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Staining A New Deck

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 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

Most wood stains when applied to new wood will have a very difficult time of penetration into the wood cells. This will result in an uneven application and premature stain failure by quickly fading or peeling. Remember, the deeper the stain soaks into the wood, the longer the life of the stain.

How To Prep for New Smooth Wood:

  1. Install wood and let weather for 1-12 months. This varies depending on the stain brand. Read and follow the manufacturer’s directions
  2. After waiting period you should use a wood cleaner and a wood brightener. This will remove the dirt, UV graying, and mill glaze.
  3. Let wood dry for a few days after the cleaning.
  4. Apply 1 Coat Only of the stain! Even after the waiting period, new wood is still not very absorbent. Over applying the stain will not give long lasting results. One even coat that soaks into the wood is what you want to achieve.
  5. Be prepared to apply a maintenance coat in 12-18 months.

Once you get through the first couple of years, your deck stain will perform much better as the wood will allow more stain and a deeper penetration into the wood.

TIP: Do not sand new wood. This will smooth the wood, reducing the stain’s ability to penetrate into the wood.

Rough Sawn Wood

Rough Sawn Wood

Rough or Rough sawn Wood

Rough sawn wood is not used for horizontal decking surface, but rather verticals such as fencing, wood siding, etc. This side of the wood does not have a mill glaze and is very absorbent. As long as the wood has a low moisture content, it can be stained right away.

Stain Brands for New Wood

In our opinion certain brands of stains will work better on new wood. Through the years we have tried numerous stains on new wood and we have found that stains that contain paraffin (non drying oil) will penetrate into new wood better, even coverage, and can applied sooner.

We would suggest one of these 2 brands for new wood if you do not want to want 3-12 months to allow the wood to weather.

Armstrong Clark Wood Stain – Waiting period of 2-3 months

Timber Oil Brand – Waiting period of about 1 month or less

If choosing either brand, you will still need to prep the wood to remove mill glaze with cleaning and brightening.

Please ask any questions you have below.

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1,298 responses to “Staining A New Deck”

  1. Joe says:


    Central Texas
    Full Sun
    Yes, next to pool
    New deck

    Great site! My deck is almost finished. And the deck builder is going to do the staining for me, all I have to do is supply the stain. They said that they will plan on scheduling the staining in about 2 to 3 weeks. I balked after reading your articles, but they said that they come in and sand it all down and then do the staining. Does that sound right? And would that lend itself better to the Timber or the AC?


  2. Joyce says:

    We just got our shipment of rough sawn cedar for a pergola. Some of it is a little wet. should we let it finish drying before adding stain or can we go ahead and stain. Also, should we remove sawdust before staining? Thanks so much.

  3. Dawn Wilson says:

    Columbus Ohio
    New deck – pressure treated premium lumber
    Full Sun

    We are just finishing our deck and I've been told to wait a "season" to stain. I'm guessing that means approximately 3 months which will take us into probably November. That being said, depending on the weather, my guess is next spring will be staining "season".

    1. Is there any concern with waiting until next spring to stain?
    2. If we wait until next spring, would you still recommend that one coat be used initially and then reapply at 12 months or by next spring is it okay to apply 2 coats – what would be the cutoff period? (For example, if November/December is unusually warm and we decide to stain – one coat, reapply 12 months later? Next May – two coats right away?)
    3. What cleaner and brightener do you recommend – Restore A Deck kit?
    4. I can get Flood Pro Series stain at cost – how would you rate this brand? I would be using a semi-transparent (color: Cinder)

    Thanks for your guidance….

    • 1. No
      2. Yes one the one coat. Apply another coat within 6-12 months. Only one coat the second time.
      3. We like the RAD kits
      4. Not a fan of the newer Flood products. If you decide to use it, make sure it is their true oil based version, not the Acrylic.

  4. Michele Danelice says:

    We will be installing a deck in kiln dried Cumaru (Brazilian Teak). A very hard wood, like Ipe.
    We will let the boards acclimate to Vancouver for about 10 days. (North West Coast: rainy Nov-Feb but mild winters). The deck will have full to partial sun (southern exposure).
    Our contractor suggests sealing the ends of the boards and using the Ipe oil on the boards (all sides) BEFORE screwing them in. The cumaru lumber dealer also agrees.
    We want to keep the wood's original colour.I am confused from reading all the posts about "letting the deck weather", but this seems more to refer to staining, rather than using penetrating oil.

    So: to oil or not to oil before constructing the deck? Thanks in advance!

    • Since your wood type requires annual recoating, it will not harm to stain first and just expect to redo again next Spring or Summer. In your scenario and with your wood type, there is nothing negative about doing this.

