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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 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 than 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. The 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 let us 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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13,115 responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. Kevin says:

    New Jersey
    Sun from noon to sunset
    Cedar
    No mold issues
    Previous stain didn't fail, just has been abut five years since last treated
    Cabot timberline oil – natural

  2. Wendy says:

    Deck Location State: Florida
    Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: None, new fence
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): None, new fence

  3. Stephanie says:

    1) Missouri
    2) Partial (mostly) shade
    3) Unsure (just purchased house)
    4) yes
    5) Just purchased a home built in '92, no idea when deck was last maintained/sealed.
    6) Again, unsure.

    We gave the deck a deep clean today, but it has definitely not been maintained much in the last several years. There are signs of oxidization and since the yard has lots of shade it gets a lot of leaf debris — again, no idea how well the deck was kept swept, etc. I appreciate any guidance you can give me!

  4. Christina says:

    1.Deck Location State: Connecticut
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated Cedar
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: no
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: no previous stain, newly applied wood
    6.Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): none

  5. David says:

    Deck Location: Texas
    Full Sun
    Wood type: pressure treated yellawood (pine?)
    Mold or Mildew issues: No
    Reason for previous stain failure: n/a, new application
    Previous stain: n/a

  6. P says:

    Deck Location State: San Francisco (North Cal, Coastal)
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial Sun
    Wood Type: Redwood
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: No Previous Stain
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): New Deck

  7. Phil says:

    Deck Location State: South Carolina ocean beach
    Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: unknown
    Previous Stain: Cabot Semi-transparent

  8. karen says:

    Deck Location State: New jersey
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: all
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure:new application
    Previous Stain. N/a

  9. George says:

    1: South East Louisiana
    2: Full Sun
    3: Yellawood Pine
    4: No issues
    5: New Wood

  10. Ben says:

    Deck Location State: Maryland
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: 3/4 full sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: faded, thin

  11. Susan parker says:

    I'm in Tennessee – full sun (boat house deck) pressure treated pine – mold is a yes – had turned dark / I pressure washed it off
    What should I use – semi or solid. Please help

  12. Mark Principe says:

    I tried to submit this a few days ago but it seems like it did not go through:

    Deck Location State: Southern NY (north of Manhattan)
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial Shade
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: new decks, not stained yet
    Previous Stain: N/A

    Based on what I have read I believe I will be going with the TWP 1500 semi transparent stain. My question is when do I apply the cleaner, brightener and stain. I have been advised differently by different people. The porches were built about 5 months ago and have been untreated since then. Recently, pressure treated posts were added for support and have only weathered for a week. I have read that I should not stain now because it is too cold. I also read that I can wait until the spring when the weather warms up, however, I am concerned that the winter weather will damage the wood and a full year without treatment doesn't seem like the right choice. Should I be scrambling to get this work done on a few warm dry days? My contractor who did the porches says to wait until spring (He is also a compulsive liar). I called a few local paint companies and one said to definitely not wait.

  13. Danny says:

    1.Deck Location State: North Carolina
    2.Full Sun / Full Shade
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: New
    6.Previous Stain N/A

  14. Jan says:

    1.Deck Location State: Virginia
    2.Full Sun / Full Shade
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: ?
    6.Previous Stain Cabbot

  15. Don Smith says:

    The best stain for my brand new redwood deck.
    1. Location Sacramento Valley Northern CA
    2. partial shade
    3. con heart redwood
    4 .possible mold/mildew issues. Hot and dry May to Oct. wet and cool Nov. to April
    5. new deck this summer, first stain

  16. Shannon says:

    1. Location State: Virginia
    2. Partial Shade
    3. Wood Type: Western Red Cedar
    4. New wood, but the installation will be in an area with sun only part of the day, so I mold/mildew could become an issue.
    5. New wood, no previous stain.
    Note: this is for a fence, not a deck. The wood is new, smooth surfaced cedar 1x material.
    Thanks!

  17. Andrea Cooksey says:

    1). Atlanta Georgia
    2). Full Sun
    3). Yella Wood
    4). Mold/Mildew most present l underneath deck.
    5). Deck is six years old and has never had been stained. The Yella wood 6 x 6 post are cracking horribly. In fact all the decking is starting to crack so much I wish I would have gone with Trex. I assume responsibility for letting it go 6 six years, It was always too hot, or too cold or a chance of rain,

  18. Darlene says:

    I live in humid, Houston TX. A large portion of my deck gets direct sunlight for at least 8 hours a day. It also stays pretty humid and moist in my back yard. What stain/protectant would be best for my area? We do not get freezing temperatures that often, but moisture is an issue. From what I have read here, it looks like semi-transparent, oil-based , darker stain would be the best fit. But…..is the stain and the protection all in one?

