No one can argue with the fact that paint is the best when protecting your wood from UV rays. But outdoor wood needs protection not only from UV but also from other factors like moisture.
When wood is left unprotected and exposed to moisture, it ends up rotting. Sunlight changes the natural color of your wood, and thus you need to protect it from both sunlight and moisture.
If you need to protect your wood and ensure its natural beauty remains intact, you will have to use a clear finish. Clear finishes come in three primary forms: epoxy sealer, varnish, and oil. The differences between these finishes include service life, penetration, and ease of application.
Our Top Best Outdoor Wood Finishes
- General Finishes Outdoor Oil
- Rust-Oleum 9441 Ultimate Spar Urethane Oil Based, Quart, Semi-Gloss
- Penofin Deep Penetrating Oil Treatment for Exotic Hardwood Exterior, Wood Stain Natural Finish
- Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish,
- Epifanes Clear Varnish
- TotalBoat Halcyon Marine Varnish
- Art’ N Glow Clear Casting and Coating Epoxy Resin
- Deep Pour Epoxy Resin Kit Crystal Clear Liquid Glass
Review of Best Outdoor Wood Finishes
Before you get started on your project, you have to understand different manufacturers create different products. Here are some of the products you can consider using.
1. General Finishes Outdoor Oil – Overall best outdoor wood finish
General Finishes has been manufacturing outdoor oil for wood surfaces and is considered among the best in the market. This exterior topcoat is our best outdoor wood finish.
- The outdoor oil penetrates through wood and acts as a preservative used for maintenance.
- Has heat stabilizers and mildew and UV prohibitor.
It can be used on its own or applied on top of a stain. The product is also good on pressure-treated wood.
It is specially made for outdoor furniture and other wood projects meant for outdoor use.
Advantages of using it
- Your wood will withstand extreme weather conditions and changes for months.
This is due to essential components in general finish outdoor oil that protects the wood against moisture and sunlight.
- It is easy to apply. All you need is to ensure your surface is clean and then use the oil as indicated by the manufacturer.
Apply several coats for maximum protection.
- You can use it on top of other finishes such as varnish to help protect your wood and maintain natural beauty.
Note that; you should wait for about 36 hours after applying the oil before you can start using your outdoor furniture. This allows the oil to penetrate through the wood fibers fully.
The disadvantage of using it
- Exterior oil works for a maximum of one year, requiring the application of a new coat annually.
This product protects against weather changes. It has essential components that fight against moisture and UV rays.
Advantages of using it
- It offers strong resistance to weathering and graying, ensuring that your outdoor furniture remains its original color.
- The finish can shrink and stretch, making it ideal for weather changes.
- Ideal for use on wood surfaces beyond the waterline, including fittings, railings, and wooden mechanisms
Some people may avoid using furniture made from pressure-treated wood since it is not advisable to use such wood in areas where people frequently touch it.
They prefer using untreated timber and then using light stains to keep the color bright and reflect sunlight.
If you choose the same, you can apply about five coats of this product, and it will ensure your furniture is well protected. Be sure to sand the surface in between coats lightly.
- The oil is easy to apply. You only need to follow the steps provided by the manufacturer.
- Apart from using it on your furniture, you can also apply it to your fence and trim.
- It is not suitable to apply on decks, sidings, or other areas with high traffic as it will wear off quickly.
- It lasts for a maximum of one year before it wears off, so you will need to refinish your furniture again.
- Can penetrate dense hardwood. Therefore it is suitable for hardwood-made furniture that requires stabilizing and nourishing.
- The oil penetrates deep into the wood fibers without creating a film on the surface.
- Unlike other finishes, Penofin’s Hardwood Oil Treatment does not coat the surface. Instead, it penetrates through the wood using harvested Brazilian Rosewood oil to ensure longevity and maintain natural beauty.
- It has been specially formulated to allow the wood to breathe, which is essential when working with exotic hardwood like teak and mahogany.
- It is easy to apply as the instructions are displayed on the can.
- Requires thorough sanding to provide a clean surface.
- Some consumers have complained that the product changes the natural color of their wood to black, even after a good sanding.
