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.

6,029 Responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. Rob says:

    Deck Location State: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia area
    Full sun & rain along outer edge deck under partially covered porch; shade and little rain along more protected areas of deck.
    Wood Type: Australian mahogany (tongue & groove)
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Most recent (Sikkens) coating broke down along more weather exposed areas; wood in this area appears grayish when dry; black when wet. I'm assuming that the blackness is mold.
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Breakdown of previous coating in weather exposed areas of deck.
    I've started by sanding the entire deck, but am limited in how much wood I can remove due to the tongue and groove boarding. The surface of the previous coatings are fully removedI suspect that there may some Sikkens or older oil-based residue left in the deep grain of the wood in some areas.

  2. Danica says:

    Deck Location State: Vermont, on lake
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial Shade
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: When home was purchase deck and stairs had a lot of mold and mildew. This has been removed via pressure washing.

    Looking for longest lasting stain/sealer. There are a lot of stairs & railing meaning a lot of detail work to stain and a lot of time.

  3. Eric says:

    I have to honest, when I was researching what process and products would be best to stain my deck I absolutely thought that this site was astroturfed. I purchased TWP 1501 because I found corroborating evidence in the form of anecdotal testimony on other forums.

    I used the gemini stripper and brightener, and did some sanding. Looked great before I put the stain on! Once I applied the stain, it looked fantastic. I don’t care if this site is astroturfed, that TWP stuff is awesome. It goes smoothly and has the consistency of cooking oil, but it smells like stain. Very easy to work with, and clean up was a matter of wiping excess off of the siding or where ever it wasn’t wanted.

    I do recommend using an applicator pad, and sticking with one application method. I started out with a brush and went to pad and you can see the difference in the stain. Either would look fine, but I suggest you stay with one application method so it looks uniform.

    Product is great after about a month; I love to look out there and see the beaded water after it rains. Feels great to have confidence that my deck is protected and that I don’t have to worry about having a new one built for a long time!

  4. Jon says:

    Deck Location State: Maryland
    Full Sun with early morning Partial Shade
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Unknown previous owner stain/paint is light grey and mostly removed by power washing.

    I'd like to have a natural wood color that will also clean up the deck's appearance.

  5. Anna says:

    Deck Location State: Charleston, SC (Coast – high humidity)
    Full Sun
    Wood Type: New Premium Pressure Treated Pine – 2 months old
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: n/a Previous deck had chipping / peeling with Behr and Tannin bleed through

  6. Peg S says:

    Full Sun
    No mold or mildew issues
    Deck built 3 years ago. First time treating.

    A contractor built our deck and advised against sealing it right away. Suggested we wait until the following summer to do so. Unfortunately, one year turned into three, mostly because I couldn't decide what product to use. I discovered your website this weekend and think what you will recommend is the Restore-a-deck cleaner and brightener followed by TWP 1500 for Hardwood.
    One additional question–our balusters are oil rubbed bronze colored aluminum. Should they be protected during the cleaning/brightening/staining process? Do you have a recommendation for how to do that? I have considered wrapping each baluster with plastic sandwich wrap, and securing both ends with painter's tape. Any ideas about that?
    Thanks for an awesome website!

  7. Christopher says:

    1. Deck Location State: Washington State (Seattle area)
    2. Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    3. Wood Type: Cedar
    4. Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    5. Reason for Previous Stain Failure: ~3 year old deck, never treated

    Considering TWP, Defy, or Armstrong Clark. However, TWP is the only one with a local dealer.

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