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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7,482 Responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. JProft says:

    Location: Southern Minnesota
    Sun/Shade: Partial sun till late afternoon then full sun
    Wood: Pressure treated pine
    Mold/Mildew: No
    Reason for Failure: Solid stain has peeled after 3 years. Deck was only power washed (water, no cleaner) before last painting.
    What is the best way to prep a deck for fresh paint?

  2. Ericka says:

    What would be the best deck stains for my deck?
    Deck Location State: Massachusetts
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine (The deck is getting up there is years so something that could help restore some life to it would be great!)
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled.

    The owner had used Behr tinted stain on the deck and the stain is still on the spindles but has peeled off of everywhere else so I'm thinking the best way to address this would be to do a two toned deck with the spindles and rail one color and the deck flooring a natural wood color.
    Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!!

  3. robert says:

    Texas, full sun, pressure treated something, no mildew, redwood stain fade to very light color

  4. Lynn says:

    1. Covington Georgia
    2. Partial shade
    3. Pressure treated pine
    4. No mold/mildew issues
    5. Installed 6 months ago. Never been stained.

    I'm wanting a honey color, semi-transparent.
    Also, what is the best product to clean it with first? There are mud stains from the dogs.

  5. Deb says:

    Redwood deck
    Full sun
    Not new wood but has been cleaned

  6. Leo says:

    New Hampshire, full sun, pressure treated something, 9 month old new deck that hasn't been stained yet

  7. Patti D. says:

    Best deck stain?
    Western Washington – Centralia
    Full sun/part shade
    Mold and mildew, of course.
    Turn dark in color, almost black and wear problem because of two dogs and people (high traffic). 20 yrs old, have always cleaners suggested on product. Semi-transparent on deck now.

    • Strip off the black on stain with the Restore A Deck Stripper and pressure washing. Apply the brightener after to neutralize the stripper. Stain with TWP 100 Series. It will not turn black like the current coating.

  8. Jodie says:

    Milwaukee, WI
    Full sun A.M., Part Sun P.M.
    Mold/Mildew in 1 area
    Usually use clear sealer, hubby worried a stain won't cover evenly, house will get stained, deck is 20 plus years old.

    • Try a semi-solid stain color that penetrates. This will give excellent uv protection and an even appearance. Make sure to remove any old coatings of the old sealer first before applying.

  9. Patti says:

    NY state full sun spruce
    Definite mildew
    Not all prepared

  10. Liz says:

    1. Southeastern KY
    2. Full sun
    3. Pressure treated pine
    4. No mold noticeable
    5. Deck 2 years old, never been stained.

    Deck surrounds a pool.
    Can you please also tell me where I can purchase what you recommend?
    Should I pressure wash it first, or clean it with a cleaner?

  11. Ryan says:

    1. North Dakota
    2. Partial shade in the AM, full sun throughout the day.
    3. Pressure treated pine
    4. No mold or mildew issues.
    5. New deck built 11-12 months ago. Never been stained.

  12. Jerry J says:

    Myrtle Beach, SC, concrete pool deck, two years old, with concrete "Cool deck" resurfacing. Deck gets full sun, no mold issues, has previously been stained with latex concrete stain. Am attempting to repair hairline cracks and change to "pewter" color.

  13. Vicki T says:

    -North central Ohio
    -East facing deck – full morning sun till about 1pm
    -Pressure treated pine
    -Little to no mildew even though we get a decent amount of snow
    -just overdue for maintenance. Last product was Bonds OneTime wood Preserver – natural. I like that it doesn't peel.
    *Do not want anything that gets slippery when wet, as I've seen Thompson's do.

    • You will need to strip off the One time first. Try the Restore A Deck stripper and pressure wash off. Brighten when done. Stain with TWP 1500 Series or Armstrong Clark in a semi-solid color for your sun exposure.

  14. Tony says:

    Best stain for my deck?
    Full sun (south facing)
    No mold or mildew
    Peeling and graying and limited prep

  15. Mom243 says:

    1. Pennsylvania
    2. Partial Shade
    3. Pressure Treated Pine
    4. Not really :-)
    5. Stain wearing off approx 3 yrs since staining (semi-transparent)

  16. Cnor says:

    North Carolina mins
    Full sun til afternoon
    Wood pressure treated pine
    Mold in a few areas
    Stain failure after 2 years, semi solid stain
    Want something that lasts in the sun, heat, ice
    What stain? Cleaner? Pressure wash first ?

