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Deck Stain Quality at Lowes Or Home Depot

Why Deck Stains are Poor at the Big Box Stores?

As a homeowner, you know that regular maintenance can not only prolong the life of your property, it can also increase its curb appeal and value. Nothing is truer when it comes to the exterior surfaces of your home like a deck. Deck maintenance includes regularly cleaning and sealing the wood to protect it from the harsh elements. Doing so ensures a lasting surface that will provide years of use and value.

To perform proper deck maintenance it is crucial to use quality products including wood cleaners, brighteners, and especially deck stains. Deck restoration or maintenance can go wrong in a hurry if you use the wrong products. The biggest culprit to deck maintenance gone wrong is applying a cheap or inferior deck stain.

There are plenty of good deck stain products on the market and the key to finding a quality wood stain is looking in the right place, or better yet, knowing where NOT to look. As you know, many of the big box stores carry a wide variety of deck stains. It’s convenient, fairly priced, and you will notice they carry some well known brands of deck stain such as Cabot and Olympic.

So it would seem the search for a quality deck stain is over that quick, or is it? There is no doubt that some of the brands they sell are quality brands but the problem stems from where they are being sold. Manufacturers of products are forced to make a “cheaper version” of their once quality products before being stacked on the shelves of any big box store.

Big box stores like Lowes and Home Depot compete on price, so they literally tell any company wanting in the door that they have to make a cheaper version of their product to sell at a certain price point. This is known as the Wal-Mart Effect.

What this means for a deck stain company is that the formula has to be changed so it is cheaper to produce allowing them to sell at a lower price. The bottom line is when you buy a quality brand of deck stain at a big box store; you are not buying the same quality formula they have always been known for but rather a watered down version. That’s right! A cheaper, less effect formula of deck stain that does not perform or hold up as well as it should. It is the sad truth and it preys upon unsuspecting homeowners every year. You buy what you thought was a quality wood deck stain and a year after applying it, it begins to fail leaving you confused, frustrated, and back to square one.

Let’s Look at the History of Deck Stains at the Big Box Stores:

Penofin: Entered the Home Depot market in the late 1990’s and was almost put out of business. They came in with the same formula but was forced to either move their operations offshore to keep the same quality or pull the line. They did the right thing and pulled the line.

Cabot Stains: Before Valspar bought Cabot in 2005, Cabot was considered one of the bests. This stain was immediately introduced into the Big Box Stores but with a new modified formula. Cabot has to yet recover the quality it had pre 2005.

Flood: Great stain back in the 1990’s. Put into Home Depot with a new formula. Same results as Cabot.

Sikkens: Entered Home Depot in select stores a few years ago. Completely different formula then is sold at the hardware and paint stores.

Behr Wood and Deck Stains: Probably the worst stain ever made. Just research the many angry and unhappy consumers on the Internet who have posted reviews.

Don’t fall into the trap of buying deck stain at the big box stores regardless of the brand name. There is a good chance it is not the quality product that you think it is.

 Have a Review of a Stain Bought at a Big Box Store? Please Post Below.

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38 responses to “Deck Stain Quality at Lowes Or Home Depot”

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Whats the best stain out there?

  2. Peter says:

    You need to change your statement about Sikkens products being sold a Home Depot.

    I just got off the telephone with Sikkens customer support they tell me that there is no difference in the formula between SRD products sold at Home Depot or Retail Stores (such as hirshfield's, etc.) They do limit the product lines at big box stores (such as Home Depot or Walmart) however the products that have the exact same name are the exact same product at both retail outlets (they don't make two different formula's under the same name)

    Conclusion the "Cetol SRD" at Home Depot is exactly the same "Cetol SRD" product you can pay a premium for at a boutique supplier.

    • Peter, I disagree as we have compared them side by side. The sikkens is a completely different texture and color.

    • Paul says:

      My deck was finished with Sikkens by the builder 4 years ago. I refinished it 2 years ago with great results. This year when I bought the Sikkens stain at my Benjamin Moore dealer he warned me the brand had been sold and reformulated. My refinishing was a disaster – blotchey and dull looking. This is a completely different product. Now I'm stripping and looking to use a different brand. Buyer beware!

