8 Best Varnish for Wood- Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

Who doesn’t love an excellent finish for their wood furniture? Since all of us prefer something catchy and beautiful, especially when it comes to household furniture, using the best varnish for wood would do the job. Even so, the type of wood finish that you will choose depends on so many factors such as location, color, as well as the gloss. 

Varnishing is essential on a wood surface if you are looking for a clear, hard, protective, and a shiny finish. 

In this article, we have reviewed some of the very best wood varnishes that we believe would do a great job when it comes to finishing your wooden structures.

Table of Contents

1. TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish

It is arguably the best varnish for wood that you can shop for, especially if you are a sailor. This formula is a certified marine grade varnish with UV inhibitors, phenolic resins as well as Tung oil. It gives your wooden surfaces an impressive, bright color finish. If moisture and UV are your problems, then you can end it by the use of this product.

One impressive feature of TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish is that it does not produce bubbles whatsoever. It dries into a very smooth finish. Besides, no thinning is required when using this formula as it has fast drying features that can allow you to apply several coats in a day. Moreso, it is transparent, and this plays an essential role in enhancing the natural beauty of the wood by exposing the wood grain. You don’t need additional color when using this product, and above all, it glistens when landed upon by sunlight.

Image of our best varnish for wood

Finally, it is available in many sizes, and you don’t need to be a professional to use it. 


The Summary of Top Features

  • It’s a classic marine spar varnish with Tung Oil, phenolic resins, and UV blockers. 
  • This formula will give your wood a beautiful, clear amber finish.
  • It is the ideal amber clear wood finish for both interior and exterior usage, especially in most areas and where UV resistance is critical.
  • It’s easy to use a formula with self-leveling features, and above all, it dries faster.



  • Use on both interior and exterior surfaces.
  • It’s available in multiple sizes as gallon, quart, and pint sizes.               
  • The formula is user friendly even for non-professionals
  • You can use it for bar tops, doors, boats, etc


  • It has some strong fumes.
Check Latest Price


2. Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish 1-Quart

As you can tell, there are several varnishes on the market out there, and sometimes it might be challenging to pick one. However, if you are looking for the best varnish for wood, then you must not shy away from choosing this product by the Rust-Oleum.

One thing about this product is that you can use it on multiple areas, for example, on exterior wood surfaces like on top of the waterline vessels, you can use it on railings, trims, and wood furniture. The formula is oil-based, which gives the finish a room for expansion and contraction depending on the prevailing weather conditions.

In terms of durability, this finish is a reliable one. Several sailors love this brand for its durability, especially when you compare it to the typical wood finishes thanks to the fact that it can expand and contract with the changes in weather conditions. Additionally, it offers your wooden surfaces extra protection. 

The Summary of Top Features

  • You can use it on several wood surfaces like trim, railings, and furniture.
  • It is an oil-based formula with the ability to expand and contract with changing atmospheric conditions.
  • It takes only 2 hours to dry to touch and covers up to 150 sq ft.
  • Resists UV, salt, and mildew
  • It’s a crystal-clear varnish with a beautiful gloss finish.


  • It resists UV, mildew, and salt damage
  • The formula is crystal-clear
  • It’s oil-based for deep penetration.


  • It’s flammable
  • Bad odor
Check Latest Price


3. Epifanes Clear Varnish

Is the dangerous UV light your concern? If that’s the case, then here’s the best varnish for wood to help guard your wooden structures against those rays. 

One of the extraordinary things about this formula is that it comes with a high-quality tung oil as part of its ingredients. For most boat owners, this product is the best because it provides an ultra-high gloss finish that is only available in this formula. This formula has a reputation for being the best exterior ultraviolet resistant varnish and rated highly by most boat builders and owners all over the world.

Epifanes spar varnish gives more than just the protection to your exterior wooden structures. If you are looking for a stunning appearance in the process, then you need this formula. Besides, it helps preserve the natural beauty of the wood by exposing the wood grain.

When it comes to application, this formula has the most simple one; you don’t need a lot of experience to apply this formula. Above all, it has some level of self-leveling, which is good gor your user experience.

The Summary of Top Features

  • The formula contains tung oil, phenolic as well as alkyd resins which gives this finish a superior flow, gloss, durability, as well as longevity.
  • It has UV filters for protection
  • You can use it on several applications
  • It’s a perfect formula for new wood or the restoration of old wood.


