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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6,547 Responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. Captain Larry Gross says:

    About 1400 sq. foot dock, pressure treated pine, little 14 slip marina in Key West Florida. The dock is approximately 7 years old and I don't believe that it has ever been treated. The wood is showing some minor surface splits. Full heavy sun exposure, salt spray and wind. I'm looking for a treatment to help the wood last from further deterioration ???

  2. Dana says:

    1) South Carolina-hot & humid, cold & wet
    2) Full Shade
    3) Pressure treated pine
    4)Tons- I just pressure washed it and it was BLACK & GREEN. The brick on the house around the deck was even green. Wood is split in many places but it looks really clean now.
    5) Had a professional clean & seal 4 yrs ago, I think with a clear sealer-it's all gone. I am new homeowner, I didn't realize the maintenance needed but I would like to stain it myself this time with a semi or full color. Wood is damaged but still solid. Do I need to clean again with a "cleaner" before staining? What cleaner & stain do you recommend?

  3. David says:

    I live in northwest Louisiana. I am planning to stain my deck which is in direct sunlight during to day and shade in the evening. I have been trying to research which stain brand is the best for my area. Behr,Cabot,Olympic, or TWP? I have just about decided on one brand and then I receive all negative comments. I don't want to have to do the deck again every year. What do you suggest? I like semi-transparent, but not sure if it is best for lasting as long as most stains say.

    • Of the ones you mentioned, TWP 100 Series would be the best option. Next would be Olympic as long as it is there oil based version. Stay away from Behr. Make sure your prep is done well.

  4. Sue says:

    We refinished our ten year old deck last summer and it immediately started peeling. We used Behr prep products (stripper, cleaner, then we fully sanded it).

    I'm posting to ask what we should have done, and also to ask what we should do going forward (re-strip and start over? Baby it for as long as possible? Stripping was horrible and I never want to go through that again!)

    1. Ohio
    2. Morning Sun, afternoon shade
    3. Pressure treated pine
    4. Mildew on the northern half, which is in full shade
    5. Originally stain had wear everywhere (but it was ten years old). Behr stain applied in September '14 is flaking off. I'm terrified to even put our deck furniture on it in the spring.

    • Sue, you have to remove and start over to fix. Behr is not easy to strip either so you may no strip off what you can then sand the rest off. Once fully removed you should use a wood brightener. As for the next stain, you want a deep penetrating oil based stain that soaks into the wood so it is much easier to reapply as needed and does not need to be stripped either. Behr is a filming water based stain like a paint and that is one reason it peels.

  5. Dirk Bender says:

    Live in Michigan. Full sun and a lot of wind.retreated wood. About 20 years old.

  6. Dennis M says:

    I spent a lot of time researching what product to use on my bottom / upper deck. Im in east central fl. I live across the street from the beach. With salt spray. I am 3/4 to full sun. pt. wood.some mold in shaded areas.I had thompsons honey semi trans on rails and deck from past owner. It did not stay on the deck at all gone in 3/4 of a year. The rails are in need of redo soon. 2 yrs ago I used t p 100 med dark brown. Really only lasted 1 year,you can see the first coat were some foot prints appeared. I did two coats as instructed. It seems the upper deck is in better shape,because it was a newer deck. I need to do it again still looking for the right product. Also I need to do a hot tub wood sides. Any one has the answer please. Wish the deck was trex

  7. Trey says:

    Illinois
    Morning sun, afternoon shade
    Press treated pine
    Yes to mildew
    New deck June 2012, never treated. Want to darken color but keep wood grain look

    • Prep first with the a cleaner and brightener like the Restore A Deck kits. Stain with a penetrating stain that enhances the grain but does not mask. Look at TWP 1500 or Armstrong Clark.

  8. Steve says:

    I have a new redwood deck and would like to know the best stain to use.
    1.Deck Location State: San Jose, CA
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade: Full Sun and partial shade under wood arbor
    3.Wood Type: Redwood
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: redwood deck of 25 years replaced, but traffic pattern was initial issue then breakdown of some of the boards in high water exposed areas due to rain an sprinkler overspray

  9. Monica, Do you know what options you have locally for stain brands? I believe you can get Defy or Armstrong Clark shipped to you.

