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.

5,986 Responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. Dcstefan says:

    What is the best (solid) stain for my deck?

    1) location: upstate NY
    2) mostly shade; gets early afternoon sun only in summer. Full sun when leaves are off the trees. A lot of stuff falls on deck from trees.
    3) pressured treated pine
    4) deck has mildew
    5) doesn't stick ; peels after a year or 2.

    From what I read sounds like we should try TWP 1500. Where can we get that? Is there another that might be better? Can it go on over the old stain?

    Thank you

  2. Dcstefan says:

    What can I use to remove solid stain from a deck?

    Or can we clean it and paint over the old?

  3. Laurie stangl says:

    Deck northern Minnesota
    Full sun
    3 yrs old
    Pine treated
    Some black spots
    No previous stain

  4. mark - N. Carolina says:

    Thank you for all this wonderful info. I wish I had found this a week ago. I live in North Carolina and have a 15 year old deck and a 10 month old deck. Both pressure treated pine. On the old deck I stripped off the stain with Behr stripper than use the Behr all in one wood cleaner. The new deck I used just the Behr all in one wood cleaner. Water is still beading up on some boards of the new deck. We just want a clear stain, no color. We like the natural look. So my question is what is the best clear stain for each deck, old and new in north Carolina. Thanks again for your help

    • Mark in NC, Clear as in no pigment means it will have no UV protection and will gray naturally. Are you okay with this? You need pigment for UV protection.

      • mark - N. Carolina says:

        Thanks for responding, I have learned about no pigment since reading more on your site and since I posted this. We want to stay as natural as possible but I don't want to have to do all of this in 6 months because it is looking grey. So I think some type of semi transparent natural stain? Both decks get a good amount of sun during the day, especially the new deck.

  5. Jane Campbell says:

    1) St. Paul, Minnesota
    2) Sun to partial shade
    3) Cedar
    4) No current mold or mildew issues
    5) Behr Premium Semi-transparent Weatherproofing Wood Stain
    The deck was aged, pre-treated as per manufacture's instructions, and stained two years ago (built in 2010, stained in 2012). The first summer it started to peel in traffic areas, and by this summer it has peeled excessively and needs attention. We have power washed and sanded all the loose stain and are unsure what to do or use that will hold up better. Please advise.

  6. Suziefeuer says:

    Location : anchorage Alaska
    Partial. Sun-12+hours in summer. Snow and ice five hours and less of daylight in winter
    Pressure treated pine
    Little mildew
    Deck is five years old, has been partially stained once. I need to do a nice complete stain job to preserve the wood. Has some cracks, no rot.

  7. Jeanne says:

    What is the best deck stain for me?
    1) WA State
    2) partial shade
    3) cedar (15 years)
    4) no
    5) wore off over knots and heavy traffic areas within a year

  8. Marcia says:

    West Michigan, full sun, pressure treated pine no mildew, deck has semi-transparent stain that was done some time ago. We have power washed it and sanded with a belt sander. would like to still see some wood grain.

  9. Joe says:

    I would appreciate your recommendation for re-staining a 10 year old deck. We've been re-staining with Cabot Solid (oil based) every 2 years. A few boards need to be replaced. Should we re-stain all but the ones we replace and then wait until next year to stain the replacement boards after letting them weather?
    Should we switch to another oil based brand as our former carrier no longer has Cabot?

    Deck Location State: Charlotte, NC
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun in Summer and NO sun in winter (North side of house)
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeling on Some boards furthest from the house (get Sun for longer portion of the year).

    Thank you.

    • Yes stick with a solid stain that is oil based for best results. Do not use a water based stain. Prep first with a deck stripper and pressure washing to remove the peeling stain. This should also help prep the new wood. I would stain all no but you might need to touch up a few spots on the new wood next year.

  10. kate nap says:

    Location: Western Washington
    Shade: Covered porch that gets afternoon and evening sun (west facing)
    Wood type: Untreated Cedar
    Mold/mild issues: None (rotten boards that have been replaced)
    Previously the deck had paint that was peeling very badly. We rented a sander and sanded the entire deck. There is still some paint in between the board that we are unable to get to.

  11. kate nap says:

    My question to my previous comment was what stain would be the best one to use. Thanks for your advise!

  12. BamaFan says:

    1) North Alabama
    2) Full sun from 10am till 2pm / Shade rest of day
    3) pressure treated pine
    4) No mold or mildew
    5) Brand new deck / never treated

    1/3 of deck is covered but not enclosed, while 2/3 is uncovered

  13. Chris says:

    North Bay, Ontario, Canada
    Southern Exposure with full range of sun, harsh winters with lots of snow and ice
    Pressure treated pine
    Some mold and mildew
    7 years old
    No previous stain or sealer

  14. suzanne says:

    We live in Iowa just built a new pergola with pressure treated and cedar wood. It is full sun. which stain should we use.?

