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.

4,276 Responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. Wayne Harvey says:

    I need a recommendation on for stain for my decks and fences. My house was built about 6 months ago and the decks and fences did not get treated or stained. These decks and fences get direct/full sun exposure all day and there are no trees blocking and no mold as of yet. I was unable to treat and stain until now due to low temps in winter. I need recommendation for a stain that I can buy at a major retailer in Oregon life Home Depot, Lowes, Sherwin Williams or Miller Paint. I have been told I am going to need about 15-20 gallons.

  2. Tina says:

    South Mississippi
    Full Sun, shade
    6 year old pressure treated pine deck
    Stained 3 -4 years ago, not much stain remaining. Pressured washed and used deck stripper.

  3. Tonya says:

    Location: Western (Mountain) Maryland (very close to West Virginia)
    Mostly full sun, maybe some shade early evening
    Freshly built new deck
    Pressure treated pine
    Unsure about mold or mildew?

    How should we care for our newly installed deck? Also we were considering products offered by Sherwin-Williams, Deckscapes Exterior: Acrylic Solid Color Deck Stain, or Oil Semi-Transparent Stain, or Oil Toner Stain. Do you have any knowledge or experience with these products? Also, I am all about doing things right the first time, so what advice do you have for prepping the deck before staining and are there any steps for post staining? Thanks so much!

  4. Rick says:

    Southern Missouri
    Full Sun
    Pressure Treated Pine
    No Mold
    Built 9 months ago… never stained

  5. Craig Engleman says:

    Just wanted to make sure on a recommended stain and # of coats.

    Age = 2 years old and has never been stained before.
    Deck Location State: Georgia
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: All but a 4' x 14' section is covered. The uncovered section gets sun, mostly just noon sun because nearby trees block most of the morning and evening rays.
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes, but only the small area that is not covered.
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Never been stained, as I knew it needed to age first.

    I'm planning on using TWP 100 and cleaning/brightening with Gemini restore kit. A previous article I read here on new decks recommends waiting 12 months and then only 1 coat because the wood is still new. Is that advice altered at all by my deck being 2 years old?

  6. mattsffrd says:

    Deck Location State: Maine
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial Shade (early morning and late afternoon)
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated
    Mold or Mildew Issues: no
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: new deck (completed last fall)

  7. jlo says:

    what is the best product to use on deck..it is located on the chesepeake bay in Virginia..salt air..some cold weather..some warm to hot weather..It is salt treated wood..(probably pine)…don't really want to change the color..I like the weathered greyish look that it has..It was built 2 years ago..Do I need to " even" put a product on it to preserve it???? After reading all the negative information on all the products for decks…I"m not sure what to use… if anything…Would appreciate any and all reply on this…..

  8. Kathleen says:

    15 year old deck and balconies with rough spots. Near Lake Michigan, so lots of dampness and snow. I'm considering one of those heavy-duty 'restore' type paint/stains on the main level deck flooring, but not sure if they are any good.

    1: Western Michigan
    2: Full sun
    3: Pressure Treated Pine
    4: Some mold in the few shady spots
    5: Previous owner was a slacker and did not maintain adequately Not stained for at least 4 years.

    Any help is appreciated! Thanks!

  9. Teresa says:

    We have a 1400 sq ft. deck in central NC. On several occasions, latest being about 5+ years ago, we stained the deck using dark semi-transparent Defy Original water-based stain. Six months ago, we replaced some boards. The deck is in need of re-staining. We just cleaned it a few days ago. Cleaning did not remove the stain from areas that were protected by rugs and mats nor from the vertical pickets. Can we re-stain the entire deck without having to strip the old stain? What type of stain should we use? Will the new boards be the same color as the rest of the deck?

    • Teresa, you need to remove all of the old stain first so the new stain will work correctly and apply correctly. New boards will not match older boards. Simialr but not the same. Look at Armstrong Clark or TWP 100 Series.

  10. Teresa says:

    I forgot to add the following:

    Full Sun most of day, Partial Shade morning & afternoon, Full Shade under covered section
    Wood Type: suspect Pressure Treated Pine, but don't know for sure
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No

    The previous stain didn't really fail, so much as we didn't stain as frequently as we should have.

  11. George says:

    Deck Location State: Eugene, Oregon
    Newly rebuilt – 18 months old
    Partial shade – east facing so gets sun until just after mid-day. Then shaded by the house for the remainder.
    Wood Type: Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: semi transparent stain peeling away like it's plastic. Started peeling after a snow storm.

    • George, remove all of the peeling stain first. Use a stain stripper and pressure washer, sand if needed when done. Brighten wood after the stripping. Stain with the TWP 100 Series or the Armstrong Clark.

  12. Joseph says:

    New York , Long Island
    Partial Shade
    pressure treated CCA
    Yes mold issues have occured
    I havent had stain because i'm building a new deck ( still CCA )

  13. Greg M. says:

    What is the Best Deck Stain for my deck:
    -Maryland
    -Full Sun
    -IPE
    -Mildew-Yes
    -Deck Stain faded

    I should also note I live on the Chesapeake Bay so wind/weather definitely a factor

  14. Reishe says:

    Deck Location State: New York
    Full Sun,
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine? Not sure, but that's probably it.
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Deck was built new right before we bought the house last year, builder apparently put thin coat of Behr stain on it, which began showing grey worn-off spots even last fall. After this crazy winter, there are worn-off grey spots everywhere.
    Thank you!

