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Deck Stain Reviews Ratings

Reviews & Advice To Get Your Deck Done Right!

DeckStainHelp.com is a help and review site with the goal of offering advice to homeowners with the difficult task of restoring their exterior wooden decks, docks, and wood homes.

Deck Help Articles

This is first and foremost a help site from our experience as restoration contractors. The main goal of DeckStainHelp.com is to offer guidance to homeowners and consumers with exterior wood restoration projects. There are numerous articles on how to properly prep your deck and how to properly stain your deck.

Feel free to browse our extensive articles and ask any questions you may have regarding your project.

Reviews and Ratings

Over the past years we have used numerous exterior wood deck stains, deck cleaners, deck stain strippers and wood deck brighteners. Our Reviews and Ratings are from our experience as contractors. We offer no guarantee of similar results. Take inconsideration that results may differ due to different wood types, exposure to UV radiation, and natural weathering. We allow consumers to post comments and rate their own experience with a product. We encourage all good and bad experiences to be posted. We discourage comments from manufacturers.

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armstrong clark deck stain
The Best Deck Stains

Armstrong Clark in Rustic Brown

Note: This is an updated version of our most popular article What is the Best Deck Stain?

We have had over 11,000 Q&A questions for the first article, helping consumers find the best wood and deck stain for their deck and specific environment.

The point of this article and DeckStainHelp.com is to offer guidance in choosing a quality deck stain that works well and will not create larger issues down the road when time to reapply. We have updated our original article by including answers to some of our most popular questions that we receive.

Here are some of our most popular answers to remember, before proceeding with any questions below:

  1. No deck stain will last 5+ years. A good quality stain will last 2 or maybe 3 years on a deck floor (horizontal) and typically twice as long on railings, siding, etc. (verticals).
  2. Penetrating stains will have less chance of peeling as they soak into the wood grain and do not film on top of the wood grain when fully cured.
  3. Penetrating deck stains are easier to maintain by cleaning and reapplying after 2-3 years.
  4. Filming Deck Stains that dry on top of the wood are harder to remove and/or reapply as they are more prone to peeling, wear, flaking, etc.
  5. Not all Deck Stains are penetrating. Even when they claim otherwise.
  6. Semi-transparent, Transparent, and Semi-Solids will show the grain of the wood to some extent. Solid stains, Deck Resurface Coatings, and Paints will not.
  7. Clear sealers without any pigment/color will not prevent UV graying. Lighter Pigmented stains that are Transparent, Semi-Transparent, or Semi-solid will have less UV protection than Darker Pigmented stains in the same transparency. More color/tint = better UV protection.
  8. Deck Stains are either Oil Based or Water Based. Filming or penetrating. Transparent, Semi-Transparent, Semi-Solid, Solid (opaque) Stains or a Deck Resurface Coating. See here for more info on Deck Stain Types.
  9. Oil based stains can still be used in all States and Canada as long as they are compliant to local VOC regulations.
  10. When switching brands of deck stain it is always best to remove the old coating first. Do this by using a Deck Stain Stripper and/or sanding.
  11. Always apply a Wood Brightener after prepping with a Stain Stripper or Wood Deck Cleaner to neutralize the caustic.
  12. New Decks (less than a year) are treated differently than older decks (more than 1 year). New decks need to be prepped and usually cannot be stained right away. See this about Staining New Decks.
  13. Prep, Prep, Prep = increased longevity of a stain.
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twp100series

What is Best Deck StainsNote: This is the first version of our most popular article on DeckStainHelp.com. We help by guiding consumers in finding a high quality and low maintenance deck stain based on a series of questions. This article alone had had over 11,000 Q&A questions to date. We have updated this article by including some answers to our most popular questions.

Please visit our updated article here: The Best Deck Stains?


What is the Best Deck Stain?

This is the most popular question that deck owners have. Unfortunately there is not a “best” deck stain out there. There are products that are better then others, but there is not one that will outperform every other stain.

A better way to approach this common question is to ask, “what is the best stain for my deck and it’s environment”? Just because a deck stain performs well in the Northeast part of the country does not mean it will perform well in the high altitudes of Arizona. There are also VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) Laws the come into effect for different parts of the country. This may limit what is available in your state. For example, TWP 100 Series cannot be used in 17 states that have a low VOC content of 250.

