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

151 Responses to “Best Stain for an Old Deck”

  1. EHC says:

    We live in New Jersey and have a 28 year old pressure treated pine deck. It is exposed to partial sunlight. We have treated it with water based products every other year or so using Olympic products or Arbor Coat just the last 2 years. Even after thorough prep the Arbor Coat literally disappeared after 10 months. We are getting close to needing all new floor boards but feel that we can still wait a few more years.The Arbor coat is visible in large patches on vertical surfaces but appears to be completely gone on almost all of the deck.
    What prep and what product do you suggest for this old deck.
    Thank you very much for your help.

    • You cannot add anything over the Arbor Coat so not sure what you should do. It would be best to replace the boards now or just leave the deck alone until you do. If you put something over the BM Arbor Coat it will peel.

  2. Karen Cahill says:

    I purchased my home last August and am assuming the deck is at least 10 years old. It was last stained two years ago by the previous owner – he hired contractor to apply an oil-based stain. Color is a timberline type red. It still looks good, but some boards are starting to crack and my kids have twice gotten bad splinters. I hired a contractor to pressure wash and he was going to apply Rustoleum 4x Deck Restore, but after reading all the bad reviews I decided against it as the current stain is oil based. I think I would like to apply an oil-based stain of similar color. You can still see the stain on the deck, but the deck is not dirty or moldy, so do I need to do anything besides pressure wash before I apply the stain? And what is best way to remove the higher splinters?

  3. S-Georgia says:

    I have an old deck previously coated with solid deck stain. It's peeling in the traffic and high-sunlight areas. I had considered a deck restore product until I found your site. Thank you for saving me money, time and aggravation. I'm willing to sand the old finish off (~1000 sq ft) such that I can use an oil-based penetrating stain. But, I have another issue that I haven't found comments about on your site. I have a wooden walkway entrance (~180 sq ft) that gets slippery when wet. I need an anti-slip solution. Can I put a non-skid coating over an oil-based penetrating stain? Or, what would you recommend to help make the walkway anti-slip? Thank you.

    • Anti-slips will not work when using a penetrating oil based stain. You will need a filming paint for that to work and they will peel. If you prep well and the stain penetrates 100% than it should really not be slippery.

  4. Ken says:

    have a 7 year old deck that needs restained every 2 years. used cabot last time. Is TWP or Defy have a longer longevity? Is it better to use a solid color stain for longevity? If so what do you recommend? Live in Georgia. Thanks

  5. Jeff says:

    My deck is at least 8 yrs old. Most of the boards are in good shape however 4-5 need to be replaced. I have power washed and lightly sanded and am now ready to put a stain down. 1) will I have a problem with uneven staining due to having new wood with old. 2} I am planning on using TWP 100 stain. Is this a good product for my project? 3) Am I missing anything?, any suggestions?

  6. Chris says:

    Hi. Great site and a wealth of information. So here's my story and request for guidance… I bought a house in Northern California Sonoma County area about 6 months ago with a great back yard sporting an 850 sq ft redwood deck. It looks like the deck has been neglected for quite some time now. It is completely gray and weathered. A Freidman's hardware store just opened across the street and the young but seemingly knowledgeable gentleman at the store strongly recommended I use a good cleaner, light pressure wash, brightener and a tinted stain. He recommended all duckback products because, He says, they work very well for this climate. I am willing to try it unless anyone on here insists duckback might be the wrong product. Well, the "don't apply in direct sunlight" portion of the instructions will be nearly impossible given that the deck pretty much constantly exposed to sun during day light hours. I intend on starting on staining day as early in the morning as I can reasonably see what I am doing. This will probably help with the sun issue for the first few hours any way. How big a deal is the direct sunlight thing? Also, if cleaned, scrubbed and power washed properly, is sanding the deck necessary?

    • You will not need to sand. He is correct on cleaning, brightening, and tinted stain. We have found that the Superdeck will darken in color. Applying in direct sunlight with it will increase the chance of it not drying evenly.

  7. Bil says:

    If I want to paint (not stain) a five year old railing that has never been painted/stained before, do you still recommend a cleaner/brightener?

  8. Bil says:

    Follow up question to above. What is recommended for a solid color (white) stain? Would Flood be a good choice?

  9. Sherry Young says:

    We have a deck that is in full sun most of the day. We applied a semi-transparent stain last year that has not protected the deck. We have weathering, cracking and minimal warping. We have a rubber liner between the floor boards and the structure underneath to cover the area under the deck for storage. My question is this: can we use the cleaning and sealing products you recommend here without harming the rubber liner underneath? If not, do you have any other suggestions? Thank you.

