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Sealing wood in the barn aisle

I’m going crazy going down the rabbit hole of clear wood finishes for outdoor use.

The stain in my barn aisle, on the wall and the stall fronts, was poorly applied to begin with and wearing badly, so I sanded. All of it.

I’m to the point where I’m ready to seal it. I was just going to use something like waterseal. I have a coat on some boards and I’m not sure I like it.

Googling around, I see that there are the coatings, like spar or poly, that sit on top of the wood. These apparently need lightly sanded and recoated with some regularity (every few years) or they will crack and peal and require sanding down to the wood. That doesn’t sound awesome, but I like how smooth and shiny they look.

There are also penetrating oils, that soak in, and these need refreshing maybe yearly but are overall easier on the maintenance front. That maintenance looks far more reasonable.

I’m not interested in staining anything or painting, I like the brightness of the natural wood, but I do want to protect it, waterproof it, and hopefully prevent UV wear. I think I need a oil based product, because the water in the waterseal is raising the grain of the wood, and I worked really damned hard to get that smooth. I guess it also needs to dry pretty quickly–I’m taking apart stalls to treat the wood, and horses have to go back into them by evening. Oh, if it’s not eleventy gazillion dollars, that would also be nice. Some of the finishes I’m reading about are eye wateringly costly, wow.

For those that have treated or finished wood in your barn aisle, what have you used? How do you like it, and what sort of maintenance has it required?

Spar urethane is on my T&G stalls and has been there 18 years. The only places that have peeled a bit are the sections that get beaten to death by the afternoon sun. Everything else is still smooth and shiny under the dust.

The wood still darkens, you can’t prevent the UV with a clear coat unfortunately. But it’s rich, not dirty-dark

We use Outlast Q8 wood oil for our log house, and use the Natural Base. It doesn’t stop the wood from darkening due to the sun, but it does soak in and protect. It’s not shiny though

Apparently you can, actually.

“A new class of pigments, first developed for automobile paint in the 1970s, provide UV resistance without compromising clarity. Called transoxides, or transparent iron oxides, they are particles ground so finely that they literally fit between the wavelengths of visible light. In effect, the rays we can see pass through virtually unimpeded, while most of the shorter UV waves reflect back and scatter before they reach the wood.”

The marine spars seem like the favorites for really solid UV protection, but even the Varathane at Home Depot touts UV protection on the label. But these require maintenance like light sanding and recoating every few years and that seems like a lot of work.

And there are UV protective oils, like this one. Also requires maintenance, but seems easier.

This has been a big project, to sand everything down, and I just don’t want to use something that lines me up to do it all again.

That’s great your spar has held up well with no maintenance for so long, that’s good to hear. Do you have any plans to address the damaged sections?

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No current plans to deal with the damaged sections yet as the wood itself is still fine since it doesn’t actually get wet other than randomly here and there. When the time comes, I’ll sand it and reapply probably with the marine spar

In my digging, I found an article on a sailing site that reviewed that various marine sealants on a laundry list of factors.

Epifanes Spar Varnish was best on UV resistance.

But it takes 7+ coats with 24 hour dry time between each.

And is eleventy gazillion dollars. :-/


Cost on the marine spars is generally pretty eye popping, I guess boat stuff commands a premium, just like horse stuff.

I also found this, which looks very neat.

But still quite expensive and a long dry time.

We sanded and stained all the wood (well almost all) a few years ago and I did a polyurethane varnish (I think?) on the exterior of the stalls which looks SO nice. I need to find the time/ energy to finish that project. It’s only been maybe 2-3 years but it’s holding up very well. Makes cleaning the walls easier. We did a light golden honey stain which helped hide some of the stuff that just would not sand off and some of the newer dirt stains. It brightened up the barn like crazy.

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Do your stalls not see much sun, or did they not have much weathering, when you sanded them down? The reason I’m looking for the uv resistant aspect is the amount of weathering I sanded off (and how damned HARD it was to get through it, uggggghhh.) I’d really like to limit that. As far as I’ve seen, polyurethane has no UV limiters.

The more digging I do, the more tempted I am to go with waterlox. I’d have to kick the horses out for maybe a week, but I’m not sure there’s really anything that will let me skip that. Even spar urathane is 4-8 hours between coats, three coats, then a 24 hour cure.

Waterlox is 24 hours between coats, 4 coats. But the no sanding between coats is so attractive at this point! Gawd, I just don’t want to sand everything again. Twice :neutral_face:

There’s a series of videos here that’s really pushing me toward the waterlox…

Epifanes gives a gorgeous finish. My father used it on his sailboat for years. It will definitely darken your wood. I did a jog cart with it and after 4 or 5 coats, the black pinstriping on the walnut stain isn’t nearly as visible as it was when I started.

