I need to varnish (I have an oil-based polyurethane) some piece of furniture. I can't do this in my house, but I could do it in garage, however I worry about the temperature, obviously the garage is not that warm as inside the house (think of a typical North American house with attached garage, no heating, while outside is winter -18..-20C).

How would the varnish coats react to low temperatures? In other words, would it dry longer, would the drying under low temperatures produce some bumps/bubbles/etc.

  • Instructions should have a minimum temperature , usually about 50F ( it does not matter what it "feels" like). Jan 25, 2021 at 16:32

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure what you're asking, exactly, but here are some suggestions based on my experience varnishing in a similar climate. The colder temps don't seem to have much effect on the quality of the finish.

  • Keep your work piece and your varnish indoors until you're ready to work. If the surface and the varnish are warm it doesn't matter a whole lot what the air temperature is except with respect to drying time.
  • Drying time will be slower. Water and solvents don't evaporate at the same rate in cooler air. My strategy is to work outside and move the piece indoors after an hour or so. You'll still have some odor in the house, but not nearly as much as if you'd do the work inside.
  • If you leave the work piece outside, plan for drying to take three to ten times longer.
  • 1
    Also read the instructions included with the product you are applying. If it says not to apply below a certain temperature, then don't do it!
    – jwh20
    Jan 25, 2021 at 15:54
  • True, but if both the work piece and the product are warm, that advice is less reliable.
    – isherwood
    Jan 25, 2021 at 19:00

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