Best Stain for an Old Deck

Best Stain for an Older Wood Decking

Wood decks can be a beautiful addition to any property but when neglected they can also become an eyesore. When a deck goes too long without being maintained sun and water damage occur. The wood loses its natural oils and becomes very dry and porous. Cracking, splitting, warping, and graying are all signs of an old deck that has not been protected against weathering.

Here are the steps needed to make your old tired deck look new again:

Repair First

Do a thorough look over for any rotten boards and replace them. Check for loose boards and railings and tighten these up as well with decking screws. Check foundation for any structural damage.

Clean and Brighten Deck

It is not impossible to bring an old wood back to life. A little care and maintenance can revive most neglected decks. If the deck is still in good structural condition the grayed wood can be cleaned using a wood deck cleaner.

Use a scrub brush or pressure washer with the deck cleaner to remove unwanted mold, mildew, dirt, and graying. The transformation of washing an old deck back to clean again can be amazing. After using a wood cleaner it is important to use a wood brightener. While the wood is still wet, apply a wood brightener to the surface to enhance the wood’s beauty and open the wood pores for better stain penetration.

Apply Penetrating Stain w/Non-Drying Conditioning Oils

Once the deck dries choose the best stain for an old deck. Because old wood decks are extremely dried out, a wood stain the conditions the wood is essential. We use stains like Armstrong Clark for an old deck. This type of wood stain contains non-drying penetrating oils that help rejuvenate the wood cells. These conditioning oils stay deep in the wood to replace the wood’s lost natural oils.

The stain also contains drying oils that separate from the conditioning oils. These drying oils remain on the exposed surface to cure locking in the conditioning oils and providing a layer of protection against weathering. This conditioning of the wood’s cellular structure and weather protection are the key to reviving an older wood deck.

Maintain Every 2 Years

Repeat the cleaning and staining of the wood every 2 years to keep up the look and extend the life.

Many deck owners think an old deck may have to be torn down and a new one built to replace it. This is not always the case. Old decks can be cleaned up and coated with stains specifically designed to rejuvenate old wood. It may just be possible to bring your old wood deck back to life and get many more years of use out of it.

Questions? Please Ask Below

79 Responses to “Best Stain for an Old Deck”

  1. Mark says:

    Would Defy Extreme be also suitable for my old deck ? Or do you consider Armstrong Clark to be by far the best choice?

    My deck is old (~15 years), but has been maintained reasonably well (with CWF water-based stain). Location is Claifornia, lots of sun.

  2. Bob says:

    It's very confusing. Stripping, cleaning, brightening, staining. Are all 4 steps necessary every two years?

    • Bob, you clean or strip then brighten. You do not need to do both. If the stain has just gotten dirty and faded evenly then you clean for the prep. You strip if the old stain has failed badly and unevenly or if switching brands of stains.

  3. dan says:

    Love this site. I have a 16+yr old deck, we bought the house 3yrs ago, the deck is beat and very weathered, very gray with green alge and mold in some spots, doesnt seem like it was every treated however there is a cedar type color on some of the spindles of the railing that don't receive much sunlight. Its hard to tell if it was a solid stain or a semi with color. Deck is sound structurally. I powerwashed today and applied a cleaner also but the green is still there on the floor boards. Would applying a bleach solution help and what stain would be best for this type of older wood. Im thinking a darker semi transparent to hide the old wood look and am looking at TWP 1500 or Defy Extreme.

    • Dan, we are not fans of using bleach but it may help with the green algae. Might want to look at the Dark Oak in the TWP or Butternut for the Defy Extreme. Also Oxford Brown by Armstrong Clark.

  4. IGC says:

    This site has been very useful, thanks! We have an old deck, probably 15+ years, that hasn't been treated or maintained in at least 10 years. It is a pressure treated lumber. We hired a contractor to repair it, and need to chose the stain fast. We are in NY state, deck is in full sun most of the day. From this website we see that TWP 1500 is highly recommended, but wanted to see if this is the best choice for our specific needs. Are there alternatives that you recommend? Since the wood is so dry, we are looking at a penetrating, semi- transparent, oil-based stain.
    Also, our cotractor has not used TWP before – are there any specific things to watch out for?

