Best Clear Coats for Outdoor Wood

Best Clear Coats for Outdoor Wood in 2024

Looking for the best clear coats for outdoor wood? You’ve come to the right place!

Wood is, undoubtedly an excellent material used to make modern furniture; however, it’s also vulnerable to harsh weather conditions, particularly the wood used for outdoor settings.

In addition, the majority of wood finishes tend to make a mess, and the traditional polyurethane can be a real pain to apply and then allow for it to dry.

It’s a good thing that clear coat wood finishes make it possible to greatly improve the overall appearance and grain, as well as clear wood finishes, which are specially designed for outdoor use and have low VOC (VOC). In light of this, there are some factors to take into consideration prior to making a purchase.

10 Best Clear Coats for Wood Outdoors

1. Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane


Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane clear coat for outdoor wood




Minwax Helmsman Urethane (water-based solution) is definitely one of the most effective clear coat finishes available for outdoor wood materials. This product does not only include UV blockers to protect against any damage caused by the sun’s radiation, including severe cracking or fade in time. It’s also designed to shield both the exterior and interior wood from damage from sunlight or even water or temperature fluctuations.

In reality, the clear finish also acts as an effective barrier to protect against the build-up of moisture and rain. Furthermore, the oils permit that the coating to stretch and shrink along with the timber, regardless of weather and the season. Overall Minwax Helmsman Urethane is, without doubt, the most popular clear coat available that is available for outdoor use because of its amazing versatility and durable features. Plus, it’s priced at an affordable cost.

Similar to Minwax, Minwax also carries an oil-based version that comes with the same attributes however, the only difference is the kind made of the polyurethane base. Water-based poly is generally thinner, whereas oil-based poly is more of a product. Oil-based finishes typically have darker shades and require fewer coats however they can require longer drying times and are harder to clean.

Water-based finishes have less VOC and can help reduce strong and possibly dangerous odors in the air as well as in the air. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to both choices.

2. TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish

TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish outdoor wood clear coat




TotalBoat Gleam Marine Spar Varnish is a different option. This stunning finish is composed of top-quality tung oil and a phenolic resin formulation which is ideal to use in clear coat applications. It’s not just that, it’s also extremely simple to apply, and it dries extremely quickly.

Additionally, you have the choice of the Gloss as well as a Satin finish and both are made up of Gleam 2.0’s fast-drying and easy-to-use formulations to give you an amazing amber finish, with all the essential characteristics for durability as well.

3. Seal-Once Marine Premium Wood Sealer


 Seal-Once Marine Premium Wood Sealer outdoor wood clear coat




SEAL-ONCE has proven to be a market-leading innovator over the years, primarily using nanotechnology to create durable eco-friendly wood sealers, since 2005. Their unique MARINE product has been tested to withstand extreme moisture conditions and work more efficiently over an extended period of time.

Because of their innovative nano-particles, this high-quality sealer penetrates through the surface of wood and coats the wood fibers on an atomic level. This allows it to create an excellent barrier beneath the surface, providing an additional layer of protection from water damage, as well as those harmful UV radiations.

In addition to any kind of fading, warping, growing mold, or mildew that can occur. Additionally, this stunning finish for wood is water-based, so it is completely non-toxic to pets, people, or even plants. Overall the SEAL-ONCE marine finish is without doubt one of the most effective wood sealers that are available, and it encapsulates all the things one would ever require in a clear coat finish required for outdoor timber.

4. Thompson’s Waterseal


Thompson's Waterseal waterproofing wood protector for outdoor use





Thompson’s Waterseal is yet another stunning wood finish, created to protect all decking and exterior woods. It’s specifically designed to block water, protect against damage from water, and prevent mold growth while preserving its natural wood grain.

A long-lasting wood protection solution for your deck has been easier. It also is clear, which helps in enhancing and preserving the naturally beautiful color of the wood. Thompson’s Waterseal is also available in various different applications, such as bricks and concrete. Overall it is one of the most effective finishes for clear coating on outdoor wood pieces.

5. Varathane Ultimate Spar Urethane






Another excellent water-based product The Varathane Ultimate Spar Urethane is among the most durable finishes that are available. It comes with a protective ESC coat that gives you the best protection against UV and weather outdoors wood construction projects.

The formula is simple to apply and is strong enough to withstand weathering and graying. Additionally, this water-based coating expands as well according to the weather and will last more than twice the time of the oil-based exterior option.

Since it’s water-based cleaning up will be easy and you won’t have to worry about any remaining (and potentially hazardous) smells that may be present in the surrounding environment.

In the same way, Rust-Oleum also carries a Varathane Ultimate Spar Urethane that is solely oil-based.

