Top 11 Best Spar Varnish for Exterior Door

Wood is a strong material used for doors, furniture, and more. To keep it beautiful and protected, you need the right spar varnish. I tested 11 products and found the best: Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish.

I’m no stranger to woodworking, and this varnish has won my trust. It’s tough and makes wood look great. Exterior doors are special; they make a statement. Rust-Oleum protects and beautifies them like no other.

But there’s more to explore. Wood types vary, and I’ll guide you on choosing the right varnish for garage doors, outdoor furniture, and decor pieces.

Discover how to preserve the charm of wood as we delve into this journey together.

Our Top Picks

Best Spar Varnish for Exterior Door

  1. Best Overall Spar VarnishRust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish
  2. Best Bang for BuckMinwax, Gloss 63200444 Helmsman Urethane
  3. Best Marine Varnish for WoodTotalBoat-486490 Lust Marine Varnish
  4. Best Eco-Friendly VarnishSystem Three 1855S16 Clear Marine Spar
  5. Best Varnish for Exterior Wood DoorsEpifanes Wood Finish Matte
  6. Best Gloss Varnish for WoodTotalBoat-482869 Lust Marine Varnish
  7. Best Exterior VarnishMcCloskey/Valspar Spar Varnish
  8. Best Varnish for Restoring Old WoodTotalBoat – 409314 Spar Varnish
  9. Best Matte Varnish for WoodEpifanes Clear Varnish
  10. Best Penetrating VarnishPettit 1-Spar Captains Varnish
  11. Best Varnish for Low MaintenanceOLD MASTERS 92310 Spar Varnish

Best Spar Varnish for Exterior Door (Updated List)

1. Best Overall Spar Varnish – Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish

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Wood doors tell stories, and preserving their beauty demands the best. Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish emerged as the ultimate choice in my tests. It’s not just a glossy finish; it’s a robust shield against nature’s wrath.

Applying it was a delight; it glided smoothly, leaving a flawless, glass-like finish. Unlike others, it penetrated the wood, enhancing its natural texture. Even in tough conditions, it performed consistently, promising longevity.

Yes, it’s pricier, but it’s an investment. This varnish isn’t just a coating; it’s a guardian, protecting your doors for years. You pay for unmatched durability and an enduring shine, making every penny worth it.

Choosing Rust-Oleum 207008 isn’t a mere decision; it’s a declaration of your commitment to your doors’ elegance.

This varnish isn’t just a product; it’s your door’s best friend, ensuring it stands strong and beautiful against time.

Invest wisely. Choose Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish for doors that shine with unmatched brilliance.

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      2. Best Bang for the Buck – Minwax, Gloss 63200444 Helmsman Spar Urethane

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      My first runner-up is the Minwax Water-Based Helmsman Spar Urethane. It’s a budget-friendly gem, offering top-notch quality without straining your wallet.

      This affordable option stands out, providing a reliable shield for your doors while being light on your pocket.

      What makes Minwax Helmsman remarkable is its balance between cost and quality. Despite its affordable price, it doesn’t compromise on performance.

      Its water-based formula ensures quick drying, allowing for multiple coats in a single day. The satin finish adds a touch of sophistication. Enhancing the wood’s natural beauty while providing robust protection.

      Comparing it with the Rust-Oleum 207008, Minwax Helmsman shines in its practicality. While Rust-Oleum boasts a glossier finish and a deeper bond, Minwax Helmsman fills the gap for those with budget constraints.

      It’s the go-to choice for urgent projects, drying rapidly and efficiently. Plus, its low odor and easy clean-up make the application process hassle-free, even in enclosed spaces.

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          3. Best Marine Varnish for Wood – TotalBoat-486490 Lust Marine Varnish

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          Looking for the best marine spar varnish? TotalBoat-486490 Lust Marine Varnish stands out as the ultimate choice.

          If you need long-lasting, waterproof protection for your outdoor wood, this is the varnish. It withstands time effortlessly, staying vibrant even in harsh weather.

          One of its standout features is the easy application. With its oil-based premium formula, I could apply multiple coats in a single day without needing to sand in between.

