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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 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.


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12,565 responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. elaine says:

    ohio
    partial shade
    no mold or mildew
    pressure treated pine
    new deck – never been stained

  2. Dirk says:

    Kansas
    Partial Sun
    17 year old pressure-treated pine
    Some mold; elements include 1) sun on about 2/3 year-round, 2) standing snow/ice in addition to rainfall in winters
    Previous: semi-transparent paint; Thompson's water seal before that
    Now sanded (oxidized wood/old finish nearly removed); plan on applying wood prep (_____acid) prior to finish
    Thanks!

  3. Michael Soltman says:

    What is the best deck stain for my NEW cedar deck?
    Deck Location State: Washington
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun in summer, partial sun in winter
    Wood Type: Cedar deck and railing on pressure treated stringers
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Tends to mold/mildew during winter
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Previous deck was painted and peeled. I want to use a oil-based stain this time

    So – what do you recommend?

  4. Kate says:

    1. Central Montana, elevation 3700 ft.
    2. 3 decks: North deck-full to partial sun. SE deck-full sun. West porch deck-has roof but gets late day sun.
    3. all are redwood
    4. no mold/mildew
    5. Very dark color, lasts less than a year
    6. Penofin, semi-transparent

    What stain would you recomend?

  5. Loretta Ferringer says:

    What is the best stain for our (20 year old) deck?
    Deck Location State: Pennsylvania
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated outdoor wood
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled and faded
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): Thompson's semi transparent Cedar color

  6. Shelly says:

    What is the best deck stain for
    Northern Virginia
    Full sun
    Pressure treated wood (pine)
    One part of deck mildew, and rotted. Other deck, just mildew (Large pine tree very close to deck, was told this could be part of the problem…???
    reason for failure- tured deck dark and rotten.
    Berh solid color waterproofing wood stain.

    • Deck Stain Help says:

      Have you considered replacing? You cannot fix a rotted deck by adding stain on top. At least replace the rotted boards then pressure wash all for prep and apply another solid stain. We like the Flood solid stains.

  7. Rebecca says:

    It is not a deck but T111 siding. Stained with water based stain 8 years ago. Located foothills of the Sierras in California. Full, partial and shade. We like the fading but need to protect wood. Need a clear finish. Thank you

  8. Pat Evans says:

    I live in Texas and have a redwood deck .Last year it was stripped of the solid stain and the workers applied a new stain. It is mostly in full sun. Except for the area covered by the gazebo.mildew Ian mold are a problem and there seems to be no water repellency.Need a semi transparent stain that will not change the present color and provide other outdoor protection.

    • You cannot add a semi-transparent stain and not change the color. Best to strip off what you have on as you should also not apply a stain of a different brand over the coating from last year. We would strip and brighten all and start over with a better semi-transparent like TWP.

  9. BMcCoy says:

    Previous product bubble and peeled in traffic area and full sun areas-such as railing tops. Spindles and sides fine. Have sanded and pressure washed all bubbled/peeled areas. Now some spots bare wood and the majority of the remaining had the colored stain.
    Deck Location State: Northern Colorado
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled and bubbled.
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): Rustoleum restore 4x deck cover

  10. Steve Sherwood says:

    Just ripped up the old PTL decking that I used TWP 1500 rustic oak on. It held up good for only applying one coat. Anyway I replaced with a composite product but I installed new cedar railings. I'm looking for a dark brown color that lasts. Is TWP 1500 still the way to go?

    Deck Location State: Northern NJ
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Afternoon Full Sun
    Wood Type: Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes – previous deck
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: N/A
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): N/A

  11. Suva says:

    Western Washington (lots of rain)
    Full Sun (when we get it)
    Pine or Cedar not sure
    mildew issues are pretty mild
    Deck over. Peels like crazy after only a few months. I test every year before sanding and reapplying etc for moisture and I wait until it is super low.

    • Suva, you cannot apply anything over the Behr Deck Over. You must sand and scare down to the bare wood before applying anything different. Once 100% remove, use a penetrating semi-transaprerent like TWP or Armstrong Clark.

  12. Dylan says:

    Thanks in advance for your help! The quirk here, is that this is a fence.

    1. FENCE Location State: Washington, DC
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    3.Wood Type: Cedar
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: New Fence installation – unknown
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Brand new fence
    6.Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain: None – brand new fence

  13. kristynmarshman says:

    Berkeley, California
    Redwood deck 1 aged 7 years and one aged 2 years.
    Full Sun / and part sun
    not much mold or mildew
    no previous deck stain used
    recently tried a few boards as a test in BEHR transparent 'natural' #500 tone. I don't like the tone. appears yellow-ish.

