Deck Stain Reviews Ratings
Deck Stain Help Articles
Deck Stain Reviews Ratings

What is the Best Deck Stain?

What is Best Deck StainsNote: 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!

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.


Rate Our Article


Average Article Ratings Score

4.8/5 (368)

4.8/5368


12,719 responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. william brandt says:

    1.Deck Location State: Northern California 2800 ft elevation
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Redwood
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled
    what is the best stain for me??

  2. Gary says:

    "WHAT IS THE BEST DECK STAIN?"
    Deck Location State: Hayward, CA (SF East Bay)
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: New redwood (never stained)
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes

    Thanks for your help!

  3. kdub says:

    Deck Location State: San Jose, California

    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun in AM, Shade in Afternoon

    Wood Type: Redwood (prob 10+ years old)

    Mold or Mildew Issues: No

    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Old messy solid stain in Redwood. Want to change to a semi in brown

    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): Behr Solid – deck has been stripped and sanded. All stain removed from horizontals. Having trouble removing from verticals. Thinking of going 2 tone. Can you recommend for both?

  4. Thomas says:

    Deck Location is Alabama
    My deck is in full sun
    Made from treated pine
    The previous stain failure was probably from weather exposure
    The stain used was Olympic Maximum Semi Transparent

    We are going to prep and re-stain and would value reccomindations.

  5. Darci says:

    Deck Location : Northern Utah
    Full sun
    Wood Type: Redwood?
    Mold or Mildew Issues: no
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled away
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): Behr Semitransparent
    I have sanded almost all of the previous stain off. What kind of cleaner and/or brightener and stain?

  6. Tom says:

    I live in SouthWest Michigan what is the best deck stain to use for my location.

  7. Abby says:

    Deck Location State: Virginia
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Screened in porch/partial sun; Full sun on exterior steps
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Only on the steps leading off of the screened porch
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Faded; assume weather related
    Previous Stain Brand/Type: None

  8. Rob says:

    1.Erie, Pa we get lots of snow on deck up to 5 months of year
    2.full sun and partial sun
    3.pressure treated pine 25 yrs old
    4. mild mildew that comes off with deck cleaner
    5. blotchy light and dark based on deck cleaner effectiveness and peeling in low sun exposed areas I think the last few coats were applied to wood not fully dry in mostly shaded area. An electric power washer was used and might not have had high enough psi
    6. Flood CWF UV natural tone yearly
    Lots of exposed nails and surface cupping would make sanding difficult and it is big (20'x20') Vertical looks quite good still
    Really appreciate your advise!

    • Deck Stain Help says:

      Use a stain stripper and pressure wash again. Repeat until all the old layers of CWF are removed. Brighten after. Try the Armstrong Clark stain.

  9. Casey W. says:

    Deck Location: Western North Carolina (mountains)
    Deck is full sun almost all day (or rain, as the case may be).
    Wood Type: Treated Pine
    No Mold or mildew issues
    Deck is new and has never been previously stained, so no existing stain or treatment.

    Would love some suggestions, thanks!

  10. Sarah Walsh says:

    I have a cedar deck in San Antonio,Texas. It is shaded by trees on the left side and right side gets full sun. The last stain faded quickly. We don't get much rain. I like a darker stain on the wood. I have two questions:
    1.). What do we need to do to prep the deck for staining
    2.). What would be the best stain to use?

  11. Sharon B says:

    Deck Location State: Northen Virginia,DC area
    Full Sun most of the day, shade from trees in late PM
    Wood Type: IPE
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes, black slippery stuff
    Had used sickness..ugh..want wood fibers to show…not painted

    have power washed it, looks great wet! want something not too red, to bring out natural colors
    Thanks!!!

  12. Jon says:

    I have two Ipe landings, one on either side of the house.

    Deck Location Seattle, Washington
    Exposure: full exposure and partial shade
    Wood Type: Ipe
    Mold or Mildew Issues: On the lower steps
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Faded after many years of no maintenance (before we owned the house)
    Previous Stain Brand/Type: Ready Seal

  13. cindy says:

    What is best sealant? Want to use Sedona Red Minwax stain (unless a bad idea) Need a clear satin sealant with best longivity. Plan to sand off 20 years of stuff over stuff, not sure what recently purchased property. N. Arizona, not sure what type of wood may be pine, cedar or redwood. Uprights peeling and looks like tinted poly type finish. Floor looks like many coats, peeling around edges where more weather and sun damage evident. Parts of deck full sun and weather exposure (worst areas) other areas full shade. Lots of kids and pets, loking for natural wood look but with maximun weather and wear protection. Alos want to know if we can do in stages as it is over 1000 square feet and we have limited time before winter. HELP!