    • IGC, I would look at the TWP 1500 or the Armstrong Clark for this and your requirements. Armstrong Clark does contain conditioning oils for your dried out wood.

  5. Ron says:

    I have a large wood dock on the TN river that needs some restoration and a good stain recomendation. It is a fixed dock and does go under water a couple of times a year (usually late winter/early spring) and I'm experiencing algea growth as well as some boards splitting. What would be the best treatment to restore and stain with? Deck is treated pine.

  6. dennis says:

    I looked into using the TWP products for my deck in Vermont based on their reviews on this site, but as far as I can tell no TWP product is available to ship into Vermont because of VOC compliance issues. I believe the same it true for NY state as well. Am I missing something? I'd love to have the option of using the TWP products. It does seem that I can order the Armstrong Clark stain for shipment into Vermont, although it is not available within the state. This seems like a good option. I VERY much appreciate the excellent information provided on this site. Thank you!

    • Dennis, you can use the TWP 1500 in VT.

      • dennis says:

        Thanks much for your reply and your superbly helpful site! I see that now. There was a page on one of the TWP distributor sites that had incorrect information. I have a question in on the TWP help site as follows — feel free to provide any advice on that as well — I'd sure appreciate it! Here's my question to them:

        I just discovered TWP stains and would love to use them for my current deck recoating project. I'm in Vermont, so I must use the 1500 series. I have just meticulously prepared the deck by spraying with a bleach/detergent solution and thoroughly rinsing with a power washer. It looks ready to go — the surface of the pressure-treated material is good, with no trace of dirt, mildew, mold, or algae. My previous stain was an Olympic semi-transparent (high VOC) applied between 2 and 3 years ago for different parts of the deck. The color still shows, but there is no surface buildup whatsoever and water soaks into it very readily — the wood is 25 years old and quite weathered, but sound. I hadn't thought that recoating with TWP would be a problem, but I see that on your "Switching to TWP stains" page you say "Before switching to TWP Wood Stains, you first have to remove all remnants of the old failing stain. Use a wood stain stripper and not a wood cleaner". However, the last commenter (jbosey) asked regarding the TWP 100 "Will it be necessary to strip it and brighten it or can we now just use the TWP?", and you replied "if the wood is clean and free of old coatings you can go ahead and apply the TWP 100". Is there a reason that I would have to strip all of the color off my deck before using the TWP 1500 product, or should the current fully-prepped condition of my deck be OK to go ahead and use the 1500? Thanks!

        • Dennis, stains always before best when the wood is free of previous coatings. This allows the new stain to penetrate into the wood well. It is hard to say in your scenario but if in doubt that the stain will be able to penetrate, then strip off the old coating.

  7. CJ Jazz says:

    I have an old deck that sits in full sun from noon to sunset plus it surrounds a pool which gets a lot of use. I was not happy with my last semi-transparent stain as after two years it is already peeling off. I would like a good quality stain that would last longer in the hot Michigan summers and the cold Michigan winters. Any help with this would be greatly aporeciated.

  8. ClevelandTom says:

    Cleveland area, two level deck, upper level is 18 years, lower level is 12. Structure is sound but boards on upper are getting dried out, some cracking. Was considering Behr Premium DeckOver, which is opaque and claims to fill cracks. Your advice here points in a different direction to penetrating oil based stain. I power washed and was able to remove some of the previous stain, Behr Premium, 3 years since application, still getting good adhesion in some areas. Based on reviews at your site I am totally rethinking the Behr thing! What stain would you recommend and any experience with DeckOver?