  15. liz says:

    Deck Location State: Portland, OR
    Mostly shade (covered decks, one at front entry)
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: minimal, only where not covered
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: was stained with product containing Linseed Oil 3 years ago. Looked great just want to clean and stain myself and looking for product suggestions.

  16. Brandy says:

    Fargo, ND
    Full sun
    Pressure treated pine
    No mold or mildew issues
    I'm not sure what the paint/stain that was used as we just purchased the home. It is a non-transparent paint and I have tried to strip it off but it isn't coming off entirely.

  17. Nancy says:

    Location of deck: Columbia, SC…hot & humid
    Elements: Shade til noon then full sun
    Wood type: PTP
    Mold or Mildew Issues: some black mold
    Reason for deck failure: applied Behr stain
    Deck is 3 yrs old. Previously stained with Behr (oil?) but it's been stripped and sanded. Will use cleaner & brightener.
    What stain is best? Armstrong b/c it penetrates better? TWP? Defy? Would like to use Defy due to easy clean up but only if it will be effective.

  18. Alex Ogedegbe says:

    Deck Location State: Richmond, VA
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine,10 months old.
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Perhaps, not sure but deck is 10 months old and has been through one very cold winter and spring
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Never been stained

  19. David says:

    Deck Location State: Castro Valley, CA
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun in the morning until ~ 2PM
    Wood Type: Redwood
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Sometimes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: From redwood color towards gray after 2 years, dull looking

  20. cathy says:

    Coastal Virginia
    Western facing/with oak trees so partially shaded
    PT pine
    Yes to mold/mildew issues
    1200 SF Deck 8 years old has only had CWF sealers. Have powerwashed every other year and want something that will last longer and keep slippery areas away while letting wood grain show. Added a small area with new wood in June. The house is cream colored brick. Thanks.

  21. Miguel says:

    1. South Boston, MA 2nd floor deck of triple decker
    2. Some southeastern exposure to partial sun, mostly shaded
    3.Pressure treated southern pine wood
    4. Mold or Mildew: new (none on old deck)
    5. Deck looks good for it being 11 years old
    No previous stain or sealer

  22. Andrew says:

    Deck Location State: **FENCE** Seattle, Wa
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial sun 70/30 throughout day and Shade
    Wood Type: Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: ????
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: New Fence

  23. Felix Beall says:

    9000' elevation in Colorado
    full sun
    Home Depot's red-brown treated wood
    no mildew problems
    new deck, never been stained

  24. Ellie says:

    Deck Location State: Nebraska
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Not currently but is only 1 year old
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Deck not stained immediately after construction, it has gone through one cold winter, and one moderate summer.

    I saw the thread where you recommended the following: Prep with Gemini Restore Kit and stain with the TWP 100 Series. – for a deck in Kentucky – I don't know if this would be appropriate in our area, and also wondered if using power-washing could be substituted for the Gemini Restore Kit? Or if simply the cleaner could be used and not the brightener?

  25. Sherry says:

    Location: Northcentral Ohio
    Full sun in Am faces East so some afternoon shade
    Pressure treated pine
    Some mold/mildew in areas hidden from sun. Not much of a problem
    Stain fades and looks terrible.
    Heard about a product on a how to program onthe radio that was supposed to be great and last 7 years. Decktechs PDF premium deck finish. Was very expensive and didn't last. Reapplied several time and fades and looks bad. Looking for something to cover and last.

    • Nothing lasts 7 years. 2-3 is the max you will get with a deck surface. Strip and brighten for prep and apply the Armstrong Clark in a semi-solid color for best UV protection in full sun.

  26. Frank says:

    new redwood deck in denver, colorado. should we use TWP 100 or 1500? they both are reviewed quite well and about the same. no idea the difference really. also, our contractor uses Sikkens. should we go against his suggestion? seems by your reviews we should. thank you.

  27. Beth says:

    Deck with pergola. Pergola is fine. The deck and railings are the problems.
    Location: Austin, Texas
    Northern Exposure:Full sun, partial sun, a little bit of full shade, 100+ degrees in summer.
    Western Red Cedar
    mold, mildew: yes
    Almost 3 years old. First stain was water based put on by builder. Didn't last. The areas with direct sun totally wore down to bare wood. 1 1/2 years ago we hired a man to restain. He used TWP oil based stain. It was put on during drizzly weather. We have bare wood where sun is and mold, mildew in filtered light areas. A small portion of deck is protected from weather and still looks great. We will prep and restain the deck ourselves this time. Thanks for your help.