    • You cannot use Min wax and polyurethane on exterior wood. The Min wax has no UV protection and the poly will peel. You need a deck stain. Try the Armstrong Clark. You must remove all old coatings first. Sand and or strip to remove.

  14. Jim says:

    I have a new deck that is Dura Pine which is dried lumber by Cox. I'm getting ready to satin the deck and it will be approx. 2 months of weathering. Is that enough time for dried lumber ? Also I'm undecided which stain to use. I'm leaning towards the TWA 100 series which I'll have to drive to southern VA to get since its not available in PA or use the 1500 series which is available in PA. However after reading your comments and reviews I see that you recommend the Armstrong Clark manufacture for "new" wood. What stain would you recommend ? I appreciate the feedback !

  15. Lorena says:

    1.Deck Location State: Illinois
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Shade
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: N/A first time
    6.Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): N/A

  16. Paul Zoba says:

    Seattle WA area. Some shade and heavy shade, some sun, mixture… New rough finish cedar. Mold and mildew will be an issue here as it is a damp environment. It's new, 3-4 months old and ready for an oil stain! Which is the best for here?

  17. David Reeves says:

    Deck Location State: Lake Tahoe CA
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial shade
    Wood Type: Redwood
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): Semi-transparent Woodsman premium oil

  18. Dena says:

    Deck Location State: Illinois
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial shade depending on time of day
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine (I think)
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: It's several years old
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain: Cabot solid or semi-transparent (I think)

  19. Joe says:

    New deck 7/30/15 never stained pressure treated pine
    michigan south east near Detroit
    Full sun
    Was told to wait for pressures treating to cure
    Sonia I'm ready

  20. Patrick NWL says:

    Deck Location State: Toronto
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled and turned gray
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): colored solid

    • Either clean to remove all peeling solid stain and reapply another solid stain to mask or sand all the solid off and go with a penetrating semi-trans that shows the grain of the wood.

  21. Lisa Vicek says:

    Deck location: Denver,Colorado south side slight tree shadowing, Clear polycarbonate deck cover over half
    Mostly full sun
    Hand selected Lowe's redwood, only 2 boards with white color, aged untreated since May 2016
    No mold or mildew, high altitude and dry
    Untreated since construction, beautiful deepening of color so far
    Want recommendation for clear protection, willing to clean and treat yearly

    • Clear will not provide UV protection from graying. Are you okay with graying? If not you need a tint. Light tinted stain that can be cleaned and reapplied annually would the Armstrong Clark in Natural.

  22. Jforrest says:

    1. South Florida
    2. Full sun; all day
    3. Red cedar
    4. New deck
    5. New deck

  23. Lisa says:

    Deck Location State: North Carolina
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Covered & screened deck in partial shade
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No, built August 2015
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: None
    Previous Stain Brand and Type: None, this will be our first time

  24. Chris says:

    Actually this is for a fence that was built about 8 months ago and has had nothing done to it yet. was planning to just pressure wash with plain water and then stain. please review more details below and make prep / stain recommendations. I'm planning on a dark brown color. semi transparent or semi solid, not sure. Thank.
    -New York Hudson valley
    -Full Sun, both sides really
    -Pressure Treated Pine
    -Mold or Mildew Issues: not yet
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: n/a
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): n/a

    • Prep with Restore A Deck Kits and stain with TWP 1503 Dark Oak or Armstrong Clark in Rustic Brown.

      • Chris says:

        Thank you for the response. Since the fence is so new (8 months) is the restore a deck really necessary? There is no grey. It is good and dry and with a plain water pressure wash I figured it would be clean. Am I incorrect on this? I don't want to take shortcuts I will regret but I am surprised that you recommended the cleaner. Just double checking. Also, I think leaning for the Armstrong mainly so I can get a semi solid (Oxford) but I think I could live with the semi transparent rustic brown or the TWP black walnut. Would one of these be a better choice for my PT fence or are they all going to work out about the same other than color. If one is better I'll go with you otherwise prob do the solid Oxford. Thank you again.