To understand a deck stain and its potential longevity, we should first look at the main reasons deck stains fail:

  1. UV rays from the sun will damage the wood resulting in degradation of the wood cell structure. This will break down the stain while causing the wood to oxidize (turn gray).
  2. Water, snow, and ice will cause damage to the wood by breaking down the exposed cellular structure.
  3. Freeze/thaw will expand and contract the wood resulting in the stain “bond” with the wood cells to fail.
  4. Mold, mildew, and algae will  leave the wood unsightly/dirty and can result in rotting.
  5. High traffic areas will leave “wearing” patterns.
  6. Previous stain used was of low quality or applied poorly.
  7. The Stain was not applied properly or the wood was not prepped properly prior to application. Bad prep is the number one reason stains prematurely fail!
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New Smooth Wood
Staining a New Deck

New Smooth Wood

Over the past year we have numerous questions asked on the site, but none was asked more than “What stain or prep is needed for my new deck”? There seems to be an incorrect opinion among homeowners that is is okay to stain new wood right away or even before the deck is installed. This is incorrect for most wood types and stain brands.

In this article we will cover the required prep and waiting period needed before applying a stain for the first time.

New Smooth Decking

New smooth decking boards are not porous enough for most stains to be able to penetrate properly. This is mainly due to:

  • Mill glaze when cut
  • High moisture content
  • Chemicals in Pressure Treated Wood
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Hardwood Deck Staining

We have been getting great feedback here at www.deckstainhelp.com from all of the consumers who have been looking for better stain alternatives for their deck restoration. Our most popular article, “What is the Best Deck Stain” has quickly become the number one article on the web for asking questions and getting answers on restoring your exterior wood and deck.

In this article we are going to cover what actually is a “Deck Stain”. We will compare the many different types of decking stain options available and what are the positives and negatives of each.

Deck Stains

Deck stains are used to protect and preserve your exterior wood. They offer UV protection, water repellency, mold and mildew resistance, etc. Deck coatings come in many different types of opacity and bases. Many deck stain brands can be restricted in certain states, cities and counties due the VOC laws.

Deck staining can be a “chore” for residential homeowners and unfortunately walking into your local store may produce some of the worst options available. Not all deck stains are created equal and there is not a perfect stain type or brand that will out perform all the others.

Water-Based Deck Stains

Water based deck stain have come on rapidly in the last 4 years. The main reason for the vast amount of water based stains on the market today is related to changes in VOC laws across the country. Many states have adopted or soon will adopt lower VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) regulations. This has prompted stain manufacturers to increase production of water soluble decking stains. In our opinion, water-based deck stain are “thin” paints with varying amount of acrylic and pigment.

Pros: Water cleanup, less chance of mold or mildew growth. Environmentally friendly.

Cons: Do not penetrate like an oil-base can. Slightly harder to apply as they dry quicker. Can be prone to peeling and wearing. *Defy Stains are the only exception that we have tested. They penetrate the best of all water based stains, nearly as well as an oil.

Oil based Deck Stains

Oil based decking stains have been around for 20-30 years and have been traditionally what all stain manufacturers produce. Oil based stains are typically made up of natural and synthetic oils. Many contain oils such as: Linseed Oil, Paraffin Oil, Tung Oil, Rosewood Oil, Etc.

Pros: Excellent penetration into wood. The better a deck stain can penetrate, the better the performance. Easier to apply. More natural looking.

Cons: Stronger odors, longer drying and curing time. Some oils can promote the growth of mildew. Some oil-based stains will darken in color over time.

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Bleach Is Bad For Wood

In this article we are going to cover what actually is “Wood Deck Cleaner”. We will compare the different types of deck cleaning options available and what are the positives and negatives of each.

Wood and Deck Cleaners

Exterior wood and deck cleaners are designed to clean and prep your exterior wood prior to an application of a wood stain. These cleaners come in many different concentrates with different ingredients. The main purpose of deck cleaners is to remove contaminants such as dirt, oxidation (graying), mold, algae, and in some cases, a very deteriorated stain that has failed. Deck cleaners are typically made up of caustics soaps that will aid in the scrubbing or pressure washing of your wood during the prepping process. Most deck cleaners will raise the pH balance of the wood resulting in a neutralizing acid (deck brightener) application to cancel the caustic of the cleaner, leaving the wood in a neutral state.

Note: Deck cleaners are not designed to remove old stains. You would need a deck stain stripper for this.

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TWP 100 Wood Deck Stain
TWP 100 Wood Deck Stain Review

TWP 100 Stain Review

TWP 100 Series Ratings ScoreImportant Note:  This is our 3rd Review of TWP 100 Series.

See our other reviews of the TWP 100 Series here: TWP 100 Wood Stain Reviews

TWP 100 “Total Wood Preservative” Deck Stain protects and maintains all exterior wooden surfaces. TWP Wood Stain is a special blend of chemicals in a contractor grade formula that safeguards and protects exterior wooden surfaces.

