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In this tutorial, I show you my biggest epoxy table fail and how to protect outdoor epoxy wood table correctly – the first time.

In this step-by-step guide, you will learn about:

  • Reasons my Outdoor Wood Finish Fail
  • Best Outdoor Finish for Epoxy Wood Tables, Bar Tops, and Countertops
  • How to Seal Outdoor Epoxy Wood Table
  • Best Marine Grade Epoxy Varnish
  • How to apply exterior varnish over epoxy
  • And much more

Best Outdoor Wood Finish

The best outdoor wood table finish and other supplies I used in this project are listed below.

Penetrating Epoxy
Small Mixing Containers
Card Spreader
Halcyon Clear Gloss Varnish
Synthetic Brush

Video Tutorial: How To Protect Outdoor Epoxy Wood Table

There are several things which are difficult to fully explain with words and images, so be sure to check out the video tutorial below.

Epoxy Table Fail – I Replaced a $6,000 Table

As a quick level set – I made this 12 foot x 18 inch x 2 inch (Length x Width x Thickness) outdoor epoxy bar top with a live edge sinker cypress wood slab for a customer in South Carolina.
It had an epoxy river with embedded fire glass and blue glow powder.

live edge outdoor bar top

Additionally, I used stonecoat countertop epoxy as the final finish on the bar top.
I applied 3 seal coats and 2 flood coats for a total of 5 coats on this epoxy bar top.

outdoor epoxy wood bar top finish

Outdoor Wood Bar Top Location

When my customer ordered the epoxy bar top, his home was under construction and about 75% finished.
He stated the bar top is for an outdoor kitchen.
In addition, the bar top would be located under a patio and not exposed to outdoor elements.
Since the customer lives in South Carolina (12 hour drive away), I did not inspect the area.
Even if I performed a preliminary inspection, I don’t believe it would have prevented the impending disaster.

outdoor wood table location

So, I completed the bar top, loaded it in my truck, drove it to South Carolina, and installed it shortly after the customer moved in to his new home.
The installation went smoothly, customer was happy, and I returned home safely.

Ruined Outdoor Epoxy Wood Table

I get a text from my customer roughly 8 months later with this picture.

how to protect outdoor epoxy wood table
Epoxy Table Fail

After asking a few questions, I learned the epoxy bar top was exposed to direct sun for part of the day as well as rain water.
The direct sunlight combined with standing rain water on the bar top ruined the finish. 
Essentially, the harsh southern sun softened the epoxy each day.
Then, the rain and moisture eventually found its way under the epoxy.

epoxy table fail

Replaced Epoxy Wood Bar Top

Since the customer lives across the country from me, I decided to build him a ‘new and improved’ outdoor live edge river table bar top instead of fixing the previous one.
Furthermore, I used the best outdoor wood finish (more on this later) on this outdoor wood table as well as a few other enhancements.
I shipped the customer the new epoxy bar top and he returned the old bar top back to me so I can repurpose the sinker cypress slab.

How to Protect Outdoor Epoxy Wood Table Bar Top

Nobody at Fault

Essentially, this was no one’s fault.
Since my customer’s home was new construction, there was no way for him to know the bar top would be exposed to direct sunlight and rain.
Based on the information provided to me, I did not use the wrong outdoor wood finish.
In addition, StoneCoat Countertop Epoxy is not made to withstand direct sunlight and rain.
In fact, no epoxy can withstand these conditions – more on this later in this article.

I do my best to avoid blaming others or things for bad situations.
It accomplishes nothing and, often times, makes bad situations worse.
Sometimes, stuff (or 4 letter S word) happens.
As the old saying goes, “Don’t fight to be right, fight to solve problems.”

Epoxy UV Degradation and Water Damage

Before I dive into how to protect outdoor epoxy wood table the right way, I want to address epoxy protection.

Let me be clear – no epoxy finish can withstand direct sunlight (UV Rays) for long periods of time without degrading.
Eventually, epoxy succumbs to prevailing sunlight without exception.
Depending on the amount of sunlight exposure, the epoxy resin may turn yellow or form white spots on the surface.

Epoxy finishes can survive outdoors with proper maintenance.
However, I always recommend to not use epoxy for outdoor wood furniture as the final finish.
The normal homeowner does not have the tools, skillset, or time to properly maintain this surface.

UV Inhibitors for Epoxy

Often times, epoxy manufacturer’s label their epoxy as ‘UV Resistant’.
This simply means the epoxy contains UV inhibitors.
In other words, UV inhibitors simply prolong the aforementioned inevitable result.

Protect Outdoor Epoxy Wood Table

In order to protect outdoor furniture, wood, or anything from the outdoor elements, I prefer to use marine-grade products.
Think about it.
How does a sailboat or cruise ship protect the wooden hatches and handrails from the blistering sun, salty air, and rain?
If a finish protects wood on a sailboat or cruise ship, it certainly can protect outdoor epoxy wood tables for an outdoor kitchen in a backyard.
Ultimately, using a marine-grade wood finish simply makes sense.