    • Andrew Kenton says:

      Peter, depending on the ethics of the manufacturer, you would get that type of answer. Haven't you noticed that things are not the same that they used to be? I had a Eureka vacuum for 13 years. Within the last 10 years, I have had over 7 different brands and types. Nothing is the same quality nor do they really stand by their guarantees. Look at the Behr and Rust-Oleum complaints and you will see the same pattern. Rust-Oleum I think copies and pastes their answers…redo the whole process…never money back or real fix. I was looking to redo my deck with restore or deckover, but the cost of the products compared to the reviews are pathetic. I believe Dave is really trying to inform the public on the short falls on unethical companies that now have ops overseas and have lower quality standards. You cannot tell me things from yester year works the same today. Take a look at TWP website about "Big Box Stores". Also, haven't you noticed that wally world used to proudly display "Made In USA" now it is "Made In China" and the quality has bottomed out. Sadly, most things are owned by the same company, i.e. 3 main manufacturers for all TVs. Do your research and you will see and put the blame where it belongs – unethical companies that want your almighty dollar and doesn't stand behind their products. Hopefully you get the gest and this has opened your eyes to such people like Dave.

  3. Bdog says:

    So then, am I forced to try to buy online? It is annoying the highest rated products TWP and Defy are not sold in Canadian stores. I have only found an online retailer of Defy's stains thus far. Does anyone know a good store to purchase a test pot from in Calgary Canada?

  4. Coss Cob says:

    I tried to contact Defy a while back. Nobody answered the phone and after I left an answering machine message they didn't call back. I know Home Depot and Lowe's can be rip offs. No question. For example, they sell Husqvarna chain saws which are no longer very good quality. But I can go to a local store and buy a Stihl saw for a little more and have a quality tool that will last me years.

    So why is it that these top stains like Defy are only available on the Internet? And why is it that Defy doesn't answer their phones or return messages? If you are right that they are the best out there, why hasn't someone figured this out and found a way to bring these stains to market at the local paint and hardware stores? It's truly odd to me. I can't think of another product that is so impossible to get locally.

  5. for our woody says:

    Your premise that manufacturers are forced to make a cheaper version of their products just isn't true regarding Cabot exterior deck stains. The exact same products are sold at Lowe's as in the independent paint and hardware stores.

    You are confused by the Cabot line reformulation due to VOC regs which were changing around the same time Valspar purchased Cabot. They changed the oil-based products to be VOC compliant, not to make them "cheaper". They actually sell at a higher retail. And for the states with the strictest VOC regs, Cabot recently introduced their oil-modified version deck stains that perform like oil stains but are water clean-up. Again, better not cheaper.

    Your derision should be toward the EPA and state governments, not Cabot. You can have an opinion but at least know the facts.

    • disappointed says:

      Cabot is horrible. It peeled like crazy. Do not buy water based as it ruins your deck. I will never purchase anything made by this company. I don't care if it is new or old formula.

  6. davuid barrons says:

    A product called Eco Wood treatment has worked very well for us , its a powder, you mix with water , We used it on our new Redwood deck ,beautiful, silvery gray color,

  7. 4 our woody says:

    I don't see my comment from 2 weeks ago…what, you're afraid to post the truth because it might expose you as not always knowing the facts?
    BTW – Lowe's no longer to carry Cabot Exterior; dropping entire line.

    • First your other comment was from 6 days ago, not 2 weeks. Second, while you are correct with the VOC changes requiring reformulation, the VOC changes were for the states on the east coast but from what we can tell they changed formulas for states they did not have to. They could have kept the original formulation for the other 37 states.

      Honestly it is probably a combination of both (buyout and VOC) that caused Cabot\’s reformulations. The issue is that their products are nowhere near the same as they used to be. Ask any contractor who used to use their stain\’s and they will agree.

      BTW, oil modified water based stains still perform like water based stains in our experience. They are not new and definitely not better then a true oil based stain when it comes to performance or penetration into the wood.