6. System Three Clear Marine Varnish for Spare Urethane Coating


System Three Clear Marine Varnish for Spare Urethane Coating


The System Three Clear Marine Spar varnish is a strong urethane specially created to stand up to marine use and glide across the wood’s exterior surfaces to create an easy, long-lasting finish. It has UV absorbers that are top-quality that will ensure that the wood is protected from the sun’s constant exposure.

Furthermore, Systems Three Marine Spar Varnish is impervious to scratches and marring along with a variety of harmful chemicals that are commonly found in specific solvents and cleaners. There’s also the option of Satin or Gloss finishes, which beautifully illustrates the flexibility you can get in this type of varnish.

If you think about it, all things considered, the System Three Clear Marine Varnish is certainly among the best choices of top-quality clearcoats that are specifically designed for outdoor wood applications.

7. Rain Guard Water Sealers


Rain Guard Water Sealers


Another well-known, and extremely cost-effective option is RainGuard waterproofing products for wood exteriors. The most impressive feature of this product is that it doesn’t just have UV stabilizers to provide long-lasting and non-yellowing results.

However, it is also extremely concentrated and completely water-based, making it less expensive and more friendly to the environment. Rain Guard Wood Sealer Rain Guard Wood Sealer uses an architectural-grade silane siloxane formulation to ensure that your floors are kept safe for a long time.

One of the things that make this item distinctive is its own ingredient, called MICROLOK. This creates a mechanical bond that creates a hydrophobic layer that is free of the effects of weathering dirt, salt, and cold conditions, light, and even intense rain. In light of this, it is clear that it’s clear that the RainGuard Water Sealer is a great choice for outdoor wood and is undoubtedly one of the most effective coatings to protect outdoor wood.

8. Rust-Oleum Marine Spar Varnish


Rust-Oleum Marine Spar Varnish


Rust-Oleum is a notch higher than 8th place on our list, expertly making one of the most beautiful wood varnishes available. The flexible oil-based formula expands and contracts according to changing conditions in the weather, and its robust coating is resistant to UV, salt, and mildew.

Additionally, it takes just 2 hours to dry. It covers an area of up to 150 sq. feet and is among the most cost-effective clear coatings available for outdoor wood. An obvious ‘no-brainer’ for our list.

9. Eco-Advance Wood Siloxane Waterproofer


Eco-Advance Wood Siloxane Waterproofer


Eco-Advance Wood Siloxane Waterproofer is a spray-on product of commercial quality that provides lasting protection for woods that are used for exterior use, like fencing, decks and sidings, and so on. The thing that makes this product so special is its ability to transmit vapor that allows for greater durability and stops moisture from getting trapped and causing damage to the wood.

It’s specifically designed to guard against damage from water as well as stains, oil, and mildew as well as de-icing salts and spa chemicals. Furthermore, the formula is water-based, safe, and not flammable, which makes it safe for human beings and pets as well as plants.

10. Clear Rust-Oleum Universal Surface Spray Paint


Clear Rust-Oleum Universal Surface Spray Paint



In the end, the Clear Rust-Oleum Universal All-Surface Spray Paint is two-in-one: primer and paint that’s made for both outdoor and indoor use to provide lasting wood protection. The trigger’s comfort grip system reduces the fatigue of fingers that is caused by constant spraying and offers a variety of spraying angles that you can choose from.

Additionally, this spray paint can be used on almost every surface you can imagine, including some of the most difficult types of surfaces such as vinyl, metal plastic, fiberglass concrete, glass wicker, and (of course) wood. It’s an oil-based paint that will help shield surfaces from weather corrosion, rust, and corrosion for many years to come.

Considerations for Purchasing an Exterior Clear Coat Finish

Durability and resistance to water

One of the most crucial factors to think about when buying an exterior clear coat is the overall strength and resistance of the product. Remember that clear coat finishes are created to stop the wood from becoming rotten and also protect against water and UV damage, all while maintaining the natural beauty of wood.

Clear coats completely protect the entire surface and reduce the possibility of mold or algae growth that causes wood to rot. Also, it will ensure that the wood you use is safe from harmful UV rays and moisture, and even rainwater, which can cause peeling and fade as time passes.

Furthermore, many clear coat finishes are available in gallon-sized containers, meaning that you’ll be able to cover a vast area if needed. Additionally, these finishes (on average) provide over 10 years’ of continuous protection from environmental hazards, greatly increasing the longevity that the lumber.

Clear coats are also extremely easy to clean and are even simpler to apply. However, you’ll have to consider the purpose you’ll use the coating for, and how long-lasting you’ll require to make it.

For instance, areas that are heavily used and are subject to extreme weather conditions (railings and decks, sidings, and so on.) require greater care and may be better using different formulations. It’s also important to make sure you have a good understanding of the differences between a water-based finish and an oil-based wood finish since this could influence your choice.

Does it offer UV resistance?

