If you like a good light wood colorlike pine and really want that natural timber look and feel to come through then you’ve come to the right place – however not all wood is quite as shiny as the pictured example above. In this article I’ve looked at the normal exterior varnish finishes including gloss and satin (matt is better for interior varnish) to give you the best overall understanding as to which exterior varnish is going to suit you and your woodwork. We’ve rated the best exterior outdoor varnish based on overall protection (does rain water form beads and run away), discolouration of timber, the quality of the finish and how it looks (bubbles?), ease of application, as well as the price 🔥 And just before you dive in, please feel free to take a look at how to get the most from your exterior varnish and some of the best methods and practises 😉
The oil-based nature of this product gives it a finish that is unique when compared to other products of this type. Most are water-based, which produces a hard and clear finish. While this is great from a durability standpoint, it doesn’t add much of anything to the beauty and visual appeal of the wood. If you want something that will make those grains pop like never before, this is a great one. Not only will it provide the hard and durable surface that you want, but it will also darken the wood, almost like a stain, giving your surface a classic antique look that is both classy and cheap to produce. (edited by Jeremy Parker from Harare, Zimbabwe on November 24, 2021)
According to Nicky Stover from wood-finishes-direct.com, a question we get asked a lot here at Wood Finishes Direct is “What is the best exterior wood treatment?”. Unfortunately, there’s no single product that is better than another for every project and type of wood. In fact, deciding what product should be used can be a complex matter. That’s why we invest heavily in the training of our sales and service team, or as we call them, the SAS team. All of our support staff are rigorously trained so that they’re familiar with the products we stock, their properties and their suitability for any number of given scenarios. This means that we’re always able to give expert advice and guidance on which products and brands are best suited to your project. (credit goes to Cyndy Lundy from Xingtai, China for their answer).
Of the three clear exterior finishes, exterior oil is by far the simplest finish to apply. Just flow it on, let it soak in, and wipe off the excess. Unfortunately, oil offers the least amount of protection and it must be reapplied every season. Exterior varnish, on the other hand, is more difficult to apply: up to 8 coats have to be carefully brushed on. While exterior varnish offers excellent protection from moisture and UV light, it has to be recoated every few years to maintain that protection. An epoxy sealer with an exterior varnish topcoat is the most durable outdoor finish and can last for many, many years. However, the initial application does take longer than exterior varnish. (last modified 40 days ago by Stefanee Edwards from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia)
Shelby Patino at practical-sailor.com, explains how like spotting land after a long passage, were glad to say that the end of our long-term exterior wood finishes test is finally on the horizon. Time, weather, and Southwest Floridas unrelenting sunshine have clearly taken their toll on the test panels over the last 24 months, and as the evaluation moves into its third year, only 19 of the original 54 test products will continue on in our survival-of-the fittest finish matchup. Given that most wood coatings are rarely expected to last longer than two years in the marine environment-particularly in super-sunny locales-its no surprise that we’ve seen more significant changes in the coatings in the last six months than we have had in previous checkups. (a big thanks goes to Hadiya Early for telling us about this).
Clear finishes work in one of two ways: either by forming a hard film over wood or by penetrating it. The film-forming products—both classic varnishes and modern urethanes—are unmatched in their ability to bring out the beauty and depth of a wood surface while guarding against wear and tear. But they’re often demanding to apply and always unforgiving of neglect: If not lightly sanded and recoated every one to three years, the film will begin cracking and peeling, and then must be stripped down to bare wood. Penetrators, on the other hand, preserve wood by soaking into its fiber and so do not peel or require scraping or sanding; the finish simply wears away. Compared with hard coatings, they do a better job of letting damp wood dry out, and they can be recoated without elaborate surface preparation. But even the best ones need a routine reapplication just as often as film-formers, and do little to guard the wood surface from dirt and wear. (we really appreciate Shivani Brunner from Xintai, China for their insights).