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.

6,216 Responses to “What is the Best Deck Stain?”

  1. Patrick says:

    1.Deck Location State: Kentucky (Central)
    2.Afternoon Sun
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled, board are splintering, wood is graying

  2. Chris says:

    Deck Location: Massachusetts
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Some
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled

    Purchased a home with an old, very large deck. Previous owners had used Cabot Solid Stain (grey) that was in rough condition (flaking, peeling). Sanded deck to get about 80% of the solid stain out and applied a Cabot redwood solid acrylic two years ago. Peeled significantly.

    House has now been repainted and I want to re stain the deck. I’ve pressure washed and sanded, although there is still a reasonable amount of both old stains on the deck (80%). Tried stripping but did not remove much.

    I think we have to stay with solid stains as its going to be challenging to remove the remaining stain. I think an oil based one would be better? Best recommendations?

  3. Tina says:

    Brigham City, UT
    30 year old deck
    paint or stain like paint
    peeling badly
    standard cheap wood
    cracks and dents in boards
    full sun/ snow in winter. temperature range from 0-100
    if it has been painted with water based paint can I put an oil based stain on it?

  4. Todd says:

    Deck Location State: Maine
    Full Sun, Partial Shade
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Something, I think
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Not really, very slight
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Faded away

    Hello.

    I recently purchased a house that has three decks that require attention. First had been stained with Behr solid stain (that’s what I found in the basement, at least, and the color seems to match) that has mostly worn away, exposing grey wood. I pressure washed it and removed all the remaining stain. I’m fine with not bleaching the wood to make it brighter, just looking for a brown-tinted stain that won’t peel.

    The next deck is the same for the horizontal surfaces. The railing has a solid grey stain that is mostly still there. It’s not the most beautiful construction, so I don’t want to spend a massive amount of time sanding and scraping, I’d just like something that would cover the existing stain and maybe buy me a few years. I bought some Thompson’s solid stain at Home Depot and tried it out on a small spot on the railings and in addition to the color looking nothing like it was on the package (I bought Woodland Cedar and it was bright orange), it was not nearly opaque enough and did not cover the existing stain.

    The last deck is a smaller one and is in the worst shape. I’d just like to cover it with something to make it last another year or two. I read about products such as Behr Deckover and similar stuff, which is very thick and filled in holes and such. Sounds like it might be a good idea.

    I’d really rather not mail order the stain, but where I am the only options for places to get stain are Home Depot, Lowes, and Ace Hardware. There’s also Sherwin-Williams, I think. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I’ve pored over the articles on this site and have come away more confused, I’m loathe to admit. My wife thinks we should just end the research and go for Behr, but I can’t seem to be able to do it. Especially after reading your review: “This stain should be removed from sale to the public”. Harsh.

    Thanks!

    • Stay away from Behr and SW Deckscapes. Not sure what brands you can find locally but try for a penetrating oil based stain that is semi transparent. Maybe you can find Flood or Olympic in that formula.

  5. Richard Hill says:

    I live in Northern Michigan by Lake Huron. My deck is on the south side of my house in full sun most of the day. The deck is about 6 years old and has been stained twice. The last staining didn't last 2 years. It was a True Value Semi-transparent stain. The deck is treated pine and I have no problems with mold or mildew. I need a stain that can stand up to traffic and not wear away and peel off, Yesterday I took off all the remaining stain by using my belt sander so I am down to like new wood. Any suggestions?

  6. Jackson says:

    Deck location: Houston,TX
    New Untreated Pine
    Full sun, very hot and humid.

    Trying to decide between Defy Extreme or TWP. Which would work better for these conditions?
    Thanks for your help

  7. Scott says:

    1.Deck Location State: Southwest Ohio
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine from menards their ac2 stuff
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Almost 3 month decking

    So I have read a lot but there is a lot of conflicting information online and I am glad I found your site.
    I replaced the floorboards and rails on my 16×32 deck the 4th week of June (that was fun!)
    There is obvious cracking etc but it seems to have calmed/slowed down.
    I bought cabot but after reading your website I plan to return it.