    • ClevelandTom, DeckOver is new this year so there is no history with it. They basically copied the Synta Deck Restore product that we reviewed and did not like. Mixed reviews from homeowners as well.

      • ClevelandTom says:

        Thank you, I am thinking of TWP 1500, but question on prep. I am getting great adhesion – meaning it did not come off with a good power washing – of the previous stain on everything vertical and >50% of horizontal surfaces. How necessary is stripping on both horizontal and vertical surfaces? Should I test for penetration?

        • ClevelandTom, you cannot apply TWP 1500 on another brand of stain and assume it will work correctly. For best results you should always remove the previous brand if you plan to switch brands. Have you tried a stain stripper with the pressure washing?

          • ClevelandTom says:

            No, but I just read your entire sections on stripping and brightening. Pretty convincing that this is the route to go – I am willing to put in the work to delay having to replace the wood. Seems like the procedure is (1) strip (2) brighten immediately, (3) wait a few days (4) stain with a penetrating stain like TWP 1500. Can you suggest stripping and brightening products? Anything else in the process such as sanding?

          • Try the Restore Products and sand after if needed only.

          • ClevelandTom says:

            Sorry for the long delay in reporting results! I followed your directions and stripped, brightened then stained with TWP1500. Wow phenomenal results, looks amazing. Stripping was very easy, the old Behr stain came right off with stripper and a power washer. When spring rolls around I am thinking of one more coat of TWP1500 om the horizontal areas, as a few spots still look a bit "thirsty". How should I prep?

          • ClevelandTom, glad it turned out great! Lightly clean this Spring to remove dirt but you do not want to remove the stain. Apply a very light coat of the TWP to the horizontals and make sure to back wipe excess if needed.

  9. MinnesotaJJ says:

    we need to redo our deck. It is about 24 years old, cedar and we have used Sikkens on it since the beginning. The Sikkens just peels off the last few years so we need to either replace the whole deck or we were thinking of sanding it down and using some other kind of stain. But if you sand it, that only gets the top, not the sides, which have stain on them as well. Any ideas on if we will still have problems with the sides and how a new brand of stain will work when it gets on top of the Sikkens?

  10. Nicole Plourde says:

    I am in Ontario, Canada and am having troubles figuring out what to use on our deck. It is pressure treated wood about 10 years old and has never been stained or treated in any way. We recently pressure washed it with a cleaner so I think it's ready to be treated. Any advice for what I can buy in Ontario?

  11. Nick says:

    I have a 2yr old pressure treated deck that has never been stained. Live in Western Pa, sun/shade, hard winter. What do you recomended. Need something that will stand up to the weather and 6 kids playing on it!!

  12. Andrea says:

    I am getting ready to stain our old deck and I know the previous owner's used Thompson's water sealer. That was 2 years ago. It is 99% gone, just a few spots where water doesn't penetrate. I already used a cleaner and brightener and the deck looks good, can I sand that Thompson's off, I will it need to be stripped? Does stripper even work on it since it really isn't a stain? Will I have issues with getting a product to stay put? I saw you recommend Armstrong Clark for dry cracked wood, so that is what I was going to get.

  13. Kate says:

    Getting ready to stain our deck that was built about 5 years ago. At the time we did not waterproof it or stain it. We live in St. Louis, MO, get all four seasons. The wood is gray and is cracking in certain areas. Would you recommend power washer, using a brightner and staining. What stain do you receommend for our area?

  14. Greg says:

    My 20 year old deck is very weatherbeaten and grayed. It has been raining on it everyday for the past three weeks. There is no rain in the forecast the next two days. Tomorrow I plan to clean and brighten with restore a deck. Do you think the deck may be to wet to clean? Thanks.

  15. mike says:

    I have cleaned and brightened my older decking/porch siding; some of the vertical wood posts are very "furry" after the cleaning and brightening so i am going to sand them lightly to remove the fur; my questions are:1) what grit do you recommend i use to sand the "fur" off and 2) do i need to clean again after the sanding or what should be my final step before apply armstrong clark stain to the wood? I have read that a final light hosing should be good for removing the light sanding dust- do you agree? Thank you for your advice.

