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.

6,433 Responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. Dustin says:

    Kansas city missouri
    full sun
    new deck

    Best stain to use. Please

  2. Carrie H says:

    1. Deck Location State: Georgia, just South of Atlanta
    2. Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: One side of fence mostly full shade, one part full sun, then other side half is partial sun. sorry I have all three
    3. Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    4. Mold or Mildew Issues: A little, mostly along bottom
    5. Reason for Previous Stain Failure: have never tried sealing, painting, etc. finally getting around to it so that it will last as long as possible. 150' straight line fence built to block neighbors trash piles
    I was looking at Behrs Premium Weatherproofing stain, $166/5 gal. at Home Depot because of 25 year warranty that I assume the company doesn't honor. Please tell me what I should use and if it is ok to use sprayer.
    Thank you!

    • Did you say you have a paint currently on the fence? If so you will need to apply another solid stain or paint.

      25 years? They are lying with that. For a fence the best you will get is 4-7 years in most environments.

  3. Jessie says:

    Portland, Oregon
    10-15 year old deck (actual age??)
    Full sun in am, full shade in afternoon
    Wood type unknown
    Mold and Mildew – yes
    Current stain (paint?) is peeling. Have pressure washed as much as possible off, need least labor intensive method of restaining (or painting?). Current stain (paint?) is opaque and a redwood color with white spindles. Would like to cover color, and match to house (gray and dark gray trim). Deck is in ok condition; a few boards will require replacement due to rotting. Otherwise ok.

  4. Michelle says:

    Deck Location State: Southern California
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    3.Wood Type: Redwood, new construction
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: yes
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Never been previously stained

  5. Mary says:

    Fort St John, BC
    Full sun to Full shade, 18yr old log home facing south
    no mold or mildew
    Weatherall UV Guard Exterior Stain was used, wears off on tops of logs after about 1 yr, bottoms of logs and full shade areas are fine.
    generally low humidity, temperature ranges from -22 F to 77 F

  6. Rick says:

    North Central Texas
    25 year old Log House with pressure treated decks
    Pine Logs
    Full sun and shade
    Mildew-Yes-Logs turning dark
    Sikkens- When new & Year 5, Cabot-Year 10 & 15.
    New Products quality has gone to crap. Point me in the right direction

    • All about the prep here. Need to remove the buildup of coatings that have turned dark. Strip and brighten may work but depends on how thick the old coatings are. Might need to corn cob blast or similar to remove. As for the stain, use TWP 100 Series.

  7. Steve Cushman says:

    I live in Wisconsin
    I have an older deck I am re-staining
    The deck is always in the shade
    Mildew and moss growing on the deck is a huge problem
    Previous stain failure. We bought the house and deck was not well cared for
    Would like a suggestion for a stain

  8. culinaryrd says:

    Deck Location State: Aurora, Colorado, Elevation 6000 ft
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun, Southwest Exposure
    Wood Type: Redwood
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Wore down in high traffic areas, fading (some) and hail damage

    We pressure washed and sanded our deck, thinking we could do a solid oil stain. FAIL! No solid oil stains in our state. So now we are wrestling with what to do – oil based semi solid (where the old finish will likely show through) or acrylic solid. Can't seem to get a good answer – appreciate any advice!

    • Semi-solid oil based stain for you high UV after you strip and remove the rest of the old stain. Shoot for 95% removal. Do you know the brand of the old stain?

      • culinaryrd says:

        No idea – we've been in the house 3 years. Ended up going with semi solid oil from Benjamin Moore. Not your top pick on here, but we had a sanded deck and rain in the forecast. Probably got close to 95% of the old stain off. Just finished yesterday – happy with the result. Thanks for the response!

  9. Ben says:

    1. Deck Location State: Denver Colorado
    2. Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    3. Wood Type: Redwood
    4. Mold or Mildew Issues: no
    5. Reason for Previous Stain Failure: I used Sikkens SRD about 3 years ago after adding addition to deck. Some new wood, some old which I stripped and sanded. Now it has worn off in many areas but still visible in lots of areas. All vertical rails etc are ok. Talked to HD who said to use Solid Stain over it all, but now reading here I'm worried that would set me up for worse problems in future. I don't really want to have to strip and sand the whole deck! Might be necessary though, based on what I'm reading here. Thanks!