TWP® 100 SERIES penetrates deeply into wood without excessive surface film build, highlighting existing grain patterns with amazing clarity and warmth and is specifically designed to provide protection against the four major causes of wood degradation: wood rot, water, sunlight & mildew.

TWP Exterior Wood Preservatives are the only wood and deck stains on the market that are registered as exterior wood preservatives by the EPA.

TWP Deck Stains – 100 Series Review

TWP 100 Series Wood Deck Stain Scores (1-10)

Appearance After Initial Stain Application: 9

– We prepped the deck first with the Gemini Restore Kit and applied the TWP 120 Pecan color after a few days of drying. This deck was originally done with the TWP 101 Cedartone. The customer wanted to use the Pecan this time as it has a slight “brown” tone. The overall appearance was excellent.

Preventing UV Graying at 2 Year Mark: 8

– Same as the first time tested, The TWP Pecan 120 retained about 80% of the original color after 2 years of full exposure to the elements.

Wear/Tear and Peeling: 9

– Very minor or no wearing of the TWP. TWP penetrates very well into the wood grain so this is normal and expected.

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full-star

Latest Consumer Magazine Reports on Decking Stains is out again this year and we have been getting some questions as to why our ratings differ so much compared to their highest rated products. We have compiled a list of reasons why we believe our reviews and ratings are more realistic and honest examples of how a deck stain actually performs.

Contractor Restoration

Reviews and articles are posted from our experience as contractors who specialize in exterior wood restoration. We are experienced in the trade of prepping and applying a stain to an exterior deck.

Real World Testing vs. Individual Board Testing

The stains are tested on actual decks with normal exposure to weather and traffic. Consumers uses a test on an individual board that sees no traffic or use. This board is not exposed to normal everyday “real world” conditions.

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TWP 1500 Review
TWP 1500 Series Deck Stain Review

TWP 1500 Review

TWP 1500 Stain RatingsImportant Note: This is our 2nd Review of TWP 1500 Series. Our first review of the TWP 1500 Stain was started in 2010 and completed in 2012.

See Here for First Review: TWP 1500 Series Review

TWP 1500 Series Preservative is an  Oil-Based EPA approved wood enhancing preservative that stops structural damage and exterior wood rot on treated or previously treated above ground wood surfaces such as fencing, decking, roof shakes, wood siding and log homes.

*Note: TWP 1500 and the TWP 100 are the only deck stains registered by the EPA as a wood preservative. The 1500 is compliant in all US states while the 100 Series is not.

TWP Deck Stains – 1500 Series Review

TWP 1500 Stain Deck Stain Scores (1-10)

Appearance After Initial Stain Application: 8.5

For the pine deck we used the TWP 1530 Natural. This is not a “clear” but rather a traditional cedar color in our opinion. The manufacturer stated they made this color in the 1500 Series to match the color of the TWP 101 Cedartone. This allows for an easy switch from the 100 Series for consumers who are in a low voc state.

The wood grain was highlighted naturally with the 1530 Natural semi-transparent tint. The 1500 does not mask or film on top of the wood grain.

Preventing UV Graying at 2 Year Mark: 8.5

Excellent at preventing UV graying at the two year mark.  For the vertical railings, the TWP 1500 lost very little of the color. For the horizontals, we saw close to 80% color retention.

Same results as last time and one of the better products for preventing color fading

Wear/Tear and Peeling: 8

The TWP 1500 penetrates deep into the wood reducing the chance of wearing. We find that the 1500 Scored well here for a low VOC oil based stain.

Note that when staining brand new wood with TWP, we have found that it is best to let the wood season in the elements for at least 3+ months. Once it is weathered, we prep with a deck cleaner and wood brightener to enhance the stain penetration. Only 1 coat of the TWP 1500 for new smooth wood.

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Behr Deckover Stain Review

Deck Resurface Stains like Behr Deckover, Olympic Rescue-It, Rust-Oleum Restore – Do They Work?

Homeowners are always looking for an alternative to a deck replacement. When wood is neglected, it can be expensive to have it restored or replaced. A few companies like Behr, Rust-Oleum, and Olympic to name a few, are selling a deck resurface product. They claim it is the smart alternative to deck replacement. It can be applied to wood surfaces such as decks, stairs, docks, composite decking, and more. So is it a good alternative or is it just a waste of time and money?

Deck resurface products are basically similar to an extremely thick paint. They are designed to mask the wood and fill large cracks or voids. Deck resurface will not show any wood grain. Please note that this product is far beyond conventional wood restoration.

