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.

4,304 Responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. Renata says:

    Virginia (Central)
    Full sun all day
    Pressure treated pine
    No mold or mildew
    The deck is 8 months old. It has never been stained or sealed. I would like to stain it to match composite fence that will be going in soon. The deck still looks very clean and new. Wondering how best to clean, condition and stain and which products to use. (Is cleaning necessary since it looks so new?)

  2. George says:

    Deck Location State: Seattle WA.
    In the evergreens, full shade with sun about 3hrs./day when we are fortunate to have any at all.
    Wood Type: New 2×6 tight knot cedar
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    Used Penefin Red Label on deck I am redoing. Didn't really fail but need to re-stain ever 2 years and sand every 5

  3. rsracerx67 says:

    Deck Location State: Madison, WI
    Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: None – new deck built 2 yrs ago with no treatment.
    Should I clean, brighten, then apply TWP 100 wet on wet?

  4. Danetta says:

    Northern Utah – snow, rain, hot sun, South exposure
    Full Sun with a canopy used during summer to cut heat coming in through glass doors
    Not sure on wood type – Deck was here when we bought the home
    No mold or mildew
    No idea what was put on previously. Almost seems like nothing. Wood is gray, splintery, and rough.

    • Danetta, prep first with a deck cleaner and wood brightener to restore the wood color. Lightly sand to remove splinters if needed. Stain with Armstrong Clark in a semi solid color to help this dried out wood.

  5. Pete, please read this article that will help you with staining and prepping for a new deck: http://www.deckstainhelp.com/staining-a-new-deck/

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