Wood Outdoor Bar Top
by Dan Santana
(Modesto, CA., USA)
I'm building a bar outdoors and decided on a stained wood top and would like it to have the depth and gloss of a restaurant styled bar top. I understand that it must have UV protection and would like it to be a clear finish to see the grain of the wood. Do you have any suggestions as to epoxy or varnish? Thanks, Dan
Well Dan, epoxy is no good... it'll break down in the sun.
An exterior, phenolic-based varnish is your best bet. Good water repellent and UV protection, but you must realize that maintaining a wood outdoor countertop in fine condition is going to be a frequent and ongoing chore.
Of course, if the bar is undercover or somewhat protected from the elements the maintenance won't be quite so tough, but...
You'll have to sand and apply new coats probably every year. And to get a really nice finish, you must keep the surface free of dust and any debris during application.
Also, for the initial application many thin coats offer better protection and durability than 2 or 3 heavy coats.
You might consider Marine Spar Varnish for ultimate durability, but it tends to go on much darker and will continue to darken. Although, all varnish will yellow a bit with age.
I agree that a nicely finished wood bar top looks really cool and many people like working with wood and varnishes. It is really a fine skill. If that's you, then have at it. If not, then you may want to reconsider a surface that will require much less TLC. Of course, you could hire out the maintenance too.
You've probably already thought through all of this so anyway... I wish you well and good luck with your outdoor countertop project.