Staining A New Deck

New Smooth Wood

New Smooth Wood

Over the past year we have numerous questions asked on the site but none was asked more then “What stain or prep is needed for my new deck”? There seems to be an incorrect opinion among homeworkers 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 better 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 manufacturers 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 to stains. Over applying the stain will not give longer lasting results. One even coat that soaks into the wood is what you would 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 even more 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.

475 Responses to “Staining A New Deck”

  1. Mark N says:

    Great Article! If your building your deck with kiln dried wood do you still need to wait a few months before staining? I'm building a deck in Southern California were termites are a serious problem, do you have a recommendation if I should use pressure treated wood then stain or is it just fine to stain untreated wood? Also if you have a recommended stain for a direct sun deck, low moisture/rain, with the woods I'm using; pressure treaded pine (for ground contact areas), Cedar for fence pickets around deck, and California Redwood for Decking. And, Thank You!

  2. Shari S says:

    Very informative! What is the best finish for new Ipe for full sun in Austin, Texas? What is the best finish for new cedar for full sun in Austin, Texas?

    • Shari, for the IPE try Armstrong Clark in the Mahogany color. For the cedar, look at the Timber Oil or the Armstrong Clark if under 4 months old otherwise consider TWP if 4+ months.

  3. Nikolay says:

    Test comment

  4. Derrick says:

    Hi – I have a ground deck in partial shade. I've read that oil based stains sometimes induce more mold/mildew. Would you recommend defy extreme for a new cedar deck?

  5. Wendy says:

    Hello – we have a pressure-treated wood deck that was put in last summer but not stained yet. We want to stain it soon – we have a grey house and a grey patio next to it, so we are thinking a grey stain. We are in upstate NY; mostly full sun on deck. I've seen some posts about cleaning the 'new wood' first before staining? Recommendations on what stain to use? Thanks!

  6. Steve says:

    Raleigh, NC I replaced my 22 year old deck boards with KDAT pine 5/4×6 in November, so they have been on for 5 months. I assume I need to do the following 1. use something like RAD to clean deck, 2. put down one coat of TWP 1500 now, and 3. put another coat on next summer (after a light cleaning). Also how much of a problem do I have when the specs said use an 8 penny nail for spacing when the boards were put down and the boards have subsequently expanded to close the gap in 10-15% of the deck so I can't even put a piece of sheet metal between them? Thanks

  7. Caleb says:

    I live in a VERY wet area of Hawaii, Mountain View, to be exact. I'm building a pergola with Hi-Bor treated pine and would like to stain it at some point. I understand that I can't stain it right away. How long should I wait and what stain would you suggest using? Also, do I have to apply a sealant after staining it, or is there a stain/sealer all-in-one product?
    Thanks in advance for any advice.

  8. Kyle says:

    We built a deck last summer, and are looking at staining it soon. We live in North Dakota, and would like something that will hold up to our hot summers, & freezing winters. The deck is shaded in the morning, but in the sun all of the afternoon. Will we need to use the clean and brightener first? also what stain would you recommend?

  9. Andrew says:

    Installing new knotty cedar deck this weekend. From previous comments above I just want to make sure what I understand applies to my situation as well. Michigan deck with hard summers and winters with full western exposure on the deck and no shade.
    1)It sounds as if it is overkill to stain all six sides. So just the top will suffice?
    2)From reading this site Woodrich timber oil appears to be the best?
    3)Would like to add a slight red hue to the deck so would the western cedar woodrich timber oil stain do this or would it look too orange?
    4)I do need to clean and brighten the deck prior to staining….correct?

    Thanks for your time!

    • 1. Yes just exposed areas
      2. Penetrates new wood very well. Other option would be the AC
      3. Yes on Western Cedar or Redwood in CA.
      4. Yes you need to clean and brighten new wood.

  10. James says:

    We have a new redwood deck and 2 fences which were installed about 2 weeks ago. They get partial to full sun. We want to add a bit of color. The fence boards are rough sewn, the deck is smooth wood.
    What is the best stain to use which will take to new wood without waiting several months?
    I'm located in California. I would like to know both the best California-VOC compliant product as well as non-compliant product (I can get it from out of state).


    • James, very few stains will absorb into new smooth decking. You will need to wait. We like Timber Oil brand for wood smooth that is about a month old. Armstrong Clark for a dew months old. Both of these are low VOC and can be used in Cali. You can use any stain for the rough wood and you do not need to wait.

