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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11,052 responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. Steve says:

    I sealed my deck over the summer with Armstrong. I live in eastern Pennsylvania and was wondering come spring time should I just pressure wash the deck to get the dirt off from the winter? When would recommend resealing the deck? It is a wood deck with pressure treated wood.

    • Pressure washing may remove some of the AC. If you want to apply a light maintenance coat to the floors, then lightly pressure wash with a deck cleaner, let dry and apply one coat of the AC.

  2. Marlis says:

    Full sun
    New no finish
    Mold and mildew

  3. John Von Laven says:

    What would be the best stain for me?

    Deck Location State: Oregon
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pine, previously stained with Behr semi transparent water proofing wood stain
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: peeling down to bare wood

    • John, make sure to remove the Behr fully first by using a stain stripper and pressure washing. Brighten after to neutralize. Look at Restore A Deck prep products. Try the Defy Extreme or TWP 100 Series for your deck.

  4. Jamiie says:

    Full Sun
    New and no finish
    mold and mildew

    (mostly outside in a campsite, a bench).

  5. Shelly says:

    What is the best deck stain for my fence?
    1. Texas
    2. Full sun
    3. Pressure treated pine
    4. No mold issues
    5. Reason for previous failure: faded in the sun as well as overspray from sprinklers

  6. Mike says:

    Would you please recommend a good stain for my 20 year old outdoor deck. The deck is in a shaded, but dry area in Texas. It has been treated a long time ago (over 10 years) and is now starting to look like the original treatment is partially pealing. I don't know what the original covering was, but it looks like a clear varnish that has yellowed a bit. I can pressure wash the deck to hopefully remove all or most of the original covering. I would like a clear or light oil based stain if that is possible. The wood appears to be pressure treated pine and actually is in pretty good shape except at the more exposed stairs and handrail. Mildew is not an issue, but I'm OK with putting some mildew resistant chemicals in the stain. I also want to put in UV protection chemicals even though the wood is mostly protected by the overhanging roof.

    • Mike, remove all of the varnish. A stain will not work over a varnish. Try the TWP 115 Honeytone for this. Light pigmented stain that shows the natural grain and EPA registered wood preservative.

  7. Jim says:

    Best Stain For This Application:
    State: South Dakota
    Full Sun/Partial Shade
    Wood Type: New Smooth Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Minimal
    Mostly Decorative Vertical Pillars
    Color: wanting a rich brown with a slight amount of red color
    Reason: Would Like To Stain Prior To Installation.

  8. karen says:

    1. Illinois
    2. MOSTLY full sun/ part shade
    3. Cedar
    4. Possibly…we never had a problem with our old pressure treated deck.
    4. New cedar deck started turning black almost immediately after applying a transparent stain

  9. Lisa says:

    Recommendation for a covered deck…?
    North Carolina
    Full Sun
    Pressure treated pine
    None or maybe minimal mildew issues
    Previously stained with Cabot semi solid, which lasted several years but heard formula changed and is no longer recommended. Surface of floor and steps show most wear compared to posts and railings. Spindles look good but will treat all surfaces for uniformity. Thank you for your feedback.

  10. Tim says:

    Deck Location State: San Pedro, CA (less than a mile from the beach)
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: New

  11. Boyd says:

    1.Deck Location State: North Carolina (City of Highlands at 4,200 ft Elevation)
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine (Rough Sawn Pine on the outside of the house)
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes (extremely humid area with a Lot of rain and fog)
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Some Wood is starting to rot (needs to be replaced)

  12. Virginia says:

    What is the best deck stain for my deck/screened in sunroom
    1. Alabama
    2. Partial Sun
    3. Pressure treated pine
    4. Yes mold/mildew issues
    5. Only 2 years old, previously only water sealed.
    Thank you so much!

    • Prep well and make sure that the wood is porous for the new stain. We do not want the old sealer to hinder absorption into the wood grain. Stain with Defy Extreme or TWP 100 Series.

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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.