  16. Stephen Brown says:

    I bought wood from a "yellow cedar" deck, 2×6, not alaskan yellow, from Hab for Humanity. The wood is amazing, straight grain, no knots, clear wood. I removed my old deckwood and screwed the new stuff doen, bottom side up to get the nicer surface.
    What would be the best stain to use? TWP 1500 or Armstrong Clark? I plan to do a clean and brighten with restore-a-deck.
    And how long after treating should I do it again? thanks, Stephen

  17. JCR says:

    We have an old deck, probably 10-15 years old, probably cedar.

    We have cleaned and brightened it, and there are some spots where boards are a little rough and splintered.

    Is it a good idea to spot sand only those boards that are splintering, or to sand everything (so as to ensure uniform coloration and grain)?


  18. kas106 says:

    I have 3 , 20 year old decks that are weathered, with cracks, but are structurally sound. They have cabot solid stain on them. Most of the vertical boards are still covered but the horizontal boards have peeled and become very worn. I want to stain but the solid stain will not come off with any products , This decks are way too large to sand. Any suggestions?

  19. Left Base says:

    So, I have to replace a four year old coat of Behr Premium on my cedar ( I think it's cedar) on the North Oregon coast.
    Based on the comments I've seen here, I'm inclined to just sand it and not bother with chemical stripping. Is there a chemical that'd work to remove Behr?

  20. Shamus says:

    Hello! I have a 20+ year old deck in a home we just moved into in MN that looks like it has had very little care put into it. I've read up on everything here on the website I can, ordered TWP 100 and this should arrive today. I did a good deal of sanding/repair on the deck first, then used a cleaner and brightener and power-washed both off 2 days ago. After everything dried, the deck looks SO much better, but there are still some dark(er) spots, as well as some 'streaks' from the power washer. I used an orbital sander on the railings to remove any dark(er) spots and rough spots (as I saw that it is OK to sand after brightening on the blog)…

    My question is, after 2 days of 'drying' having washed/brightened, now that I've noticed those dark(er) spots/power-wash streaks, if I were to re-power-wash those streaks out (figured out how to adjust the PSI now), will I need to brighten again prior to applying the TWP 100? Or will I be able to sand/or power-wash those spots/streaks out, let it dry, and move to the staining?

    Thanks for any help – this website is AMAZING by the way!

  21. Ron says:

    I stained my daughter's deck in Cleveland last summer (the wood was gray, cracking/splitting, and very dry). I did not strip, clean, or brighten before using a stain from Home Depot (brand unknown). The deck is now peeling. I am traveling to Cleveland for 2-3 days this weekend to fix the problem. Should I strip then stain the next day?

    • Ron, you need to strip and brighten and possibly sand as well. This will take 1-2 days. After the prep you will need to let the the wood dry for 24-48 hours before applying the stain. This is not a one or two consecutive day job.

  22. Jenn says:

    I have a large deck that is about 20 years old that needs to be re-stained and I live in PA. We used behr a few years ago and it was terrible. I have some boards that need replaced and others are just old looking. I've been reading lots of reviews and posts and I'm leaning towards TWP 1500. I know I will have to strip off the old Behr product, but do I then need to brighten? Is TWP 1500 my best choice for an older looking deck? How does the reapplication process work a few years from now if I stick with TWP… would I have to restrip or just go over top of what's on the deck at that point?

    • Jenn, yes you need to brighten the wood after stripping. It neutralizes the stripper as well. TWP 1500 is a good stain for older wood. You can clean and re-coat TWP without stripping a few times but any stain can buildup eventually and require a stripping once in awhile. TWP is easily strippable if needed ever.

  23. Linda says:

    I am wondering what can be done about a deck that was stained then sudden rainstorm hit. Now am left with a spotty job. Must I start over?