  11. lola says:

    is Thompson water sealer any good for my new cedar deck/. Lots of sun and heat and will get rain and alot of snow in the winter? lola

  12. Alan Nebe says:

    We live in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. We are building a new pressure treated pine deck. We are leaning to TWP 100. If we pay extra we can use kiln dried wood. Could we stain immediately, or should we still wait 3-12 months?

  13. Holly says:

    We live in Southwest, PA. Last fall we built a pressure treated pine deck and let it weather over the winter months. I'd like to stain it before the summer months, but I still see water beading on the wood. I'm afraid the stain won't penetrate. Is there a way to prep the wood to get it stain-ready, or should I wait until after summer to see if the wood becomes more porous?

  14. Joan says:

    We live in Indiana. We built a deck last summer so this year we're starting the staining process according to your instructions. The railing system is red cedar, the decking is pressure treated pine. We are using Defy Wood Cleaner to prep the lumber. We started cleaning the cedar railing and there is a lot of "gunk" coming out of the wood. We assume this is mill glaze. But no matter how many times we go over it, more gunk still keeps coming out. At this rate, the job will take forever. What is your recommendation?

  15. Thomas says:


    I have a 45 day old red cedar fence. I will be staining it with Armstrong Clark semi-transparent. After reading through the site, I would like to confirm the process for a new fence, if you don’t mind. 1) Clean with Restore A Deck using scrub brush and rinse off, 2) immediately after cleaning apply Restore A Deck wood brightener and do not rinse, 3) Wait at least 2 days without rain and apply stain. The back side of the fence is rough cut and I will stain that without cleaning/brightening. Is there anything I’ve missed. Also, one final question: Is there a way to apply the brightener without a spray pump. I have many plants and vegetables on both sides of the fence (which has spaces between pickets) and would prefer not to spray them.

    Thanks a lot for your help – I have learned a lot from your site.

    • 1. Apply RAD cleaner with pump sprayer and lightly pressure wash off.
      2. Apply RAD Brightener. After 15 minutes, lightly rinse.
      3. Yes on 2 days.

      Best to apply both products with sprayer. Much easier. You can lightly tarp plants and remove right away after spraying or pre wet and rinse.

  16. Eva says:

    Hi. What a helpful site. Thanks. I just had a deck built (cedar) in Seattle. The contractors said to protect it with linseed oil and the let it weather before staining. Research I've done do not recommend this due to linseed oil's tendency to mildew. From the research I've read here, it looks like I need to let the deck weather for a few months untreated, then prep, and stain. Is this approach the best one?

  17. Larry says:

    Greetings. We had a new deck constructed of fir about four months ago. The deck is south-facing here in Colorado Springs, and will start getting very hot from sun exposure in the next couple of months. It will get sunshine all day throughout the entire winter also. We very much enjoy the natural color and beauty of the wood as it is and would like to keep it as close to its current color and condition as possible (but do recognize that down the road we will need to add color to our treatments.) I wondered if constructing the deck of fir made any difference as to your recommendations for the procedures and products to use, and how you would proceed. Also, is sanding inadvisable? Thank you for your help and your wonderful website.

    • Larry, fir really is not any different when it comes to outside wood maintenance. You need color in your stain to prevent UV oxidation and the more the color or tint, the better the protection.

  18. Sara says:

    My deck is cider and it's been built about 6 month now but we had bad winter and snow was sitting whole winer on the deck until end of March and had more snow in April too. Is my deck dried enough to stain or paint? And also do I really have to use chemical cleaner to clean mills on deck? Or can I just wipe with dry towel or brush right before as staining?

  19. Barb says:

    We just had a new redwood deck built – it is west facing in CO and gets extremely hot in the summer (reflective tinting on windows above it add to the heat). We want to keep it looking like redwood. I've read your site, products reviews, tips, etc – but am having trouble finding the products you recommend other than online. I do not want to pick a tint using an online photo. Any recommendations for stains that will be easier to find in Colorado Springs, CO and with that intense heat and glare on the deck would penetrate and protect the wood as well as keep it from graying? Also what would be the best waiting period for this new deck? Thanks!

    • Barb, not sure what is sold there so might be best to contact the manufacturers of the products we rate highly and see if there are dealers nearby. I would think you could find TWP there.

  20. Albert says:


    I purchased several gallons of Armstrong Clark stain when I built my deck last year thinking I would stain it right away. Unfortunately I did not have the time and I never opened the gallons. I will clean/brighten the deck but have the following question with regards to the stain:

    1/ I figured the stain in the gallons is still good since I never opened them but should I get them "stirred" at the local paint shop or can I simply do it by hands – again they have been sitting for about 8 months

    2/ How much time do I wait once I let the cleaning/brighten dry up for 2 days, can I stain after these 2 days?