    • Best to strip and start over. Applying a solid over top the SRD will create issues and compound the problem. Prep is the key to longevity with a deck stain. Masking the problem is bad advice. TWP 100 Series once it is removed would be a great choice.

  10. June says:

    I live in Charlotte NC and the deck is about 18 years old. It is treated lumber and gets a mixture of sun and shade throughout the day, but no real mold/mildew problems. I last used Olympic Maximum, a water based stain and sealant in one in a semi-transparent cedar like color. Looked good when done but only lasted 2 years when the can said it should last 6 years. I have a 50 pound dog that spends a lot of time running across it out to the yard so of course that's where the stain is really worn off.

  11. Larry Love says:

    Would love to get your advice.
    Location: Long Island, NY
    Partial full sun, partial shade.
    Knotty Cedar, deck built one year ago and I have been letting it age.
    No mold issue, but greying evenly.
    No prior stain. I would like to use a semi transparent cedar tone.

  12. Ben says:

    Deck Location State: East Texas
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Very little direct sunlight for most of the day.
    Wood Type: Western Red Cedar (rough cut)
    Mold or Mildew Issues: —
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: —

    Hi there, I've framed an exposed wall of windows using rough cut cedar and I'm trying to preserve as much of the natural pale and rosy color as possible. I've tried a couple of clear oil based stains (Olympic Maximum Clear and Thompsons Waterseal Clear) on test pieces and of the two I think Thompsons might do a slightly better job of preserving the lighter colors, but I was wondering if I might expect better preservation from a water based clear like Defy Extreme? Thanks for your time!

    • Clears offer little to no UV protection from graying. You really need to choose a product with a tint if you want it to last more then a year. In addition the Defy Extreme is a true clear (no color at all) while the others you mentioned I believe are slightly tinted.

  13. Leslie says:

    1. Bend, Oregon – 3,500' (eastern edge of the Cascade Mtns)
    2. Summer – 50% shade & 50% sun, Winter – 80% shade & 20% sun
    3. Redwood – 17 years old
    4. Mildew issues in winter
    5. Waited too long between treatments. Sun area faded and some graying. Shaded area was almost black.

    Bend is very dry in the summer so there are no mildew issues then but the front part of the deck that gets sun will have some fading. In the winter, the back half of the deck gets leaves and snow and no sun and that area mildews and gets black in color. We have always used Penofin Blue Label in Chestnut usually every two or three years. It has now been five years since we last treated the deck and it was faded and gray in front and very black in the back. In reading about deck treatments, it seems Penofin can have issues with turning black so we don't want to use it again. We cleaned and scrubbed the deck with oxiclean (I read bleach is not good for redwood) and then we used a deck brightener. We still weren't happy with the appearance so we sanded the deck with 60 grit and than 80 grit. The redwood now has a "like new" appearance and all the old Penofin, mildew and gray has been removed. We do like to use a penetrating oil on our deck. What would you recommend we use? Thank you for your help.

  14. Dian says:

    Location: Austin Texas
    Full sun
    Wood: Ipe
    Mold or Moldew: no
    Reason for failure: only treated once with Flood water based stain 11 months ago.

  15. Jeff says:

    Anyone familiar with this product? Good or bad experience? Wood Rx Natural Sealer

  16. anne moltchanoff says:

    Deck Location State: Northern California
    Full Sun, Partial Shade
    Wood Type: Redwood or Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeling in sun and high traffic areas
    Large deck (2000SF so sanding not practical) treated with Wolman's semi solid stain which has peeled in places. Contractor is quoting cleaning, mildewcide (sp?) applied and then two coats of Flood Semi Solid. Comments? Also best to do now before winter or wait until rains over in spring?

    • Either now or Spring is fine. We would strip off the Wolmans first. If we are able to get it all off we would go with a semi-transparent such as Armstrong Clark. If it does not come all off then a solid stain might be your only choice to get the deck uniform in appearance.

  17. Alicia says:

    Deck Location State: Delray Beach, FL
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial to full shade
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: the swing set is 9yrs old and I don't think the previous owner maintained it.

  18. James says:

    Deck Location State: Tennesse, Middle (West of Nashville)
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full morning Sun( until about 2:00 PM), Full evening Shade
    Wood Type: YellaWood Southern Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: New Deck (first part of June)

    New Deck installed in June of this year, underside completely closed in. Some mold do to the dampness in the area. YellaWood Southern Pine is a micronized copper treated wood.

