Deck Stain Reviews Ratings
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Deck Stain Reviews Ratings

Posts Tagged ‘deck stains’


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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ArborCoat Stain Review
ArborCoat Stain Review

ArborCoat Stain Review

Important Note:  This is our 2nd Benjamin Moore Arborcoat. See our first review here: Benjamin Moore Arborcoat

ARBORCOAT Premium Exterior Stains offer a variety of opacities in an array of captivating colors that let you express your own unique style. These finishes are designed to enhance the appearance of your deck, siding, or outdoor wood furniture with outstanding color retention. All ARBORCOAT finishes are easy to apply and offer superior protection while enriching the texture and grain of exterior wood surfaces.

Benjamin Moore’s Arborcoat Stain Scores (1-10)

Appearance After Initial Stain Application: 5

– Similar to our first review, the Arborcoat after drying had a “plastic” unnatural look to the wood when done. The finished result was a film-forming stain, similar to a varnish.

Preventing UV Graying at 2 Year Mark8

– The Arborcoat does well with UV protection. It has a high solid content, similar to a paint. We did use the top coat clear on this deck as well. Not sure if that actually helps with UV protection, but BM claims it does.

Wear/Tear and Peeling: 3

– This product does not perform well on our tests. It is prone to peeling and wear. After 2 years much if not all of the flooring had peeling issues. Cracking, peeling and mold growth was evident throughout.

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New Redwood Deck Stain

Clear Deck Sealers and Stains for Exterior Wood

It is no secret that protecting a wood deck with a water repellant sealer is vital to its integrity and lifespan. Clear deck sealers leave the wood looking natural which may appeal to the deck owner. Without a doubt, a natural looking wood deck is a thing of beauty.

Deck sealers do give adequate water protection by locking out moisture. This is important to the wood’s lifespan. When water is absorbed into the wood it swells and when it dries up it shrinks. This continuous swelling and shrinking eventually begins to crack, split, and warp the wood. A clear wood sealer will stop this water damage from happening.

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Should you use a Deck Stain or Clear Deck Sealer?

To enhance the appearance of a wood deck and protect it from the elements the wood need to be treated with a deck stain or sealer. Both deck stains and deck sealers protect against moisture and water damage but there are some differences between the two.

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Deck Staining and Sealing Instructions and How To Tips for Best Results

The instructions for staining and sealing a deck will vary from product to product. It’s always best to follow the manufacturers suggested application instructions for the best results. There are however some basic tips and techniques that will aid in staining and sealing with any deck protection product.

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Defy Epoxy in Cedartone

Finding the right stain for your wooden deck is the key to getting lasting results. But with so many deck stain choices it can be a daunting task to say the least. To narrow down the search for the best deck stain you first need to understand what the different types of protection are.

Without getting into oil vs. water based debate or colors, tones, and opacity levels there are basically two different types or characteristics of a deck stain – film forming and penetrating. Both of these deck stain characteristics will provide adequate protection from the sun and lock out unwanted moisture. They both can also enhance the beauty of the wood and provide general overall protection from mold and mildew, freeze/thaw damage, and heavy foot traffic.

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We have our favorite stains and offer reviews based on this but not everyone has had the same results. We cannot expect our top rated stains to perform flawlessly in all scenarios nor would Behr Supreme fail in all scenarios. We do suspect it does in most cases though Smile

Please vote for your favorite wood and deck stain.

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Defy Epoxy Wood Stain
Defy Epoxy Wood Stain

Defy Epoxy Wood Stain

Discontinued and Replaced with Defy Extreme Stain

Important Note:  This is Our 2nd Review of Defy Epoxy Fortified Wood Stain. Our first review of the Defy Epoxy Stain was started in 2007 and completed in 2009.  See Here for First Review: Defy Epoxy Stain Review

Defy Epoxy Wood Stain is a specially formulated semi-transparent exterior wood stain that helps resist water damage, UV fading, and fungi. Its VOC compliant epoxy resin penetrates wood pores to lock out moisture and provide excellent protection from the elements.

Defy Stains are one of the few water based stains that actually seem to penetrate into the wood properly. This allows for better wearing.

Defy Epoxy Wood Stain Scores (1-10)

Appearance After Initial Stain Application: 8

– Defy Epoxy in Cedartone is a rich caramel color. Typical of most cedar stain colors, the Defy Epoxy highlighted the wood grain with a golden/orangish tone. It was a little more on the orange side then other brands. We personally like their Natural Pine color better but used the Cedartone at the customers request.

Preventing UV Graying at 2 Year Mark: 8

– UV discoloration after 2 years had faded at about 20% of the original color. The color actually looked better (less orange) then it did when first applied.

Wear/Tear and Peeling: 8

– We noticed a little wearing of the deck in the high traffic areas and around the table. The majority of the deck had the stain intact.

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Armstrong Clark Wood Stain
Armstrong Clark Wood Stain

Armstrong Clark Wood Stain

Armstrong Clark Wood Stain ReviewArmstrong Clark Wood Stain is an oil-based stain backed by  5 generations of experience in the exterior wood stain industry. Armstrong Clark is offered in 3 different versions: Trans parents, Semi-Transparent, and Semi-Solid Colors.

Armstrong Clark Wood Stains are composed of drying and non-drying oils that separate during the application process. The drying oils cure and protect the exposed surface of the wood from natural weathering and UV radiation while the non-drying oils condition the interior of the wood by lubricating the wood cellular structure.

Armstrong Clark Stain Review

Armstrong Clark Stain Scores (1-10)

Appearance After Initial Stain Application: 8

– The Armstrong Clark showed a rich deep enhanced color after application. The natural grain of the wood showed throughout the deck surface. The Mountain Cedar color was a “tannish” cedar color.

Preventing UV Graying at 2 Year Mark: 8

– The Armstrong Clark Wood Stain in the Mountain Cedar offered better then average UV protection. When using a semi-solid stain we expected to achieve excellent UV protection and the Mountain Cedar delivered. We would expect that the semi-transparent and transparent colors to offer slightly less UV protection due to the lesser amount of solids.

Wear/Tear and Peeling: 8

– Armstrong Clark Wood Stain had little to no peeling. The only wearing of the stain was on the steps. This most likely was the result of the homeowner’s dogs.

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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.