  • Works perfectly for restoring old wood as well as the new ones
  • Very durable and comes with high flow, amazing gloss as well as longer shelf-life
  • The formula has alkyd and phenolic resins, as well as Tung oil.
  • It provides a deep transparent finish.
  • This product is best for hardwood or softwood.


  • It might need multiple coats for the best results.
Check Latest Price


4. TotalBoat – 482869 Lust Marine Varnish (High Gloss, Quart)

The TotalBoat Lust Marine Varnish is another product that is worth considering if you are looking for the best wood finishes for your projects. With this formula, you get a deep rich finish with the very best protection against the UV lights.

It does a great job on both the external and internal applications giving your wooden structures clear, durable, and excellent finish.

Sailors, in particular, love this product thanks to the fact that it can enable you to apply many coats in a short duration. It beats its peers on the market mainly by its instant-drying abilities as well as the high-build formula that enable users to apply several coats in a short while without necessarily having to sand between layers.

The Summary of Top Features

  • It comes with exceptional service life, clarity, finish retention, as well as UV resistance for both interior and exterior brightwork.
  • The formula allows for rapid recoating.
  • It comes with a high-build, fast-drying ability that allows you to apply several coats per day without sanding between coats.
  • You can find this product in high gloss or matte finishes.


  • The formula is available in matte and high gloss finishes
  • It allows you to complete your work in a short time due to its fast-drying nature
  • The product does not need any sanding between coats
  • It is a high build formula


  • It’s a bit price
  • Complaints from users about bubbling
Check Latest Price


5. Epifanes Wood Finish Matte

When working with this formula, you need to know that it needs recoating, and therefore, you should always sand the surface slightly before doing your recoating work. This formula has one of the best leveling abilities and easy thinning or wiping on. 

For the lovers of the sleek satin finish, this is your product. Much as it has a reputation of a reliable marine product, it does well when you apply it to your wood furniture.

Among other factors that make this product, the best varnish for wood is the cost that friendly to any potential user. Most professionals love this formula because it is reliable and gives real value for money.

Note: This finish does drag much like glue, and its very first results following application might look uneven. However, it gets better as soon as it dries.

The Summary of Top Features

  • This formula is high build with a hard matte finish that does not need sanding between coats if you need to recoat within 72 hours.
  • The formula comes with U.V. protection.
  • It is one component of phenolic-modified alkyd resin and tung oil.


  • It comes with ultraviolet absorber
  • The formula has a uniquely hand-rubbed appearance
  • It can resist scratch as well as exterior weather
  • The formula does not need sanding if recoated within 72 hours
  • Guarantees extreme durability and high flow


  • An initial application is uneven
  • Has a glue-like drag
Check Latest Price


6. MCCLOSKEY 7509 Mow Spar Varn Gloss

Many experienced sailors, as well as boat makers, highly consider this product as one of the best varnishes for wood boats that you can find in the market today. It has one of the best durability you can get from a wood varnish and can serve you for years without flaking, cracking, chalking, or showing signs of peeling.

Besides, this product can contract and expand with the wood whenever there is a variation in weather conditions.

This formula beats its competitors in one major part, its superb gloss and adhesion; this makes the formula more versatile as unlike most of the other varnishes. You can use this product in sealing and shielding wood surfaces as it comes with a fade-proof property as well.

The Summary of Top Features

  • Has the ability to resist weathering
  • The product resists salty air and water
  • It’s the ideal product for use on boats
  • You can use it on outdoor furniture, fences, as well as for trim
  • It comes with maximum UV protection


  • This product is designed specifically to resist weathering.
  • Withstands water and salty air
  • It is ideal for different types of boats.


  • Takes a little longer to dry
Check Latest Price


7. System Three 1855S16 Clear Marine Spar Urethane Varnish Coating, 1 Quart Can

Here is another varnish finish that you should consider for your wooden projects. If you are looking for something that will give you high gloss with the ability to withstand harsh weather conditions, then this is your product.

Its usage is not limited to marine environments as you can use it on your interior surfaces as well as wooden furniture. In short, this product serves on multipurpose levels. Its application is one of the smoothest and cures into a sturdy finish. 

One feature of this product that will astonish you is its fantastic shine; above all, it is formulated to last for some years, even if in direct sunlight position.