  10. Rebecca, I would clean and prep with the Restore A Deck products then stain with TWP 100 or Defy Extreme.

  11. Hill, I would look at the Armstrong Clark for this or possibly Defy Extreme.

  12. Deck Stain Help says:

    David, please read this: Staining New Decking

  13. Deb T, strip and brighten the wood to restore color. Defy Extreme or TWP 100 Series for this.

  14. James, sounds like a good plan. Just one coat on this newer wood.

  15. James, I think that will work. Just 1 coat on this new deck. You can always do a light maintenance coat in 12-18 months.

  16. Just stain. No need for a sealer as well.

  17. Deck Stain Help says:

    Jim H, please read this Staining New Decks

  18. Jim H, TWP 115 Honeytone or Armstrong Clark in Amber.

  19. Deck Stain Help says:

    Brent, please read this: Staining New Decks

  20. drew co, strip and brighten all with the Restore A Deck products. Stain with TWP 1500 for the siding and 100 for the decks.

  21. Prep the surface with a deck cleaner. Stain with TWP 1500 or Armstrong Clark.

  22. Tom, Look at the 1500 Series in TWP or Armstrong Clark. Prep first with a deck cleaner and wood brightener.

  23. David, use a deck cleaner and wood brightener for the prepping. Stain with Armstrong Clark or TWP 100.

  24. Janice, I would look the Armstrong Clark in a Semi-trans or Semi-solid.

  25. Mickey, strip off the remaining stain then brighten the wood. Try TWP 1500 Series.

  26. Tim W, clean and brighten for the prep the apply the Armstrong Clark in the Mahogany color or IPE Oil.

  27. Zane, try the TWP 1500 Series or Armstrong Clark wood stain.

  28. Stef, remove the remaining behr by stripping and or sanding. Brighten the wood when done. Stain with TWP 100 Series or Armstrong Clark.

  29. Deck Stain Help says:

    Josh, please read this article: Staining New Decks

  30. Rob, you can use the Amber color for any wood type. It was designed and labeled for hardwoods but can be used for other wood.

  31. Jrice, clean and brighten the wood for the prep. Stain with Armstrong Clark in a semi-solid color for maximum UV protection or the TWP 1500.

  32. Kris, strip and brighten. Try the Armstrobg Clark in a Semi-solid or the TWP 1500 Series.

  33. Paul, clean and brighten to prep and stain with the TWP 1500 Series.

  34. John, TWP 1500 or Armstrong Clark.

  35. John, try TWP 1500 or the Armstrong Clark for this deck in Chicago.

  36. Paula, not color means little to no UV protection from graying. The Defy Extreme Clear gives some UV protection. I would use that.

  37. Paula, strip off the old stain and brighten to restore the wood and remove the old color. Stain with the Armstrong Clark or Defy Extreme.

  38. L. Conley, your contractor is wrong and best to follow the advice of the stain brand you choose as far as what they suggest for their stain as they are all different. You can use oil based stains in Ohio. TWP 1500, Armstrong Clark, Penofin, Cabot, etc.

  39. cdb, I do not think you will be able to match. Sorry but I have no ideas for this.

  40. cdb says:

    Can I go over the newly applied semi-transparent stain with a semi-solid stain without having to do any prep?

  41. cdb, probably will not penetrate into the wood creating a film on top of the wood that will peel.

  42. Deidre, I would just start sanding and yes you need to clean and brighten after the sanding. This will remove sand dust, allowing the new coating to penetrate a little better.

  43. Kurt, try the TWP 1500 or the Armstrong Clark.

  44. Sara, do you know what brands of stains are available to you in Hawaii? Many are not sold there.

  45. Matt S, you should remove the old stain first if switching brands. What stain brand or type did you use before? Pressure washing will not remove completely so you may need a stain stripper while washing.

  46. Ryan, it is not advisable to remove an old stain with just a pressure washer as you will probably create some damage to the wood. The use of a deck stain stripper with the pressure washer will greatly aid in the removal. Apply a deck brightener when done. If you use the stripper you will not need to use a deck cleaner. Try TWP or the Armstrong Clark

  47. Prep all with a deck cleaner and wood brightener such as the Restore A Deck Kit for prep and to get all the wood the same color. I would suggest Armstrong Clark in their Driftwood Gray for this.

  48. Prep well to get the wood back to natural with no previous coatings. Stain with TWP 1500 or the Defy Extreme.

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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.

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