Deck Stain Reviews Ratings
Deck Stain Reviews Ratings
Deck Stain Reviews Ratings

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.

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9,731 Responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. jgaida says:

    Northeast Ohio
    Partial Shade in AM, Hot Full sun in Afternoon and evening
    30 year old pressure treated pine
    Green mold under apple tree overhang
    Used Behr Solid Color Deck Plus 3 years ago with bare areas now.

    I pressure washed the deck and need to restain it. Is there anyway to do this without having to sand off the old solid stain? I'm concerned about the arsenic issues with sanding the wood and we don't want the cost of a contractor to do the sanding.

  2. don says:

    Located in Michigan
    Full Sun
    Pressure treated pine
    Some mild mildew issue an side opposite the sunlight
    Extreme fading, previously stained with SW deckscapes semi transparent. Kind of a honey color, would like to go with a darker color, not as transparent, probably a brown, with no reddish tint.

  3. Susan hall says:

    1. deck location : Northern Idaho
    2. full sun
    3. Cedar -previous stained with oil based stain
    4. No mildew issues or mold
    5. Stain is fading in less than a year

  4. Dick Beusoleil says:

    Rhode Island-not far from salt water
    full sun
    pressure treated pine
    minor mold/mildew under railing on deck- 20 yrs. old
    splintering, complete loss of stain , especially in high traffic area, splitting on surface, layers of wood coming up due to freeze/thaw-snow/rain cycles resulting in shoveling, and very hot sun late spring through autumn.

  5. Kelly says:

    What is the best stain/preservative for my deck?

    Location: Colorado
    Exposure: full sun
    Type: red wood
    no mildew or mold issues
    Previously used clear pinifin, but it did not last, deck turned gray and wood is peeling now

  6. Wayne (Guest) says:

    What are the best (top 3) stains for my deck? The deck is very old but wood is pressure treated (pine or spruce) and is in reasonable condition. Previous coatings were mostly solid satins. However, all previous coatings removed now by a drum sander. So, I have a new, old surface to start with. Location is Nova Scotia, Canada. Deck gets full sun and is prone to mildew/mold, likely due to marine environment and frequency of rain. Lots of snow in winter and lots of freeze/thaw cycles also. Previous issues were mostly with peeling and therefore short service life (best case was 1 year of looking good). Objective: maintain natural look of wood, so clear finish or very subtle tinting, and a life of several years; also, prefer coating that can be added in future years without the need to remove/sand current coating i.e. like Thompson's water seal. Look forward to your recommendations.

  7. Alan says:

    What are the best stains for my deck?
    Northern Ky/ cincinnati
    Full sun
    Pressure treated pine,
    No mold or mildew
    Brand new deck, 2weeks old

  8. David says:

    Michigan, partial shade, pressure treated (I think). Some minor mold issues in shaded areas. Stain is just old hasn't been redone in at least three years and is peeling and wearing off. Current stain is semi transparent Behr premium. Want to work as little as possible. Should I use the same stuff or something similar? Do I need to strip the whole deck?

  9. Patty says:

    CT – northern
    2 decks –
    1 – full sun, portion in full shade
    pressure treated
    algae and mildew
    new deck
    2 – shade, full and partial
    red cedar
    mildew stain, wore off
    newly pressure washed all deck surfaces resulting in near complete loss of previous stain on cedar. No chemicals used (organic gardens) and dark mildew staining remains of the stain that still adheres.

  10. Timothy Dasenbrock says:

    Location – Highland, Illinois
    Full Sun
    Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold/Mildew – No
    Reason for Previous Failure – None – Deck is brand new and will receive heavy traffic. Also has handicap ramp.

    I've never had a deck before and I'm clueless as to the finish needed.

  11. Chris says:

    Fence Location State: Edmonton, AB Canada
    Full Sun – NorthSouth Facing
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated
    Mold or Mildew Issues: NA
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: I recently built a new fence w/ PT wood. Wondering what is a good stain to use. Climate is hot dry summers and harsh winters. How long should I wait before staining. Thanks

  12. Reingard M says:

    Location New York
    Full sun
    Pressure treated pine
    No mold or mildew
    Deck is 2 years old; provides access to pool, frequent water exposure; lots of snow/ice in winter
    Was sealed with clear oil spray last summer (don't know what it was, contractor did it)

  13. Tom says:

    What is the best semi-transparent sealants/stain for my deck?
    Location: Southern Indiana
    Partial shade – It is a covered screened in deck
    Wood Type: Pressure treated pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    New wood with no prior stain

  14. David Witte says:

    I have a 5 year old cedar deck that has been treated twice with Sikkins oil based deck stain – 50/50 mix of natural and cedar. I want to refinish it this year and need a recommendation.
    1. Location: Minneapolis, MN
    2. Sun in morning and shade in the late afternoon
    3. Material: Cedar
    4. Mold/Mildew: Not a problem
    5. Reason: Peeling, uneven coloration and penetration with some dark spots.

