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The Best Deck Stains?

The Best Deck Stains

Armstrong Clark in Rustic Brown

Note: This is an updated version of our most popular article What is the Best Deck Stain?

We have had over 11,000 Q&A questions for the first article, helping consumers find the best wood and deck stain for their deck and specific environment.

The point of this article and is to offer guidance in choosing a quality deck stain that works well and will not create larger issues down the road when time to reapply. We have updated our original article by including answers to some of our most popular questions that we receive.

Here are some of our most popular answers to remember, before proceeding with any questions below:

  1. No deck stain will last 5+ years. A good quality stain will last 2 or maybe 3 years on a deck floor (horizontal) and typically twice as long on railings, siding, etc. (verticals).
  2. Penetrating stains will have less chance of peeling as they soak into the wood grain and do not film on top of the wood grain when fully cured.
  3. Penetrating deck stains are easier to maintain by cleaning and reapplying after 2-3 years.
  4. Filming Deck Stains that dry on top of the wood are harder to remove and/or reapply as they are more prone to peeling, wear, flaking, etc.
  5. Not all Deck Stains are penetrating. Even when they claim otherwise.
  6. Semi-transparent, Transparent, and Semi-Solids will show the grain of the wood to some extent. Solid stains, Deck Resurface Coatings, and Paints will not.
  7. Clear sealers without any pigment/color will not prevent UV graying. Lighter Pigmented stains that are Transparent, Semi-Transparent, or Semi-solid will have less UV protection than Darker Pigmented stains in the same transparency. More color/tint = better UV protection.
  8. Deck Stains are either Oil Based or Water Based. Filming or penetrating. Transparent, Semi-Transparent, Semi-Solid, Solid (opaque) Stains or a Deck Resurface Coating. See here for more info on Deck Stain Types.
  9. Oil based stains can still be used in all States and Canada as long as they are compliant to local VOC regulations.
  10. When switching brands of deck stain it is always best to remove the old coating first. Do this by using a Deck Stain Stripper and/or sanding.
  11. Always apply a Wood Brightener after prepping with a Stain Stripper or Wood Deck Cleaner to neutralize the caustic.
  12. New Decks (less than a year) are treated differently than older decks (more than 1 year). New decks need to be prepped and usually cannot be stained right away. See this about Staining New Decks.
  13. Prep, Prep, Prep = increased longevity of a stain.


What is the Best Deck Stain For My Deck?

This is the top question by far that we have gotten on Unfortunately, there is not a “best” deck stain out there that will outperform every other stain, every single time.

A better way to approach this common question is to ask, “what is the best stain for my deck and it’s environment?” A wood deck stain that performs well in humid South Carolina does not mean it will perform well in the snowy Midwest states. VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) Laws come into effect for different parts of the country as well. This may limit what is available in your state or country. For example, TWP 100 cannot be used in 17 states and Canada that have a low VOC content of 250.

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

  1. UV rays from the sun will damage the wood resulting in degradation of the wood cellular 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 cell 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 wear faster.
  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!


Once we figure out the main reasons for failure, then we should research what stains would better for your deck or exterior wood.

In our example deck we will ask a 5 questions. Based on these answers (Answers are in Red) we will narrow the choices to 2-3 stain brands:

Example Deck Questions and Answers:

  1. Deck Location State: Michigan
  2. Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun in Am, Shade in Afternoon
  3. Wood Type: Cedar
  4. Mold or Mildew Issues: No
  5. Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Dried Blotchy and Peeled after first Winter.
  6. Previous Coating? If so brand name and type of stain (Transparent, Semi-transparent, Semi-solid, Solid Stain): Behr Premium Semi-Transparent


Michigan is currently a high 550 VOC state, so all stains are currently available. If you reside in Canada, East Coast States, or California, then you may have different options. We would suggest a penetrating stain semi-transparent or semi-solid stain that does well with UV protection and fades evenly over time. Making future reapplication easier.

Based on these questions and answers we would suggest one of these stains:


Ask in Comment Section Below. Make Sure to Include Answers to the 5 Questions.

Feel free to ask what are “the best deck stains for my deck”? Just post a comment below and make sure to include the answer to the 5 questions.

Feel free to include any additional information that would be useful!

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Average Article Ratings Score

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1,949 responses to “The Best Deck Stains?”

  1. Kim Kaser says:

    Location: Minnesota
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: both decks full sun for half the day (front and back of house)
    Wood Type: Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: no
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: new construction-never been stained yet
    Previous Coating? If so brand name and type of stain (Transparent, Semi-transparent, Semi-solid, Solid Stain): new construction

  2. James Hohenstein says:

    Eastern Nebraska
    South side full sun but shaded in early am and early pm
    No mold or mildew
    Stain 4 years old wore out
    Sherman Williams Deckscape oil based TWP Cedartone

  3. maizehusker says:

    Deck Location State: Wichita, Kansas
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun in the summer – partial shade winter, spring, fall (deck is on the North side of the house so part of the deck gets shade from the house when sun is more South in non-summer months)
    Wood Type: Flooring is treated pine, posts/pergola/banisters are cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Previous Stain/Coating: Just new wood stuff from mill – Deck is new, was built in May (2016)

  4. Jack says:

    Deck Location State: Maryland
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun in Am, Shade in Afternoon
    Wood Type: unsure
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: New deck
    Previous Coating? If so brand name and type of stain (Transparent, Semi-transparent, Semi-solid, Solid Stain):

  5. Rachele Nelson says:

    Questions and Answers:

    Deck Location State: Kansas
    Partial Sun in Am, Shade in Afternoon
    Wood Type: Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: NA
    Previous Coating? NA

    We just had cedar privacy fence installed earlier this week, installer said the wood is dry and not as damp as some they have installed, so putting a sealer protectant on it sooner than later would be good. Our fence runs north south on the side and east west across the back. We have many trees around so the east side facing our neighbor will not see full sun often, but our side will have full sun in the afternoon, and the back will see more full sun often due to cutting down a lot of trees and bushes in the back line.

  6. Todd Black says:

    Deck Location State: Upstate South Carolina
    Partial Shade
    Wood Type: pressure treated
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No, new home
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: no previous stain, new covered and screened deck and steps
    Previous Coating?none
    looking for a good stain and seal that would be close to the sherwin williams warm chesnut color.

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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.