  15. Kalli says:

    Newport News, VA
    Full sun in some areas, complete shade in others
    No mold
    Unknown wood type
    Not previously stained

    It's an extra large deck with two trees coming through it (by design) to provide shade over half of it.

  16. Jimoats says:

    Location: Northeast PA
    Full Sun
    Pressure Treated Pine
    No mold or mildew
    1st time staining new pool deck
    Thanks for your feedback and looking forward to your response. -Jim

  17. penny says:

    NEBRASKA
    PARTIAL SUN
    NO MOLD
    ANNUAL MAINTAINENCE. HEAVY TRAFFIC AREA BY DOGS
    PRESSURE TREATED PINE

  18. Amanda H. says:

    Coastal South Carolina
    Full sun
    Deck wood from lowes
    No mold or mildew
    Refreshing and some of the stain is peeling off

  19. Amy says:

    North Carolina
    Front porch and back screened in porch (wrap around fp—1/2 of it gets 6 hours of sun)
    12 years old
    I'm guessing pressured treated
    No mold apparent—but dog claw marks and some splitting
    Previously stained with (previous homeowners left behind) Olympic oil based natural cedartone

    Want to go a different shade—more gray brown…but concerned about going too dark due to showing all dirt and scratches (3 boys and big dog:). Plan on prepping with a clean and power wash. Is sw deckscapes semitransparent really such a bad plan?

  20. Kim says:

    1.Deck Location State: East Tennessee
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated Lumber from Home Depot, not sure what type of wood
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: Somewhat
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeling, hasn't been stained for a number of years

    We rebuilt the railing and replaced some of the damaged boards about 6 months ago, so there is a mix of old (about 10 years) and newer wood.

    • Kim, strip off all of the old stain, sand if needed. Apply wood brightener when done. This will prep the wood for your new coat. Look at the TWP 100 series for this in TN.

  21. LouieD says:

    Deck Location State: Eastern PA
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Sun late afternoon to dusk
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine (I think)
    Mold or Mildew Issues: NO
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Not sure, deck in 15 years old, in good shape, but looks to have had several different staines over the years

    Complete deck has been sanded (all screws and nails reset) so I suspect I will not need any other prep as I now see bright clean woood grain. Looking for something that will last and see that the TWP 100 and 1500 both rate high. Honey or cedar tone as we would like to keep it light.

    Any suggestions at all would help. THis is our first deck stain attempt – we hope to learn from those who have done it before

    • LoiueD, after the sanding you should clean and brighten the wood to help the stain absorb better. Look at the TWP 1500 Series or the Armstrong Clark for this. We like the Amber color in the Armstrong Clark.

  22. Fred Man says:

    Here is an example deck:

    Deck Location State: New Jersey
    Partial Shade
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled and turned dark in color. Older deck 10 years that came with house had some previous stain don't know what was.

    • Fred Man, strip, clean, and brighten the wood for the prep. Sand if needed with 60 grit paper. Once removed, apply the TWP 1500 Series for this deck. Defy extreme would also be a good choice.

  23. DavidV says:

    I have a rooftop deck. It's about 400square feet, and I'd estimate 7 inches above the roof itself. It's in direct sunlight. I'm uncertain the type of wood. I've never had an issue with mold.

    It was stained with a thick red stain, but that has worn off in most spots. So I will use a cleaner/brightner, and then stain. I'll likely do a light sanding of it too, unless that's overkill? The boards are in good shape.

    • DavidV, you probably need a stripper and will need to sand as well to remove the old red stain. Once removed, look at the Armstrong Clark in a semi-solid color since you are in full sun.

  24. Richard says:

    Colorado (Castle Rock)
    Full Sun (south facing, extreme sun all day)
    Redwood (new install)
    No mold/mildew
    Previous pine deck neglected for years by previous owner, new redwood install

  25. Alex says:

    Upstate NY – 60 Miles from the city up North
    Full sun
    2 y.o deck stained last year with mahogany stain but the stain faded on the rails and on the pathways.
    No Mold
    Need to re-coat but not sure how to achieve a more or less unified look. Should I pressure wash it first or just apply few layers over?

  26. rosemary says:

    N.California
    full & partial sun, heavy rain in winter
    redwood, about 15 years old
    no mold or mildew
    have used Penofin for a number of years but not happy about how dark and patchy it goes.,

    • Rosemary, the good news is that Penofin is removable with a stain stripper. We use the Restore A Deck Stripper for this and brightener as well. Apply stripper and pressure wash off the Penofin. Once removed, look at an oil based stain that fades lightly instead of darkening like the Penofin. TWP stains or Armstrong Clark.