  25. tkhubb says:

    1. Birmingham, Alabama
    2. Full Sun
    3. Pressure Treated Pine
    4. No mold/mildew
    5. Never been stained, around 2 years old, floor is heavily grayed

  26. Deck Location State: North Carolina
    Full Sun
    Wood Type: Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Very slight
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeling pretty badly

    • Must remove the old stain first. Do you know the type of stain and the brand? Not all can be stripped so you may need to sand for removal. Once fully removed, try TWP or Defy Extreme.

  27. Kathy Sager says:

    Deck Location: Central Minnesota
    Full Sun in the morning and afternoon, with partial shade in the evening.
    Wood Type: Cedar
    Mold or Mildew: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Dulled to spotty gray, sealing doesn't even last one year
    Brand: Sherwin Williams Deckscapes, oil-based, cedar tone. I think it's semi-transparent.

  28. Mark says:

    I have a cedar pergola (top only – the side are white vinyl) that was built one year ago. It is in full afternoon sun and has turned a light color of gray. I want to preserve the gray color (instead of staining it gray), Can I just power wash it with water to make sure it is clean and then put a clear stain on it. We are in the process of putting a roof on the pergola so once I get the stain on I am hoping I will not have to do it again for some time. What brand of stain do you recommend? Thanks.
    -Wisconsin
    -Full sun

  29. Amanda says:

    Deck Location State: Colorado/northeast
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Not yet
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Brand new deck
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): brand new deck

  30. B. Phillips says:

    Massachusetts
    Full Sun
    PT Pine – 20 years old
    Yes, mold & mildew
    Neglect-8 years without refinishing
    Thompson's
    Thank You!!

  31. scarlet says:

    Thousand thank you's for a knowledgable, unbiased article!
    Location: Southern Oregon.
    Exposure: full sun
    Wood type: redwood
    mold or mildew: no
    previous stain: >3 yrs old
    previous stain: unknow
    Thank you in advance

    • Start by removing the previous stain. How depends on the type it is. Try a stain stripper and pressure washing to remove. Sand after if needed to finish removal. Brighten deck when done. Stain with TWP or Armstrong Clark.

  32. Jeffrey says:

    Virginia
    Partial Shade/Full Sun
    Pressure Treated Pine
    Yes; Small area of mold
    No stain applied at all – deck is a few years old

    Thanks.

  33. Ernest says:

    Deck 1:
    Deck Location State: Southern California San Bernardino Mountains (7000ft elevation)
    Full Sun 1/2 day, shade 1/2 day
    Wood Type: Redwood about 8yrs old
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure:
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain: None, it seems
    I power washed then sanded the gray off of this deck and it looks pretty newish. Nice multi tone redwood. Thinking a semi-transparent or even transparent with slight redwood tint or even clear. ?
    We get some snow in winter at this elevation though fairly dry the rest of the year.

    Deck 2:
    Deck Location State: Southern California San Bernardino Mountains (7000ft elevation)
    Full Sun
    Wood Type: Redwood about 8yrs old
    Mold or Mildew Issues: possibly
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Sun caused peeling and not restained in LONG time
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain: Solid something from Home Depot or Lowes. Forget.
    I sanded the heck outta this deck and it looks 1/2 way decent, gray gone, but still some cracks and splits. Was going to use the elastometric type but after sanding think we'll try a semi-transparent perhaps with slight redwood color. Sort of nice multi tone redwood. Plan to power wash stain in grooves and dust off.

    Cabin Siding:
    State: Southern California San Bernardino Mountains (7000ft elevation)
    Full Sun on 2 exterior walls, partial sun/shade on other 2
    Wood Type: Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes under eaves which have never been stained. Want clear on underside of eaves. ?
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Sun caused severe peeling on 2 sides. Other 2 sides still look decent.
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain: Solid something from Home Depot or Lowes. Forget.
    Plan to have cabin power washed and peeling walls sanded. Need to match dark red color for good walls. ?

    Thank you

    • 1 Deck. TWP 1500 Series
      2 Deck. TWP 1500 if you can get all of the solid off. If you want a solid stain again, look at Flood solid stains. Be careful of the elastomeric coatings, as many have bad reviews.
      3 Cabin. Same as #2

  34. John L. says:

    Connecticut
    Full Sun
    Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes, quite bad in fact.
    Never been stained before- Deck is 15-20 yrs old.
    I power washed it, but a few days later it is already "greying".
    Looking to go with something that will show the wood grain.
    Thank you for your time and advice.

