Deck Stain Reviews Ratings
Deck Stain Reviews Ratings
Deck Stain Reviews Ratings

What is the Best Deck Stain?

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 it’s 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 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 cellular structure.
  3. Freeze/thawing 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. 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 work well for your deck. This is the difficult part, so lets get started!

We will ask a series of 5 questions. Based on these answers (Answers are in Red) we will narrow the choices to 2-3 stain brands that will work at maximum performance for your deck:

Here is an example deck:

  1. Deck Location State: New York
  2. Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
  3. Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
  4. Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
  5. Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled and turned dark in color

First of all the state of New York is a low 250 VOC state. This limits the stains that can be purchased or sold legally. Many decks stains that are of low VOC have been known to fail faster then a 550 VOC stain. There are still quality stains available, just not as many. The rest is fairly easy to figure out. This deck should use a 100% penetrating stain that does will with UV protection and is not prone to mold/mildew growth. A semi-transparent stain that fades evenly over time with little to no wearing. This make future maintenance easier.

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

So here comes the fun part! 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!

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

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9,107 Responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. Loretta Land says:

    What is the best deck treatment for my area? What about the product that claims to fill cracks or am acrylic product?
    Southeast Missouri
    Full sun
    Not sure what type of wood. Probably something not really expensive.
    No noticeable mold or mildew
    The precious stain no longer protects from water.

  2. Joshua says:

    1. Green Bay, wi
    2. Mostly full sun
    3. Cedar
    4. No
    5. Peeled off after less than a year.

  3. Shauna Mabey says:

    What is the best deck state for:

    1. state – California (San Francisco)
    2. Partial shade (West facing so sun in the afternoon)
    3. Wood type – redwood (dont know any more than that it was installed in 1997 before I purchased the home)
    4. Mold or mildew – not noticable but I would guess likely given our foggy weather
    5. reason for failure – not sure. I know deck was pressure washed and they used Cabot stain – but don
    t know any more details. The Cabot peeled and faded

  4. Bev McDowell says:

    Thank you. Have two lines of follow up questions: 1. If we do as you suggest, what can we expect for durability AND could we recoat with the same product without the three step prep work the next time.
    2. If we decide to paint, what paint would you recommend AND would we need to do the same prep work as recommended for the semi stain. Is there a paint that could cover and adhere without the degree of prep (say just power wash)? Or, would we need to prime first?

  5. Sherry says:

    i live in western Michigan. We've never treated our deck yet. The contractor told us we didn't need to treat the deck for 2 years after installing. I have UV damage along with a tiny bit of mildew. Deck has full sun exposure. Is it better to roll it or brush it on. If I rub the rails with a cloth will that be sufficient or should that be brushed on.

  6. Joy says:

    Half partial sun, half full sun
    wood type: unknown
    yes, mold and mildew
    hasn't been treated for years

  7. Kelvin says:

    Montreal Canada
    Full Sun
    Pressure Treated Pine
    No mold/mildew issues
    New deck. 12 months old (starting to slightly gray)

  8. Margaret Lobenstine says:

    I sent in a comment after I rated you with 5 stars and filled in my Name & Email. It said my comment wouldn't be posted until it had been reviewed. How long does that process take?

  9. John B says:

    Northeastern Massachusetts, about 20 miles inland from the ocean.
    South facing – Morning Shade, Afternoon full sun
    Pressure treated pine
    Just bought the house. Never had a deck before. Deck is sound but appears to have never been protected. Have pressure washed it just to get the heavy black grime off of it. Still need a proper cleaning. No damaged boards but heavy grain and cracking have started. Am most interested in best products and practices to make it last.

  10. Teven says:

    Northern Nevada- high desert, cold winters with snow, hot, dry summers
    full sun
    No mold or mildew
    New deck

  11. J. Stewart White says:

    Partial shade
    no mildew or stain issues
    age and sun wore it off I guess

  12. Bruce says:

    Central California
    East facing, full sun
    potential mold issues
    new deck

  13. Gary A. says:

    Western Massachusetts
    Southeast exposure -sun
    New Ipe deck
    No mold/mildew
    Never stained

    Want it to look like it does when wet (mahogany-like color), not turning to grey.
    Oil-based, water-based….which brand/type should we use?

  14. Sharon says:

    Charlotte, north Carolina
    Partial sun
    Mildew, yes
    Pressure treated, 8 years old
    Used Cabot 5 years ago, should I stay with it?

    • Strip off the Cabot and switch to TWP 100 Series or Stay with the same if you can find the same and you are happy with it. Cabot has changed formulas sot you may not be able to find the same.