    Thanks, Albert

  21. South Carolina says:

    Just built a new pressure treated pine deck, I have read so many things on what to do and what not to do, that I am now confused/ I want to stain the deck w/a color, but I don't know when to do it or what brands, I just need to know which direction to go, just need some ideas…the deck is in direct sunlight

  22. Eric says:

    Does it make sense to cover a stained deck with tarp to prevent snow damaging the deck over the winter?

  23. Becky says:

    We have a cedar deck that was built last summer. I am getting ready to stain it for the first time. I was interested in a product like Pittsburgh revitalize. I was considering something with a Rough surface to prevent slipping. I have never heard of this product being used on a new deck. Can you tell me whether this would be a good move or not?

  24. Robert says:

    This is a great site – thanks! We built a cedar deck back in the fall and would like to treat it. A few questions:
    1) We are planning to clean, then brighten, then stain, then clear coat it. Do all four steps apply to vertical surfaces (spindles, etc.) or only horizontal?
    2) We very much like the natural color of the cedar, but it appears that the protective strength of the stain has to do with the amount of color in it. What do you suggest if we want the natural color of the cedar?
    3) Is the final clear coat necessary in Milwaukee?
    Thanks again!

    • 1. Do not clear coat on top of the stain. No need and it will peel. Same to all areas.
      2. Any tint that you like. Many use Cedar Tone colors for their cedar decks.
      3. No and bad as well.

    • Robert says:

      Thanks for the quick reply!
      1) How much stain would you suggest for a deck 20×20 with railings and a 3-step stairs?

      2) Is it a hard and fast 12-18 month schedule of re-staining or is there a way to determine when it should be done?

      3) Is the maintenance more than just the cleaner and a re-application of the stain?

      4) How long dies the stain keep for?

      Thanks again!

      • About 3-5 gallons of the stain. Re stain when faded but before you start to see any heavy wearing. Just clean and recoat.

        • Robert says:

          Thanks. I’ve ordered the stain. Do I need to use the cleaner and the brightener on the spindles too?

          • Yes that would be best for this.

          • Robert says:

            It is raining nearly every night here.

            1) Does the deck need to be completely dry before cleaning/brightening/staining?

            2) Do all three need to be done right after each other, or can I wait before I stain?

            3) How much time before the next rain do I have after I stain? What's the sideffect of staining and it raining that night?


          • 1. No it can be wet before prepping but 100% dry before staining.
            2. You can wait a wee or longer for the staining.
            3. Do not stain if raining within 12 hours after completing.

          • Robert says:

            Thank you SO much! I did exactly what you said and I think it went pretty well for a firsttimer! Another few questions if I may:
            1) My wife was hoping for a redder stain (oops!). As it weathers and I restain, can I use a redder stain? Will it look terrible?
            2) It rained last night and seemed to bead-up great. When water stops beading on it, is that the time to restain?
            3) On the flooring, it seems a little splochy in places, like it didn't take so well (though I'll tell you on some of the spindles, it soaked it up FAST!), sometimes around knots, sometimes other places. Would putting a second coat over those areas help?
            Thanks a million!

          • 1. Not anytime soon but next time you redo you can switch colors.
            2. No beading water is not important. It is when it starts to wear thin that it is time to reapply.

  25. Alice Morgan says:

    We have a "new" PTP lake dock in southern NC. Our son will "do" it for us during his 2 week vacation in Aug. It will be 10 mo. old. I've ordered the Defy dock cleaner, brightener, and Marine stain. I now see negative comments relating to hot days. Is there a concern about the cleaner or brightener drying too fast? Perhaps he should do a section, then rinse, then another section, etc? I see he'll need to work fast with the stain. Would a natural bristle brush or a paint pad be better? He is "very particular", i.e. slow, when he paints; I'm thinking this could be a problem! Should he try to stain the planks on the side or just the horizontal surface and the posts where they are above the horizontal be OK? (We were told sun damage is the problem.) I hadn't realized until getting on this site that the Defy is very "drippy"-TWP was probably better but too late now! This site is great: THANK YOU!

    • No issues with the cleaner or brightener drying too fast. You can always mist the areas to keep wt if needed. For the stain you should move fast and use a stain pad applicator pad. Tell him that he is not painting a portrait but staining a deck. Apply evenly and quickly. Only exposed wood. TWP is drippy as well.