  24. Judy says:

    I had Cabot stain put on my 16 year old deck about 4 years ago (this was the third product I've used in the 16 years the deck has been built-always powerwashed before), got a little rain next day and the stain immediately began flaking and peeling. The wood is now badly cracked.
    So if I'm understanding right, I need to : (1) use a stain stripper in the pressure washer which may need to be applied twice(?) (2) Use a wood brightener right away to let the oils penetrate (3) let the deck dry for a few days (4) apple TWP 1500 (sounds like the best product for a deck in this condition(?) (5) repeat all 4 steps every 2 years?
    Another question, I just got new vertical railings, top rails, etc. installed and was told by the local lumber company to pour water on it in about three weeks and if the water soaks in, the stain will soak in, if it still beads up on the treated lumber, need to wait longer – does that sound right? Also, do I need to do any prep work on the new treated lumber before applying TWP 1500 – and is that the best for the railings also? Not going to do the decks until next spring, but need to get the new rails done before winter. Live in KY – morning dew is going to start in a few weeks. How do I work around that? How long should the TWP 1500 sit before dew or rain hits it? A lot of questions I know, but you sound like a site I can trust so am anxiously awaiting your reply – and thank you!

    • Judy,

      -yes on the steps.
      -you should wait 4 months to let new wood season when using TWP
      -all new wood should be cleaned and brightened first before staining
      -I would wait until Spring to do new railings

  25. David says:

    I have a 20 year deck in Pittsburgh that had been stained with semi-transparent Behr product. The wood is fairly badly weathered with a rough surface and lots of splits. I would like to keep this deck going as long as I can.
    I washed, brightened, and next will sand heavily before re-staining. . Your recommended stains for old decks appear to all be semi-transparent. For a weathered deck will these stains work better than a solid stain in terms of protecting the wood as much as possible from further damage? Or does a solid stain offer better protection? Also- Can I caulk or fill larger cracks to prevent further ice/water penetration? WIll the semitransparent stains cover a "paintable" latex caulk? is there another filler I should use?

    • David, you cannot caulk than stain. I would look at the Armstrong Clark in their semi-solid colors for this older deck. More uv protection but still penetrates as opposed to a solid.

      • DAvid says:

        Thanks. Heavy sanding with random orbital floor sander and 36 grade paper made huge difference! Wow. For deep cracks and fissures what should I fill with? DAPs plastic wood or similar product by Elmers fro big box stores? or is there a better specialty item?

  26. Colette says:

    I have a 20-year old redwood deck that has been treated every few years with Thompson's Water Seal. No stain has ever been used but I notice some parts of the deck are more brown than others and wonder if this may be residual Thompson's Water Seal, last used about three years ago. Should I use a cleaner or a stripper on the deck? And what brand of stain would you recommend for this old redwood? TWP? Armstrong Clark? Armstrong Clark seems easy enough to use for a first-timer – but anything can look easy in pictures. Thank you.

  27. David says:

    Based on your recommendation I thought I would use Armstrong Clark stain for an older weathered deck (pressure treated Pine). I am writing to warn others that when you order your samples – they may look nothing like the colors online because these are stained on redwood. As a result I some sampels that are not even close to what I want. I wrote them back and suggested that since they are largely a mail order business they should help potential customers by stating that the sample colors online are on redwood and that maybe given the huge difference, they might also show what they look like on pine. This would be extremely easy to do. Their response was that if I was uncomfortable – I should go to Sherwin Williams locally. How Nice! Anyway if this is posted it will serve to warn some of your readers that the online colors are on redwood so that they take this into consideration. Now I need to start over – TWP maybe?

  28. Yimin says:

    Today, I just cleaned my old deck using Defy Cleaner. After cleaning, I was too tired so I did not use the brightener today, thinking I could do it tomorrow. Is it OK to apply Brightener the day after using cleaner?

