We may receive a commission when you use our affiliate links. However, this does not affect our recommendations.
How to choose and apply a long-lasting transparent finish.
What do you like? Do wooden boats and beautiful wooden entrance doors have in common? Both need a clear finish that can truly stand up to the elements. Sunlight, water, extreme temperature changes and abrasions are bound to occur in both situations. Most clear coatings can’t stand that kind of abuse and will fail in a year or two, causing discoloration and damage to the wood.
Transparent paints for exteriors
Spar paints are formulated to be resilient in outdoor conditions. They are more elastic than regular paint, so they are less likely to crack as wood continually expands and contracts with changing external conditions. Some side member paints also contain very effective UV inhibitors. Finishes with the best track record for outdoor use come from the marine industry, where the paint for spars originated.
Spar paints are generally glossy. A glossy sheen looks good on a wooden boat and also tells the owner when it’s time to apply a new finish coat. A loss of luster indicates that the finish is starting to degrade and it is time to repaint. Some brands offer a lower gloss option, usually recommended for application as a topcoat over multiple coats of polish for best results.
Most side member paints at hardware and paint stores will work well on an exterior door hidden under a front porch, where the sun and rain are kept away. But for a door that will be fully exposed year-round in a harsh climate, a high-quality, oil-based marine side member paint will provide both good looks and a long life before it requires maintenance.
Tung oil and phenolic resin are the key ingredients in many marine grade spar paints. The most technically advanced marine spars paint formulations also contain ultraviolet (UV) light inhibitors. UV inhibitors reduce the effect of the sun’s rays by transforming the energy of the UV light into heat, which can then dissipate without damaging the finish or the underlying wood. These are expensive ingredients and are reflected in the cost. A quart of the good stuff can cost $ 40 or more, but that’s a small price to pay when compared to a finish that fails after a year or two.
Unfortunately, it is almost always impossible to identify ingredients by reading the label (or even the MSDS), because they are rarely listed. Some brands list ingredients on their websites or other literature. Please note that labels may contain misleading claims, such as “maximum UV protection” or “UV stabilized”, even if the product does not contain significant UV inhibitors. That’s why the side member paints I trust most are specially designed and time-tested under the most extreme conditions. These high quality paints are also formulated to level well (reducing brush marks) and to allow for ample working time. Finding such spar paints usually requires purchasing at a marine supply store or advertising pages or nautical magazine websites.
Paint application for side members
I’ll start by prepping this new front door for the finish by wetting it to get rid of hidden marks (Photo 1), sanding it to eliminate unsightly factory sanding marks (Photo 2) and resting it, so that both sides and all edges can be finished at the same time (Photos 3 and 4).
Next, I will apply a dark brown oil based pigment stain (Photo 5 and Sources). The pigmented spot adds more than the color – the pigments also provide some UV protection for the wood.
When the stain is completely dry, I’ll apply three coats of Epifanes Gloss Clear Varnish, my favorite premium marine varnish (Photo 6). To give the door a hand-sanded look, I’ll switch to the matte wood finish of Epifanes for the final coat.
This five-layer finish will provide many years of protection before requiring maintenance.
I’ll use a 2 “natural bristle paint brush and small round brushes to apply the paint (see Sources, below).
The 2 ″ brush will do most of the surface (Photo 7-10); the sash brushes provide better control over the moldings around the raised panels (Photo 11).
They are also the best tools for removing drops (Photo 12). Avoid multiple cleanings by soaking brush bristles in paint thinner between coats.
Epifanes transparent paint
Epifanes Woodfinish Matte
General finishes Antique walnut color gel
2 “Natural Badger Style Chinese Bristle Brush
Round sash brush with olive-shaped bristles Escoda n. 2
Here are some supplies and tools that we find essential in our daily shop work. We may receive a commission from sales reported by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.