  5. Cathy says:

    Help! We mistakenly trusted our contractor who insisted he needed to apply 2 coats of Sikkens Cetol SRD RE to our previously untreated new deck. It's tacky and shiny and looks like it will never dry. What to do and when should we do it?

    • Cathy, no easy fix for this. You will have to remove and start over. Pressure wash with a stain stripper and remove as much as you can. Sand if needed to remove all. Brighten all wood after.

  6. Tom and Ruth says:

    Cedar replacement of a deck and railing in a shaded side of our home in Seattle WA (moist/cloudy country). We just brought home beautiful 2×4 and 6's of Top Choice KD S4S cedar. Most are in perfect shape, others need a few edges and surface areas sanded to remove splinters. Please advise on a few ?'s;
    1) Sanding ..if we sand part of a board, should we sand the entire board to even it's mill glaze out?
    2) Curing …any way around "weathering" it before staining it with a semi transparent oil, since it's kiln dried? Like to get stain on it before October rains set in. Using Cabot's Australian Timber Oil.
    3) Washing …if I surface sand the mill finish off, would you still recommend washing it?
    Lastly, thank you for sharing your time and advice with all of us out here that care enough to want to do it right. tb

    • 1. Yes, but why are you sanding? Better to clean and brighten for the prep and to remove mill glaze.
      2. No way around weathering. Kiln dried is different though. 1 month should be fine.
      3. would not bother with sanding, reduces the stain\’s ability to soak into the wood.


  7. Joel says:

    Wondering your suggestions for a new wood – using standard construction 2 x 6 Doug Fir decking over treated framing. North Side,only 32 square feet with two steps. would like to see the grain, and wonder about using a very light tint, as it will not be receiving much direct sunlight in Michigan. How long should I wait to stain it, as it is not typical deck lumber? Many thanks for the helpful site and your help!!

  8. randy says:

    Should be finished w/new pressure treated pine deck KDHT by 8/31/2016. Deck is elevated 2nd floor and is covered w/ a roof. Contractor wants to stain in ~3 weeks. Says in his experience the deck will split & crack and pop some screws if not stained /sealed sooner then spring. Can it be stained in 3 weeks and which product should I use? I've looked at TWP(wait 4-12 months ,although I've seen4-6 weeks on another site) and Defy and just saw where Timber Oil Brand can be stained in 1 month or less and Armstrong Clark has a 2-3 month waiting period. Don' know where Timber Oil Brand rates.Want to use the best product. Contractor says that the deck will still dry out because it's elevated and will dry thru the unstained bottom. The contractor did an awesome job on this deck and I want it to last as long as it can.Oil or water based is fine.I want to do it right. Please advise.

  9. randy says:

    continued from previous email. Should I just put something on it to protect it from the winter weather, strip it off in spring and apply stain then ? Thanks

  10. Tracy says:

    We just purchased rough cedar posts and wood to build a pergola. We would like to treat before we build. Is this recommended and what to treat with? We live in Colorado.

  11. Heather says:

    Two-year-old deck. Pressure treated pine, never been stained. Power-wash crew came out to clean so that it could be stained. Power-wash job was very uneven, so my husband went back over entire deck with bleach and water solution and a brush. Looked great initially. However, when deck dried, wood started getting "furry" (wood kind of shedding off), so he had to sand the whole deck top and stair treads to prep. I read in your post not to sand, but we had no choice. What do you recommend moving forward? Should we flip all the boards or will these sanded boards take the stain okay? Not sanded completely smooth, so may still be porous enough? Thinking of using a transparent color or semi-transparent stain.

  12. Hawary says:

    I have a redwood deck, contractor put last October, and I haven't stained yet. Any problem waiting till spring? We are in Oakville Ontario, so harsh winters? Or should I just get it over with and stain it now?

  13. Kevin says:

    We put a deck up of pressure treated wood in May 2015.Pressure washed it last week and was going to use Thompson Waterproofed Plus until I read the reviews.The deck is south facing in full sun in Saskatchewan with hot summers and cold and snowy winters.Inquired at Home Hardware and was also recommend Flood CWF UV5….any comment on these 2 products? The Flood product can be purchased locally but a AC product would have to be shipped from the USA …just wondering your thoughts …deck has never been treated.Thanks in advance!!

    • Deck Stain Help says:

      AC is better than both of those. If you want to use one locally, use the Flood, but make sure it is their oil based version and semi-transparent.

  14. Tammy C says:

    We installed a redwood deck a month ago at a cabin near Yellowstone. There will be lots of snow come winter. Should we clean and stain now, before winter hits, or does it need to weather ?