- The finish does not provide long-term protection, so you have to reapply after 3 to 6 months.
- The varnish brings out your furniture’s natural beauty and protects your wood against sunlight and moisture for years.
- Performs well even in harsh conditions such as the California Summer or winter up North.
- Once applied, the varnish expands and contracts according to the weather conditions. Therefore it stays for a long time without wearing off or cracking.
- The product works well above the waterline. This makes it suitable for protection against moisture. Boat makers also prefer the product due to this feature.
- The Varnish is crystal clear and leaves an attractive gloss finish while providing maximum protection.
- Some consumers have complained of their projects having tiny bubbles after using the product. This may result from mixing the product with thinner, which is not advisable as it brings unpleasant results.
China bristle brushes are recommended but advised not to wash them with thinner coats as it can be problematic.
However, you can use a new foam paintbrush for every coat you apply since foam brushes are cheap and affordable.
The manufacturer indicates no need to sand the surface between coats if you allow the application to dry for 12 hours.
This product comes from the world-known Holland Company known as Epifanes, famous for making top-quality paint-related products.
- The product provides your furniture with protection against UV rays and moisture.
- The varnish is essential when refurbishing old furniture; it gives it a new shiny look for years.
- It is suitable for both softwood and hardwood, in case your furniture contains different types of wood.
- The product is friendly for outdoor and indoor furniture and does not worry about a bad smell.
- Epifanes Clear Varnish contains alkyd resin, tung oil, and phenolic resin, ensuring your wood is well protected.
- It has the ability to protect your wood against moisture from saltwater; This makes it a good finish for a boat.
- Epifanes Clear Varnish provides a high gloss finish to your wood, giving it a stunning look.
- It takes a long time for each coat to dry and harden.
- This product is not user-friendly for a person with no experience in varnish since it is high-grade.
It would be best to be careful and patient when using it for the first time, as you may find yourself struggling to get a clean and smooth finish.
Clear Gloss Water-Based Polyurethane Wood Finish with UV Protection for Indoor and Outdoor Use. The product has been developed to withstand UV radiation and moisture from salt and fresh water, making it an outstanding alternative for every wood protection requirement.
The finish can be applied via spraying, brushing, or rolling, so you have various application tools to choose from.
Unlike the Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish, which takes around 12 hours to dry completely, this product from TotalBoat dries up in an hour, which means that you can add multiple coats and be done within one day.
The product comes in Gloss or Satin, and you can also choose to use both depending on the appearance you need after completing your project. Satin varnish provides your wood with a natural look, while Gloss will give it a gorgeous sheen.
TotalBoat Halcyon Marine Varnish is an affordable product that assures your furniture total protection from UV radiation and moisture while providing an elegant appearance. Additionally, the product can be used for both indoor and outdoor applications. Most customers prefer the product because of its ease of use and self-leveling features.
This is considered to be the most reliable and easiest epoxy resin to use. The epoxy is a crystal clear product that guarantees high performance, and you only need two simple steps when applying it to your outdoor furniture.
How to apply epoxy crystal
1. Before you apply the epoxy, ensure you use the correct ratio when mixing equal amounts of hardener and resin. The company recommends applying a seal coat before applying the flood coat, which measures about 1/8 inches.
You can add more flood coats or apply just on, but adding more flood coats increases the thickness.
2. It is worth noting that you will have to wait for at least 72 hours for the epoxy to cure, so you should be prepared to wait a few days before you can start using your furniture. Additionally, ensure you place the product at a temperature of more than 75 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid tampering with the product’s viscosity.
After you have cured your furniture with this product, it becomes durable and can withstand the test of time. The epoxy resin ensures the surface of your tabletop is liquid and abrasion-resistant.
This product is clear and does alter the natural appearance of the table. Additionally, ProMarine Supplies Crystal Clear Tabletop Epoxy Resin has been approved by the FDA, so it is safe to be on any surface that comes in contact with food.
Art’ N Glow decided to introduce a kit consisting of two bottles containing resin and the other hardener. The resin has been professionally mixed with a ratio of 1:1, with the actual content being a glass-like clear and durable finish.