The Summary of Top Features

  • This product is available in gloss and satin finish. 
  • It has high solid levels and complies with Volatile Organic Compound safety standards
  • The formula works well for marine and other exterior wood surfaces.
  • It can withstand salt air as well as water.
  • Has UV inhibitors


  • It’s excellent for outdoor wood surfaces as well as marine use.
  • The formula complies with VOC levels requirements.
  • You can find it in satin or gloss finish.
  • Resist water and salt air


  • Might be expensive to others
Check Latest Price


8. TotalBoat Halcyon Marine Varnish

This brand, the TotalBoat, does not need any introduction. It is among the best varnish for wood and has reviews for excellent performance among the marine finishing product users. One of its other varieties is the Halcyon Gloss Marine Varnish, which is a long-lasting product that you can use for your wooden structures. 

When you use this formula, you get a hard and lustrous finish. It gives a bright and easy to maintain the finish on the surfaces.

The formula is fast drying and allows for the application of up to five coats per day that does not call for sanding between coats. The more you continue to apply this coat, the higher the clarity and the depth of the finish. 

You can use this product on both exterior and interior applications and above the waterline usage. It’s water-based with low levels of VOC. 

The Summary of Top Features

  • It cures into a hard, glossy finish for amazing brightwork with ease of maintenance.
  • The formula dries faster to allow you to apply up to 5 coats a day.
  • It resists weather as well as UV light and comes with excellent adhesion and flexibility to allow for natural expansion and contraction of the wood.
  • The formula is easy to use and comes with self-leveling features.
  • It contains low levels of VOC.
  • It’s available in clear and amber gloss forms.


  • This product resists UV, scratch, and abrasion
  • It dries in no time
  • This product does not call for between coats sanding
  • Has the ability for high adhesion and allows the wood to contract and expand
  • Has no harsh fumes


  • A Bit tricky to apply
Check Latest Price


           Best Varnish for Wood Buyer’s Guide

Consider the following whenever you are in the market the best varnish for wood.


In most all of our buyer’s guides, we have stressed on the issue of pricing. The message remains the same “ don’t buy a product that is beyond your budget.” You should know that there are cheaper varnishes out there that have the same protective features as the expensive ones. Therefore, don’t get financial strains for trying to get expensive products.

Ease of Applications

 Some of these products might not be easy to apply, especially if you are a beginner in woodworking. If you are in the market for a varnish, ensure that you go for the ones that you will find easy to apply. In most cases, if not all, you will have a manufacturer’s recommendation on the best mode application on the product label.

Ease of Cleaning

Sometimes during the application, you might make mistakes such as when the formula drops on a different unintended surface or just correcting part of your surface. With an easy to clean formula, you will find it easy to rectify parts that you might have spilled the finish. Most water-based formulas are easy to clean.

Drying and Curing Time

Faster drying varnishes are easy to work with, especially if you are working on a short timeline. You should know your schedule and the time that your project should last before settling for a varnish product.


You don’t want to be going back and forth, making repairs on your surfaces, therefore, go for products that will serve you for a little while before they call for refinishing. Durable products save time as well as costs of constant repairs.

Types of Wood Varnishes

Exterior Varnish. This type of wood varnish works best for exterior surfaces. Even so, you will find that most exterior varnishes can be used on the interior environment as well.

Acrylic Varnish. Are not toxic and come with faster-drying properties and protection against elements such as ultraviolet rays. They are water-based and friendly to the environment.

Yacht or Spar Varnish. Majorly, this works best for boats and other above waterline structures. They are waterproof and prevent water from getting into contact with the timber.

Alkyd Varnish. They are products of modified vegetable or natural oil.

Polyurethane Varnish. These types are best for areas such as wooden floors that experience high foot traffic and are prone to wear and tear.


If you are working on wooden structures and you are looking to give it a beautiful looking finish, then you need to use the best varnish for wood. There are so many varnishes out there, but thankfully, we have only picked the very best that will serve your projects in the best way possible.

Our best overall product, in this case, is the TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish.

Furthermore, we have provided a buyer’s guide to help you with decision making on some of the factors that you need to consider before shopping for your varnish product. We hope that this article will be helpful in your quest. Feel free to drop a comment on what you think about the products. Happy shopping!

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.