The Best Marine Varnishes of 2021

Nicholas Swartz
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Ready to seal your wood on your boat with a protective finish that can withstand corrosion from the elements? Good, because the beauty of well-varnished wood makes almost any boat even nicer than before.

However, particularly the salt that comes with marine boating is particuarly hard on the wood. Therefore, a good marine varnish is truly essential. There are a few different types of marine varnishes to choose from. Some are for exterior use and others are for interior use. To ensure you order the right one, take a look at the information below.

NameCategoryProduct
TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar VarnishBest OverallTotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish
Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar VarnishBudget PickRust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish
Epifanes Wood Finish MatteUpgrade PickEpifanes Wood Finish Matte

1. TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish

Our rating: 9 / 10

TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish

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Pros:

  • Available in Satin and Gloss finish options
  • Great for wood exteriors
  • Dries quick (1hr, 3 coats/day)
  • Provides great finish
  • Waterproof
  • strong UV protection
  • Does not peel nor crack over time (flexible with wood)

TotalBoat comes to us from a company that has been in business since 1946. They are dedicated to high quality finishes that are easy to work with and most importantly safe. The TotalBoat Gleam Marine Varnish is a high-quality tung oil based varnish that creates a tough, flexible, water repellent finish. This is the ultimate gloss varnish that survives under strong UV exposure.

TotalBoat Gleam marine varnish is great for any application where you need a gloss finish. It can be used on most wood boats, wood furniture, railing, decks, outdoor tables and much more. Spar varnishes are great for outdoor use because of their UV and moisture protection and thet are flexible and very tough.

2. MCCLOSKEY 7509 Mow Spar Varn Gloss

Our rating: 9 / 10

MCCLOSKEY 7509 Mow Spar Varn Gloss

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Pros:

  • Resitant to salty air and water
  • Opaque and long-lasting
  • Waterproof

Cons:

  • Slow drying (up to 15 hours per coat)

McCloud 7509 Mow Spar Varn Gloss is a marine varnish that’s good for use on wood, fiberglass, and metal. Features a clear gloss finish and is water-repellent which is ideal for boat interiors, decks, and woodwork.

McCloud works best with thinner layers, but more of them. It might also be a good idea to try to use it with a sprayer for use with their Mow Spar varnish.

3. Epifanes Clear Varnish

Our rating: 9 / 10

Epifanes Clear Varnish

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Pros:

  • Paints on smoothly and self-levels
  • Quick-drying and resists nicks and scratches
  • Excellent gloss
  • Excellent UV protection
  • Highest quality ingredients

Cons:

  • Thin consistency may require more coats for same coverage.

Wood restoration requires a serious amount of protection from moisture and ultra-violet light. Particularly when exposed to the harsh elements of the sea. The Epifanes Clear Marine Varnish has a superior level of protection against both.

This marine varnish is made specifically for the boating community. It is made to protect against moisture as well as ultra-violet light. This makes it an excellent option for boat decks & furniture, boat docks and outdoor surfaces that need a certain level of protection from the sun.

The consistency of this varnish is thinner than your standard marine varnish! This allows for an even application that, while thin, doesn’t require a lot of coats to get full coverage. It also lends itself better than other marine varnishes for spraying thanks to this feature.

4. Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish

Our rating: 9 / 10

Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish

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Pros:

  • Comes in a jar
  • Quick dry time
  • High gloss
  • Affordable

Rust-Oleum’s Marine Spar Urethane Wood Finish is a beautiful finish for outdoor and marine use. It’s also resistant to water and mildew.

This finish is a Spar urethane wood finish. The metal can could be easier to dispense with for example with an included long nozzle tip, and the paint can be thinned as per usual.

This is not a varnish for indoor use due to excessive drying time and strong odor that can get worse with time. It can have a rather strong chemical smell, so it’s not for everyone. But that's probably true for most of them.

5. Interlux Y96/QT Schooner Varnish

Our rating: 9 / 10

Interlux Y96/QT Schooner Varnish

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Pros:

  • Available in smaller sizes for touchups
  • Provides protection to wooden surfaces

Founded in 1881, Interlux is an international producer of high quality boat coatings specifically formulated for wooden surfaces.

The founders had differential interests, making it the perfect company for a trifecta of boat care products.

6. Epifanes Wood Finish Matte

Our rating: 9 / 10

Epifanes Wood Finish Matte

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Pros:

  • Easy to apply
  • Water and UV resistant

Cons:

  • Slow drying times

You’ll love this varnish if you’re just getting into the marine world. Epifanes is a high-quality acrylic marine finish that protects your boat against water, UV, and more. It’s available in both gloss and satin varieties.

This varnish is unique because it’s completely different from the typical varnish you’ll find on the market. It has a great finish that needs a rather long time to dry. However, this is due to its extremely high quality. You need to give it like 3 days before you can sand between coats, but the results speak for themselves. However, don't get this if you are in a hurry.

The satin helps to emphasize the natural beauty and color of your boat. If you’re looking to add some sheen and luster then this is a great option.

7. TotalBoat Halcyon Marine Varnish

Our rating: 9 / 10

TotalBoat Halcyon Marine Varnish

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Pros:

  • Up to 5 coats per day
  • Innovative pouring design
  • Low VOC level

Cons:

  • Pour Pak design not as great as designers thought it was

TotalBoat Halcyon Marine Varnish could be ported into many uses. It could be a finishing coat for a final product such as wood furniture. So the final product would give your furniture a shiny and water-resistant finish.