  29. JRA says:

    have a 24 year old deck in Minnesota. we just replaced some of the boards (cedar) and have sanded down the deck and all the railings. do we need to wait to stain? do we need to use the wood brightener on it first? Thinking of TWP100. is this the best or would you suggest a different brand. some of the deck gets mostly morning sun, some gets it most of the day and other parts no direct sun (deck is on the north side of house in the woods). What is the best way to continue to keep it up? sounds like we will just have to clean and reapply, is this correct? thanks.

  30. JRA says:

    thanks for the help. should we wait the 4 months to stain since we only replaced some of the decking or can we stain after it is dry . I'm the one from Minnesota with the 24 year old deck and have sanded the whole thing down.

  31. JRA says:

    Me again, the 24 year old cedar deck in Minnesota. wondering if we can stain the railings now. we didn't change any of the wood on them, just sanded it all down. would it be okay to stain now and not wait until spring like we are planning for the deck itself?

  32. Connie says:

    Help… the rains are starting tonite and continuing with cold weather and more rain here in Wisconsin. I have a bad 30 yr old deck. Cant afford to replace. There are rotted areas on some boards at the joist nail down point. I cleaned all last week. It is dry, has hardener applied yesterday in the holes and I was hoping to fill them with wood filler and feed the dry wood deck before the rain comes tonight with Cabot Timber Oil. Will that work or do I need to do one of those deck coatings like Restore. Which will be best in the long run? and short. Don't know where to find 100 1500 TWP and Armstrong. Can I use the oil and then next spring put on something else? Deck never stained or sealed before.

  33. Jen says:

    I have an old deck (15-20 years is my guess), with some old stain on just under the eaves. The rest of the deck is bare of old stain due to our high rains in the pacific NW. I plan on sanding the deck.
    1. Do I need to strip the small sections of old stain, or can it be sanded off?
    2. If I do need to strip, I want to make sure I understand the order: STRIP, SAND, CLEAN, BRIGHTEN, STAIN.
    I saw in previous postings it was recommended to sand after cleaning/brightening and then I read to do it after.
    Please clarify…thanks!

  34. Scott says:

    We recently purchased a 25-year-old cedar-sided house in northern Arizona (i.e. lots of direct sun exposure). We need to re-treat both the siding and the deck (which seems to be redwood). I'm not 100% certain, but I believe the original treatment was a semi-transparent stain. Since then, the previous owners applied oil (linseed?) to the sun-exposed sides of the house annually. We'd been leaning toward a solid stain (Flood's SWF) since the wood seems a little rough, but we wouldn't rule out a semi-transparent stain, and we're game to do whatever prep work is needed. The longevity of the treatment is our primary concern.


    1. What are your thoughts on Flood's SWF? It seems to be highly regarded locally, and I've been told that it'll adhere well to both the siding and deck. However, it's a water-based stain and I don't know if it contains any conditioning oils as you recommend.

    2. For our situation, what other products would you suggest? Armstrong Clark or Defy Extreme?

    Thanks in advance. Great Web site!

    • Scott,

      1. Not a fan of solid stains as they look like paint and hide the grain of the wood. Flood SWF is a decent solid if that is the route you take.
      2. If it were our company we would suggest the Armstrong Clark in a semi-solid color for maximum UV protection and conditioning of the older wood. This will penetrate deep into the wood and will still show the grain.

  35. beverly says:

    we have a 20+ year old deck in North Carolina. it desperately needs a facelift. we've recently replaced several of the boards. what steps do i take to make sure the stain and coloring looks consistent between the old boards and fresh, new looking boards? do i have to use a solid stain or is it possible to achieve a consistent look and color with a semi transparent? thank you!

    • Beverly, new and old wood will not match when using a semi-transparent stain. To get close make sure that the old wood is prepped well by removing all old coatings or dirt. Brighten the wood when done. The first staining it will be lighter in color on the new wood. They will blend the next time you redo the deck though.

Leave a Reply