          This not only saved me time but also ensured a stress-free project completion in just over a day. Plus, it offers versatility with finish options – I could choose between a high gloss or matte finish.

          Both enhancing the wood’s natural beauty while providing top-notch protection. Another perk was its cost-effectiveness. This varnish reduced the number of coats I needed, saving both time and money.

          I could even thin it with paint thinner for extended coverage. Making it an economical choice without compromising quality.

          On the other side, being oil-based, it required proper ventilation and careful handling. The TotalBoat-486490 Lust Marine Varnish proved to be the go-to solution for marine and outdoor wood protection.

          It’s not just a varnish; it’s a reliable shield ensuring your wood remains beautiful and durable against the elements.

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          4. Best Eco-Friendly Varnish – System Three 1855S16 Clear Marine Spar Urethane Varnish Coating

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          If you are looking for a marine spar varnish containing ultraviolet light absorbers ideal for the marine and exterior wooden surfaces, this product could be suitable.

          It’s available in a high gloss finish and smooth satin finish. In addition, it contains high solid content and is VOC compliant, so you do not have to worry about your safety when using this product.

          Follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions to be on the safe side. It provides excellent protection against salt air, sea spray, and water.

          The ultraviolet light absorbers keep wood stunning even when exposed to direct sunlight and outdoor elements every day. This spar varnish is also resistant to regular cleaners and solvents, making it excellent for exterior doors. 

          The varnish dries to a clear, tough finish resistant to fading and chipping, making it ideal for use on doors, trim, and other surfaces. The product is packaged in a one-quart container.

          You can spray it onto a surface and save yourself the energy you would if you apply it with a roller or brush. In addition, you’ll get a smooth satin without breaking your back.

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          5. Best Matte Varnish for Wood – Epifanes Wood Finish Matte

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          If you are searching for top-of-the-range marine grade marine spar varnish, Epifanes wood finish matte fits the bill. It’s the best marine spar varnish. That’s why it has made it to our list of marine varnishes reviews.

          Epifanes clear varnish is ideal for finishing teak wood due to its unmatched waterproofing capabilities. In addition, it has a satin finish and the correct amount of sheen, just enough to bring out the natural beauty of teak and other woods.

          The varnish also offers optimal mildew protection. However, it can be challenging to apply the finish. Be sure to apply it evenly in one coat and so faster. You may not need to thin it with mineral spirits to use it effectively.

          Nevertheless, thin it and sand lightly after the first coat if it gets blotchy. Keep in mind that it takes longer to dry if you thin it. It’s a single component spar varnish based on phenolic-modified alkyd resin and tung oil.

          You can use it on fine woods and over any wood finish that’s not cracking or flaking. It’ll provide an incredible smooth satin protective coat that could last up to five long years.

          Though it’s a marine-grade varnish, it looks elegant on an exterior door, furniture, and any other wood surface, whether indoor or outdoor.

          You may not have seen anything like it yet. To finish the exterior wood door and other doors exposed to the elements, apply three coats of Epifanes Clear finish, and it lasts for a long time.

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          6. Best gloss varnish for wood – TotalBoat-482869 Lust Marine Varnish

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          TotalBoat is a well-known brand in the marine sector when it comes to paints and spar varnishes. I consider basic factors such as durability, shine, and value for your hard-earned cash. This is the company’s best offering.

          An incredible marine-grade spar varnish lends a clear amber tone that amplifies wood’s natural grain. In addition, it creates a durable waterproof finish that will not fade with time.

          It’s perfect for interior and exterior wood, outdoor furniture, and brightwork on boats. The varnish is a premium oil-based formula and won’t flake or peel as wood expands and shrinks with the ever-changing temperatures.

          You can use it on all types of marine projects and household wood. You can choose between a matte finish or a high gloss finish. If you want a high gloss finish, apply six to eight coats of lust gloss.

          The product is available in different sizes, so you can pick the one that suits your budget. It’s a bit thick. Thin it out to at least fifty percent for professional results. You need some experience to use it stress-free.