  26. Dan says:


    Thanks a lot for the information in this website. I live in Southern Illinois(close to St.Louis, MO) and just built a 15×20 deck with Cedartone deck boards 2 weeks ago. Now I am building an attached pergola to cover the deck. The pergola piers and ledger boards in both ends, are already in place. Next, I will be attaching the pergola rafters to the ledger boards and I will be putting the slats/battens on it. I purchased 2x10x16 #2 prime lumber from lowes (not cedar or cedartone) for rafters and slats(to be cut in 2x2x12). I will be following your suggestion and will be waiting couple months to stain for smooth decking boards. However, for pergola materials (rafters/slats and piers) can I go ahead and stain them even before I put them in place. It will be really difficult to stain the rafters and slats after installation. According to your suggestion since these are not smooth wood I should be able to stain them and install them without waiting them to dry. Also what kind of stain would you recommend for decking boards and pergola materials since I will be staining them in different times.

    Thank you

    I live in Southern Illinois and just built a 15×20 deck with cedartone deck boards 2 weeks ago. Now I am building a Also built an attached pergola

  27. Scottyshortbus says:

    Just built fence with new cedar. I live in Lynden, WA so the fence will be exposed to lots of rain and sun. I installed the boards with the smooth milled side facing in and the rough sawn side facing out. I bought 5 gal of Superdeck stain that i bought from the cedar supplier but plan to return based on info found online. I'm now leaning toward TWP. Thought I could apply with an airless sprayer. Will it be necessary to stain both sides of the fence even though the fence will not be seen on the back side? Any recommendations on product and application will be greatly appreciated!

    • I would do both sides so it wears well through the years. Spray on with your airless and back wipe drips. Careful of wind carrying the stain in the air. Use the Armstrong Clark.

  28. Matt says:

    I am looking into staining a cypress pergola with 6×6 green cut beams (I know this isn't a deck but this was the best site I could find on the subject!) I am looking at using TWP 100, as I need great UV and mold resistance for Florida. I am wondering if I need to wait and let the cypress dry out? I really don't feel up to taking the pergola down to clean and sand to reapply in 12 months. What options do I have?

  29. Gary says:

    We are installing a new partially covered deck with new Ipe. We live in Central California and want to maintain the original look and color of the wood and seal it as soon as possible. What would you recommend?

    • You need a tint in the stain for UV protection. IPE also needs to be done every year, sometimes sooner. best to use a product that can easily be cleaned and reapplied like the Armstrong Clark in Amber or Mahogany.

  30. Frank says:

    I have a new treated wood deck and I'm hearing Defy is best with Cabot a close second. Any suggestions, including a better brand?

  31. Jocelyn says:

    Have a new deck wrapping a semi-in ground pool. _Deck is ~500 scare feet, gets sun 1st half of the day and then gets shade from surrounding trees (a part of the deck, closer to the house, pretty much never gets sun on it. _We live in Ottawa, Canada, so we get snow in winter. _Was looking at Armstrong Clark in Transparent Cedar or Redwood, as I would like to keep wood grain very visible. _Would this be a good option for my deck or something else would be better?

  32. Europamuso says:

    Hi, I am getting ready to prepare and stain our unfinished, 20 month old PT Pine deck, and have a few questions:
    We live in NH and the summers are often hot and sunny and the winters can be extreme. The PT Pine decking was very "wet"
    initially so we opted to wait over one year before finishing. It is now 20 months later and there is some checking on the boards
    and some UV graying and greenish mold in a few places as well. My plan is to use RAD to clean, condition, and brighten the wood
    and finish with Defy Extreme Stain ( Cedar Tone ). We intend to do this in mid-July when the temps will likely be on the hot side.
    I'm unsure how many coats to use as technically, this is new construction, but the deck appears to have dried a lot in 20 months, so should I instead plan to use two coats of the Defy? Do you think I may have waited too long to stain?
    Also, our deck is not that large ( 16 x 10 ) but I'm concerned with the stain drying too quickly before I can get the 2nd. coat
    applied. I'm planning on using a stain pad to apply the Defy, as many comments here have indicated problems when applying it with a brush.
    Can you please comment and add your two cents? Any advice is much appreciated!

    • Do light coats of the Defy applied wet on wet. Do not do in direct sun or very hot day. Maybe later in day around 5pm. Apply with stain pad to floor and your size deck should not take more then 30-45 minutes for the first coat and less for second.

  33. Jim says:

    This is a very informative site – thank you! I had my front porch redone last February in the Chicago suburbs. It is covered with a roof and it is mostly in shade most of the day. It was done in cedar except the decking is pressure treated wood. How much longer do I need to wait to clean and brighten and stain? What brand cleaner and brightener, and what brand stain do you recommend – I want to use a semi transparent cedar and a darker semi transparent for the pressure treated wood. Thanks again!