    When should I stain it? End of Sept will be 3 months..I was hoping to do it before winter, but I worry october will be the last time I can get to it, which would be 4 months. I planned to use a cleaner that you recommend since I learned through your site that prep is one of the most important steps.

    So two questions, what stain and would it be safe to stain end of october/beginning of november…or is that too early?
    Thanks SO MUCH!

  8. Eve says:

    What is the deck stain for me?
    1. SW Michigan
    2. Morning direct sun, Afternoon shade
    3. Pressure treated pine
    4. Some green mildew/mold
    5. Deck is 15 years old. Paint worn and peeling. Repainted about three years ago.

    How long does it need to be rain-free for it to be dry enough to stain?
    Better to paint or stain?

    Thanks for your help!

  9. Keith says:

    I would like to know your recommendation on a deck stain. I have an unstained cedar deck that was constructied in early April. It is approximately 500 sq feet. It is located in Omaha Nebraska and faces southwest with full sun and with no real mold issues. A third of the deck is covered. Looking mostly at semi transparent. Thank Keith

  10. Richard M. says:

    Thanks for any recommendations! Here's the story:
    1.Deck Location: Arlington, VA (DC metro area) — deck is elevated and lives mostly in the shade of a giant Sycamore tree
    2. Sun/shade: full morning sun on part; most in full shade rest of day
    3.Wood: Pressure Treated Pine
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: not really … but significant green algae on verticals in full-shade areas (prior to power-washing, that is)
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: No previous stain … just pressure-treated and left exposed (just finished power-washing to remove about 6 years of dirt/oxidation in exposed areas (since previous power wash)).

    Looking for a darker color to continue theme from new hardwood floors inside leading to deck. Thanks again!

  11. Drea says:

    -Georgia
    -Full shade with only a small amount of filtered light through heavily forested backyard lots of humidity!
    -Pressure treated Pine
    -Some green mold, small amount of mildew
    -5 year old deck water proofed only, never painted or stained!

    I want to stain my deck. What stain would you recommend? Thanks.

  12. michelle says:

    Hi,
    Just bought a house with a 600sqft deck. Built in 1993, but never resurfaced. Planking ok.
    Deck Location State: Long Beach Island, NJ (beach community)
    faces southeast, so morning and some afternoon sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: minimal, only where deck faces north

    Any help is appreciated.

  13. Anna says:

    1. Deck Location State: South Carolina
    2. Partial Shade, but center of deck gets direct sun from about 10am-2pm
    3. Wood Type: unsure :( bought house with weathered deck. Just pressure washed it but dont know wood type
    4. Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes but since powerwashed the mildew off
    5. Reason for Previous Stain Failure: I think previous owners just didn't care for the deck – was gray and weathered when I bought the house. No idea past care history

  14. Ken says:

    Location: Kauai, HI
    Exposure: Full sun with plenty of rain
    Age: 5 years
    Wood: Teak and some Ipe
    Previous failure: graying, mold and mildew (some rotting of teak)

    About two months ago I cleaned and sanded one of the teak decks we have. I then applied a single coating of Cabots timber oil to the deck. Already the deck has transitioned to a very light tan color and I'm sure it won't be long until it is back to gray. I'd be happy to find a product that would last a year before a re-coating is necessary. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Mahalo.

  15. Jay says:

    Hi, I was given advice earlier to use TWP 100. One quick question, if I have little kids (3 years old and 1 year old), should I choose the more eco-friendly option of TWP 1500 or do I not need to worry?

  16. Karen says:

    I live in Seattle (North Capitol Hill/ Montlake/ Arboretum area), and I have 2 samples of TWP and 2 samples of Armstrong-Clark Deck stain, if anyone wants them-FREE (I ordered these for testing and only used them once). I have:

    TWP102-Redwood
    TWP116-Rustic
    Armstrong-Clark RedWood Tone
    Armstrong-Clark Semi-Transparent Sierra Redwood

    Just call Karen at 206-328-4047 if you want to come by and pick up these samples.