          It gives the surfaces maximum protection that typical varnishes you can only dream about when using typical varnishes. Use a roller and apply up to five coats. Recoat every two hours throughout the day.

          Thin the final coats by not more than ten percent. It may be challenging to apply it at that point, but you’ll reap the benefits thereafter.

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          7. Best exterior varnish – McCloskey/Valspar Spar Varnish

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          If you are looking for a clear satin finish that will give you maximum UV protection and exceptional durability without breaking your bank, this could be the product you’ve been searching for far and wide.

          It’s pocket-friendly, reliable, and is good, just like other popular brands. Apply it to interior and exterior wood surfaces to protect and beautify them for years as it’s resistant to water and weather damage.

          Use it on handrails, outdoor wood furniture, frames, interior wood window sills, planters, and boat wood trim (above the waterline). It’s simple to apply. Use a high-quality bristle brush. Even a good quality foam brush will do.

          It sets quickly. You’ll handle your project within 5- 7 hours but be cautious. It’ll take a whole day to cure. Apply three coats. Sand lightly between coats with 200-280 grit sandpaper and apply the fourth coat if you need to.

          It’ll enhance the tones of the wood, and you’ll be satisfied with the results. It’s the go-to option for outdoor wood finishings. It’ll make exterior wooden surfaces explode with deep rich colors.

          You can opt to wait for weeks before applying the second coat, and the surfaces will look too nice to be left out in the open. It spreads like water and absorbs deeply into the grain. You couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

          This product is very protective of the wooden chocks and has a fairly low-level shine that looks decent in historic buildings.

          It emits a strong odor, so use it in a well-ventilated environment. However, The finished product will be worth the scent anguish.

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          8. Best Varnish for Restoring Old Wood – TotalBoat-409314 Gleam Marine Spar Varnish

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          Looking for a reliable solution to revive weathered wood or protect new pieces? TotalBoat-409314 Gleam Marine Spar Varnish is the answer.

          It effortlessly transforms old, tired wood, breathing new life into it, and leaving surfaces vibrant and renewed. Not stopping there, it acts as a sturdy shield for new wood, standing guard against the weather and ensuring longevity.

          What impressed me most was its long-lasting durability. It doesn’t just offer a temporary fix but promises enduring protection, holding up even after extended outdoor exposure.

          Applying it was a breeze, with its user-friendly nature making the process smooth and hassle-free. Whether I was restoring old wood or safeguarding new surfaces, the varnish applied seamlessly.

          Leaving behind a glossy, professional finish. In my woodworking journey, this varnish became the go-to choice for both restoration and preservation.

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          9. Best Matte Varnish for Wood – Epifanes Clear Varnish

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          Looking for the perfect matte varnish for your wood? Meet Epifanes Clear Varnish, a high-gloss finish made from tung oil and alkyd resins.

          It’s not just any varnish; it’s a traditional marine varnish. Providing excellent protection for both marine and household wood.

          Epifanes Clear Varnish stands out with its stunning matte finish that enhances your wood’s natural beauty. It’s not only durable but also visually appealing, adding elegance to your doors.

          What makes this varnish exceptional is its ability to withstand tough weather. It acts as a shield, protecting your doors from the elements. Plus, it guards against harmful UV rays, preventing wood from fading and ensuring its long life.

          While it excels in protection and aesthetics, it dries a bit slower and might develop bubbles during application. Also, it’s a bit pricier than other varnishes.

          Despite these minor issues, its fantastic matte finish and lasting durability make it a top choice for wood protection, promising both style and strength for your doors.

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          10. Best Penetrating Varnish – Pettit 1-Spar Captains Varnish

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          Here is the best penetrating varnish for your wood. Pettit 1-Spar Captains Varnish, your ideal solution. This varnish is exceptional in its ability to penetrate deep into the wood, ensuring strong protection from within.

          It doesn’t just stay on the surface; it seeps in, creating a robust shield against weather elements and preserving the wood’s integrity.

          It goes beyond mere surface protection. It reinforces the wood’s structure and enhances its durability. Even in harsh conditions, it stands strong, ensuring your doors remain resilient and beautiful.

