Deck Stain Reviews Ratings
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Deck Stain Reviews Ratings

Posts Tagged ‘Deck Restoration’


What is Best Deck StainsNote: This is the first version of our most popular article on We help by guiding consumers in finding a high quality and low maintenance deck stain based on a series of questions. This article alone had had over 11,000 Q&A questions to date. We have updated this article by including some answers to our most popular questions.

Please visit our updated article here: The Best Deck Stains?

What is the Best Deck Stain?

This is the most popular question that deck owners have. Unfortunately there is not a “best” deck stain out there. There are products that are better then others, but there is not one that will outperform every other stain.

A better way to approach this common question is to ask, “what is the best stain for my deck and it’s environment”? Just because a deck stain performs well in the Northeast part of the country does not mean it will perform well in the high altitudes of Arizona. There are also VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) Laws the come into effect for different parts of the country. This may limit what is available in your state. For example, TWP 100 Series cannot be used in 17 states that have a low VOC content of 250.

To understand a deck stain and its potential longevity, we should first look at the main reasons deck stains fail:

  1. UV rays from the sun will damage the wood resulting in degradation of the wood cell structure. This will break down the stain while causing the wood to oxidize (turn gray).
  2. Water, snow, and ice will cause damage to the wood by breaking down the exposed cellular structure.
  3. Freeze/thaw will expand and contract the wood resulting in the stain “bond” with the wood cells to fail.
  4. Mold, mildew, and algae will  leave the wood unsightly/dirty and can result in rotting.
  5. High traffic areas will leave “wearing” patterns.
  6. Previous stain used was of low quality or applied poorly.
  7. The Stain was not applied properly or the wood was not prepped properly prior to application. Bad prep is the number one reason stains prematurely fail!

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Hardwood Deck Staining

We have been getting great feedback here at from all of the consumers who have been looking for better stain alternatives for their deck restoration. Our most popular article, “What is the Best Deck Stain” has quickly become the number one article on the web for asking questions and getting answers on restoring your exterior wood and deck.

In this article we are going to cover what actually is a “Deck Stain”. We will compare the many different types of decking stain options available and what are the positives and negatives of each.

Deck Stains

Deck stains are used to protect and preserve your exterior wood. They offer UV protection, water repellency, mold and mildew resistance, etc. Deck coatings come in many different types of opacity and bases. Many deck stain brands can be restricted in certain states, cities and counties due the VOC laws.

Deck staining can be a “chore” for residential homeowners and unfortunately walking into your local store may produce some of the worst options available. Not all deck stains are created equal and there is not a perfect stain type or brand that will out perform all the others.

Water-Based Deck Stains

Water based deck stain have come on rapidly in the last 4 years. The main reason for the vast amount of water based stains on the market today is related to changes in VOC laws across the country. Many states have adopted or soon will adopt lower VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) regulations. This has prompted stain manufacturers to increase production of water soluble decking stains. In our opinion, water-based deck stain are “thin” paints with varying amount of acrylic and pigment.

Pros: Water cleanup, less chance of mold or mildew growth. Environmentally friendly.

Cons: Do not penetrate like an oil-base can. Slightly harder to apply as they dry quicker. Can be prone to peeling and wearing. *Defy Stains are the only exception that we have tested. They penetrate the best of all water based stains, nearly as well as an oil.

Oil based Deck Stains

Oil based decking stains have been around for 20-30 years and have been traditionally what all stain manufacturers produce. Oil based stains are typically made up of natural and synthetic oils. Many contain oils such as: Linseed Oil, Paraffin Oil, Tung Oil, Rosewood Oil, Etc.

Pros: Excellent penetration into wood. The better a deck stain can penetrate, the better the performance. Easier to apply. More natural looking.

Cons: Stronger odors, longer drying and curing time. Some oils can promote the growth of mildew. Some oil-based stains will darken in color over time.

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Bleach Is Bad For Wood

In this article we are going to cover what actually is “Wood Deck Cleaner”. We will compare the different types of deck cleaning options available and what are the positives and negatives of each.

Wood and Deck Cleaners

Exterior wood and deck cleaners are designed to clean and prep your exterior wood prior to an application of a wood stain. These cleaners come in many different concentrates with different ingredients. The main purpose of deck cleaners is to remove contaminants such as dirt, oxidation (graying), mold, algae, and in some cases, a very deteriorated stain that has failed. Deck cleaners are typically made up of caustics soaps that will aid in the scrubbing or pressure washing of your wood during the prepping process. Most deck cleaners will raise the pH balance of the wood resulting in a neutralizing acid (deck brightener) application to cancel the caustic of the cleaner, leaving the wood in a neutral state.

Note: Deck cleaners are not designed to remove old stains. You would need a deck stain stripper for this.

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How to prep and clean your wood deckExterior wood decking when left neglected oxidizes from the Ultra Violet rays from the sun. This will patina the exposed layer of wood cells turning the deck gray. Cleaning the deck first will a deck cleaner will remove this layer of graying wood cells while removing accumulated dirt, grime, mold, mildew, and algae.

Prepping your wood deck is the singular most important step when it comes to getting maximum performance out of your deck stain. Failure to prep and your stain will fail faster then it should and will not give the wood it’s natural beauty.

This article will go over the needed steps to properly clean your deck prior to applying the stain.

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New Cedar Wood

The first step in deck restoration and/or maintenance is to clean and prep the wood. This is the key to a longer lasting finish. Properly prepped wood will allow the deck stain to penetrate and perform to its full potential. So how dry does the deck need to be after cleaning it to apply the stain? Well that can be measured in several ways.

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Prior to staining a wood deck it is necessary to properly clean the wood for the best results. Removing all the dirt, mold, mildew, and graying will help the new deck stain to penetrate better and last longer.

When dealing with a deck that has an old failing deck stain on it, a simple wood cleaning is not enough. In this case a deck stain stripper must be used to emulsify and soften the old stain so it can be removed more easily. Wood stain strippers are more aggressive than a typical wood cleaner.

Some of the best deck stain strippers that we have found contain a mixture of Sodium Hydroxide and other surfactants and typically come in a concentrated powder formula. Once mixed with water they can be applied using a pump sprayer.

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New and Old Deck Boards
New and Old Deck Boards

New and Old Deck Boards

There are many reasons why you would have a mix of new and old deck boards but it can be a common situation. The most frequent reason is that some of the boards needed replaced due to decay or wood rot while other board were still in good condition. It is also very common for a deck owner to protect the deck with a stain once all the repairs have been made. The dilemma is that new boards and old boards look very different when they are stained.

To understand why this happens may help you to minimize the problem. Once old deck boards weather the top layer of wood fibers begin to gray and become soft. Newer deck boards are denser and are very hard. The older boards will absorb more deck stain and appear much darker than the new denser deck boards which appear lighter.

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Best Stain for an Older Wood Decking

Best Stain for an Old DeckWood 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.

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For the best results when cleaning and maintaining a wood deck, removing all the old deck stain is crucial. Deck stain is meant to penetrate into wood to provide protection. When an old stain remains on the wood it prevents any new stain from penetrating. The newer stain will instead remain atop the old stain and will be prone to peeling and flaking.

To ensure the new deck stain dives into the wood and provides adequate weather protection, any existing deck stain must be removed. During the wood cleaning process a deck stain remover should be used. When using a deck stain remover it is not necessary to use a deck cleaner. The deck stain remover will not only remove old stains but dirt, grime, mildew, and graying as well.

There are many types of deck stain removers on the market. Liquid and powdered forms are the most common. The liquid forms are usually ready to apply while the concentrated powder forms require mixing with water.

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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.