April 12, 2022

Wood Varnish Buyer’s Guide

Wood varnish is a thin coating applied to wood to protect it from water damage, stains, and exposure to ultraviolet light. When you decide to varnish your wood, you have to decide on the type of varnish you need, the finish durability, and the finish type.

Choosing the right varnish for you


This choice works best for eco-friendly consumers. It offers good value for money in terms of safety and quality. The product has a water base, which ensures a slight odor. It is a toxin-free option that is versatile. It works for both indoor and outdoor projects. Choose this if you want to protect wood paintings.


Consider the position of the wood because exterior varnishes will work better for outdoor projects. Some varnishes will not offer much against the elements. If the project has to be outside, you need an option with UV and fungal resistance. 


Choose between either water-based or oil-based.


These varnishes tend to be more eco-friendly and natural-looking. They also produce less odor and don’t cause wood to be yellow like oil-based products do.


These varnishes, while less eco-friendly, tend to offer more protection than water-based varnishes do.


Varnishes need to harden on the surface after application to protect the wood. You can find products set immediately (within hours of application) and products that harden over several days. The environment can also play a role in how quickly the varnish hardens. High temperatures and low humidity levels cause faster hardening, while soft and high humidity will slow down.

Mold-resistance. In the right conditions, mold can start to grow on wood if it’s not protected. Opting for a mold-resistant varnish will keep the wood looking great and keep it from rotting. Protection against heavy use. Some wood varnishes are more complex than others. The more complicated the varnish is, the better it will protect the wood from heavy use. This is an essential feature if you know the product will be used under strenuous conditions. An excellent example of this is a gymnasium floor.

Color / Finish

Wood varnish generally dries and hardens clear, leaving no noticeable color or finish on the wood. Some varnishes that feature color pigments or clear finishes are helpful if you don’t have time to do the staining/painting and varnishing in two different steps.

Best clear varnish for wood

TOTAL BOAT Gleam Marine Spar Varnish

This is a premium alternative that offers the consumer excellent waterproof qualities. It is best for any outdoor projects that need a highly compatible exterior varnish. As many coats will be required, it is impossible to use this varnish sparingly. This requirement drives the costs involved up. 


  • The product has a fast-drying formula
  • The finish is very clear 
  • It has self-levelling features 


  • You need to apply at least four coats of finish to the wood. 
  • A premium option that requires a high budget

Types of wood varnish

  1. Acrylic
  2. Exterior
  3. Interior
  4. Polyurethane
  5. Yacht (Marine Spar)

Wood varnish colours

  1. Light Oak
  2. Antique Pine
  3. Red Mahogany
  4. Walnut
  5. Medium Oak
  6. Pine
  7. Light Teak
  8. Ebony
  9. Dark Oak
  10. Brown Mahogany
  11. Dark teak

Best wood varnish for outdoor

Exterior varnishes are the best choice for any outdoor projects you wish to work on. This varnish typically features strong UV resistance, combined with resistance to mold. It seals the wood and ensures it can remain mold-free for life. This product can handle harsh outdoor elements without any hassle.

Best varnish for wood table

Polyurethane varnish is the best option for a wood table because it dries faster than other wood polishes. This product offers consumers the quickest and easiest way to handle a wooden table. It doesn’t leave many marks making it remarkably easy to use for beginners. You should need about two to four coats of varnish to get a complete finish.

Clear varnish for wood

This highly-rated product can provide various benefits apart from a clear finish. The product is tough and will protect wood against knocks, scuffs, and scratches. It is almost invisible, which allows the natural beauty of the wood to become more pronounced.

Home depot wood varnish

Home Depot offers a range of wood varnish products that are highly durable and water-resistant. It will work best for any kitchen cabinets, doors, or furniture. It is a good option for consumers who want to give a natural appearance to their furniture.

What type of wood varnish?

You can find wood varnish in lacquer, alkyd, polyurethane, acrylic, shellac, and resins. These options offer variety in terms of color, durability, and application.

Mild or Solvents?

Choosing a solid solvent over a mild will mean a high level of cleanliness is required. The strength of the solvent will be based on the nature of the soils being removed. Isopropyl alcohol, glycerin, and propylene glycol are the primary solvents.

Solvent or Water?

A solvent-based varnish is a good option because it is more natural and organic. It has a higher level of natural solvents than what you will find with water-based varnishes. These natural solvents help to dry the varnish faster. A regular paint film can then be formed without anything lost to evaporation. It prevents a less toxic odor from looming around the area whenever varnish is applied.

Hard or Soft?

The general rule of thumb is to avoid putting a hard finish on softwood. This action can lead to cracks forming in the wood whenever it experiences slight pressure. Dinges and dents will constitute if this happens.


After applying it to wood, a varnish odor will often be noticeable for many days. Even when dry, it can still smell for a few months later. Do your best to choose a non-toxic water-based solvent to avoid a lingering odor. Take the wood outside and let it air out for most of the day.


Dust will often stick to varnish that comes with a thicker consistency. The blemishes are often incorporated into the varnish when using a thick varnish. This feature makes them easy to spot. This should not be a problem. In the long term, you can expect general evenness and fewer craters.


Consider these brands if you want a reputable manufacturer of varnishes. 

  1. TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish.
  2. Epifanes Clear Varnish.
  3. Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish.
  4. System Three 1855S16 Clear Marine Spar Urethane Varnish Coating.
  5. Varnish Oil, Quar


  1. Oil varnishes.
  2. Spirit varnishes or lacquers. 
  3. Turpentine varnishes. 
  4. Water varnishes.


Water-based polyurethanes provide a clear, neutral finish and have a low odor.


Solvent-based varnishes are designed to feature mainly synthetic resins. These resins will be dissolved in petroleum. You can find similar features in most white spirits. You can choose this option if you need to varnish oil and acrylic paintings.

Leave a Reply