  8. 4 our woody says:

    Thank you! Time flies when you're having fun!

    I agree, nothing like a true long-oil stain for lasting beauty. However, all manufacturers are/will be forced to reformulate thanks to new regs. Even the venerable TWP isn't what it used to be. Remember TWP 500 Series and the high-solids oil formulation to make it VOC compliant? How did that go? Now that's been replaced by TWP 1500 oil modified. If you can still find TWP 100 Series buy every last drop!

    Do you think we can get deck stains classified as "industrial"? Bring back oil!

    • The TWP 1500 is the improved version of the 500 Series. Dries and cures more like the 100 Series and lasts about the same. It is a true oil based stain and not a \”oil modified\” stain.

      One thing to note with the TWP is that they are registered under \”wood preservatives\” by the EPA and not architectural coatings as the rest of the stains are. This gives the TWP 1500 a 350 VOC restriction, not a 250 VOC restriction for the states that have adopted the new regs.

  9. Dwayne B says:

    Lowe’s no longer carries Cabot deck stains. In the Midwest, Menards supposedly carries it,

  10. Mike Horton says:

    I live in Burnaby BC and am considering purchasing the SIKKENS SRD 077 semi trans stain for my new cedar fence. I was told by a retailer that a new version of this stain is now available. I know nothing about the old version of this stain, but does anyone know about the new version verses the old version. I am to understand that this stain requires only one coat. True or false.

    • Paul says:

      The new version is junk – totally different than the original. My refinishing project was a disaster. Now stripping my deck and starting over!

  11. Admm says:

    Lowes in the Philadelphia market no longer sells Cabot. I previously purchased Cabot from them around
    2006/7 & went back this year to find they no longer do. I do wish Lowes & Cabots
    would remove each other off their websites as a distributor.

    I found Cabot at an independent hardware store in the burbs instead. If it ever stops raining
    we can restain.

  12. Dave says:

    I think this whole deck cleaning or stripping, and staining a deck every two to three years is crazy. But I understand it may be a reality. What about products like Restore? Do they last 10 years? What do you do then, a little cleaning and sanding, then re-coat? Who wants to use harsh chemicals to strip? I like the idea of Rhino Shield, but my budget is tight.

    I have a multi-level deck with Trex decking and wood railings and frame. I just had my deck reinforced last fall, so there is some new wood and the railing tops were replaced. My deck gets a lot of sun, so I need to get it coated to protect it. I used a Cabot oil based cedar semi-trans stain on it 6 years ago. It looked pretty good at first, but in a year it turned a matt chalk surface. There are a couple of wooden posts that must have received more stain and they seem to have a paint like layer.

    I tried cleaning a section, trex decking and railings that had a little mold with Krud Kutter. I liked this cleaning option because, from what I learned, it does not contain bleach. I followed the directions and it didn't do much, so I increased the strength to close to full. It was pretty good, but I still see some faint mold spots. Is that ok?

    I'd like to find a one coat stain that will last. I don't like the idea of having to strip my deck every two years and re-stain. I have stripped a lot of furniture, but stripping a deck, that sounds like it will require a lot of harsh chemicals. What is that process like? That's why I'm considering the Restore type product. I'd rather avoid the stripping.

    At this point Im pretty confused on what to use to avoid failure.

    • Nothing lasts more then 2-3 years. Anyone who claims otherwise is lying to gain sales. Read here for reviews on the Restore and Deckover products:

      Best to find a penetrating oil based stain that cab be easily cleaner and recoated every couple of years without the need for stripping. TWP or Armstrong Clark.

    • Carmelo says:

      When the deck installer came to do our railings and spindles, we switched to vinyl balusters (white) and switched out the wooden ones. The top and bottom rails were switched to Trax. They did not make a simple solution for installing the vinyl, so we ripped down some trex to 1x1x1 so they would fit into the hollow core of the vinyl baluster, and then screwed them onto the bottom and top rail.
      Much happier now that all we stain is the deck floor. And it looks much nicer. We had Lighted Landings supply the vinyl balusters for much cheaper as we are familiar with them.