  35. Mike A. says:

    Great site! Here are my responses:

    Deck Location State: Southern NH
    Partial sun, north-facing. Obviously, we get a lot of snow.
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated (presume it's pine, but not sure). Deck about 25 years old.
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes, in the shady places, especially near the house.
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Just fading from wear. Been 3-4 years since last treatment.
    Previous Stain Brand: Sikkens semi-transparent. Defy semi before that. Liked Defy. What I didn't like about Sikkens was that it needed to cure for a week. We didn't realize this, and so the coating got scratched by deck chairs.

    Thanks for your help!

    • Mike, you need to remove the Sikkens first. Strip and pressure wash. Sand if needed to remove stubborn areas. Brighten all after. Once you have a clean and coating free deck, consider switching back the Defy Extreme or try the TWP 1500.

  36. Steve Woodard says:

    Tennessee
    Full Sun
    Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes, quite bad in fact.
    Never been stained before- Deck is 6 months old
    Looking to go with something that will show the wood grain.
    Thank you

  37. Jon S says:

    Deck Location State: Northern CA
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun for pergola, partial shade for deck due to pergola
    Wood Type: Redwood
    Mold or Mildew Issues: NO
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Deck installed 6 weeks ago, now time to treat and protect
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain. NONE

    Thanks for you help.

  38. Steve M. says:

    1. Location: coastal South Carolina
    2. full sun/part shade
    3. Wood type: kiln dried pressure treated pine
    4. Mold/mildew problem: some but not so much on flat decking
    5. n/a
    6. n/a
    Just built deck.

  39. Ash says:

    Deck Location State: Washington, DC
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: old finish has worn away, some deck boards are cracking/splitting

  40. Dave B says:

    What is the best stain for me to use on my deck? The deck is located in Vermont. It gets partial sun. The deck is made out of pressure treated lumber and is 17 years old. The deck is somewhat subjected to mold and mildew, but that has not really presented itself as a problem. The deck has bed previously stained with Cuprinol Natural color semi transparent stain.

  41. Stephen Viti says:

    1 Maine
    2 Full sun
    3 Cedar
    4 n/a
    5 Peeled after less than one year
    6 Cabot semi trans

  42. Judy says:

    1.Deck Location : Toronto, On Canada
    2.Partial Shade,
    3.Wood Type: Interlocking Pine (front porch vs deck- if that matters)
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: N/A new flooring
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: N/A new flooring

    We are just completing the build, so we likely cannot wait longer than about 6 weeks to treat unless we wait until spring. Winters here can be snowy and cold, or not!

    Thank you for your suggestions!

  43. Darin says:

    New York
    Partial Shade
    Pressure Treated (pine?- not sure… it was here when we bought the house)
    No Mold or Mildew Issues (except for steps on western side of deck- get mighty slippery)
    Deck has never been stained.

  44. PJ Sher says:

    Ohio
    Partial sun Fromm noon to sunset
    Pressure treated wood
    No mold at this point
    Deck is 2 years old. Never has been stained. Part of deck is new recently added. On more.

    Never applied any product on deck

    What should we use?

  45. mike says:

    best stain for pacific northwest

  46. Joe says:

    Location – Chicago
    Full sun morning, shade afternoon
    Pressure treated lumber – 30 years old
    No mold
    Stain wore off, been about four years
    Solid stain from Menards (?)

  47. Louise says:

    Location: SE Iowa
    full sun/part shade
    Wood type: part treated lumber 20 yrs old/part new addition treated lumber never been stained
    Mold/mildew problem: some but not so much on flat decking

  48. hmsfrost says:

    Location: Atlanta, GA
    Full Sun/Part Shade
    Wood type: Pressure Treated Lumber (Pine?) 16 yrs old, Never sealed or stained
    Mold/Mildew Problem: Yes, heavy

  49. Jeff says:

    location: Okobiji, IA
    Full sun
    Green treated
    No mold
    New boards
    Thank you!!!

Leave a Reply

Deck Stain Help Stats
as of July 2016
  • 25,000+ Questions, Answers, and Consumer Reviews
  • 12,000+ Contributors
  • 170+ Help Articles and Reviews
  • 3400+ Forum Help Posts
  • 2300+ Consumer Star Ratings


Google Search

More info on brands? Use Google.

Find Products?

Manufacturers and Websites:
...See All Product Websites

Help/Reviews



*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.

Login