Deck Stain Reviews Ratings
Deck Stain Reviews Ratings
Deck Stain Reviews Ratings

What is the Best Deck Stain?

Note: This is the first version of our most popular article on DeckStainHelp.com. 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!

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 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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11,771 responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. Robin Donaldson says:

    Oklahoma
    Full sun
    approximately 5 years old
    treated pine
    some peeling
    Tried Restore and it didn't last but a few months.

    • You cannot apply anything over the Rustoleum Deck Restore. This product is very hard to remove. you will need to sand and scrape off. Once removed, try the TWP or Armstrong Clark.

  2. Keith says:

    1-Dallas, Texas
    2-full sun
    3-White Oak. Pressure treated pine
    4-No…..New wood that has aged 6 months inside garage.
    5-New Outdoor Bench and chair

  3. Richard Silvius says:

    Atlanta,Georgia area
    Most of the deck is full shade, some partial sunshine
    New installed pressure treated pine, cure time about 7 months
    Previous deck had mold/mildew problem in total shade area
    Not yet treated or stained

  4. Laurie says:

    1. Deck Location: Western Washington
    2. 1/3 Full Shade, 1/3 Partial Shade, and 1/3 Full Sun, Deck is on the North side of the house
    3. Wood Type: Alaskan Yellow Cedar
    4. Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes. Deck is low to the ground 2'-3' up.
    5. Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Faded semi-transparent oil.
    Deck has now been pressure-washed, TSP+bleach+scrubbed, and sanded.
    ?Solid Oil Stain next?

  5. Pamm says:

    Iowa
    1000 sq. Ft. Deck. Appox. 700 s/f full sun, 300 s/f partial shade
    Pressure treated pine
    Yes, on shaded area
    Water resistance and color gone, 2 years max. Been using semi transparent stain. Deck is 13 years old.
    Also what cleaning mixture do you recommend using with pressure washer.

  6. Jason says:

    Deck location: Austin Tx
    Full sun in afternoon into the evening
    Pressure treated pine with some new planks, 22 years old
    Mold: Yes
    Stain failure: fading, has not been treated in some time

  7. Dan says:

    northern virginia
    pressure treated pine
    partial sun (two/3 hours per day)
    brand new deck (8mths old)
    no mold or mildew issues

  8. Carol says:

    northern Illinois
    Full sun
    Pressure treated wood
    Mold/mildew issues
    Peeling stain

  9. Lauren says:

    Deck Location State: Massachusets
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun/Full Shade (covered farmer's porch but gets sun throughout day) North facing
    Wood Type: Mahogany
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes, potentially from previous stain being applied before wood fully dry
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Fading (4 years old)

  10. Jim says:

    Deck location: Chelsea, MI
    Full sun in afternoon and early evening
    Pressure treated pine – 4 years old
    Mold: some though minor
    Stain failure: no previous treatment

  11. Brandon says:

    Deck Location: Ontario
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: wood grayed and moldy/mildewy, not sure when it was last treated

  12. Nick says:

    Location: Milford NH on Northern side of house
    full sun from noon on
    P/T pine 5/4 lumber 12 years old ready for re-treat pressure washed this past week
    Mold: minor
    disappointing: Cabots got a little over a year prior to the peeling this was applied to pressure washed deck that had Thompsons applied when new then a 3 year re do. Not happy with them either!!

  13. Debbie Martilla says:

    Deck location: Riner, VA
    Full sun on one half of deck, partial on the other (1,000 sq ft deck)
    Pressure treated pine – 8 years old
    Was stained previously with Cabot oil stain – only last a couple of years

  14. Kris says:

    Deck Location State: West Virginia
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Brand New deck…Just installed last July.

    Let it dry for about a year now. Getting ready to stain. What are your recommendations? I know i'll need to clean it with something first, but unsure of what. And what type of stain do you recommend? Local dealer wants to sell me Benjamin Moore Arborcoat.