    • Hi Tammy, as the article stats, it is best to weather and prep. It really depends though on the stain brand you choose. If you want to do now, look at the Timber Oil Brand by Woodrich.

  15. Leila says:

    We just had new stairs added to our existing deck. Called the staining company that just did the deck to come by and stain the new stairs and they told us it would be better to wait until next spring (so about 6 months). Our home is in Colorado so we get lots of moisture in the Winter and I was worried about splitting, warping, etc. But after reading your article and others on the internet, I believe what the staining company said and we'll be waiting until next Spring! Thank you so much!!

  16. Rachel says:

    I installed a new cedar fence and pergola. Would you recommend the same steps here or another product? I love the color of the pergola as is now. Which stain would give it the most protection while looking natural? The fence is very light and could use a touch of color. What would you recommend for the fence? Do I still start with the cleaner and brightener on both? In hot and humid (and rainy) Houston.

  17. Shannon s says:

    Hi, we installed a new fence, just the standard panels bought at Home Depot, last summer. We were told to wait a year to seal it. Now we are ready to seal it, don't really care if it has a stain, but want whatever we do to last as long as possible because it's a rental property. the fence gets partial sun and shade in the morning and full shade in the afternoon. We are in upstate New York. I'd love your suggestion on what we should do and use. Also, do you ever recommend certain tips for spraying the sealer/stain? Do you also recommend brushing after spraying as I have read?

  18. Jeff h says:

    I sanded my worn deck with 120 grit, and applied Cabot stain. Did I do it too soon or should I have waited1 month? Its soaking in so far as I can tell

  19. mshelicop says:

    We have an old, untreated deck. It's rough looking. We replaced some boards with new PTW about two months ago and were planning to use one of the deck restore products to coat the entire deck. (Seems like the Rustoleum product is best according to ratings.) However, reading their tips, they want you to wait 6 months before applying to new wood. Is there a way to get around this waiting period? IE sanding the new boards, some other primer, etc?
    We're in Maryland.
    Deck is shaded by trees.
    Deck is fairly small – about 10 x 15 plus steps. New boards account for about 10% of surface.


  20. Steve says:

    Suburban Denver. Brand new pressure treated Home Depot purchased wood. Wood was chemical soaked/wet when installed. Deck in full sun noon on (western facing). Main deck and rails finished end of July. Stairs finished last week of August. Wood has done the shrink and twist as I expected it would.

    Should I wood cleaner, brightener and stain this season (we're running out of warm days here) or wait until spring? If so, when in spring as we can still get snow in May.

    (Apologize for posting this under the Anderson page instead of this one for a new deck)

  21. Esther Connors says:

    Recently, a restoration company refurbished a pergola that was hail and wind damaged. The existing horizontal roof slats were damaged and the restoration company convinced my insurance company to pay for 20 new cedar slats, increasing the claim amount to more than $4,000. Sherwin Williams, Oil Based, Super Deck Exterior Stain was used to coat the new wood and existing vertical posts and frame work. The existing structure (including the roof slats) had been sanded smooth. The grain of the new wood has lifted and now have a rough appearance. Since the posts and framework are smooth, it looks strange to me to have a mixture of smooth and rough wood surfaces. Do you have any suggestions for what can and should be done (if anything) at this point? Thank you for your help.

  22. Ashley says:

    Just discovered this site and it looks great. We had new, pressure treated lumber installed back in late June and are now ready to paint it. The painter suggests sanding the wood down. It's a set of steps and a mobility ramp. Should I ask him NOT to sand it. He also doesn't think it needs to be washed/cleaned. Thoughts? And thoughts on the best paint to use? The steps get constant sun, the ramp hardly any as it is shaded by a tree. We are in Northern NJ. Thanks

    • Why are you painting? If you want a solid color, then use a solid color deck stain, not a paint. Look at Flood solid color stains for deck. Yes you have to prep to remove the mill glaze. We prep to use a deck cleaner and a wood brightener. Sanding may reduce the stain\’s ability to soak into the wood grain.

  23. Rob says:

    Hi. I live in Seattle, WA and want to preserve a new cedar fence I built this week on north side of building. Rains are going to start up this month and I will lose the 50 degree minimum temps required for most applications before long. Really just want the darker look a preservative gives and to protect it from getting grey. Not so much stain for color but wouldn't mind a little to even out the lighter tones. Worried that if I let it go 3-12 months as suggested for applying products it will grey in that time and then I will HAVE to stain. Fence is composed of main structure of green S4S TK posts/beams, and screenage of green rough cut TK pickets. Though it is 'green' it is air dried and very stable since it is cedar. Local store agents have told me to just wait a couple days after rains and it should be fine. I have applied some samples of preservative/light stain from my local store and it seems to accept it well.
    1. If I mostly just want to preserve it should I worry about stain absorption and waiting 3-12 months?
    2. Does preservative absorb/coat well regardless of waiting?
    3. How much greying occurs without any protection?
    Thank you for your time!