    • Debbie says:

      Do not use restore I did on two decks. Bad mistake with in one year of doing it. The product failed and I wrote them a e-mail with photos of a proper preparation before hand. They tried to say I did not prepare it right but I had back up proof. Still waiting on a response back from them.

      Now looking for a semi deck stain that will,last.

  13. a man says:

    I am about to refinish a house for a man and I am leaning toward cetol 1 and cetol 23 plus as a top coat in a three coat system. The results I got in the past were second to none. I hope this line is still as good as it used to be.

    • Sikkens still makes those products so if it worked for you and it is the same formulas, it should be okay. Some of their formulas have changed when PPG bought them for North America. Might want to contact Sikkens for help.

  14. Eric says:

    Did research on the web and learned quickly that my local Home Depot was selling junk. I bought TWP 100 Prairie Gray. I misdiagnosed how much stain was left on deck from previous owner. I didn't want to wait for Restore A Deck to come via the brown Santa Claus (UPS man) so I purchased with hesitation some gel like stripper made by Behr. What a huge mistake. It was brush or roller application and hose off. I failed to wear long sleeves and quickly found a few small alkaline chemical burns on my right forearm. I promptly flushed my arm with water and poured some soda (citric acid) on my arm to neutralize. Cleaned my equipment and then ordered RAD. Don't waste your time at the depot. Order or locally buy the stuff recommended on this site the first time. I found out the hard way. And yes I used proper protective equipment to include long sleeves and clear lenses on my old Oakleys when stripping with RAD.

    • Bob says:

      How did the Restore a Deck work for you that you ordered on-line. Was it a pain to mix as a powder? What type of stain did it have to remove?


  15. Deck Rescue says:

    Keep in mind that more stringent EPA regulations with each passing year also caused coatings' manufacturers to change their formulas. More often than not, these changes were for the worse. Definitely agree with what you are saying, but curious how much of this diminished quality had as much (or more) to due with government regulation vs. profitability.

    Dave Hydock, President & Founder
    Deck Rescue, LLC / Deck Rescue Franchising, LLC

    • Some of it has to do with VOC changes but not all. Just because someone lives in a low VOC state does not mean there are not any quality stains available. You just will not find them at Lowes or HD.

  16. Doug says:

    So where would you recommend a person to buy stain?

  17. Marilyn says:

    This information was very helpful to me as I was considering buying the Behr deck over at a big box store but this info certainly changed my mind. I will go to a more reputable store like Home Hardware.

  18. Sandi says:

    I bought the premium semi transparent deck stain. A 5 gal pail for $166. Not cheap!! I've been staining for years so I know how to apply. It's peeling!! Literally peeling!! I've never had this problem. Wish I had read this. I picked this up at Home Depor. Been using for years and never had a problem. This year omg. I'm so angry. I have huge decks. I'm going to call them but I'm sure they'll blame me somehow. What stains have not changed their formula for the EPA? I couldnt find a decent paint for my exterior door last year. This is ridiculous. Greed or EPA stupidity??!! Behr should have at least tested their new formula before selling. This is going to cost a fortune to sand and redo. I'm furious.

  19. R. Y. says:

    Glad I seen this article, guess that's why the stain on my parents deck
    didn't last no time.

  20. Andrea says:

    HELP!!!!! We recently installed a new cedar deck. We stained it with a 3 in 1 semi-transparent cedar stain that we purchased at Home Depot. It turned out HORRIBLE!!! The color is not anything close to what we were expecting, and as a matter of fact, it's ORANGE! I re-sanded the entire deck, but can not get all of the awful color off. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  21. Ann Rhoads says:

    Cabot oil base semi solid is now weird. One thin coat took week to dry !!

  22. Suzanne says:

    Tried Cabot Australian Timber Apollo a few years back after properly cleaning our deck and letting it dry. It peeled within 7 months. So did my did my Aunt's deck. We actually contacted Cabot and were refunded for 4-5 cans after sending in pictures. We weren't reimbursed for all the stain that we bought and used.
    Very disappointed since we have a very large deck.

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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.