  15. Tania says:

    Deck Location State: California
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial Shade
    Wood Type: Redwood
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Turned gray

  16. Shane Shelton says:

    1. Galveston, Texas (on the water)
    2. Full Sun
    3. Pressure treated pine
    4. No mold or mildew issues
    5. Turned gray (hasn't been stained in a while)

  17. Kim says:

    Deck location: West Central Wisconsin
    Full sun, high traffic
    Wood Type: Pressure treated pine 12 years old
    Slight green and black issues.
    Had previously been stained with Cabot (stain completely gone and deck scrubbed at this point)
    Please recommend which regimen – I have about 1000 square feet to do and would love to not have my work be in vain

  18. Natalie says:

    Deck location: Central VA
    Sun: Afternoon sun
    Wood Type: Pine, I think…not positive
    No mold/mildew
    Re-staining because hasn't been stained in ~4 years and looking worn

  19. Tina says:

    Deck location Central Florida
    Full sun in some areas, part shade in others
    Wood is pressure treated pine installed 6 months ago
    Mold or mildew issues, No. We have cleaned deck to remove waterproofing using Sherwin Williams product and have then treated with deck with Sherwin Williams "Revive"
    Deck never stained before

  20. Deb says:

    Deck Location State: Minnesota
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Cedar deck is 5 years old)
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes, minor, where deck meets walls of house.
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled and faded

  21. Greg says:

    Georgia
    Full sun
    Cypress
    Some mildew
    Just time to redo.

  22. Chris says:

    Western Washington near salt water
    Full afternoon sun
    Ipe 9 yrs old, stripped and sanded
    Light mildew
    Has not been stained for 5 years

  23. Cathy says:

    Connecticut
    Half full sun, half mostly shade
    Wood pressure treated pine
    Some mold, mostly peeling Behr opaque stain (gray)

  24. vasil hristov says:

    Hight sun. Sun all day. Redwood. Brand new deck
    Las vegas. Nv

  25. Clint Miller says:

    Deck Location State: Washington
    Partial Shade (North Exposure, against a green belt with mature trees)
    Wood Type: 5/4" x 4" Tight Knot Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Improper prep and application, coupled with improper stain choice. (Sanded new wood; stained w/ latex-based filming stain before installation; stripped, reapplied same company's oil-based product but it just absorbed dirt and turned black. Am now stripping that finish and applying brightener.)

  26. Shaun says:

    California
    Full sun
    Redwood
    No mildew
    Brand new deck

  27. Richard says:

    Tennessee, Full Sun, Pressure treated pine, Some mold and mildew, Last done 3 yrs. ago., Lot of wear

  28. Andy Banks says:

    Deck Location State: Indiana
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Shade
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine Siding
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Non – This is first staining

  29. Sandy says:

    White Mountians, AZ
    Partial sun
    Redwood
    Some mold
    Time to refinish

    Our redwood walkway gets moved to the garage for the winter but gets lots of rain in mid to late summer.

  30. Robyn Garrison says:

    Location – Eastern Washington
    Full sun and hot/dry in summer months, heavy snow in winter
    Wood type – pine log railings and pine log cabin
    Have tried several types of stain and finishing – railing and stairs are now dried out and last opaque stain pealed off

  31. Kevin Taylor says:

    Ladys Island, South Carolina
    Full sun on a tidal creek
    Pressure treated pine
    Some mildew issues
    Previous stain was applied 8 years ago and has worn off

  32. ANDREA says:

    Deck Location State: NORTH CENTRAL ARKANSAS
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: FULL SUN
    Wood Type: Pressure TREATED PINE
    Mold or Mildew Issues: NO
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: 3YRS SINCE LAST STAINING, HIGH TRAFFIC AREA SHOWING WEAR

    We have powerwashed this deck prior to staining with a dark stain in the past. Was wondering what regimen you suggest for prep and what to finish with?

  33. Tom says:

    New York
    Full Sun
    Mahogany
    No mold
    New construction, no stain yet.

  34. Tom says:

    New York
    Full Sun
    Mahogany
    No mold
    New construction.
    Leaning towards cabot ATO Mahogany flame, I like some grain. I am concerned about the full sun. I have let the deck bleach a bit for six months.