A good spar varnish is expensive. It’s designed to be outside 24/7 in a wet, sunny environment. I’m not sure you need that for the inside of a barn.

You might look at floor varnishes. They are designed to deal with heavy wear. I’ve got a pony cart that finished with floor varnish (left over from doing Mom’s floor) and it’s held up pretty well. It’s kept in the barn and used a couple times a day. After 4? years, it could use a light sanding and recoat if we show with it.

Anything oil base is going to have a longer dry time. You may be able to find an accelerator to speed up drying.

I’ve had good luck with General Finishes products. They are a bit pricy, but do give a nice finish.

Thanks very much, @red_mares! That’s neat that you’re familiar with the epifanes. It looks like a really awesome product for those jobs that need it.

I’ve decided to go with the Waterlox. I really want the UV protection because of the amount of UV wear I sanded off (and how damned hard it was to get through it!) It’s used on floors and butcher block counters and stuff like that, and the marine version obviously gets used on boats. The paintsource videos on it being used in horse barns really sold me. I’m putting the marine sealer and finish in, for the UV protection. I plan on refreshing it every 2-3 years.

The time between coats and the cure time after the final coat are inconvenient, but a LOT LESS inconvenient than the requirement to sand between coats with the Spar Urathane. I’m so tired of sanding!

I am going to have to add some stain, which has been an interesting question to work through. The barn was previously stained an orangey red, and while tonnnnnns of that has been sanded off and the wood is very clearly much lighter and brighter, any finish is just really amplifying any and all red tone left in the wood. So far, a semi translucent white has been the winner there.

I really didn’t expect this part of this project to be such a sticking point, but isn’t that just always the way it goes. And of course waterlox isn’t available in any serious quantity locally, so has to be ordered, and I’m bummed to be missing this gorgeous weather for that work! Ah well.

I used Waterlox on my stalls, and they’ve held up really well, although they don’t get exterior weathering like yours. I can scrub them down as necessary, and I haven’t had to recoat yet, ten years on.

It is very easy to use, and even the low voc formulation is pretty whiffy. As you’ve said, horses out, and good ventilation for you!

Multiple thin coats are better than laying it on heavily.

Also, be wary of how you store/dispose of your applicator cloths; they can spontaneously combust. I lay them out on a gravel patch and allow them to dry thoroughly before discarding.


Oh yay I’m so excited to hear from a waterlox user!! I’m glad to hear it’s held up so well for you!

Did you apply with the lambskin block? Did you also use one of their finishers, or just the original sealer/finish? Do you recall how many coats you did?

I’ve got the marine sealer/finisher (which is apparently exactly the same as the original, with no voc shipping restrictions, saved quite a bit of $$ going that way over the low voc version) and then doing a coat of marine finish, for the UV protection. Planning three coats of sealer, one of finish. Mixing the satin & high gloss finish for a semi gloss.

Still nailing down the stain question as I finish up repairing some wood work in the barn, but hopefully will tie that all up today. Then on to staining & sealing!

I used heavyweight jersey rags, folded into a padded block, mainly because those are what I had at hand. I think the applicator would likely be even better.

I did three light coats, and you can definitely feel the difference when you have enough on. I did do a quick wipe down with 0000 steel wool and a dust cloth between coats, but I don’t think it’s particularly necessary to do so.

You don’t want it to pool and drip, and when you get to the final coat it is so gratifyingly slick.

I used the low voc original sealer+finish formulation. No additional finishers, but I think the marine range of products are more appropriate for your exterior use. I did take a quick look at the website, and I noticed that they advise against using it on pressure treated lumber, in case that’s a concern for you.

If I recall correctly, you may get some light amber tone from the finish; mine is on Douglas Fir and it really warmed it up nicely (though I know that’s not everyone’s thing).

You may want to consider a gel-based stain if you’re working on softwood vs hardwood. It forms a layer on top and doesn’t go splotchy.

Regarding mixing the satin and gloss-I used the satin alone and I found it luminously glossy on its own; I suspect the marine glossy will be notably glossy (think of classic wood boats, for example).

As for mixing it, some finishes such as Zar wipe-on tung oil/poly discourages mixing different sheens, but if I recall correctly, it’s because of the poly. I didn’t see anything about that on a quick skim of the Waterlox site, but it might be something to consider.

If your finish looks too glossy to your eye when dried, you can dull it down with the 0000 steel wool afterwards. Follow the grain of the wood (not swirly circles).

Sounds like you have a good plan in place-enjoy!


Glossy marine finish is GLOSSY. The running joke was that you could see yourself in my father’s teak when he was done. I think he may have used a satin or matte as a top coat to bring it down a little bit.

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