  19. Daniel Morris says:

    The best stain for my deck.
    Location: Birmingham, AL
    Half day sun
    Treated pine
    No mold or mildew issues
    Semi Transparent on previous treatment. Not sure of brand.
    Note: Half of the deck floor and handrails were just replaced with new treated pine. The rest is older, but solid.
    Second note: I'd prefer something I can buy locally instead of online.

  20. Tim says:

    new redwood deck how to seal to maintain color

  21. Susan says:

    Deck Location State: Utah
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Mostly full sun in summer, mostly shade in winter
    Wood Type: Redwood (just sanded off all old paint and stain)
    Mold or Mildew Issues: no
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Just normal weather conditions
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain Semi-transparent- have used all brands. Husband thinks Penatrol would work best since it has been sanded down.

  22. scmcgo says:

    Location: Florida
    Very large deck in both sun and shade
    Pressure treated pine
    Definitely mold and mildew issues
    No previous staining or treatments

    14 YO deck that has only been cleaned periodically. Structurally sound but getting very porous. I can’t tell from the reviews if TWP 100 or 1500 would be the best choice. The 1500 has almost twice the solids, so I’m leaning that way. I know the first coat will get soaked up like sand and it will take a good amount of material to get into the cracks, but too much is problematic. How do I balance this? Two light coats won’t get in and protect the cracks.

  23. Leslie says:

    What is the best stain for: 1) Missouri 2) Full Sun 3) Pressure Treated Pine 4) Mold/Mildew – Yes 5) No previous stain, only sealer, and it was years ago.

  24. mark says:

    Dallas Texas
    Covered deck with some full sun on stairs
    New Rough cedar deck, posts, beams and tongue and groove under roof.
    No likely mold or mildew

  25. Courtney says:

    Deck Location State: Maryland
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: N/A – New Deck
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): Don't know what was used on old deck – previous homeowners treated it.

  26. Keith says:

    Deck Location State: Seattle, Washington – Beach house deck over water
    Full Sun, Full Shade, Heavy Rain
    Wood Type: Treated Hem/Fir from Home Depot
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Area is moist and wet from Oct to May and prone to mildew if not treated
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: N/A – New Deck and looking for nature or slight stain for cedar coloring

  27. Royce Huseman says:

    Houston, Texas, full and some partial shade. Mildew issue. New deck. What is the best stain for this area

  28. Glen says:

    well I live in Denver, co. Just finished my deck in November can I still treat it giving the cooler weather or can I wait until spring without damaging the deck color and what do you suggest as the best brand for Denver

  29. Fred Halperin says:

    Suggested stain: Texas–30 miles northwest of Houston;
    mostly Shaded;
    Pressure treated pine;
    20 feet from Lake under large trees-so exposed to lots of mold, moisture, and so on
    Years of exposure–just repaired and power-washed and ready for protection. Currently no color.
    Previous stain was transparent

  30. jennifer martin says:

    Deck Location State: California desert
    Full Sun,
    Wood Type: prime douglas fur
    Mold or Mildew Issues: no
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: no previous stain new porch, new wood
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain none

  31. boylej001 says:

    Deck Location State: Hawaii
    Full Sun, Rain
    Wood Type: Redwood
    Mold or Mildew Issues: yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: no previous stain new wood deck
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain none

  32. Richard says:

    What is the best deck stain to use for a fence:

    Location: Dallas Texas
    Full Sun
    Red Cedar – 3 years old, rough wood, previously oil stained
    Mold, mildew: No
    Reason for previous stain failure: Faded in spots where sun/elements strongest
    Previous type of stain: unknown brand, oil based semi-transparent

    Thanks for your answer.

  33. Randy Palmer says:

    Location: Alabama
    Full shade
    Pressure Treated Pine (all new wood)
    Mold and mildew: yes
    Brand new deck; no previous coating

  34. Cheryl Collins says:

    Location: Greenville, Ohio
    Full Sun
    Pressure treated pine
    No mold/mildrew
    17 years old, painted every 3 years with solid stain

  35. Steve says:

    1. Deck location: Florida
    2. Full sun to part shade
    3. Pressure Treated Pine- 3 months old
    4. wish to prevent mild and mold
    5. Not yet stained, new deck

  36. Rich says:

    1. deck location: Michigan
    2. Faces North, mostly shade.
    3. Cedar, over 20 years old.
    4. Snow cover, with mold and mildew issues.
    5. last timed stained, unsure.

  37. fred says:

    fred location Tn
    covered deck
    new
    pressure treated

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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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