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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8,224 Responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. tom dreher says:

    Location: Central Texas
    Partial shade, Morning sun
    Wood type: Ipe
    No mildew or mold issues
    Deck coated with stain 7 years ago, needs to be redone
    How to remove old stain or should that be done?m

    Your reply:What stain is on the IPE wood? Is it still there after 7 years? We normally would strip with the Restore A Deck stripper and then stain with Armstrong Clark in Mahogany or Amber color.

    My replyMy guess about the time was incorrect. Deck stained June 2011 with
    Kelly-Moore Acry-Shield, Waterborne Exterior Semi Transparent Stain, 1288-704 Sierra Brown.
    Same recommendation?
    I have photos if you are interested.



  2. Paula says:

    Rhode Island
    Full sun from rise to set
    Unsure of wood type-think pressure treated
    Mildew Issues
    18 yrs old. Never stained before I purchased the home
    Used Olympia Maximum semi transparent-peeled w/in the year
    Used stain remover, sanded & powerwashed. Floor is back to original but the spindles & outer base wood still has stain.
    Should I still use the same stain seeing that I cannot get the orinal stain to come off?

  3. Forrest says:

    Western PA
    Full sun
    Pressure treated pine
    No mold or mildew issues
    New deck – never stained. Has been one month since installed and planning on staining before the end of summer (approx 3-4 months)
    Was thinking about Armstrong Clark after reviewing your website.
    Thank you for your advice!

  4. Marco says:

    Part sun
    Cedar wood
    Yes…mold or mildew
    Reason for failure: peeled

  5. Ted says:

    1. Deck Location: Jersey Shore
    2. Partial shade
    3. Pressure treated pine
    4. No mold/mildew issues
    5. Previous stain lasted 5 years.

    After adding a new section of deck we are looking to restain the old section and stain the new section for the first time. The previous stain color was semi transparent. We would like the new color to be transparent.

  6. Mark says:

    Deck Location State: Washington State – north of Seattle
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Afternoon, evening sun
    Wood Type: IPE Ironwood
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Decking in good shape, but just looks a little dry and weathered

  7. Mary says:

    1. North east indiana
    2. In south east corner of single story home. There is a shade tree. But gets hit with mid morning to late afternoon direct sun.
    3. Pressure treated line
    4. Some but minimal
    5. The deck is old. I have lived here for 10 yrs, but it was very neglected before I bought the home. I have stained 3 times – Cabots and Thompsons. Wood is really getting worn. Trying to stretch out the deck for another couple years before I have to replace it.
    Thanks for your help!

  8. Shelley says:

    1. Calgary Alberta
    2. Full sun – deck on the west side of our house
    3. Pressure treated pine
    4. No mile or mildew issues – new deck
    5. Never been stained beforee

  9. Mary says:

    North Carolina
    Full Sun
    Pressure treated pine
    No known mold/mildew issues
    Never stained – built May 2014

    Preference is for solid color so we can two-tone the deck (blue/white), but we will put protection and ease of application/maintenance above that preference.

  10. David says:

    1.Deck Location State: Houston, Texas
    2.Full Sun
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    5.Brand new deck with no stain. Installed July/August 2014

    We had to replace our original deck due to a bad batch of treated pine which severely rotted. We installed a brand new deck in later part of July and the first part of August. We left it untreated with plans to stain it a year later. It is about that time to stain it. Can you please recommend a semi-transparent stain for our climate here in Houston and what steps we need to take to make sure we clean and stain it properly? We would be most grateful for your help. Thank you, David

  11. Rob says:

    1.Deck Location State: New York (Long Island – no salt water )
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Morning shade, Afternoon Full Sun
    3.Wood Type: New Malaysian Mahogany (replacing 25 yr old red cedar decking)
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes, mostly between boards. Deck is 16" above ground level.

    I used the clear CWF on the red cedar 25 years ago and loved the look of it being freshly oiled but not changing the color of the cedar much at all. On the new mahogany I'm also looking to keep as much of the original wood coloring as possible with mold/mildew protection and recoating every other year or so. I've read about the AC mahogany but I'm not sure I want to add much color to the wood. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  12. Kim says:

    What is the best stain for my new decki

    Deck Location State: South Dakota
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: part shade
    Wood Type: Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: this is a new deck

  13. Meloraj says:

    New deck
    1.Deck Location State: Kansas City
    2.shade morning/ Full Sun afternoon
    3.Wood Type: composite deck surface everything else Pressure Treated Pine
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: Deck to be demolished does. Don't want new deck to have it
    5.Brand new deck with no stain. Installing next week
    Want it to be black color – all vertical surfaces – stringers, posts, joists.

  14. Jared C says:

    Deck Location State: Chatham, Ontario Canada – Closest to Detroit MI (1 hour Drive)
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun – new subdivision – No trees
    Wood Type: Pressure treated – grey (4 years old never stained/sealed – raw state)
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Decking in good shape, but just looks a little dry and weathered – never finished

  15. Matt says:

    Deck Location State: Wisconsin (Central/Northern)
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun afternoons, partial sun rest of the day
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine (new wood, dried)
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Not usually
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: None – new

  16. Sandra K says:

    Deck Location State: Northwest Arkansas
    Full shade, Partial shade, minimum full sun during certain times of the day
    Wood Type: Pressure treated pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: weathered, dark

  17. Erin says:

    Deck located in NC.
    Partial shade.
    Pressure treated pine.
    Yes, there have been green areas on the deck.
    We just moved into the house, but it looks like the deck has been water sealed, but not previously stained.

  18. tyler says:

    1. Raleigh NC
    2. shade morning afternoon sun
    3. Pressure treated pine. Older, neglected for a few years.
    4. None that I can see.
    5. it appears to have been quite some time since last staining.

    Would like to keep wood grain just give it some color. thinking the AC semi transparent. Used the natural transparent on cedar and was very pleased.

  19. Jess says:

    1. California, Bay Area
    2. Half in sun, half in shade
    3. Clear heart redwood
    4. Not sure, but prob not.
    5. lumber oxidized, now has a gray dust over the deck.

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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.