  34. iLive says:

    Thanks for all of the info you have on your site! We aren't installing a deck, but a covered porch…I can't find any info on this online. We are in Oklahoma (H-O-T) and our new smooth red cedar posts/beams arrived July 4th. From what I've read here, it sounds like we need to be concerned about mill glaze before we start staining. I can see how it would be feasible to build a deck then allow it to weather before proceeding, but I'm not sure how to do this with a roof on top of our timbers (I know it would be difficult staining overhead, but what about the tops of the boards where the roof prevents staining?). Do you have any advice? And I know I want a product that penetrates rather than leaves a film; how do you tell the difference? The contractor we've hired told us to use an Olympic toner or semi-transparent product (wasn't specific about which one), but I'm not sure that's what I need. Pretty sure, though, that he's going to laugh if I tell him we're waiting to stain…

    • Yes you still need to let it dry out for a few months and prep with a cleaner and deck brightener. Use the Armstrong Clark Stain as it is a penetrating oil based stain that does not film.

  35. Harshal says:

    Hi, I live in Cleveland OH area. I am going to use TWP1500 stain to stain the deck. Already prepped with BEHR cleaner. My questions are below.
    1. What type of solvent should I use?
    2. What tools do i need? Should i use roller or pad & brush?

  36. Chuck A. says:

    I am installing a new deck and need recommendations for stains, cleaneres and brightners. The deck will be located over a concrete paver patio. I need something that will not stain or color the paver and also something that won't affect the surrounding trees and landscaping. We get lots of rain in the winter with one or two snow storms.
    Location: Corvallis OR
    Wood: Cedar
    Exposure: North facing, but does get some mid morning sun
    Mold or mildew problems: none yet

  37. Jennifer says:

    I just had a clear redwood pergola installed in my backyard. Because of my online research, my plan was to have the wood prepped with Restore-A-Deck cleaner and brightener, wait a week and then stain with Woodrich Timber Oil or Armstrong Clark semi-transparent stain. I understand it is best to let new wood age before doing anything, but my husband didn't want to wait, so thus my plan. Current problem. . .Today the wood was prepped with Restore-A-Deck cleaner and brightener and now the once beautiful redwood has turned dark, almost black in some places. What should I do? Is this normal? Was the cleaner or brighter not applied correctly? Method: Contractor applied solution with a sponge, waited 15 minutes and rinsed off with garden hose. He did not use a power hose or scrub diligently. . .maybe this is the problem? Then the brightener was applied, let sit 15 min and then rinsed off. They thought since it is new wood that scrubbing wasn't necessary. Please help!! Any insight you have would be very much appreciated!!
    P.S. My contractor has been doing backyard hardscape for 20 years, but this is not his usual process with wood. With new wood, he usually gives it a light sand and then stains (usually using Behr – which is supposed to be awful). Therefore, he is following my instruction and has no experience with this method. And I have never done this before either. . .but have researched extensively online and talked at length with sales reps at The Sealer Store.

    • This is not normal. Product should be applied with a pump sprayer and light pressure rinsed off. You do need to scrub or lightly pressure wash.

      The cleaner also will raise the pH level while the brightener will neutralize and lighten it back. Might want to re-brighten and leave it on longer after the cleaning.

  38. Emily says:

    We are currently constructing a pressure treated rough pine fence with metal posts in MA. I was looking for a dark or black stain which is not easy to find. I saw Timber Pro has an ebony stain as does Acri Shield. Do you have any thoughts regarding the Acri Shield Semi-Transparent vs Semi-Opaque (and Alkyd vs Acrylic) and any experience on the durability of a darker stain. Or is there any other product you might recommend. Also would we stain now or wait; the pickets have been in our garage 6-8 weeks at this point and should be completely up by the weekend. Thanks for help

  39. Odette says:

    I just had a new deck installed with pressure treated pine about three months ago and wanted to know which stains are the best for my area. I live in Baltimore/MD and the summer has been fluctuating between being rainy or either hot. I see that Armstrong is a recommended brand for new decks but wanted to know if there is a particular type under this brand that I should use (transparent, semi-transparent, etc.). I also know that you have to prep the deck prior to staining it, any suggestions on how to clean underneath it?

  40. Dominik says:

    I have just finished building a new 20×22 cedar deck in Chicago suburbs.
    I am having a hard time choosing the best oil based semi-transparent stain. I do not want to wait to stain it.
    What do you suggest, TWP 100, Armstrong, Defy?
    I purchased Cabot Australian oil in Honey Teak but now have second thoughts.


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