          Pettit 1-Spar Varnish also provides a natural, elegant finish. Its ability to penetrate deeply doesn’t compromise the wood’s appearance. Instead, it enhances the natural grain, leaving a smooth, polished look.

          While it excels in deep penetration and aesthetics, it’s worth noting that the drying time can be longer than some other varnishes.

          This means a bit of patience is required for the perfect finish. Additionally, its availability might vary, so checking local retailers is advisable.

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          11. Best Varnish for Low Maintenance – OLD MASTERS 92310 Spar Varnish

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          Looking for low-maintenance wood varnish? Old Masters 92310 Spar Varnish is your perfect solution. This varnish requires minimal upkeep, making it ideal for those seeking hassle-free maintenance.

          Old Masters 92310 Spar Varnish stands out for its simplicity. Once applied, it forms a durable shield that doesn’t demand constant attention.

          It keeps your doors protected without the need for frequent touch-ups or reapplications. What makes this varnish exceptional is its longevity.

          It doesn’t just offer low-maintenance convenience; it ensures your wood stays beautiful for an extended period. It’s perfect for busy individuals or those who prefer a hands-off approach to wood care.

          The varnish’s low-maintenance feature doesn’t compromise its quality. It provides excellent protection against the elements, keeping your doors safe from weather wear and tear. Plus, its application is user-friendly, making the initial process smooth and stress-free.

          In my experience, Old Masters 92310 Spar Varnish proved to be a top choice for those desiring wood protection without constant upkeep.

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          Why Use a Spar Varnish?

          You apply varnish to outdoor wooden furniture, exterior wood door types, and any other wood surface for the reasons below.

          Wood left outdoors will be subjected to a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions, plus a healthy dose of harmful UV rays.

          These unforgiving elements help to degrade the typical exterior paint over time. Furthermore, due to humidity changes, wood expands and contracts, and a basic indoor finish would crack and wither away under these conditions.

          On the other hand, spar varnishes are specially formulated to give the wood maximum UV Protection for extended periods. As a result, spar varnishes work excellently on exterior wooden surfaces, including the poles that support the sails of a boat.

          The best spar varnish is strong enough to keep the surface protected from water and salt air and therefore helps the wood stand up to challenging conditions of marine life. 

          Spar Varnishes are the perfect solution for anyone looking to protect their wood flooring, including interior wood. In addition, these varnishes make the wood surface more durable.

          You can use them to achieve a matte and glossy shine, gloss or satin finish, gloss finish. Most spar varnishes are easier to use, even if you are not a professional woodworker. 

          A quick wipe with a microfiber cloth or a natural bristle brush will remove any dirt or dust from the floor. This makes it easy to maintain your wood surfaces with regular care.

          Factors to Consider When Buying Spar Varnish for Exterior Door

          Whether you need to finish an ancient door or have to paint a new garage door, picking the best spar varnish for your unique project can be daunting.

          There are many options in the market, each claiming to be a good fit for your project, making you feel overwhelmed. We understand your pain points.

          That’s why we are giving you the factors you need to consider when selecting a spar varnish for your exterior door. 

          Types of Varnish

          Two types of varnish exist in the market today. You can go for any o them based on your project and the amount of cash you are willing to part with. These varnishes are:

          Oil-based or water-based varnish

          Oil-based varnishes are available in spray and brush-on forms, producing a tough protective shell in fewer coats than water-based varnishes.

          It might leave a subtle yellow sheen, particularly when multiple coatings are applied, but this may be preferred in some applications. They dry slowly.

          One coat can dry in two hours. Additional coats might take four to six hours based on the weather. Some of these varnishes may emit strong, pungent odors, and some people find that offensive.

          Nonetheless, the odor disappears when the varnish has fully cured. You need to use paint thinner or mineral spirits to clean up oil-based varnishes.

          Oil-based varnishes are self-leveling, which implies that they will smooth out when applied to horizontal surfaces.

          Water-based Varnishes

          Water-based varnishes use water rather than solvents as the base for carrying the varnishes’ solids. Water-based varnishes form a tough protective film just like their oil-based counterparts, but you need more applications.

