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What is the Best Deck Stain?

What is Best Deck StainsNote: This is the first version of our most popular article on We help by guiding consumers in finding a high quality and low maintenance deck stain based on a series of questions. This article alone had had over 11,000 Q&A questions to date. We have updated this article by including some answers to our most popular questions.

Please visit our updated article here: The Best Deck Stains?

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 its 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 cell 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/thaw 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. The 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!

What is the Best Deck Stains?

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
  6. Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): Penofin Sem-Trans

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 than 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 well 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 makes 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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12,941 responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. Nicholas says:

    Thanks for this. SO … I have a 400 foot deck located in Delaware county New York. I used local Larch and it is just over 3 years old. It has never been treated prior and I just pressure washed it. It is in partial shade and about 3 feet off the ground so gets plenty of ventilation. I was thinking of DEFY Extreme Wood Stain since it seems a little easier to use. What would you suggest.
    Thanks Nick

  2. Stephanie says:

    Deck Location State: Omaha, Nebraska
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Too dark. Faded after 1 year.
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): Not sure. Just stripped entire deck.

  3. Brandon says:

    Deck Location State: Northern Arizona 7000 ft
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Shade
    Wood Type: Redwood
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Just been many years since it was sanded and stained.
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): No sure. Sanding entire deck before staining.

  4. Rico says:

    September, 2016


    My rough-cedar sided house is just North of Minneapolis in partial shade. I have never seen mold and mildew. The southern exposures are showing black weather stains and obvious finish failure. Previous coating was a Sherwin Williams semi-transparent water based cedar colored stain from 2006; I could not be happier with its performance. However this product has been "updated" and the colors are much different and I'm not confident I'll get the same performance. I was thinking about the Behr Premium Weatherproofing semi, but haven't seen the greatest reviews of that either.

    Any suggestions?

  5. Rick Curry says:

    Have new house with new deck installed in January. I live in Cincinnati Ohio. Deck is mostly under roof extension except last 5×30 feet that is exposed to partial sun. Need best cleaner and product for this type of deck.

  6. laura says:

    Full sun
    No idea
    Ugly brown and more than 8 years since it was applied
    No idea

  7. Mike says:

    I live in Colorado at 8750' I stained a hard wood deck with Messmers in the spring time for maintenance . It now fall season and the stain has turned gray fron the sun. What stain or sealer would bring back its luster?

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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.