As we’ve mentioned before clear coat finishes used that are suitable for use on outdoor timber are designed to withstand UV radiation. But, as it’s going to be exposed to the heat of the sun every single day, you’ll have to determine if it has UV-resistant substances, also known as “UV inhibitors” or “UV absorbers’. They should also consider whether they contain enough of these ingredients to work.

The wood’s durability can be improved by UV inhibitors can ensure that your wooden material from damaging UV rays for an extended period of time. In particular, Marine varnish is a spar varnish that contains a lot of UV inhibitors that can stand up to prolonged exposure to sunlight.

What wood species is it?

The kind of wood you choose to use is important when applying an outdoor clear coat use. A majority of the time, one of the choices we’ve listed below will work well, and they work with all kinds of wood without issue. However, some wood products–such as furniture with high-end features–require special care.

For instance, furniture made of teak that is known to be expensive could use a method that is preferred for weatherproofing. Teak is composed of its own oil and sealers that are the best to preserve its natural beauty and also withstand the elements outside.

There are many kinds of wood that require natural oils instead of an ordinary clear coat. But it’s dependent on the wood you’re sealing.

Examples of sealing and wood oils for outdoor use include:

Boiled Linseed Oil

Boiled Linseed Oil is an excellent natural product to put in garden beds made of wood.

Teak Oil

Teak oil comes highly recommended for furniture made of teak wood for outdoor use.

Tung Oil

Tung Oil is one of the most common outdoor furniture sealer options available–because it works!

Is the clear coat going to turn yellow?

The problem is that yellowing is a typical complaint with clear coats. Topcoats based on oil and Urethane tend to yellow in time because of the chemicals that are added to help protect from the sun’s rays and their water-proofing capabilities.

Be aware that a stain base that is clear is not able to hinder the natural process of changing the color of wood while a heavily colored stain can slow the process but is not able to stop it completely. However, if the final coating is a UV inhibitor (which the majority of our choices below have) this will aid in preventing the change in color.

If you apply the clear coat on an unpainted white surface, you’re likely to see a yellowing effect on the surface.

Outdoor Clear Coat FAQs

What makes Spar Urethane different from wood sealer?

Absolutely. If you’ve ever worked on any woodworking task, it’s likely that you’ve encountered polyurethane or wood sealer prior. This kind of finish is among the most flexible types of finishes available and is typically available in an oil-based or water-based formulation. Both are resistant to fungus, water, and mildew and usually are available in a range of quality levels.

While spar urethane is a particular kind of finish developed to stand up to the wood poles that support the sails on the boat. Also called the spars of ships. Because this wood can endure extreme levels of wind and water it was developed to deal with the same challenges. Nowadays, it is a popular product to protect outdoor wood from weather use.

What is the difference between oil-based and water-based products?

As mentioned previously that when you’re looking for a wooden finish you’ll be presented with two options, namely the water-based formula or the oil-based formulation. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Oil-based finishes employ a variety of mineral and petroleum solvents to serve as the medium for polyurethane solids. This helps create a protective, hard shell with fewer coats than water-based solutions. However, it’s known for leaving a somewhat yellow sheen, particularly when coated with multiple layers, and generally, it dries slower.

Equally important to note is that it also self-levels and will smooth out when it is applied to a horizontal surface.

Water-based wood finishes utilize solvents instead of water as the basis for transferring polyurethane-based solids. Similar to oil-based polyurethane water-based products can create an outer shell that is hard and durable as well; however, you’ll have to apply additional coats.

Since water-based solutions dry quickly so more coats can be applied faster as compared to oil-based solutions. Additionally, water-based polyurethane has virtually no smell, is simple to clean, environmentally friendly, and generally free of chemicals that could be harmful to pets, humans, or plants.

There’s definitely a distinction between them; however, each comes with its own set of positives and negatives.

Do I need to use Epoxy on outdoor Wood?

Epoxy is an extremely popular and long-lasting substance that chemically bonds to the surface it’s attached to and hardens to provide a lasting effect. It’s not just that Epoxy is sturdy and lasts for a long time, it also requires little maintenance, and it can be used outdoors. But, for outdoor usage usually, it is necessary to add a UV inhibitor must add to the mix, or the woodwork will soon change shade.

For wood projects, Epoxy is an attractive option since it will last for almost fifty years if it is installed properly. It means you don’t have to fret about fixing or replacing your outdoor wood surfaces for a few years. But, it needs to be put in place correctly or you could find the water is leaking and forming mold underneath the epoxy finish.

Final Thoughts on Clear Coats for Wood Outside

If there’s one thing homeowners have struggled with for years, it’s keeping their outdoor furniture looking the same as it did in the showroom. Unfortunately, UV rays and mildew and water are serious dangers to your wood’s rotting and even losing some of, if not all of, its value.

There’s a safe and efficient method of extending the lifespan of this natural material, which is polyurethane protection for wood finishes. As long as you follow this guide and follow the steps, you will be able to discover the perfect solution to your furniture within a matter of minutes.