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Old 16-02-2018, 16:55   #1
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Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

I’ve spent the last few months removing and replacing and bedding new toe rail and rub rail with mohagany on my first ever sail boat located in Florida. All of the fitting and finishing is done and I’m getting ready to start applying varnish. I get on the phone with Pettit and they recommend their flagship varnish, which they say will last 5 years in the Florida sun. I swing by West Marine to get some local advice and get mixed reviews, saying nothing lasts that long here, but they have some product on hand to sell. Lastly, I visit a local independent marine supply store to ask about varnish and they pretty much said nothing will last more than 6 months in the Florida sun without constant reapplication, and to prove it they only had a few quarts of miscellaneous products on the shelf. So my question to those with exterior bright work in this region: is it true that no varnish will last without semiannual recoats? Is it better to just let the wood go bare and weather? Would an oil be better? I’m not too conscerened about appearance, just want to keep the new wood stable and prevent rot. All advice would be appreciated.
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Old 16-02-2018, 17:19   #2
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Re: Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

I sold marine paint and varnish in Miami for about 40 years. No varnish will last five years in the South Florida sun. It would need a light sanding and a new coat about every 6 to 8 months. It doesnít sound like a lot of work, but if you donít do it you end up stripping and adding another six or more coats.

A friend of mine claims to be able to go a couple of years without recoating. He uses several coats of single part varnish topped with several more coats of 2-part varnish.
The one time I tried it the 2-part varnish cracked at each joint in the wood. My friend said I hadnít put on enough regular varnish under it.

To keep a nice looking oiled finish in South Florida, figure on recoating every six weeks or so.
Iíve seen a couple of boats that have canvas covers for all their exterior bright work.
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Old 16-02-2018, 17:25   #3
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Re: Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

So, how about varnishing, and then painting over the varnish?
I saw a brand new $1Mil plus Kady Krogen that the wood had been painted a dove grey color. It was shiny and I did confirm it had been done at the owners request.
So how does one go about doing that, without ruining the wood?
I have been told you can varnish to seal the wood and then paint over the varnish, and the paint will last 5 years.
Is this true, anyone done it?
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Old 16-02-2018, 17:33   #4
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Re: Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

Are used to use flagship for many years but I have a switch back to Capt.'s varnish. Still it needs a couple coats every six months to keep it good.
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Old 16-02-2018, 17:48   #5
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Re: Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

I've wondered if a clear resin top coat over the varnish would work. ????
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Old 16-02-2018, 17:48   #6
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Re: Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
So, how about varnishing, and then painting over the varnish?
I saw a brand new $1Mil plus Kady Krogen that the wood had been painted a dove grey color. It was shiny and I did confirm it had been done at the owners request.
So how does one go about doing that, without ruining the wood?
I have been told you can varnish to seal the wood and then paint over the varnish, and the paint will last 5 years.
Is this true, anyone done it?
A fellow came into the store and asked my Dad what the best varnish was. My dad handed him a can of Salmon Buff Interlux paint.

I wouldnít deliberately use varnish as a paint primer. It might work but I donít know. Just use a primer designed for the job. The primer will fill the grain with a lot fewer coats than varnish would.

If the wood is already varnished, Iíd strip as much varnish off as was easy to do, then prime and paint.
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Old 16-02-2018, 17:57   #7
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Re: Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

Paint it or let it go natural....
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Old 16-02-2018, 18:28   #8
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Re: Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

IMO, the reason for varnish under the paint is so that if you later decide to go bright again, no paint will have penetrated the grain of the wood. This makes restoring the varnish finish much easier.

We've known several long term cruisers who have done this, both with grey and with "teak colored" paint. Looks good to me,easier to apply (fewer coats) and much longer lasting.

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Old 16-02-2018, 19:50   #9
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Re: Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

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IMO, the reason for varnish under the paint is so that if you later decide to go bright again, no paint will have penetrated the grain of the wood. This makes restoring the varnish finish much easier.

We've known several long term cruisers who have done this, both with grey and with "teak colored" paint. Looks good to me,easier to apply (fewer coats) and much longer lasting.

Jim
That makes sense.
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Old 16-02-2018, 20:21   #10
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Re: Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

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I've wondered if a clear resin top coat over the varnish would work. ????
It will work fine. Just renew the clear resin every three to six months and you'll be fine.

Something that might work would be an automotive clear coat applied to protect the varnish or resin from UV. The clear coat used on cars lasts years in the Florida sun.

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Old 16-02-2018, 20:35   #11
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Re: Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

My efforts always go south after one season, so I'm very curious about the replies here. Canvas covers for brightwork are awesome, but that's too much wood in the pic for covers.
Very nice work on the mahogany, BTW!
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Old 17-02-2018, 08:44   #12
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Re: Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

My boats are in Antigua year round. The best varnish I found was Bristol Finish. A challenge to use but in my experience worth the effort and expense. I did not have to go down to bare wood for years.
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Old 17-02-2018, 08:45   #13
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Re: Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

Use epifanes, made in holland, spendy but top shelf for fl. you should get 5+ yrs.
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Old 17-02-2018, 08:55   #14
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Re: Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

We live in SW Florida. I use Epifanes on our Island Packet. It turns out beautiful but requires 2 coats a year to maintain it. That is after the initial 10 coats. Once you get past that first (painful) 10 coats, it really is easy to maintain with just the 2 coats a year.

I usually tape, lightly sand (with 320), and wipe with an old wash rag the first day. Then the second day I use a tacky cloth, wipe with mineral spirits, and then varnish....wait another day, do a second coat, and take off the tape.
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Old 17-02-2018, 08:58   #15
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Re: Varnishing exterior wood in Florida and Caribbean

I had my sailboat in Fort Lauderdale for 14 years.
Tried various products for the cap rails and external trim pieces. 2-part stuff like Bristol Finish will stay shiny longer than varnish, but does crack at the joints, then let water in and the product will lift and bubble.
2007 I stripped all old varnish off and built up from good clean teak using Epifanes. Initially 13 coats. After 12 months it would start to go dull with hairline cracks at the surface. Light sanding, lots of taping and 5 maintenance coats would buy another year. Did the above every year until I sold the boat in 2013.
Based on my experience varnish will last maximum 1 year in Florida.
Less in the Caribbean with even stronger sun.
My next 2 boats had no external teak, not even a toothpick.
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