Best Finish for Bar Top?

Finishers discuss the options for a bar top, considering durability and the ability to apply on site. February 15, 2009

What would you suggest for finishing a bar top?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor C:
Do a search on this site for bartop finishes - it has been discussed a lot. 2K urethane seems to be best choice.

From contributor R:
I’ve seen quite a few bar tops that had a piece of glass sitting atop the finished wood. If you go the glass route the wood top could be finished with a Conversion Varnish or a 2K Poly. You can’t beat the hardness of a 1/4' piece of tempered glass.

From contributor A:
Conversion varnish is a poor choice for a bar top. The film thickness is minimal regardless of the durability. 2K urethane is the best. Some people like epoxy (System 3 Mirror Coat). I've seen a few bar tops maintained with yearly coats of Waterlox.

From contributor R:
Are you doing this bar top for a client? If so what look does the client want? Open coat, closed coat, gloss, satin, flat, waxed, polished? Also what species of wood are we talking about?

From the original questioner:
We do use Post Cat Varnish and 2K Poly but for this job we have to brush on the finish because we can't remove the top. It is a red oak with mahogany bullnose and we’re looking for a satin low fill finish. We've considered using brush-on poly for floors. Any ideas for brush-on finish for bar tops for be appreciated?

From contributor R:
I would use Bona Traffic.

From contributor B:
Have you considered the pour-on finish? I have used this stuff on two large bartops in two different beer joints. It is a little pricey. It is the equivalent of 50 coats of varnish. It looks great on a rough form piece of lumber. If your customer wants a deep gloss it will work well for you. If they want a satin, I would finish with one coat of vinyl sealer and several coats of precat lacquer, followed by a pumice rub.

From contributor S:
Epifanes or Awlgrip linear polyurethane boat varnish if you have to brush. If it can stand up to saltwater it can handle a bar.

From contributor A:
Epiphanes looks good on boats, but it’s just varnish and not too durable. The Awlgrip is a 3K product which is quite durable. You can brush 2k with the correct reducer.

From contributor R:
Epiphanes makes several products that would work well. Their PP varnish is a catalyzed varnish that is incredible and I believe the linear polyurethane (2K) is brushable also. I just thought for inside someone’s home a WB coating would be a good idea and the Bona product is a two part finish and hard as a rock.