    • Use the Restore A Deck products for the prep. Most likely you will need their stripper and a pressure washer to get the old coating off. Once off you will need the brightener. I would stick with the TWP 100 Series.

  28. Lori says:

    Deck Location State: Michigan
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial Shade (almost Full Shade)
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: The deck is 8 years old. We originally wanted the wood grain to show and used Cabot Clear Solution (3000 Natural). It did not last long. I think we used Cabot Decking Stain (1400 Clear) the next time. It also did not last very long. The last time we stained the deck was in 2010, and we used Cabot Semi-Transparent Deck & Siding Stain with a warm colored tint to it. That stain definitely lasted longer than the first two times we stained. We definitely have a mold and mildew problem and lots of trees that drop stuff on the deck which clog the cracks between boards and causes water to not drain as well. The coloring is very uneven now, and I think I want to use a solid colored stain this time. We are getting it power washed tomorrow, so I am trying to decide which stain to buy. Also, do you have a recommendation for anything I should use to prepare the deck for staining after it is washed tomorrow? Thank you!

    • Lori says:

      I forgot to say that the first two times our stain failed, it was just that it faded and needed to be reapplied more often than we wanted to do it. We have never had problems with peeling. This last time, it has lasted four years but now the color is very uneven in different areas of the deck. Besides not being able to see the wood grain, what is the disadvantage of using a solid color stain? Thank you.

      • Solid stains peel but give better UV protection. Honestly best is a good TWP 100 Series than can be cleaned and reapplied every 2-3 years. Nothing will last longer and solid stains will be harder to upkeep due to the peeling.

  29. Nicki says:

    Deck Location State: Illinois
    Full Sun, Partial Shade
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled badly within a year of application

    The deck is 4 years old. We waited one year to apply stain as recommended by our carpenter. We have applied stain every year and have had many problems with peeling after each winter. We have reapplied a different stain each year and tried to get a better one each year. This last year was the worst as far as peeling. Help! We are needing a good stain! :)

    • You need to start by removing all old stain first. Not sure f you did this previously but adding more stain and different brands on top of each is a bad idea. once removed by stripping and or sanding you will need to apply a wood brightener. Stain with a deep penetrating oil based stain such as the Armstrong Clark.

  30. Dave says:

    Deck Location State: Utah
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial Shade
    Wood Type: Redwood
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: n/a

  31. GTJ says:

    Atlanta, GA
    Full sun & heavy summer rain showers
    PTP deck flooring and cedar rails (4 months old)
    No mold/mildew but possibly iron stains (black spotting) on cedar rails
    Constant sun exposure faded previous one coat (Ready Seal – Pecan) stain on rails

    Looking to clean and restrain rails, then stain floor (was going to use Ready Seal – Dark Walnut) but interested in what AC, Defy or TW1500 has to offer in similar stains. Thanks for options.

  32. Andrew says:

    1.Deck Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (warm summers, harsh winters)
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun (from 8:00am to 4:00pm)
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated lumber (don't know what the specific type of lumber is)
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: No Stain

    I built this deck last summer (almost exactly 1 year ago).

    I have not applied any type of weather sealant, and would now like recommendations on how to maintain the deck.


  33. kali says:

    Deck Location State: Central Maryland
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial Shade
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Deck on a new home looks about a year old and doesn’t have any stain/sealer on it. I’m not sure what we should use, but would like something that would last as long as possible.

  34. Jim says:

    What is the process for cleaning a new cedar deck and which is the best stain?
    We live in Minnesota and there is partial shade on the deck.
    No mold.


  35. Tony says:

    1. Deck State: Chicago, IL
    2. Full Sun – Snow also sits on it during the winter (large deck)
    3. Wood Type: Cedar
    4. Mold or Mildew: Slight, usually comes off with cleaner
    5. Reason for Stain Failure. Previous owner stopped taking care of deck. Noticed a can of Sikkens Cetol SRD in the garage – possibly used. This year we are removing all the old failing stain. I'm trying pressure wash and strip it off the verticals but I am unsuccessful.

    Please suggest the proper Stripper and a semi-transparent?

  36. Susan Nye says:

    1.Deck Location State: Upstate New York
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial to Full shade (north side of house)
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Cabot solid stain peeled quickly

    Deck is twenty years old and stained with a Cabot solid stain ~6-8 years ago. I plan to sand the deck (360 sq ft) with a drum sander and then stain with a semi-transparent. I am leaning towards an oil based stain since it seems to last longer. Assume I could choose from any of three best listed although TWP doesn't have desired color (gray).

  37. Jamie says:

    Location: Richmond, VA
    Full Sun
    Pressure Treated Pine, Old!
    Mold not an issue
    Last stain Behr solid, peeling terribly

Leave a Reply