  19. Wayne says:

    East Texas
    partial shade
    aged pressure treated pine
    some mold/mildew problem
    1st time to treat this because I flipped the boards over

  20. Jim Smith says:

    Deck Location State: Central Washington State
    Some Sun in the am, Partial Shade to full shade rest of day
    Wood Type: 20 yr old sanded cedar deck with new fir 6×6 posts
    Mold or Mildew Issues: not much a little on deck along roof drip line
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: UV rays and hard winter conditions. Snow sits on deck for most of winter

  21. LPG says:

    1. Deck Location State: Chicagoland
    2. Full Sun afternoon, Partial Shade morning — Northern Exposure
    3. Wood Type: Cedar
    4. Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    5. Reason for Previous Stain Failure: ~5 year old deck project

    Cedar Components:
    1)I custom built railings and post covers. Complex moldings.
    2) side skirts
    3) Stairs

    First used Behr #500 transparent Failed multiple years
    This year stripped, power washed sanded and applied cabot #4300 series

    I can no longer purchase the #4300 and I have mouldings that I need to stain. What should I purchase.

    Also if the Cabot fails this year what products should I clean it with and then stain. The wood is in good shape.

    Thanks for the great site. I wish I would have seen this sooner.

    • The cabot #4300 series is an oil based stain so best to look at a similar color in either TWP 1500 Series or the Armstrong Clark. Hopefully one of their colors will blend. Use same products for future applications.

  22. Mary says:

    1-Asheville, NC
    2- Full sun – some ice & snow
    3-pressure treated pine
    4-major mold/mildew issues
    5-new fence

  23. Jim says:

    1. Deck Location State: Southern California (Los Angeles)
    2. Exposure: Full sun, all day long.
    3. Deck Material: First generation Wood Composite (no outer cap skin/ PVC plastic exterior).
    4. Mold/Mildew: none to very minimal
    5. Reason for Staining: 6 years old, slightly bleached from constant sun exposure. HOWEVER, a contractor spilled epoxy tub reglaze paint on the deck, that even with some cleaning, has left white staining and residue.

    We'd like to know if we can lightly sand the deck to help remove the epoxy before staining? Because we live in very hot SoCal with constant sun exposure, we prefer to NOT use a solid deck stain due to issues with peeling/cracking, etc. But we need to get the best stain to help mask whatever epoxy has soaked into the composite.

    Also, can we use Restore-A-Deck if we do decide to lightly sand it?

    Thanks so much for your input on what our best stain option is!

  24. Susan Greer says:

    Deck Location State: Utah
    Full Sun
    Wood Type: Redwood
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled, unnatural looking – possibly put on too heavy a coat – drip marks. We are sanding the deck but leaving the posts as is, too hard to sand in between

    • Was the old coating Behr? Once you remove the old finish look at TWP 100 Series. For a decent local stain look at Messmers. It is made there. Not quite the performance of TWP though in our opinion.

  25. Mike G says:

    Hi, Great site. Thanks. Do you help with fences? We're looking for a solid-body white stain to paint a new picket fence.

    1. Deck Location State: Massachusetts
    2. Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    3. Wood Type: Pressure Treated Eastern White Cedar
    4. Mold or Mildew Issues: No (new fence)
    5. Reason for Previous Stain Failure: No (new fence)


  26. Matt says:

    1 Deck Location State: Indiana
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Yellow Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Brand New Deck would be hopeful of one that would last more than a year.

  27. Dorothy says:

    1. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
    2. half sun/half shade
    3. Old pressure treated pine
    4. Yes, mold and mildew prone, wooded area
    5. failure due to poor preparation. Used Behr Porch and Patio floor paint on it.
    Was suggested I use Duckback SuperDeck, would love your suggestion as well, tyvm :)

    • FYI, you cannot apply SuperDeck or any other product on top of the Behr floor paint and have good results. You will nee to remove all of the Behr by sanding it of first. Once you have a surface that is free of previous coatings you can then switch brands. Look at the TWP 1500 Series.

  28. Gary says:

    What are the best stains for my decks?
    Deck Location State: Northern Alabama
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: East/Northeast side, Sun/Shade mix
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: New deck – constructed 1 year ago, and weathering since. No products yet applied.

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