Spar varnish isn't particularly waterproof. It has a higher oil content
so it is more flexible than regular varnish (though not as hard) so that
it can better deal with the wood movement due to humidity variations.
It also has UV inhibitors for outdoor use.
I'm not sure that it has any real advantages for indoor use.
My goodness! Whatta canna worms!
However, the discussion has been very useful. From the links you
provided and the information in the posts, I have deduced a few
1) Shellac may be a good water vapor barrier, but not a good liquid
water barrier when in contact with liquid water, such as condensed
2) Shellac is not flexible, hence is vulnerable to repeated expansion/
contraction cycles, and this is just what one would expect in the
bathroom doors, with repeated humid/dry, cold/warm cycles. Maybe my
finish was developing microcracks and allowing water beneath the
3) nailshooter41 guessed right, although I didn't "use Zinsser (or
products off the shelf", I am "not a full time finisher,
because" I DID "mix dewaxed shellac just to
use in a bathroom". Dewaxed orange shellac, purchased from Mr. Paddy
Olguin, 2-lb cut in denatured alcohol, three coats. Took fer-f****n-
ever, but it sure looks nice (except for the doors, of course).
4) Recoating with shellac, although probably pretty easy, is probably
not the best thing to do.
SO, I will recoat the affected areas (2 big doors, 2 medicine chest
doors, and various trim) with some kind of varnish, but not spar
varnish. I would prefer to use a less toxic varnish, and I know that
the technology has improved markedly in the past few years, as we have
a water-based floor finish that has held up extremely well on our red
oak floors. Any suggestions on finishes?
On Mar 11, 8:31 pm, email@example.com wrote:
LMAO. I like the constructive nature of this thread. Everyone is
civil, and a lot of good information has been brought to light by
I stand corrected. And I hope you understand my comment was not meant
to offend by any means. Many "non pro" guys turn out great finishes
because they take the time to do all the steps where a pro (ahem..)
might be inclined to skip one if possible.
Paddy!? Recently? I thought he retired completely to start another
venture and to play with his grandkids. Do you have a recent link or
Next time you make a batch up, put the mix in a container with the top
barely screwed on and put the container in a warm water bath. You
will take days off the dissolution. Remember that homebrew shellac
has a relatively short shelf life after mixing with alcohol, but will
last forever as flakes.
Ahhh.. but it is. Now shellac will shine for you if you let it. Sand
off the rough spots on your doors and coat them with the Zinsser
"sanding sealer" which is a dewaxed shellac. This will resolvate into
the existing shellac finish making ti stronger, and provide a bondable
film for your next coating. It will help you negate the effects of
the floating nasties that bathrooms have on surfaces such as hair
spray, spray deodorant, air fresheners, candle soot from those nasty
potpourri smelling candles, etc.
Then apply your new finish coat.
There is no point to spar in the bathroom. Doubtful your conditions
are actually THAT extreme.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that water based finishes aren't
just as toxic as the solvent based choices. Just because they have
water in them makes them sound benign, but they use ammonias,
formaldehydes, and other nasty things as their solvents.
If you will search around you will find that almost without exception
these days it is accepted that ALL dried finishes are quite low in
toxicity, and at that, you would have to ingest them for harm to be
I personally think the finish will come down to personal preference.
Brush guys have their favorites, and spray guys have theirs as well.
Still, for a bathroom, as others here have said, I would use
polyurethane. My choice would NOT be water based poly (I would rather
breathe fumes from solvent than ammonia) but solvent based stuff.
Most are pretty good, and they all go on about the same so I wouldn't
spend a lot of time finding on particular brand. Benjamin Moore makes
a good one, as does Sherwin Williams.
At the big boxes you can get the Flecto products which are quite
good. Even good old Deft makes a nice one called Defthane.
All of them spray, brush and pad well.
Others will have their thoughts as well, and may be able to get you
exactly what you want.
As always, just my 0.02.
I splattered some shellac on my glasses last weekend. It has not come off
in the shower after 4 days of washing it.
Tonight I tried soaking in a glass of beer. It still hasn't come off. I
guess next I'll have to move up to the vodka.
So, at the very least, I'd say it's pretty waterproof.
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