  27. Mark says:

    Location- SE WISC
    Full sun
    Wood type treated pine
    No issues- not stained yet, just constructed Aug 2013

  28. Craig says:

    Location: Central Ohio (Columbus)
    Exposure: This is a screened in porch, with sun exposure from the East and South only and only part of the day (i.e. partial shade)
    Wood type: New cedar (this include smooth decking and rough cut 6×6 cedar columns) I didn't know if the variation in texture would be a deciding factor. The exterior of the porch is covered by Hardi-plank. Only the interior shows the cedar.
    No mold or mildew issues.
    Never previously been treated, the porch was built less than 4 months ago.

    An additional concern is that I don't want to cover up the beauty of the natural wood color while providing UV protection and preventing any water damage

    • Craig, this a a great scenario for a very lightly tinted stain since it is not that exposed to the UV. We would suggest the Armstrong Clark in the Natural tone for this. Lightly clean for the prep.

  29. Jim says:

    Rhode Island
    Full Sun to Partial in afternoon
    Cedar
    Yes
    Faded

  30. Sheri says:

    1. Location: Eastern North Carolina (not the beach)
    2. Full Sun, high UV exposure
    3. Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    4. Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    5. Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Poor quality; grayed

  31. Brian Lewis says:

    Flagstaff Arizona
    Full Sun
    Western red cedar siding and decks are 9 years old
    No mold
    Recoating due to time. Previously treated with Cabots transparent stain.

  32. John says:

    I have a log cabin in the mountains of New Mexico. The altitude is about 7,000'. During the summers the deck and westwardfacing side of the cabin get full sun. I'd like to find a better stain than what I've been using. Someone recommended that I try Penofin Log On stain but I didn't see a review for that particular version of Penofin. He recommended this stain due to its Brazilian Rosewood ingredients. I would sincerely appreciate any input regarding what might be a better stain.

    Deck Location State: New Mexico
    Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine logs
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: The previous 3 times I've restained my log cabin, I've had to restain the deck and westward facing side in less than 2 years.

    • John, we have been seeing numerous issues with the Penofin stains. It turns a dark brown color after a couple of years. Make sure to prep well first. Look at the Armstrong Clark wood stain. Maybe one of the semi-solid colors for better UV protection in the high altitude that you have.

      • John says:

        Thanks for b the info. Another guy recommended using Cabot stains which seem to be more highly rated on this site. I'll ask him about his experience with Armstrong Clark.

        It might be unrealistic for me to expect more than 2 years between restaining the cabin. The UV is brutal there coupled with the snow that it receives during the winter.

  33. don sims says:

    Tomball, TX (suburb of Houston)
    partial shade
    pressure treated pine
    mold/mildew area
    used Olympic Maxxam 2 years ago on new decking… it has turned dark

  34. Barbara B says:

    Southern New Hampshire
    Full Sun until 2pm than 1/2 is in shade
    No mold or mildew
    pressure treated pine
    neglected last 3 years
    wood very dry and cracking

  35. Ana says:

    1.Deck Location State: Wisconsin (lots of snow and cold)
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    3.Wood Type: Cedar
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: semi-transparent would peel heavily on floor boards each winter and ultimately look crappy after a year.

    • Ana, make sure that you address removing all of the old stain first so the new stain will properly perform. Strip and or sand to remove. Use a wood brightener when done. Look at the TWP 100 Series or the Armstrong Clark for this.

  36. Belinda says:

    I live in Northern Illinois. The deck is in a mostly shady area with mold and mildew on it in areas and has not been treated for at least 6-10 years. The deck is mostly in very good shape. I am assuming it is cedar. What would be the best to use on this deck?

  37. Duane says:

    Please help determine best stain/treatment for my deck:
    Deck Location State: Michigan
    Mostly Sun with some shade from trees (south and east facing)
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Some, but cleans with power washing
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: As far as I know, the deck is almost 20 years old and has never been sealed, stained or treated.

    What stain sealer should I use to extend the life of this old deck? It is a large deck so I prefer to use the longest lasting solution so I am not redoing the work every year or two, but also want to preserve as much of the natural look as possible. Recommendations are greatly appreciated!!

  38. dave says:

    Deck Location State: Michigan
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun morning, shade in evening
    Wood Type: cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: New deck built in OCT, dried over winter

  39. Dustin says:

    Ohio
    Full Sun
    New house, not sure of type of wood but about 10 years old
    In good shape but certainly needs a new coat
    Hot summer sun, snowy winters

  40. Steve, says:

    Two yr old cedar deck…used Cabot clear that disappeared after one year. Deck on north side gets early morning sun…deck on east side full afternoon sun…South Dakota Summer….sanded old stain off..railing still stained….top it all off, have 7 big active dogs….can you give me a direction/recommendation please? Thank you!

    • Steve, the dogs will wear away the wood which will take off the stain as well. No stain can stop this. Best to use a deeper penetrating stain that can be reapplied easily as you will need to do this more often. Try Armstrong Clark.

  41. Venice Pipeline says:

    Southern California, Sunny Los Angeles
    Full Sun
    Mangaris
    No mold/mildew (deck is less than a year old)
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: shiny red mahogany stain faded after only a couple of months (granted we used the Minwax indoor stain…)

  42. Pete, please read this article that will help you with staining and prepping for a new deck: http://www.deckstainhelp.com/staining-a-new-deck/

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