The Best Varnish For Pine Floors

By thewoodmeter •  Updated: 04/23/23 •  5 min read

Pine floors are aesthetically pleasing and very affordable. Unfortunately, pine is a softwood and is susceptible to decay, insect attacks, and water damage.

That’s not to say that pine floors won’t serve you for decades, they can,  if you maintain them well. Finishing pine floors using varnish is the most effective way of extending their lifespan. This is because varnish is one of the hardest finishes for wood and it offers maximum protection against scratches, stains, and water damage.

Want to finish your pine floors using varnish but are unsure which brand to use? Here’s a list of the best varnish for pine floors.

Best Floor Varnish for Pine Floors – Our Top Picks 

Epifanes Clear Varnish

Best Overall
Epifanes Clear Varnish (500 ml)

This varnish is ideal for exterior applications as it comes with UV inhibitors. The UV filters prevent the ultra-high gloss finish from fading. Epiphanes dries to a clear, high gloss finish that enhances the natural beauty of pine floors. It also doesn't amber or darken over time. 

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Epifanes is a marine spar varnish made of alkyd resins, phenolic, and Tung oil. It’s commonly used on boats but can also be used for other outdoor applications.

When alkyd resins, phenolic, and Tung oil is combined, they form a finish with exceptional durability. The Epiphanes Varnish is ideal for high-traffic areas as it is highly resistant to wear and tear.

Epiphanes varnish has excellent water-resistance properties. No wonder it is used on boats that are constantly exposed to moisture. You can trust that it will protect your pine floors from water damage effectively.  

It can be applied using various methods including brushing, spraying, rolling, or tipped. 

Best Varnish for Interior Projects

Eco Friendly Pick
Minwax Clear Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Finish Gloss

Minwax 65555 Clear Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Finish does more than protect wooden floors from scratches, spills, and dirt. It dries to a crystal clear finish that highlights the beauty of pine floors. The product has a non-offending odor and allows you to stay in your house during the application process.

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It also dries fast and allows a recoat after 2 hours. This is beneficial since you can apply the recommended three coats in a day.

Like other water-based finishes, Minwax Polycrylic finish dries clear and doesn’t yellow over time.
The product is available in various sheens including, gloss, satin, semi-gloss, matte, and ultra-flat.

Tried & True Varnish Oil – Best Eco-Friendly Varnish

Eco Friendly Pick
Tried & True Varnish Oil

Tried and True is an all-natural varnish made using the 1800s Shaker recipe. It contains linseed oil and natural pine resin. This varnish yields a high gloss finish that allows the beauty of wood to shine through. It also doesn’t yellow or darken over time.

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Finding a varnish that’s highly durable and 100% natural is difficult but Tried and True Varnish fits the bill. It is made from natural and sustainable ingredients and doesn’t contain any solvents or volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  

Pine resin hardens as it ages. Thus, Tried and True varnish forms an impressively strong finish that is highly resistant to scratches and dents.

The downside to using this product is that you may find the application process tedious. The varnish is usually applied using a lint-free cloth. After about 1 hour, you are required to rub the wood surface vigorously until it is completely dry.

This step is tedious but very crucial. Ignoring it might cause drying or curing issues on the finished surface.

Best Varnish for Low and Medium-Traffic Areas

Most Durable

Bona products are known to have a high-build formula, and this varnish is no exception. Bona Mega One Varnish has a notable resistance to wear. It doesn’t dent, scuff, or scratch easily either. It is an easy-to-use finish with excellent sanding properties.

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The varnish does not emit an offensive odor, so you can comfortably stay at home while it is being applied. The product emits fewer VOCs, so you can still enjoy better indoor air quality after finishing your floors. Bona Mega One varnish dries clear and has a slight warming coloration on the wood.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Varnish

(a) Type of Varnish  

There are two types of varnish, water-based and oil-based varnish. Water-based varnish dries faster, emits less VOC, and has a non-offending odor. This type of varnish doesn’t amber over time, it allows wood to retain its natural beauty. Water-based varnish is more durable and costlier than oil-based varnishes.

Oil-based varnishes give wood a rich, warm golden hue. However, it takes longer to dry, has a pungent smell, and tends to darken over time.

Understanding these key features can help you make an informed decision. For instance, if you want your pine floor to retain its natural color, then you’re better off choosing a water-based varnish. On the other hand, if you’re okay with your floors having a gold patina after some time, then you might want to use an oil-based varnish.

 (b) Durability

Floor finishing is a big project, one that you don’t want to be budgeting for on a regular basis. It is wise to choose a durable varnish to avoid having to budget for it every few years.

Water-based varnish is more durable than oil-based varnish since it doesn’t peel or crack easily. Thus, a water-borne varnish will protect your floor from scratches and dents longer.

(c) Ease Of Application

To get a clean finish, you must apply varnish correctly. You should buy a product that’s easy to use, especially if you are not a floor-finishing professional.

Oil-based varnish is easy to use since it takes longer to dry. The longer drying times allow you to rectify any mistake that could have happened during the application process. On the other hand, water-based varnish dries fast, leaving no room for corrections. 

(d) Drying Time

As mentioned earlier, water-based varnish dries faster than oil-based varnish. One coat of water-based varnish dries within 2 hours while that of oil-based varnish can take up to 8 hours.

It is critical to determine how much time is available for the project. Once you have a rough idea of how much time you have, you can look for a varnish that will allow you to stick to that timeframe.

Summary: Best Varnish For Pine Floors

Pine is one of the most beautiful and affordable woods for flooring. It is also a softwood that requires a lot of maintenance. Varnish is the ideal finish for pine since it is sturdy enough to protect the wood from stains, scratches, and moisture damage.

If you’re about to finish your pine floor, consider using one of the following brands.



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