  15. Leitha Menegat says:

    We have two cedar decks on a cedar shingled beach house located on the Central Oregon coast. One deck is on the west side of the house next to the ocean. The other is on the east side of the house. Both decks are subject to year round salty beach air, heavy rain in the winter, very strong winds and hot sun during eight or nine months of the year. Both decks have some mildew and mold, especially on the railings and spindles. We last stained the deck, spindles and rails about five or six years ago with Cabot Seni-Solid Oil Finish Decking Stain in driftwood gray color. We stripped and brightened both decks and all the rails and spindles with Cabot stripper and Cabot brightener prior to applying the Cabot Stain. We should have redone the decks at the end of the four years, but did not get it done. They have held up well considering how long we have let them go, with wear mostly in the traffic paths. We are thinking we will paint the rails and spindles white to match the window trim, rather than putting on stain this time because we think it would look better. We would like your recommendation for the sealer/stain for the decks. The decks are twenty years old, but in good sturdy shape.

  16. Camille says:

    Deck: Lake Tahoe, Calif 6200' elevation.
    Sun/Partial Sun, Freezing in Winter
    NO mold or mildew
    This is a new deck to be completed in August, wood needs to dry out.
    How best to treat before winter and frequency
    thank you

  17. Steve Dresen says:

    I am about to re-stain my deck and would love to have some advice about a good, durable deck stain. Here are the answers to your questions:
    1 SE Idaho
    2 Partial Shade, it is on the north side of the house, no trees but the part closest to the house is shaded part of the day.
    3 Redwood
    4 A little mildew (blackening) particularly in the shaded areas close to the house.
    5 Wore off, especially on floor of deck.

    Thank you for your help!

  18. Bex says:

    1.Deck Location State: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Shade, no more than 4 hours of indirect sunlight per day with a couple of rays peeking through every so often.
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated unknown wood
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Unknown. We bought 2 years ago. If there was ever anything used on it we have no idea what or how long ago it was put on. There is no peeling or anything but the whole deck looks faded & is extremely slipper when wet…which is 90% of the time. We looked into Deck Over but there are so many bad reviews we're not going to go that route. We want something that will protect the wood (mostly from all the rain we get here), provide some traction (someone suggested we can add a sand/grit to almost anything for that), & preferably that we can go as long as possible without having to redo.

    I think our biggest challenge is getting enough time to allow the wood to fully dry before applying anything. While we have very mild temperatures & hardly any snow, it's very rainy & pretty humid here (70-86).

    Thank you so much for your help with this!

  19. Summer says:

    Salt Lake City, Ut
    Full Sun during day 8am to 6 pm
    Heart of Redwood
    No mold issues
    Paint type stain is peeling and wearing off; wood is cracking
    (MY husband used a cedar color stain more like paint. It is aweful and did not last. Started peeling within a year and much of it is gone. What is the best way to remove the rest and restore deck? )

  20. karen says:

    1. Central Georgia
    2. Partial shade
    3. Pressure treated pine
    4. Both mold and mildew issues
    5. Never stained. Weathering- 5 years old

  21. Lisa Hamilton says:

    Deck location: Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada
    Full sun morning and late afternoon. Shaded in the evening.
    We get lots of snow and cold weather and shovel our deck. It's our access to our house so the steps and entrance area are very high traffic.
    Wood : pressure treated pine.
    No mold or mildew as it's a relatively new deck.

    We let it sit for over a year before staining with two coats of Benjamin Moore Arborcoat semi transparent exterior stain in Georgetown Grey and top coated with Benjamin Moore Clear Waterborne Top Coat.

    Failure: lots of scratches and scuffing in high traffic area, pets jumping on deck. Lots of sap bleeding through… Not sure why that didn't happen the year or two we had left it sit and only after stain was applied. Cracking and peeling too. The major problem area is the upper level deck which is 2×6 pine.
    The bottom level is 2×8 pine and doesn't see much wear and has No sap bleeding through.