  24. Julia says:

    We just installed a 400 Sq Ft of Doug Fir deck a little less than a month ago. It has rained very little where I live but we occasionally have been spraying the deck with water to help weather it. My husband is concerned now because there are gray spots forming and believes they will permanently stain the wood and we will have to sand them out before we seal. The spots look like mold to me and I am assuming that the deck brightener will take care of them. I was wondering if you could settle our argument.

  25. Garry Pham says:

    What is best color for new redwood deck

  26. Mark Lenert says:

    My contractor is installing an IPE wood deck in the next few weeks.
    I would like to know when the best time would be to put the first layer of protection on it and what brands of cleaners and/or oils I should use to keep it as natural as possible, but bring out the natural beauty of the wood. I thought of just using a natural oil, but it seems you always recommend something with a stain to give it UV protection.

    What are the specific steps you feel I should take and when.
    The home is in Upstate NY which usually gets very cold in January – March(ave temp well below freezing for these 3 months)….summers pretty hot with a lot of sunlight, but still cool at night.

    Deck will average from 3 feet – 6 feet off the ground. Should I also stain the bottom or sides of the boards before they go up?


    • Not needed to stain undersides. Wait 2-3 months after the IPE is installed and prep with a deck cleaner. Put on one coat of the Armstrong Clark In Amber or Defy Hardwood Stain in Natural Pine.

  27. Shar s says:

    we just replaced our old deck with pressure treated pine. In southern Ohio. Our old deck had rotted. New deck installed. Can I or should I stain before winter or wait until spring? I'm thinking of using WoodRich Timber Oil. Is this the best for me? We have some all sun and some all shade and in between. Do have some mold issues.

  28. Chris says:

    I installed a cedar fence w/pressure treated pine posts about 15 months ago. I have read numerous articles on what brand stain to use and the appropriate prep needed. Flood pro series oil based/acrylic is substantially cheaper where i live (ohio). It seems that I should expect nothing to last more than 2yrs. Do i need to use a cleaner and brightner? Reviews seems good enough for me on the flood product. Am I on the right path?

    • Use a cleaner and brightener if the wood is dirty and has started to oxidize/gray from the sun. The Flood you are looking at is water based. Use their true oil based version if you want to use Flood. No acrylic.

  29. Randy says:

    I have just installed tongue and groove cedar on a covered porch over a basement room. I ordered the wood about 6 weeks ago and let it acclimate in my garage. Do I need to wait longer before staining? It is now fall in the Pacific NW, so weather is getting cooler and wetter. Is there anyway I can ensure the porch is completely waterproof and does not leak into the basement room?

    • You cannot weather in a garage. It needs to be exposed. Best to wait until Spring and then prep with a cleaner. You cannot completely water proof it. It needs to be a breathable stain.

  30. KDarling says:

    You have been so very helpful. You probably understand just how much incorrect information the consumer gets from local wood & hardware stores. Will be back to give ratings after using the RAD cleaner & brightner & Timber Oil Seal on my new redwood deck. Thanks for all the info! How do you exist?

  31. Debra Wynn says:

    How soon should I stain cedar-tone wood for decks

  32. Doug in del mar, CA says:

    New Ipe deck (1 month now) wood plugs had to be sanded and was planning on random orbital sanding the remaining deck to match the other sanded areas surrounding the plugs. BUT Your article says not to sand so what would be your recommended course of action to prepare deck surface before staining…?

    • Deck Stain Help says:

      We would leave alone for 2-3 months if you spot sand and then clean and brighten for the prep. This way it way it will not be spotty when stained.

  33. Emilie says:

    We live in Atlantic Canada.
    We had a new cedar deck installed in spring 2016. Our plan was to let it weathered through winter and then stain it next spring after a good prep. Is that the way to go? Would you recommend the Armstrong Clark or any other oil based stain?
    Thank you so much!

  34. C Hellmich says:

    If I use KDAT wood (Kiln Dried), would you suggest staining immediately after installation…..or would you still wait until spring?

  35. prw says:

    I live in southern Ontario. Installed a brand new cedar deck last Spring, have yet to treat/stain. Should I prep and stain now in the Fall or wait until next Spring?