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Defy Extreme Review
Defy Extreme Review

Defy Extreme Review

Important Note:  This is our 2nd Review of Defy Extreme Wood Stain. Our first review of the Defy Extreme Stain was started in 2009 and completed in 2011.  See Here for First Review: Defy Extreme Stain Review

DEFY Extreme Wood Stain is a synthetic-resin, semi-transparent wood stain formulated using state of the art Nano-Technology to create a level of durability that has simply not been available in a wood stain finish in the past. Extreme Wood Stain is the newest member of the DEFY line of wood products and there most innovative high performance product yet.

*Note: Defy Extreme is replacing the Defy Epoxy after 2014. The main difference between the two is the Extreme contains zinc oxide nano particles. According to the manufacturer, this gives added UV protection and mold prevention.

Defy Extreme Deck Stain Scores (1-10)

Appearance After Initial Stain Application: 8

Defy Extreme Stain is a semi-transparent stain that seems closer to a transparent in that it does not mask the wood grain but rather highlights the natural tones. We used the Light Walnut color for our test deck. The Light Walnut is not a brown color but rather a reddish brown color. The customer was happy with the appearance but if you are looking for a brown, then try their newer Butternut.

Preventing UV Graying at 2 Year Mark: 9

The Defy Extreme offers excellent resistance to UV fading. Testing over the two years showed very little color loss on the vertical railings. The horizontal flooring should very good color retention as well. The Extreme contains zinc oxide nano particles. These particles seem to offer an additional layer of UV filtering.

Wear/Tear and Peeling: 7.5

For a semi-transparent water based decking stain, the Defy Extreme is excellent at diving deep into the wood grain. We have used and seen numerous water based acrylic stains and the Defy Extreme penetrates the wood grain better then the others. Very close to the penetration abilities of a oil based stain. Some wearing around table chairs and wood knots was noticeable otherwise the stain was very intact.

Take note that we do not use the Defy Extreme on brand new wood. If you want to use it on your new deck, it is best to wait a few months. The Extreme will penetrate better if you do.

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Armstrong Clark Wood Stain

Armstrong Clark Wood Stain ReviewArmstrong Clark Stain RatingImportant Note: This is our 2nd Review of Armstrong Clark Stain.

See Here for First Review: Armstrong Clark Stain Review

Armstrong Clark Wood Stain is an oil-based stain backed by  5 generations of experience in the exterior wood stain industry. Armstrong Clark is offered in 3 different versions: Trans parents, Semi-Transparent, and Semi-Solid Colors.

Armstrong’s has nondrying conditioning oils that separate from the drying side of the formula. These oils penetrate deep into the wood fiber where the wood’s natural oils used to be.

This process rejuvenates the wood. The drying oils stay at the surface, lock in the conditioning oils and create a dry to the touch barrier. Armstrong’s formulas also contain vegetable oils, transparent oxide pigments, water repellents, mildecide and solvent.

Armstrong Clark Stain Scores (1-10)

Appearance After Initial Stain Application: 9

– We used the Rustic Brown color for our deck deck. We have used this color many times and really like the look of this. It is mostly brown with a hint of red when applied. Very even appearance after full drying.

Preventing UV Graying at 2 Year Mark7

– We used a semi-transparent color for our second test of the Armstrong Clark. The first test (2010) we used the Mountain Cedar which is a semi-solid color. The Rustic Brown did well but the UV protection was a little less. This is normal for as semi-solid color to have better UV protection and is not related to the Armstrong.

Wear/Tear and Peeling: 9

– The Armstrong Clark showed no signs of peeling. Slight wearing in the high traffic areas. Overall AC penetrates deep into the wood grain so peeling was not expected.

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IPE Oil Finish ReviewWhy More Pigment Means Better UV Protection

Pigments are used for coloring and tinting wood stain. Most pigments used in stain manufacturing are dry powders that are ground up. The powder is added to a binder that suspends the pigment, which gives the stain its desired tint. Stain pigments can vary in color depending on the type of light they are reflecting. For exterior wood surfaces that light source is typically sunlight. But pigments also play an important role in protecting the wood from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

The pigment reflects the sun’s radiation, this is why more pigment means better UV protection. In general, the more pigment a stain has the more UV protection it provides. Stains can be specially formulated to not only give a beautiful appearance but also to help reflect UV rays even more. Synthetic pigments and nanoparticle technology combined with heavy resins, binders and other fillers can offer superb UV protection.

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*This is first and foremost a help site from our experience as wood restoration contractors. All stain and prepping manufacturer directions were followed with our reviews and ratings. We offer no guarantee of similar results. Take inconsideration that wood and deck stain results may differ due to prepping procedures, different wood types, exposure to UV radiation, natural weathering, etc.

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