  10. Christie says:

    Our deck is 6 or 7 years old. We live near Pittsburgh, PA. We have been using Thompson's stain on it in the reddish color. It fades horribly on the uncovered part of our deck, so every year I just put a fresh coat on top just to get through the summer. I realize it is doing nothing other than cosmetically making it look better for a few weeks until it starts to peel off since it isnt penetrating the wood. Next year I would like to strip it and do it correctly with the hopes of getting a few years of no maintenence. Since I have so many layers of old stain, could you recommend a good stripper and cleaner/brightner? Also, I am looking for a stain like Restore or Deckover that penetrates and gets in the cracks with a plastic like protection. Any recommendations since both of those got horrible reviews?

  11. Tina says:

    I live in northern Ohio one mile from Lake Erie. Our deck is 23 years old-treated pine. It is in dense shade and we have had green mildew growth on most horizontal surfaces. It has been cared for over the years using CWF primarily, but the Sherwin Williams Deckscapes stain we used 2 years ago failed and we are trying to determine the best products to use to strip and stain. We would like it to match the color of our Redwood siding which is now a dark color.

    • This will not be an easy strip or removal when you have a buildup of old coatings and the SW. Try to strip off as much as you can with HD80 and sand the rest off when done. Look at Armstrong Clark or TWP 1500.

  12. Christine says:

    New home owner in NY and our deck is a mess. Green/black in spots, painted gray but paint is mostly peeled off. Deck is structurally sound said inspector and contractor that did some inside work for us. I'm a 29 yr old female new to the whole home repair game but to save money would like to tackle the deck with the help my dad and brother of course. What would you recommend steps to helping my eyesore? Planned on power washing paint chips off tomorrow. Then what? Brands, types, and best colors would be very helpful and appreciated!

    • Remove the solid stain/paint completely by sanding it all off or re-stain with another solid. Re-staining with another solid is easier but it will continue to peel. There is not a solid stain/paint that will fix the underlying current stain.

  13. Helen says:

    Had a tree removed on my property, and as one of the guys went to refill chain saw w/oil, the plug popped out without him knowing, with oil all over driveway, up the sidewalk, and he went across my deck and back with the saw before he realized no plug. However, one of the guys saw what had happened, but unfortunately too late. Tried the Rustoleum product someone used above (Deck & Concrete Restore).It did nothing to remove the stain. The deck has not been preserved for some time, and this was disheartening to say the least. Any suggestions?

  14. Crystal says:

    We have a 14-year old PTP deck with lots of cracks, but structurally sound. We used TWP100 cedartone 3 years ago.We read here that Armstrong Clack contains conditioning oil. Would AC be better for our dried out, cracked deck than TWP? Since most of the TWP are gone after 3 years, do we need to strip off TWP if we use AC?

  15. Fran says:

    We have a 26 year old pressured treated deck that has been damaged by power washer and some lack of care. It is structurally very sound and we have recently replaced some of the really bad boards. the deck(s) are 900 sq ft so it is cost prohibitive at this time to replace ($14,000-$25,000). We used Cabot Clear on the deck about a month ago because it is dry, splintered. We wanted to prep the deck in the fall for a spring Cabot Deck Correct application. What do you think about that product. We do have a portion of the deck (different section but connected) painted with a semi-solid Cabot stain and really like it. Are these DecK restoration products really doing what they say? I did go the website that you gave someone about these products. Cabot's produce is new. Thanks.

  16. Liz says:

    Live in Southwestern New Brunswick,Canada. Just purchased a home that was sided with wolmanized wood. The front and sides have held up very well, has a slight greenish hue to the wood, but the back of the house facing in a sort of south west position, the back of the house gets solid sun exposure for most of the day,summer and winter. The deck is on the back, and gets the same amount of sun exposure. The back of the house siding is dark and some of the boards looked almost burnt, warped,etc. whar can be done for the siding, or would residing it be the best? Also, what do do with the deck? Will of course clean it, but what is the best option for staining or painting it. Have looked at the Rustoleum and Home DEpot products, but for the Northeast weather here, don't think they will hold up. I am in my late 60's and this would be an undertaking I would take on myself. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much.

    • Use a deck cleaner and pressure wash all wood, brighten when finished. Try the Armstrong Clark in a semi-solid color for this older and dried out wood in full sun.

  17. Mike says:

    Crownsvlle, MD. Our deck has been haphazardl maintained with opaque stain like Behr. It is now peeling and many boards are cracked from exposure and winter freezing. We're planning on staying with an opaque stain because at 3000 sq ft the idea of stripping it all is a daunting task. We'd like to replentish the oils in the wood. Could I apply linseed oil to those areas and then apply stain – after pressure washing of course?
    Thanks.

    • No you cannot apply linseed or any oil at this point. You would have to remove the solid stain first. Just prep by removing all loose and peeling stain and reapply with another solid. Really does not matter on the brand as it not matter what, it will continue to peel.

  18. wjmooney says:

    I have an old swing set built with PT spruce (I assume as I purchased second hand). It's mostly posts with a small deck and steps to go to a plastic slide. I would like to preserve the wood from water and UV but don't have to have anything too fancy and don't want to spend a lot of money for a stain. Any recommendations for a stain for this kind of thing?

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