  17. Mark says:

    Nebraska.
    Morning shade, afternoon and evening full sun.
    Pressure treated pine
    No mold or mildew issues.
    The previous stain started to fade and didn't seem to stick to the wood. We had a hail storm come in about 2 weeks after I finished and where every stone hit, it stripped the stain off to bare wood. I would like to find a stain that will last longer than 2 years and available in natural colors. Deck is 11 years old.

  18. Judith says:

    Location/weather conditions: Middle Tennessee. Hot, humid summers, mild winters (except for last year when we had a lot of bad freezing, which seemingly may become the new norm if you can believe the forecasts).
    Item/age: 3-year-old front deck with pergola
    Sun/shade: Some morning sun, filtered afternoon shade, partially underneath a very large tulip tree; lots of leaves constantly falling on deck; some of it is under a roof.
    Wood type: Treated pine
    Mold/mildew: Black staining from fallen leaves that get wet and leave marks, don't know if it's tannin or mold – maybe both?
    Prior treatment: One-time previous staining with Cabot Australian Oil stain (2 years ago) – natural color, transparent; it's getting worn off in traffic areas but a lot of it is quite intact and new-looking (especially the part protected by the roof); the pergola is still fine.

    I was told this Cabot Aussie Oil is no longer available. Lowes recommended Olympic Elite (said it was formulated to be like the Cabot) but reviews don't sound good. What stain do you recommend for putting over the Cabot Aussie Oil stain and how does the deck need to be prepped for that new coat of stain? I like the natural look of the oil finish (absorbed into the wood so it doesn't look "painted-on") and would like the same look for the re-coat. Thanks in advance for your advice. This is an awesome resource!

    • You should not put anything over the Cabot. You really to sttip down the entire deck and start over. Make sure to use a wood brightener after. Once removed we would suggest the TWP in the 100 Series.

  19. Justin says:

    Deck Location State: Northern West Virginia
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Peeled

  20. Corine says:

    1.Deck Location State: Massachusetts
    2.Partial Sun
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: None (that we know of)
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Untreated

    We bought our house last December. We have screened in porch that is elevated off the ground. The floor of the porch is unfinished. I would like to stain a dark color. Our porch is a heavy traffic area. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  21. Leslie says:

    We have a deck that is about 20 years old. We have periodically reapplied stain, but recently find it flakes off in areas. We are pressure washing it, going to have it sanded and we will be re-staining. We want to figure out which is the best stain for us to use.
    1) Minneapolis Minnesota
    2) Part to full shade
    3) Pressure treated pine
    4) There was one small area of mildew
    5) The stain did not seem to bond well in spots.
    Thanks!

  22. Casey says:

    Here is my situation. Brand new PT pine deck with rough sawn cedar posts. Just finished in August. Won't be staining until next spring in order to allow time for drying.

    Deck Location State: Southeastern Michigan
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine a rough sawn cedar posts
    Mold or Mildew Issues: None so far
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: None. New deck

  23. johnnyb says:

    1.Deck Location State: NW Colorado, Steamboat Springs, elevation 7300'
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial to full shade in summer, full sun in winter
    3.Wood Type: New Clear Heart Redwood
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: Not substantial. Existing deck was in place for 35 years, with one rotten joist, and no rot to decking (redwood)
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Old redwood deck had become tired, had been 'painted', and not been maintained for several years/decades. That said, condition was better than would have been expected for high snowfall, conditions, and no maintenance.
    Desire a 'non-sheen' penetrating, natural stain that accentuates the natural beauty of the redwood, and with age, would go to a natural gray rather than appearing like a bad stain job or darkening.
    Should all four sides be stained, and should I use a treatment (either the stain, or other?) on the end grain?