The kit is effective due to its mixing, flowing, and leveling smoothly, making it among the top options for you.
- Once you have mixed the content, you have a window of about 40 minutes before the mixture becomes unusable. Therefore, you will have plenty of time to apply the mixture to your project and not have to worry about the mixture hardening after a few minutes.
- The epoxy is developed in a manner where it matches every casting mold. Therefore, you will have a chance to decorate your furniture using materials such as jewelry and figurines
- it does not have a strong odor
- Has a slow curing time – the curing process takes about 72 hours.
The kit contains FGCI DEEP Pour Epoxy, which comes in two parts of a ¾-gallon that you can use to create 4-inch pours.
- The resin is ultra-thick, making it perfect for casts, live edges, and river tables. The formula is transparent and glossy, but you have the option of changing that using mica powder.
- It also contains UV blockers that are essential in helping the epoxy withstand sunlight during summer. The product has a glossy finish that makes your project seem flawless.
- It takes a long time to cure completely. The formula will need about 72 two hours to gel and another 72 hours to cure.
Buyer’s Guide; When shopping for the best outdoor wood finishes
Applying an exterior finish is the quickest and simplest of treat your outdoor furniture. However, it is worth noting that using exterior oil protects your wood for only one year.
Unlike other finishes, exterior oil does not have a protective film seating on top of your wood. Instead, it soaks into the fibers of the wood and dries.
Additionally, such oils contain added trans-oxide pigments, helpful in protecting your furniture against sunlight. They also have mildew which is essential in protecting the wood against moisture.
The application of external oil is simple, as you only need a rag and garden sprayer. You will first flood your furniture with oil using the garden sprayer.
Check out the Chapin International 1002 48-Oz Multi-Purpose Sprayer, an essential tool when performing this task. After you are done with spraying, let the oil soak as indicated in the user manual, and then wipe it off.
Exterior Oil Application: Tang oil vs linseed oil vs Danish oil
If your wood requires staining before oil application, then you will need to apply a water-based stain. Oil-based paint will seal the wood and prevent the oil from soaking into the wood fiber, and neither will you achieve your desired finish.
If you have any wood offcuts, you should begin by applying the oil to them. If you are using the oil on different types of wood, you should know that the oil will bring out different appearances depending on the texture and physical appearance of the pieces.
As such, you may need to tint the oil if your furniture has some light wood. For instance, you could be using cedar and pine even if pine is lighter than cedar.
You should also know that wood oil only works on surfaces that have not been sealed or treated with oil-based stains. It is worth noting that outdoor furniture that has been finished using oil may lose its finish but still be protected.
You can apply Danish and teak oil using a soft brush piece of cloth or rag. Remember to sand each applied layer with fine sandpaper. Three or four coats will work effectively. Also, ensure to wipe off any excess oil using a piece of cloth.
Standard and raw linseed oil usually take longer to soak and dry as compared to other wood oils. Therefore, manufacturers will advise you to wait three or four days in between coats. Additionally, untreated or new wood will require a minimum of five coats, and you do not need to sand in between coats.
When applying tung oil, you will need to use the wet no wet burnishing technique, which requires expertise. As such, you will need the help of a professional painter to apply tung oil. The surface should also be sanded after applying each coat, even if the wood is new. You will need to use about three coats. Additionally, tung oil takes a long to dry, so you will have to wait for three days in between each coat.
Application of exterior varnish ensures your furniture is protected from sunlight and moisture by building a protective layer over it. Varnish offers superior durability and protection as compared to exterior oil.
Exterior varnish is applied using a natural bristle brush, and you have to apply multiple coats depending on the recommendations from the manufacturer.
Most manufacturers recommend eight thin coats to help protect your wood and provide a deep lustrous finish to your outdoor furniture. Ensure to sand the dried varnish in between coats.
Before exterior varnish begins to look chalky, it will protect your furniture for around three years. Whenever you see a chalky film starting to develop, know that it is time to reapply for a new finish. All you have to do is sand the topcoat and apply a fresh varnish coat. Ensure you reapply a new coat of varnish immediately you notice the chalky film.