Best Outdoor Wood Finish

A quality outdoor wood finish must provide UV protection and water protection.
The same goes applies for protecting outdoor epoxy tables.
While UV protection and water resistance may seem very different, they are closely related to one another.
In other words, if one fails the other fails.

With that said, there is a way to protect an outdoor resin river table or epoxy bar top withstand exterior elements.

best outdoor epoxy wood finish

How to Finish Outdoor Epoxy Wood Table

In order to finish an outdoor epoxy wood table, it must be sealed and finished with a varnish.

Seal Outdoor Epoxy Table

First, the supplies I used to complete this step are as follows:

Penetrating Epoxy
Small Mixing Containers
Card Spreader

Most outdoor finishes fail or simply don’t last because the surface was not properly sealed.
Moreover, properly sealing a epoxy wood surface prevents moisture or standing water from penetrating the surface and reaching the wood.
Basically, it serves as a moisture barrier which dramatically reduces the stretching and shrinking.
If water reaches the wood, it will cause all sorts of issues from wood expansion/contraction.

I used TotalBoat penetrating epoxy to properly seal the outdoor wood table and prepare it for the marine grade varnish.
Due to the thin viscosity, penetrating epoxy quickly penetrates cracks, crevices, and wood knots.
First, I calculated the square footage of the table which was 18 square feet.
I recommend using 1 ounce of penetrating epoxy per square foot, so I used 18 ounces.
Since this penetrating epoxy requires a 2:1 mixing ratio, I mixed 12 ounces of part A and 6 ounces of part B.

seal outdoor epoxy table

Next, I spread the material using a card scraper.

Keep in mind, you may need to apply more than one coat depending on wood absorption.
Then, I removed the excess by scraping it back into my mixing bucket.

seal outdoor epoxy table

Once it cures, the wood surface is properly sealed and ready for the final step.

Varnish over Epoxy

The supplies I used to complete this step are as follows:

Halcyon Clear Gloss Varnish
Synthetic Brush

To properly protect this outdoor epoxy wood table to withstand the forces of nature, I used a Halcyon Varnish by TotalBoat.
Before I proceeded with this step, I inspected the penetrating epoxy and made certain it sealed the wood to keep moisture out.

A varnish over epoxy finish will fail prematurely if moisture penetrates the epoxy due to a poor application.

Essentially, the benefits of TotalBoat Halcyon varnish are:

  • Resistant to UV, scratch, and abrasion
  • Fast Drying Time
  • Allows up to 5 coats in 1 day
  • No sanding between coats
  • Great adhesion and versatility, which allows wood to contract and expand
  • Water-based, so cleanup is easy with mild soap and water
  • Resealable packaging makes it easy to use and reduces waste
  • Has glossy and satin sheen options

Apply Varnish over Epoxy Wood Table

First, I mixed the Halcyon clear varnish by massaging the packaging at the top and bottom.

TotalBoat Halcyon Varnish Benefits

Next, I poured the varnish into a container through a strainer to catch any large particles.
I use roughly 12 ounces at a time because it dries quickly.
If I pour more than I need, I risk wasting varnish.

apply halcyon varnish

Then, I used a foam brush to apply a very thin coat.

I made sure I covered the entire surface as well as the live edge.

apply varnish to epoxy wood table

Once I applied the first coat, I cleaned the container and foam brush with warm water an allowed the finish to dry for roughly 2 hours.

Essentially, I repeated this process 4 more times and used a synthetic brush on the fourth and fifth coat.
I find it easier to use a foam brush for the first 2 or 3 coats and a synthetic brush for the final coats.

Once I applied the 5th coat of varnish over epoxy, I let it sit overnight.
This was the best outdoor wood finish I ever used.
Additionally, it was simple to apply.

How to Protect Outdoor Epoxy Wood Table Bar Top

1 Year Update – Outdoor Epoxy Wood Finish

I completed this project in December 2020 and intentionally waited 1 year to write this article.
Ultimately, I wanted to provide you with the most accurate update possible regarding the durability of this outdoor wood finish.

Outdoor epoxy table finish

After one year, the outdoor epoxy wood table continues to withstand the outdoor elements.
I am really impressed with TotalBoat Penetrating Epoxy and TotalBoat Halcyon Clear Varnish.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to protect epoxy from UV light?

The best way to protect epoxy from UV light is use an epoxy with UV inhibitors. Additionally, use a marine-grade outdoor varnish on top of the epoxy for extra protection from UV light.

What to use to protect an outdoor wood table?

The best way to protect an outdoor wood table is to seal it with a penetrating epoxy. Once sealed, apply varnish over epoxy for extra protection.

How to seal a wood table for outdoor use?

Penetrating epoxy works best to seal a wood table for outdoor use. Sealing a wood table with penetrating epoxy forms a moisture barrier which prevents water or moisture from reaching the wood.

Will epoxy resin last outside?

Epoxy resin and the outdoor elements do not mix. Eventually, epoxy will succumb to the prevailing exterior elements such as UV light from sun, temperature swings, and rain water.