  24. Derek says:

    Deck Location State: Southern New Mexico
    South Facing, Full Sun
    Wood Type: Redwood Decking and railing, Pressure Treated Pine framing
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: None – NEW

    I read your section on staining a new deck. I think I'd like something semi-transparent to show the redwood. Would it be a good option to stain the pressure treated with something more opaque to make redwood better?
    Thanks

  25. Tammy says:

    1. Deck Location: Blowing Rock, NC… cool and humid
    2. Part to Full shade. One small deck is full sun. Some ice and snow in winter.
    3. Pressure treated pine. Cedar railing.
    4. Only minimal midew on single post.
    5. Peeling on railing. Fading and wear on deck.

  26. Dee says:

    We have a deck that was installed 2 years back, but never stained or cleaned. We bought this house in Spring and didn't get a chance to get it stained in summer. We want to stain it before winter so that it does not creates more damage to the wood. I am a complete novice and will really really appreciate any advice.

    1.Deck Location State: Virginia
    2.Full Sun half day
    3.Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: None (that we know of)
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Never stained before (2year old deck)

    What would be the best way to clean the deck? Do I need to pressure wash. Any recommendations on cleaner and stain.
    Is it too difficult to do it myself?
    How much time we should wait for staining it after cleaning the deck?
    Thanks.

  27. Suzanne says:

    Please help me with my deck. However, I need a stain that I can buy locally and not over the internet.

    Eastern PA
    Partial sun, later afternoon sun
    10 year old standard pressure treated wood
    Major mold and mildew issues
    Previously used Cabot and one other semi transparent stain and green mold grew all over it with some black spots.

    The deck is currently power washed and clean. Please recommend an easy to apply product as I am a single mom doing this for the first time. I also need to be able to buy it in a store where I can ask questions vs. buying on the internet. I have already determined Defy and TWP are not sold near me. Please help me find one to fight mold. Thank you!!!

  28. Syl says:

    Location: Missouri
    Partial shade
    Pressure treated pine
    Some mold/mildew
    Failure is only in the corner that get the most snow and ice. Some of the wood is split there I also get melting snow from a deck over me. Behr Weather Proofing Wood Stain did well for 2 winters in this area. The rest of the deck looks very well and I really don't see a need to stain it at present. Can I just clean and stain that corner?

  29. JessJuanDeRing says:

    .Deck Location: Colorado (Alt. 5000', warm summers, moderate winters, )
    2.Full Sun
    3.Wood Type: Redwood ; about 7 years old ;
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    5.Reason for Previous Stain Failure: UV exposure along with rain & snow; previously the deck had only had treated with Thompson's water seal;

    Wood is now weathered / driftwood grey; cracks in some boards. It's been 2- 3 years since I last treated with the Thompsons. I care most about protection from this point on.

  30. Kilroy says:

    Deck Location State: Massachusetts
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Partial to Full Sun
    Wood Type: Fir
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Not yet
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: New deck, previously treated with Cabot's Timber Oil. Lots of dark/black staining and some fading of the color already. Unsure if the treatment was applied correctly.

  31. Kathy Eberly says:

    Located in North NJ. The deck is almost 15 years old. Previously used Cabot semi-transparent but contractor is now recommending the solid. Was considering the Restore 10x but I hear it peals. The deck is used a lot and last years staining is not holding up. Which stain would you recommend?

  32. Pat says:

    Location: South central Wisconsin
    Exposure: Full sun
    Wood type: Cedar
    Mold/Mildew: No
    Reason for previous stain failure: Worn spots. It is a semi-transparent stain that never looked good to begin with (wrong color).

    • Deck Stain Help says:

      Use the Restore A Deck Stripper and pressure washing to remove the old coating. Use the RAD brightener when done to lighten and neutralize. Stain with TWP 100 Series.

  33. Pablo says:

    Salem Oregon
    Full Sun during the summer, lots of rain during fall through spring
    Wood Type: Western Red Cedar – newly applied
    The deck would be prone to mold and mildew during the wet months – little opportunity for drying.
    New Deck – what is your recommendation?

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