Little confused after reading here, what should I be using on this

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Forum topic by TDog77 posted 04-09-2012 07:46 PM 1161 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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125 posts in 2376 days

04-09-2012 07:46 PM

I am in the process of building a step/landing area at the rear of my house out of white oak and am a little confused by the finish reading that I have done and thought I should just ask what I should be using for the most durable exterior finish that will take a beating. I am assuming that I don’t want to make an 1/3 blend of spirits, tongue and spar varnish since I would not get as much of a hard shell protection, or is this incorrect. I am also confused when I went to pick up some spar varnish for another project and was told just to get the spar urethane as they are the same, however I did not buy it since I was under the impression that they are entirely different things. So not to confuse things I am looking for something durable for my outside step and if there is really a difference between spar urethane and spar varnish. To further complicate things the plethora of choices and misleading labels are almost maddening so if you have some brands that are a safe bet as being what they are labeled like for the spar varnish that I am looking for please do share. I just found out that I have some tung oil and other items downstairs that are in fact blends and not pure product.

12 replies so far

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2310 days

#1 posted 04-09-2012 08:58 PM

I don’t know what others do, but I don’t like to seal the wood for decking. No matter what you use, it’ll need to be redone someday. So I protect the wood every other year with some new stain/varnish combo. Every other year just clean it off with bleach and scrub it, then rinse and restain. If you try to seal it with something durable, it will wear off in spots in 4 or 5 years and look terrible.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View dhazelton's profile


2771 posts in 2320 days

#2 posted 04-09-2012 10:49 PM

A lot depends on the sun/rain exposure and where you are in the country. But Russell is correct in that nothing will last more than a year or two without needing refinishing. I’d go with a couple of treatments of Thompson’s Waterseal a year or some kind of yearly transparent stain.

If you insist on a clear finish go to a real paint store (not HD or Lowes) and ask for an oil based deep tint base with NO colorant in it. I just did this for someone’s mahogany door and other people have used it successfully. It goes on perfectly clear and has more UV inhibitors than marine or spar varnish.

View TDog77's profile


125 posts in 2376 days

#3 posted 04-10-2012 03:34 AM

It sits outside our back under a covered rear porch and only gets about 1 hour of sun a day and not direct snow or rain unless it is blowing like hell. Would something like a 1/3 spar varnish 1/3 mineral spirits and 1/3 boiled linseed work for this application. I was guessing that is what Russell was talking about with a combo but wanted to confirm.

View Woodknack's profile


11774 posts in 2404 days

#4 posted 04-10-2012 04:11 AM

I like low maintenance for decks because the harder the finish, the more work it takes to refinish it and the worse it looks as it ages. I believe your best bet is something like Thompsons because it has UV inhibitors that will help prevent graying and will be easy to reapply.

I don’t know much about spar varnishes but a varnish could be either a urethane or oil.

-- Rick M,

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2874 days

#5 posted 04-10-2012 04:50 AM

Your 1/3, 1/3,1/3 recipe is a slight variant on a popular blend. I used that on the deck of my one ton flatbed for years, renewing it annually. It did, however, build up eventually to a varnish-like look. If you did something like 1 part spar varnish and 3 or 4 parts BLO and and 3 or 4 thinner, I think you’d have a nice recipe that will work for you.

FWIW, white oak is nice stuff for outdoors but red oak, not so good.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View dhazelton's profile


2771 posts in 2320 days

#6 posted 04-10-2012 12:55 PM

If you want to varnish just be prepared for it darkening over time. I’ve put Helmsman on a small covered deck two years ago for a customer and it still looks good – dusty but good. BUT it’s on the north side of the house and it’s a door that they never use, so that deck never gets foot traffic. If you use this area a lot and will have furniture being dragged across it I’d still go with something penetrating so you don’t have to sand the whole thing down every couple of years in the future.

View TDog77's profile


125 posts in 2376 days

#7 posted 04-10-2012 01:04 PM

Lee, do you have any pics of the one ton…I would love to see them.

View TDog77's profile


125 posts in 2376 days

#8 posted 04-10-2012 01:06 PM

Does the BLO have any uv inhibiting qualities because I am thinking of all my garden tools and nice axes that are only treated with that and they all look original; granted they don’t see sun all day but they are older and used quite a bit.

View CharlesNeil's profile


2410 posts in 3894 days

#9 posted 04-10-2012 01:44 PM

try it you will like it , also comes in colors, I have used and tested it, quite impressive !

View TDog77's profile


125 posts in 2376 days

#10 posted 04-10-2012 03:04 PM

Charles, I like the look of that and got some ordered, thanks.

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3601 days

#11 posted 04-10-2012 03:20 PM

Very cool I’ve never seen anything like it Thanks Charles

Tdog77 it’s good to see someone take the advice of a real expert.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View GaryL's profile


1099 posts in 2854 days

#12 posted 04-10-2012 03:29 PM

Thanks a third time Charles. I have never come across that product. Did some Googling on it and watched some youtube vids and seem very high end. I have a deck that needs to be stripped and refinished. I give this a test run on that and see how it works. This willl give me another alternative to suggest to clients.
Now to find it at a local supplier to avoid shipping.

-- Gary; Marysville, MI...Involve your children in your projects as much as possible, the return is priceless.

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