It will prevent the old varnish from developing cracks that would let moisture penetrate the wood, necessitating you to delete the entire varnish or replace your furniture.
Exterior Varnish Application
Before you apply varnish to your outdoor furniture, ensure that the surface is well sanded. Do not start varnishing until you are sure the surface is sanded and cleaned. Additionally, the working areas should be clean since varnish dries slowly and attract dust and loose debris. You should note that the success of your project partially depends on the cleanliness of your working space.
It would be best to use a newly purchased varnish as the leftover from your previous project could compromise the final results. Moreover, you should use a natural-bristle brush. Do not use any brush whose bristles come off when firmly clenched.
Stir the varnish systematically using a clean stick and not hurry as it could lead to bubbles. The next step is to pour enough varnish for the first coat. Be careful not to spray excess varnish to avoid too much waste.
Add a thinning agent such as gum turpentine to your varnish and mix systematically. The thinning agent prevents varnish from drying faster, ensuring it counteracts any imperfections on the surface, including burbles and streaks.
You may ask yourself how much thinner is needed. The opinion may vary, but I would recommend creating a mixture that contains 25 percent thinner if you are applying the first coat. The other coats should have 10 percent thinner.
When applying your varnish, use a light touch, ensuring only the tip of your brush bends during application. For smooth application, begin at the upper left corner of your surface if you are right-handed. Apply a one-foot square area and stroke towards the direction of the grain on your wood. Do not apply the varnish back and forth.
Continue with the process until your project has a full coat. Be sure to tip off while the varnish is still wet by dragging the tip of the brush over your work to ensure the remaining streaks and lingering bubbles are eradicated. The tipping stroke should follow the direction of the application stroke, which is also the direction of the wood grain.
If you want your project to be flawless:
- Apply several thin coats instead of a few thick coats.
- Sand the surface after the first two coats, and wipe the debris off using a clean cloth before applying another coat.
- Do the same for all other coats.
If you want your outdoor furniture to have the most durable protection, you need to apply a coat of epoxy sealer on top of the varnish. Boatbuilders prefer this finish, so it is safe to say that it will guarantee maximum protection against moisture.
Exterior varnish and epoxy have a unique relationship as epoxy creates an impenetrable barrier that prevents moisture from shrinking or swelling the wood. As a result, your furniture will have longer life as the wood will not shrink or stretch. In return, exterior varnish provides UV protection, which prevents the epoxy from rapidly deteriorating.
For best results, apply three thin coats and ensure the coats are even using a foam roller cut in half. Curing epoxy depends on your formulation and ambient temperature. Do not forget to use a long open time, like 30 minutes, to help ensure you are done before it sets up. If your project is vast, mix the epoxy in small quantities to not set it before you finish. Additionally, ensure you use epoxy with no thickeners to help it penetrate through the wood fibers.
Epoxy Sealer Application
When you apply epoxy to cure your furniture, you seal and protect it from the environment. Epoxy becomes inert when cured, so it is essential when used for sealing before finishing since it is compatible with exterior finishes.
If you intend to use the epoxy on the legs of your furniture, turn the pieces upside down and then sand the surface to ensure it is smooth. Choose an epoxy that takes about 12 hours to cure. The long wait period gives the epoxy time to soak into the wood fibers.
Mix the epoxy and spread it evenly across the grain, ensuring you push it into the pores using a stirring stick. The primary aim is to provide the epoxy to smoothen the surface and leaves no pores. Leave the apple substance to soak for a couple of minutes, and then scrape off excess epoxy using a squeegee.
Be sure not to apply a thick layer of epoxy as it could chip off. After you are done, leave it for around 12 hours to fully cure, and then sand the surface to ensure it is smooth. The simple steps will ensure your furniture is protected against sunlight and moisture for a long time.
Best outdoor wood finishes a summary
You do not have to worry about your outdoor furniture getting damaged because of weather changes. You can protect the wood by applying wood oil, varnish, or epoxy.
Alternatively, you can combine the choices to ensure your wood is fully protected and the natural appearance remains intact.
Either way, you will enjoy doing this project since most of the products available are easily applicable. Furthermore, you can purchase the tools at your local hardware or online while also buying the protection agents.