    • It is okay to go through one Winter, but it will make the prep a little harder as the oxidation/graying will increase. Up to you.

      • prw says:

        When it rains, I have noticed that the cut ends of a handful of deckboards react differently to the moisture than the rest of the board. It almost appears as though the last few inches of the board are repelling the water naturally (beading occurs), while this is not happening throughout the rest of the length of the board (waters appears to absorb or run-off).
        Is this an issue I need to address before staining? any suggestions?

        • Unless an end cut sealer was applied, there is nothing to worry about.

          • prw says:

            I do notice though, that when wet, the ends of the board Iie. last few inches) will be a different colour than the rest of the board.
            I don't want this to be the result when I stain the full board. Do you think it will be an issue?

  36. Barbara says:

    My redwood deck is new and never been stained. It was just power washed and is to be stained. Waiting period has been 3 months. where the wood was smooth before, it now has ridges and looks and feels like splinters. What process should be used at this point before staining – sanding (by hand or with heavier sander) or buffed? Which would do the best job. It looks like the whole deck and railings now have this problem, and I want to be knowledgeable before talking to the PRO who did this and who will be staining the deck. Your help would be greatly appreciated.. I don't see where this type of problem has been properly addressed. Thank you

  37. Lori says:

    I live in New Brunswick, Canada and have just built a shed using spruce log cabin siding. It is in a partially shady area, with maple trees around it. Should I wait until spring to apply stain?

  38. Jwr says:

    I have a rough sawn cypress deck and pergola I am building. I have just picked up the lumber and all the framing is PT pine and is complete. The deck boards ( horizontal) are plained everything else is only rough sawn, but I am sanding it all with a belt sander I want to stain the backs and end cuts. Then install the wood then stain all the faces that will be seen.
    Am I correct in my thinking, and what stain would be best in a semi transparent I am looking at a reddish brown so it should have pretty good uv protection. Thanks

  39. Mike says:

    I'm sorry,you may have already answered this: we just finished installing a deck (early October) in Missouri. We used the cedar tone pt wood from Home Depot. Temps are highs of 70s now and it gets cold/winter will start in about 6 weeks. Should I wait until spring to stain or try to get it in before winter? Any particular product you would recommend for this type of wood?

  40. Joyce says:

    We bought our house last December (2015). The deck was replaced in late November. Due to the weather here in Omaha and being gone some days, we were unable to clean, stain and seal the wood. My husband says that we cannot get it done now since rain bis predicted most of the next week. Also, temperatures are starting to fall. I am concerned that it will damage the wood if we do not get it stained and sealed before winter.

  41. Ron says:

    Our deck is 2 years old old and has not been stained. It is pressure treated cedar. It has just been power washed with water only. What other prep needs to be done and what stain would you recommend? Location is Kansas City, Mo

  42. David says:

    We have redone our existing deck in two stages. Stage one we replaced fascia with new hardy board and lattice work. We bought most of the materials for doing the decking (pressure treated pine) at the same time in order to get the financing special that was available at the time. The wood has been stored in the garage for 5 months in order to dry. We are now installing the decking, stairs, and side rails. Do we have to wait to stain or is the wood dry enough to go ahead and put a stain on it. What would be the best stain to use for a new deck? If we needed to wait, how long will we need to wait? We live just south of Atlanta, Georgia.

  43. Joe says:

    I have a new treated pine deck. It was finished in August and the builder advised that I stain it with Cabot's Australian Timber Oil (Natural). It is now October and the days are growing cool. I have also been advised by others that there are problems with Cabot stain. Should I wait 'til spring? Should I us Cabot's or another brand?

  44. Sheffield says:

    I live in Alabama and recently built a deck in partial sun/shade 2 months ago using KDAT on the floor and pressure treated on the railing. Obviously the KDAT is dry but the railings may not be fully dry. Should I wait until spring or stain now? Is TWP 100 the best choice? Any other recommendations?

  45. V. Bishop says:

    Need to know if the prep cleaners/brighteners, for a new upstairs redwood deck will poison the flower and veggie beds below when I do the wash-off of the deck? V.B.

  46. Trevor says:

    Hey there, I'm sure you've answered this as nauseum, but we had a 600sf roof deck built on our home in Washington, DC. Fire rated lumber for the horizontal boards, pressure treated posts and pickets. It was built in late July 2016, so it's been 3 months. We should still wait until the spring to stain even with rain and snow, correct?

  47. Yes you can wait and it will not harm the wood.

  48. You should wait until spring, prep and stain then. Look at TWP 1500.

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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.