes to preserve the wood's original look, you might not. As such, check the tint's opacity and the color based on what you think you might like.


Of course, you’ll want your finish to last as long as possible. However, each formula has a different lifespan. Naturally, varnishes with longer lifespans mean that you’ll need to pay more. However, they could save you some money as you won’t have to reapply as much.

Now, if your projects depreciate faster than the longevity, then that extra investment becomes a waste. That’s why you need to consider this detail before you choose which solution to buy.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are spar varnishes for?

These are finishes that offer superior support and quality to an outdoor project. They have higher elemental resistances and can handle outdoor conditions. However, they're not as effective for indoor items.

2. Do I need to sand between recoats?

Generally, it's a great idea to sand between recoats to enhance your finish's quality and appearance. However, some finishes reduce the need to sand between each coat.

3. How many coats should I apply?

This is different for each individual formula. Some require more, others require less. Make sure you check the recommended coats as listed on the tin to maximize results.

4. Do I need to thin the solution?

Sometimes, yes. If you find that the solution is too dense, you have to thin it to get some effective results. We recommend you take a small piece of wood and experiment before applying it to your main project.

5. Can varnishes help protect boats?

Absolutely! Marine varnishes were made to protect boats from water and UV lights, keeping them in top condition no matter how roughly you use them. We've recommended quite a few marine varnishes for this exact purpose. Check them out if you're interested.

Final Words

There are a lot of varnishes out there. It can be hard to find the right one, but now that you’ve gone through our guide, we’re confident you’ll find the best varnish for wood. Now, head out and give your projects the finish they deserve!

Leave a Comment