          They dry quickly. So, you can apply many coats at once. Water-based varnishes start milky white in the can but will dry clear.

          The water-based varnish adds very little, if any, color. In addition, the varnishes are a low odor and need only warm water and soap to clean.

          Recommended read: Varnish vs poly.

          Gloss or sleek satin sheen

          Know the type of sheen you are after before spending a dime on a spar varnish for exterior wooden surfaces such as exterior doors or garage doors.

          Do you need a sleek satin sheen or a high gloss finish? Opt for a sleek satin if you like a matte finish over a little shine. Then, you can add more coats to achieve the ideal matte sheen to your exterior door.

          Nonetheless, if you prefer a stylish and shiny surface on the exterior of your home, pick a glossy finish. The type of sheen you get with every product is indicated on the packaging can.

          Coverage area

          Before purchasing any marine varnish, you should know its coverage area. A single coat of the best spar varnish can cover an extensive area.

          If you want to finish a door without spending time and cash, go for varnish with a massive coverage area. The coverage area is indicated on the can.

          Dry and cure time

          Cure and dry times are crucial when picking the best varnish for your project. In addition, they determine the amount o time it’ll take to complete a project.

          The longer a varnish takes to dry, the longer you’ll be stuck with it, and the margin for errors increases with a long cure time. That’s because if a project takes longer to dry, a child or a pet can scratch it, accidentally leaving unwanted marks.

          Fast-drying formulas enable you to complete your projects fast with minimal room for mishaps.


          Best spar varnishes are made with high-quality ingredients that won’t yellow your project. Varnishes are in different colors, so you are always spoilt for choice.

          However, if you care so much about a product yellowing your project, play safe and grab clear finishes as they also work excellently without interfering with the current color.

          Salt and mildew resistant

          Strong UV rays and heat and light from direct sunlight can damage your home’s exterior wooden doors. They make the wood fade and crack as the wood expands and contracts.

          This could detract from your home’s curb appeal and be aggravating to deal with. The best spar varnish for the exterior door should contain UV inhibitors to protect the doors from damage occasioned by exposure to UV rays and light.

          Keep an eye out for this feature if you reside in coastal areas. 

          Environment safe

          To determine whether a product is safe for the environment, look out for the VOC levels. The ideal varnish should have low VOC levels that authorities recommend to guarantee the environment’s safety, pets, and kids.

          Remember, some spar varnishes are extremely flammable. So, keep them out of children’s reach, open flames, sparks,  hot surfaces, and direct heat.

          Applying Spar Varnish

          Exterior doors such as garage doors and your front door have a distinct sense of attraction and beauty. They can be an eye-catching method of making a statement about your home and give guests a sense of what awaits them inside your home.

          However, outside wood is exposed to humidity, strong UV rays, and moisture from rain or snow.

          You apply exterior varnish to fortify exterior wooden surfaces against mother nature’s wrath that interior doors do not have to grapple with.

          These vanishes have a higher alkyd resin ratio making them a bit versatile. Here’s what you need before applying spar varnish

          Get some protection

          When working with spar varnishes, always take precautions. Wear what you do not mind staining.

          Wear protective clothing such as gloves, goggles, and face masks if the varnish you are working with emits VOC and strong odors. Work in well-ventilated environments. 

          Tools and Requirements

          You should varnish when the temperature range is between 70°F and 80°F. Too much heat will cause your varnish to dry very quickly, resulting in air bubbles.

          The drying process will be slowed if the temperature is too low, giving dirt more time to adhere. You only need a few supplies available at your local paint stores. You will require

          • A natural bristle brush 
          • A small stick (for stirring)
          • Spar varnish 
          • A transparent measuring cup 
          • Paint thinners such as turpentine or mineral spirits

          Invest in a high-quality natural bristle brush or foam brush to avoid struggling with stray bristles immersed in the varnish. Stray bristles can ruin your results.

          Do not bother cleaning these brushes. They are affordable Just toss them and always use clean new brushes in your applications. 