Halcyon is resistance to bacterium, so it would be good for marine and outdoor uses as well.

Halcyon would be the best choice for finishing touch ups. It is definitely better to repair old and scratched wood surfaces than to re-stain them. The best solution would be to seal them.

8. TotalBoat Lust Marine Varnish

Our rating: 8 / 10

TotalBoat Lust Marine Varnish

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Pros:

  • Thick, easy to apply and dry quickly
  • Great for penetrating the wood grain
  • We recommend to use a synthetic bristle brush for best results

Cons:

  • Takes several coats to achieve the desired thickness or desired gloss.
  • If not applied properly, can easily peel off in parts

In short, TotalBoat Lust is an excellent varnish for a mid-value price if it’s made in the USA, but available only from the manufacturer. The gallon will cover approximately 225-250 sq feet of area.

The gallons are a bit large for a single use, but it’s a great value.

9. System Three 1855S16 Clear Marine Spar Urethane Varnish Coating

Our rating: 8 / 10

System Three 1855S16 Clear Marine Spar Urethane Varnish Coating

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Pros:

  • Adheres to wood, fiberglass, metal, plastic, and most non-porous surfaces
  • Hard finish with good flexibility
  • Quick drying and low odor

Cons:

  • Rather expensive
  • You have to wait rather long before applying another coat

10. Epifanes Wood Finish Gloss

Our rating: 8 / 10

Epifanes Wood Finish Gloss

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Pros:

  • Great for woodworking walls, doors, furniture, and floors
  • Won’t yellow, crack, or peel
  • Super build-up resistance
  • Unlike other varnish, this one will not chip off
  • Easy to apply
  • Resistant to salty water

This product comes in two varieties: gloss and matte. It’s also offered in several sizes.

You can also use it to protect and enrich your woodworking floors, doors, and furniture.

11. Waterlox TB6032 QT Satin Marine Finish

Our rating: 8 / 10

Waterlox TB6032 QT Satin Marine Finish

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Pros:

  • Can be used indoors or outdoors
  • Not just for boats – works on cabinetry, furniture and floors
  • Hard-wearing, durable finish
  • Easy to apply, and walk on 48 hours after application

Cons:

  • Requires careful maintenance

The finish can be sanded, but it can be filled, wiped and rubbed down. It has to be re-applied after 1-2 years.

12. TotalBoat Marine Wood Finish

Our rating: 7 / 10

TotalBoat Marine Wood Finish

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Pros:

  • Dries to a natural satin look
  • Great quality
  • Easy to apply

A quality marine varnish should allow you to finish the job without any fuss. And if that’s what you’re looking for, TotalBoat Marine Wood Finish is your product.

If surface preparation is your key concern, this medium- to light-bodied varnish should be your top pick. It forms readily with catalyst allowing a 15-minute working time with brush or roller application after catalyst activation.

It offers good penetration with minimal yellowing. With a good coverage, the TotalBoat Marine Wood Finish dries to a natural satin sheen.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best marine varnish?

If your boat is made of wood or has substantial wood components, then it is definitely worthwhile to invest in a great marine varnish. Paint will wear off at a much faster pace without it. If your boat is made of aluminum, fiberglass or other non-wooden materials, just paint it with some marine enamel paint.

Varnish brings out the natural color of the wood on your boat faster. The right kind of varnish can even add shine to it. The surface of your boat will be smoother, which has its advantages on the water.

Varnish also adds UV resistance to the exterior of your boat. Marine varnishes are available in gloss and satin. Satin is much more resistant to scratches than gloss.

Varnish protects your boat from moisture, rust, and other contaminants. There are also many varnishes that are resistant to algae and other marine growth. These can be found particularly if your boat is stored in a salty area.

What is the best marine varnish for Teak?

Teak is a popular material in yachts and other boats because of its excellent durability and resilience. The varnish required to protect such a high-quality material needs to be both durable and easy to apply.

Teak is heavy in a lot of boats so applying a cheap, poor-quality varnish could be just as damaging as not applying a varnish altogether.

It is suggested that stripping out and sanding a varnished teak is better to do every three years or so to keep the wood in good condition.

What is the best varnish?

I did a lot of research so I could answer this question. Knowing all the answers to your questions is my job and we answer all the questions in this article above.

What is the difference between spar varnish and marine varnish?

Spar varnish is used by boat owners on their decks, railings, and other wooden structures. Often, you will get a brighter, shinier finish with spar varnish than with standard varnishes. The reason for this is an additive in spar varnish to give it a mild UV inhibitor. This block helps shield the wood from sun fading.

Always check with the product label to make sure the product you buy has the proper UV block, as have most of the products on our list.

Good spar varnishes will be compatible with other coats of varnish. If you are purchasing spar varnish, make sure to check out the compatibility with the other products you may be wanting to use.

Conclusion

This article lists the best varnish products for the marine industry at the present. Note: This list is for external use only. Some of these products can be used internally if you use proper personal protective equipment and if so directed by the manufacturer.

Apart from varnishes, most boat owners seem to be interested in epoxy paints. There are quite a lot of reasons why they’re appealing. But did you know that the effectiveness of the protection they offer is determined by the way you apply them?

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar VarnishBest OverallTotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish
Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar VarnishBudget PickRust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish
Epifanes Wood Finish MatteUpgrade PickEpifanes Wood Finish Matte