    Do I remove and replace the entire upper level? Sand down and restain? Your advice is much appreciated!

    • You have to remove the BM Arborcoat. Most likely will need to sand to get it all off. Once the wood is prepped, use a penetrating stain that does not film on top of the wood when it dries. Armstrong Clark will work.

  22. lynne says:

    What I s best stain for my deck

  23. Paula says:

    what stain is best for my front porch?
    Location: Massachusetts, near the ocean
    north side of house, some morning and afternoon sun, mostly shade, snow, rain, humidity, freezing temps
    wood type: i believe pressure treated pine
    mold or mildew: no issues i see
    reason for past failure: neglect!, peeling poly will be sanded down to bare wood.
    I would like as natural a look as possible with ease of reapplication (no re sanding if possible)

  24. Nancy says:

    Need to restain deck: wood very porous
    Location: West KY Lake Front
    Full Sun afternoon and evening
    Wood Type: Western Red Cedar from B.C.
    High Humidity, Mold and Mildew and Algae problem
    Originally used Sickens Cetol 9 yr. ago, lack of maitainance

  25. B Mack says:

    Deck Location State: Eastern Missouri
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Only at the bottom of stairs where it get hit by sprinklers
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled off in a little more than a year

  26. Felipe Bermudez says:

    I live in South Texas, Weather is Hard on Decks, I tried the Twp 1000 Looked good for 3 month's then the winter rain and high heat came after a year faded and gray

  27. Susan says:

    We actually have a fence we need to stain. Wondering your advice.

    Fence Location State: Kansas City
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine/Cedar (combo of both
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Has never been stained but untreated for several years. We have replaced rotting boards and cleaned/prepped fence with fence cleaning solution.

  28. Peter says:

    Deck #1
    Deck Location State: Minnesota
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial Shade
    Wood Type: Cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Unknown what previous owners had done, does not appear to have been sealed. Has a layer of fuzzy pulp on surface which has begun to splash onto siding of home from deck after heavy rain. Some areas were pressure washed before it was known that the wood was cedar.

    Deck #2
    Deck Location State: Minnesota
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Heat Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Never sealed or protected. Deck actually travels down onto the river as part of the dock which is made of the same wood so ideally the same stain would be best if possible.

  29. Kathleen Wilson says:

    Very helpful article.
    Morning sun; shade mid-afternoon and evening
    Not maintained – greeted

  30. TJB says:

    Deck Location State: Maine
    Full Sun to part-shade
    Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Never stained, probably 2-4 years old, wood is now grey/black want a dark grey semi-solid or solid stain

    • Prep with a deck cleaner then brighten the wood after. Never seen a dark gray in a semi-solid so you may need to go with a solid color as they can be tinted to whatever color you would like. Try the Flood solid stains.

  31. Kevin says:

    Columbus, Ohio. Just had a new 6' cedar privacy fence installed. The fence will get nearly full sun in the morning and 60% of it will get shade in the evening. Climate ranges from 60-100 degrees with high humidity and lots of rain in the summer. Climate ranges from -10 to 45 in the winter with bitter cold winds of up to -30 (windchill) in the worst of winter. We get lots of snow in a typical winter. I've been thinking either a natural cedar stain/sealer or just waterseal. I plan to stain/seal in about two months. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  32. Barbara Bradford says:

    1. Deck location: Athens, Georgia
    2. Partial shade
    3. Wood: pressure treated pine
    4. Mold or mildew: yes
    5. No previous stain

    What is the best stain for us? Not new wood.

  33. Stephanie says:

    Deck Location State: Alabama
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Never stained or treated

  34. Sarah Lipinski says:

    What is the best stain for my deck?
    1.) Live in New York State
    2.) Full Sun
    3.) Pressure Treated Pine
    4.) No Mildew or Mold Issues because its a new deck
    5.) No Reason for Previous Stain Failure because it is a new deck

  35. Paul says:

    Deck Location State: Ohio
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Faces west, most sun during honest time of day. It gets partial shade mid afternoon on
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: about 7 yrs old and untreated.

  36. Tom says:

    Need 2-3 recommendations for semi-transparent deck stain
    Southern Indiana
    Partial sun – screened in deck
    Pressure treated pine
    No mold or mildew
    New deck of 3 months

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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.