          The Procedure For Applying the Varnish

          You are now ready to begin applying the spar varnish. Follow the steps below to finish your outdoor wooden furniture ready to use within the drying time specified.

          Step 1: Stir the varnish slowly

          Avoid shaking the varnish can. Instead, open it as slowly as you can. Use the stirring stick to stir gently but thoroughly. If you stir quickly and roughly, you may create air bubbles. Avoid creating bubbles because they can significantly impact your results.

          Step 2: Thin the varnish

          Use a paint thinner, thin up the varnish. Then pour a small amount of varnish into the small measuring cup. How much should you pour? The size of your wooden surface determines it.

          However, the rule of thumb is to start with a small amount because you can always add more later. Then add some paint thinner and stir with a stick to make a mixture.

          Also, cautiously stir the mixture. When applying the first coat, experts recommend making it 20-25 percent thinner. And for successive coats, aim for 5-10%.

          For example, if you’re going to fill three-quarters of the cup with varnish for the first coat, pour in one-quarter of the thinner. Then, combine one ounce of thinner for the subsequent coats with approximately nine ounces of varnish.

          Step 3: Lightly brush the spar varnish on

          Dip only the tip of the brush into your mixture. Gently spread the mixture of outdoor wooden furniture. Follow the direction of the wood grain when applying the varnish.

          Avoid brushing back and forth. Instead, apply each board at a time in full length. Keep your brush wet by dipping it into the varnish mixture.

          Step 4: Tip-off with a brush

          It’s time to tip off now that you’ve covered up the entire area. Desist from dipping your brush again, and begin brushing softly once more. Point the brush at a corner and draw precise straight lines.

          As previously stated, work in the direction of the wood’s grain. Repeat this process throughout the area. This will smooth the wood surface and prevent the formation of bubbles and undesired streaks.

          Step 5: Apply additional coats and sand

          With just one coat, your project is incomplete. Most woods left outdoors necessitate several coats, with intervals in between. Give the varnish six to ten hours to dry after applying the first coat.

          You know it is dry if it does not feel sticky. Apply the second in a similar way and give it ample time to dry. Use 320 grit sandpaper for sanding the wood surface. 

          If the sandpaper becomes clogged, your varnish hasn’t fully dry. Give it a few more hours before trying again. Apply one more coat after sanding. Nevertheless, apply a few more coats for massive outdoor wood projects to ensure proper varnishing.

          Step 6: Let it cure

          After applying the final coat, give the varnish all the time it needs to cure for maximum durability and protection.

          Read further to know the Difference Between Polyurethane and Spar Urethane.


          What’s the best finish for an exterior door?

          Choose a semi-gloss finish that is both durable and appealing. Exterior varnishes are available in various sheens, such as matte, high gloss, satin, and semi-gloss. Semi-gloss is perfect for front doors because it is more resistant to wear and staining than matte sheens.

          Can spar varnish be used outdoors?

          Spar varnish is intended to provide durable protection for wood left outdoors. It is made to withstand harsh elements and protect your wood. So, regardless of how the weather and other factors affect your outdoor wood, if it’s finished with spar varnish, it can withstand them all. Some varnishes contain teak oil for outdoor furniture protection.

          How many coats spar varnish exterior door?

          There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the number of coats you need to apply on exterior doors. It depends on the varnish you’re using and the type of wood you’re working on.

          How to remove spar varnish from wood?

          Apply a coat of poly remover on the wood surface. Use a chemical stripper to brush in one direction. Let the chemical stripper sit for twenty to thirty minutes. Sand the surface with 220 grit sandpaper. Scrape the varnish off the wood. Wash the surface with mild detergents and rinse thoroughly to remove any chemical residue.


          Outdoor wood is constantly battling with temperature and humidity changes that interior wood has no idea about. Your exterior wood can’t fight for if you use typical varnish.

          The shrinking and the swelling will break down the typical wood within no time, exposing the wood to the elements. You need to use the best spar varnish for exterior door to give the exterior wooden surfaces a fighting chance.

          Our top pick is Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish. It’s simple to use, durable, offers maximum wood protection from mildew, water, and salt, and you can use it on multiple surfaces.

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