  17. G-man says:

    Location: Eastern Washington
    Sun/shade: no sun, wood located under Tuff board decking (joists)
    Wood: pressure treated pine
    Mold/mildew: no
    Has not been stained yet. In process of building. Want the best way to protect the joists underneath the tuff board decking.
    Thanks for your help!

  18. Barbara Johnson says:

    I used restore on my deck last year it is peeling off

  19. Mitch says:

    Deck Location State: Mid Missouri
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial Shade Partial Sun
    Wood Type: 90% cedar – 10% pressure treated pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: no
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: last stained maybe 5 years ago? (bought house in 2012)

    I just replaced a several pieces of rotted wood and did all of the necessary repairs. Deck has been power washed and sanded down – ready for stain. I originally planned on using one of the "restoration" products – but there are many negative reviews and many people have peeling and bubbling issues….

    Is there a particular stain you'd recommend i use at this point? I was thinking the TWP or Defy Extreme…

    Great website BTW! Very comprehensive and helpful

  20. Bill S says:

    We have a new house in Mass at a high elevation that gets hard winters (lots of snow and very cold) and strong sun on the deck in summer. The deck is pressure treated pine and the siding is knotty pine. It has aged for 1 year. There is mold and mildew forming. We'd like to use a transparent stain so we can see the knots in the siding and it looks natural. What's the best stain to use.

  21. 4jaymarie says:

    Nashville, TN
    Partial Sun. Full shade in morning, Sun in afternoon
    Pressured treated (assume pine)
    Mold or Mildew minimal but lots of pollen
    Rain minimal ice/snow
    Need a stain to help ward off carpenter bees Hate the look of a painted deck. Any suggestions?

    • Stain will not stop carpenter bees. You can add additives into the stain to help with this. Look at the TWP 100 Series and the Bug Juice. Prep first with a cleaner and wood brightener.

  22. KEITH says:


  23. Jeanette says:

    Deck Location State: Minnesota
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: partial shade
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: 20 year old deck, never sealed/stained
    There are many pine trees around the deck so it has plenty of debris that falls on it and sandy soil gets tracked on it. Also there is high traffic, including a dog and cat. We also grill on grease. I don't want paint, would like some wood color in a semitransparent or clear protection. And recommendation for prepping and cleaning. Thanks!

  24. KEITH W says:


    • You will need to stay with a solid stain. Prep with a deck stain stripper and pressure washing. This will remove the loose stain. Sand as well if needed. You want the current stain to be as solid of a foundation as possible. Reapply another solid color deck stain when it is prepped well. We use Flood or Cabot solid deck stains.

  25. David says:

    Central Minnesota
    Pressure treated pine 3years old
    South side full sun
    No mildew
    Looking for its first stain that will last, prefer semi like the wood look

  26. Joe H says:

    Deck Location State: Northern Maryland, near PA line
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Majority of the deck is full sun
    Wood Type: Mahogany
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Didn't seem to keep the nice rich medium color very long. Turned to a dull, ugly brown.
    Other: Deck is about 40 feet from a wooded area of large oaks. The deck always seems to discolor soon after staining. Since it's close to the trees, there's a lot of pollen that accumulates on it. I have purchased the 2-part RAD kit for cleaning. Now I need to decide on which stain is best. I'm considering Messmer's UV Plus for Hardwoods. What is your recommendation? Thanks!

  27. Courtney says:

    Deck Location State: Northern Illinois
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun (east facing)
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine (?)
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Some mold and mildew in some areas
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: The deck is over 15 years old hasn't been stained since then (whoops) therefore there is some cracks and fading. Most of the stain is now gone but seems it was semi-transparent.

  28. Paul says:

    Sunny San Mateo, California
    Partial shade
    No mold – Doesn't rain much lately unfortunately
    Greying, almost no color left, so would like a stain sealant combo that might bring it back closer to natural redwood appearance
    20 years old, not sure if ever stained, definitely not in last 10
    Have a 2 year old that rolls on deck and eats food off of it so low toxicity once applied is valued

  29. Todd MacNutt says:

    Hi. 1. Southern ontario, 2. Partial shade 3. Western red cedar 4.winter wetness leads to mildew 5. Previous stain peeled of in sheets on horizontal surfaces.

    Thank you for your thoughts

    • Todd, you will need to remove 100% of the old stain first. Sand, strip and pressure wash it all off. Make sure to use a wood brightener when done. Stain with Armstrong Clark.

  30. Raymond says:

    Our redwood decks have some built-in benches, so I need a stain that will work on both decks and furniture. We can't get TWP 100 in CA and TWP 1500 is, by their own grid, "poor" for furniture. Will either Armstrong or Defy work for both decks and furniture?

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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.