  15. Matt says:

    central Florida. Very close to the ocean. Full sun. We will be having the deck constructed and will most likely be pressure treated pine. Just want to know the best initial stain/treatment to use that will help the deck last.

  16. SUSAN BAUMAN says:


  17. Ben E says:

    Deck Location State: Central Texas
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: New Deck

  18. Marnie says:

    North Dakota
    Full sun – West facing
    Pressure treated pine
    Stain began flaking after a year

    • Strip and pressure wash to remove the flaking stain and restore the wood. Brighten the wood when finished. Try the Armstrong Clark in a semi-solid color for best UV protection when in full sun.

  19. Dave M says:

    Full Sun on 1/2 of deck, Shade on other half
    Excessive Wear and Mildew

  20. Dan Wilkinson says:

    full sun
    Pressure Treated pine
    yes, some
    dont think its ever been stained just grayed

  21. Mor says:

    I just built a new Deck in NY with a cedar fence.
    Half of the deck is under full sun, the other part under partial shade.
    I have no mold or mildew issue.
    I want to use clear stain on both of these maybe a hint of tint on the cedar.

    Which stain should I use?

  22. Nikki says:

    North Idaho Mountains/heavy snow in winter which lasts 5 or 6 months, can be extremely cold. Hot, dry summers
    Full Sun Front Deck/Back deck, morning sun, shade in mid afternoon
    Redwood (Decks) Fir (Railings)
    Have never noticed mold or mildew. Low humidity environment
    Peeled, turned white Have added on decks this year, not stained yet
    In prepping the back deck (failed stain) would you suggest sanding it, or using a product?

  23. Mike Simmering says:

    Raleigh, NC Area
    Full Sun middle part of day (6 hours) shade the rest
    Pressure Treated wood
    Mold and mildew issues
    New wood
    Deck is around a swimming pool,

  24. Maria says:

    Full sun
    Washed off and didn't protect

  25. Paul says:

    Charlotte, NC. I have a pretty big deck, less than a year old.
    I cannot pull the trigger on a stain….It seems most say stay away from Home Depot and Lowes "brands", but some of the brands that are suggested I cannot seem to find here.
    Pressure treated wood, Sun and Shade during the day.
    Does Cabot make a water-based?

  26. Teri says:

    Need to get a few more years out of existing deck
    Deck Location State: Raleigh North Carolina
    Full Sun- very hot bakes in the sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: some
    deck is 9 years old initially used TWP honeytone; couple years later used Sherwinn Williams semi-transparent deckscapes
    the deck is starting to age fast had to replace several boards that were rotted. Would like to get a couple more years out of the rest the deck. many boards split, weather and graying
    i am thinking my best bet is to use a semi-solid to get a few more years out of the deck

  27. Kathryn says:

    Hi: looking for your recommendation for a new deck sealer.
    Location: Northern California
    Large area 950sq ft: part shade and sun
    New redwood (PT)
    No mold one mildew issue
    No failure (new)
    We will sand before sealing and would prefer minimum stain, but will include some for UV protection.
    Budget is an issue (e.g., Sansin Dec not an option).

  28. Ann says:

    1) Mississippi
    2)Full Sun
    3)Pressure treated pine
    5)Never treated; 2 1/2 years old

  29. Gary Egnor says:

    1.Deck Location State: Michigan
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial Shade
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: Mildew
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Just wore off in high traffic areas

  30. Gino says:

    “what is the best deck stains for my deck
    Can you help me with this question based on the answers to the 5 questions noted above:

    1. Deck Location State: Vancouver BC Canada
    2. Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: North Facing, Morning Sun and Afternoon Sun Only
    3. Wood Type: New Untreated Cedar decking
    4. Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes in shade areas
    5. Reason for Previous Stain Failure: brand new deck, deck boards haven't been installed yet

    We have very wet spring and fall and mild winters (occassionally snows 2 times per year, stays a few weeks)

    Thanks for the help!

  31. Leslie McFarland says:

    Restaining a deck in Castle Rock, Colorado….full sun most of the year…no mold or mildew issues…not sure of the wood type…deck was here already…stain last year faded..

  32. Remove all failing coatings first so the wood is ready for a new stain. Strip and or sand to remove. Brighten the wood after. Use a penetrating oil based stain so it soaks into the wood grain. TWP or Armstrong Clark.

  33. Most stain brands do not want you to prestain:

    Look at the Armstrong Clark but you will have to season the wood.

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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.