  35. Mark Koester says:

    Lakes Region central NH
    Full sun
    Cedar
    No mold
    New deck just installed

  36. Nancy says:

    Massachusetts
    Partial sun
    Lauan or Balau, not sure which
    10 years old, never stained, color has faded unevenly to light tan

    We want to refresh the uneven color of our decking (deck never stained, yet looks like it was stained and stain is wearing off) . We applied BEHR all-in-one-wood cleaner last week, and see no difference. (wet deck, applied cleaner, brushed in, power washed off)
    Any ideas on what to do to make our deck look presentable again? Thanks!

  37. Jeff Bjorklund says:

    Minnesota
    Partial Sun/Shade throughout the day
    cedar
    No mold or mildew
    last stain peeled and flaked off after first winter

    • Remove the failed stain first using Restore A Deck products. Most likely need the Stain Stripper and the Brightener. After removal, try the TWP or Armstrong Clark stains.

  38. Debbie says:

    Indians
    Full Sun
    Pressure treated pine I think Not Sure 15 yrs old
    Prone to Mold : Yes
    Stained three times. Deck is peeling

  39. KENNETH BAUMGARTNER says:

    Southeast Michigan
    Partial Sun
    Pressure Treated Pine
    No Mold
    New Construction, No Stain Yet

  40. Glen says:

    Location: Oklahoma
    Full sun & large deck around above ground pool
    Pressure treated wood
    Wet & lots of use
    Behr product just peeled off
    12 yrs old

  41. Keith says:

    Washington State
    Summer shade in morning, sun in afternoon
    Pressure Treated 2X6 from Home Depot (not sure what type of wood – Yellow Pine?)
    Yes – mold and mildew each year
    1/2 Was painted not sealed or stained the other 1/2 was never painted or sealed. Will be installing all new pressure treated 2X6 from Home Depot

  42. Bmurph says:

    SW Michigan , 75 % shade. I have some algae/moss in my pressure treated pine. I used an "oil fortified stain and sealant" from NWP. 95 % failure in traffic area, minimal under furniture.

    Any prep recommendations appreciated

  43. Alan says:

    Ohio
    Full Sun
    Pressure Treated
    Very slight/little mildew on backside of posts that face south
    Old CFW is worn off. Time to reseal/stain

  44. Neal says:

    Location: Central Indiana
    Full sun – south west exposure
    Brand new pressure treated wood
    Some mildew present on the old deck
    Just replaced the old deck boards.

    What's the best stain and how long should I wait until I stain the new boards?

    Thanks!!

  45. Nancy says:

    Massachusetts
    Massachusetts
    Entry, some full sun, some Partial sun
    Lauan or Balau, not sure which
    10 years old, treated with Australian Timber oil about 8 years ago
    Showing very uneven coloring, and wear.
    We want to refresh the uneven color of our decking . We applied BEHR all-in-one-wood cleaner last week, and see no difference. (wet deck, applied cleaner, brushed in, power washed off)
    Any ideas on what to do to make our deck look presentable again? Thanks!, color has faded unevenly to light tan (not greyed at all)
    Thanks, Nancy

  46. David Gibbs says:

    Salt Lake City, Partial Shade, New Vertical Grain Doug Fir Tounge & Groove (untreated), No Mold or Mildew, No previous stain

  47. Pam says:

    Location: Saskatchewan
    Exposure: The deck is covered so mostly shade, sun on the perimeter
    Wood type: plywood
    No mold or mildew
    fading, some chipping, cracking

  48. Dan says:

    Dan from Minneapolis,mn. We have 2yr old cedar deck never stained.full sun in afternoon.Do I need to sand before staining?There is some hair-like peeling on most of deck. Thanks for the time!

    • That is oxidation and it needs to be removed with a deck cleaner and light pressure washing. Apply the wood brightener after. You may need to light sand after the prep.

  49. Mark says:

    Located in Coastal Massachusetts, full sun.
    2 year old PT pine deck (2,000 sq ft) stained with AC Oxford Brown
    Wife hates it and wants to switch to a gray color
    Please advise,

    Thank you in advance!

    • You can remove the AC easily with the Restore A Deck stain stripper and pressure washing. Apply the brightener after. AC makes a very good Driftwood gray color.

  50. Laura says:

    Where can we buy the above 3 stains that you recommend.

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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.

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