    What would be a better choice? I know I need to strip the test boards and then neutralize and then apply a new option.

  14. Sally says:

    Nevada-northern at 7500'
    Full sun and partial shade to full shade
    Redwood
    No mold or mildew
    Peeled off after every winter–lots of snow
    Behr

  15. Catherine McNally says:

    Best deck stain?
    #1 North Coast California – Lots of rain
    #2 one section full sun; 2nd section partial shade
    #3 con-heart Redwood
    #4 No
    #5 none; new wood

  16. Matt Woodbury says:

    Deck Location State: Contra Costa County, CA (Inland SF Bay Area)
    Full Sun
    Wood Type: New, Unstained rough sawn con heart redwood
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes- after 20yrs, the previous DF Arbor (painted) succumed to rot.
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: New construction – want to apply the best stain before construction.
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain: We like the look based on the small sample of Messmers UV Stain Natural Redwood.
    We want a UV resistant, oil based stain that will highlight the natural beauty of the redwood – not go grey and black.

  17. Kelly Nolan says:

    michigan
    mostly sun, evening shade
    pressure treated
    maybe, not sure
    peeled
    behr semi-transparent

  18. Marc says:

    Hi. I live in New York, deck is full sun, wood is old so not sure what it is but I replaced a lot of planks/ railing last year with pressure treated wood (assuming it was pine), don't think I have a mold issue, old stain just wore out, the previous stain looked like a solid stain but I've sanded it off.

  19. Manisha says:

    What is the best stain type?

    Live in New Jersey
    Deck in full sun
    Old deck I think pine wood,
    Not much mildew issue
    old paint peeling may due to weather temperature
    Thanks for help

    • Deck Stain Help says:

      You already have a deck paint on the deck? Do you want to sand it all off and go with a semi that shows the grain or clean and recoat with another solid color stain?

      • Manisha says:

        Yes, red paint on baluster quite strong, deck floor 95% has come off with pressure wash. I was thinking to repaint it with cream color stain now. Do I need to remove all of the old paint and sand it first or just do stain color now?what do you suggest?

  20. John says:

    Toronto, Canada (!)
    Sun: mostly sun, evening shade
    Wood type: pressure treated
    Mold/Mildew: Maybe
    Brand new deck – cleaned and prepped and ready for first stain.
    **Lots of extreme temperatures (95F to -4F) from summer to winter

  21. Mark J. says:

    1. Washington State (Eastern, sun, dry, hot and cold, snow – Not Seattle area)
    2. Afternoon summer sun, shaded in winter
    3. 3" x 10" rough cedar planks
    4. No mildew/mold
    5. No failure, repurposed cedar planks with light unknown stain
    6. Unknown

  22. Will Grant says:

    What is the best stain for my deck?

    North Carolina (Coast)
    Covered Front Porch and rear screened porch receive morning and afternoon partial sun
    Pressure treated pine (aged one year)
    no mold/mildew issues as of yet
    none wood has never been stained

  23. Kristen says:

    The best deck stains for my deck:
    I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My deck is west facing, no trees so about half day full sun. It is a cedar wood deck (assuming pressure treated but I don't recall). It doesn't have any previous stain. I am attempting stain this time because it was hard scrubbing it clean. I'm unsure if it's mold or mildew but I'm guessing something because it was black with slight green tint before I scrubbed it clean. I would like to use a semi transparent stain to bring back the original beauty of the cedar. Thank you very much for your time.

  24. Mike says:

    Deck Location State: Willamette Valley, ORegon
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Metal post w/ Cedar pickets
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: None. Brand new deck
    Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): None. Brand new deck

  25. David says:

    What would my best stain/preservative be?
    NE Iowa
    Partial shade
    Pressure treated pine
    A little mildew
    No previous stain or sealer, approx. 5 years old

  26. John M. says:

    Northern VA
    Full Sun
    Pressure Treated Pine – this is a new deck that has been drying out for the past 3 months in extreme summer heat of 90+ deg. F. (Absorbs water quickly and gaps between the 5/4×6 decking have already opened up by 3/8" due to shrinking.)
    No mold or mildew issues on previous 12 yr old deck
    Previous stain was Penofin Ultra-Premium semi-transparent. Held up fairly well under the hot, full sun conditions but did require re-treatment every 2 two years, and was labor intensive to apply since it required not only brushing on but also wiping-off.
    Hoping to find a stain that will hold up a bit better under full-sun/UV and that does not require a final 'wipe off' step during application.

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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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