This post was updated on January 30, 2023
Why Have a Two-Toned Deck 2023
Two-toned decks are popular among many deck owners for 2023 for multiple reasons. A two-toned deck normally has paint or solid deck stain on the railings and spindles and the deck floor is stained with a transparent or semi-transparent deck stain.
There are several advantages to having a two-toned deck. Being able to match or blend the deck in better with the house without having to give up the natural wood look is one benefit. Most houses have 2-3 different colors including the siding, trim, shutters, gutters, fascia, etc. When a wood deck is all-natural with a translucent stain it sticks out more from the house. Some deck owners like the deck to blend with the house a little better so they coat the railings and supports with a solid deck stain color to match. The deck floor can then be stained with a semi-transparent stain so it still has that natural wood appearance.
The color options are almost limitless for the railings and spindles because you are using a solid deck stain or paint. These can be tinted to almost any color imaginable while most transparent stains are normally limited to tones of naturals, browns, and reds.
When deck paint or solid stains are applied properly on vertical surfaces they are extremely durable and can last a long time. On a vertical surface film-forming, solid stains can last up to 10 years and may only need to be cleaned occasionally. However, solid stains and paints do not perform well on horizontal surfaces such as decking and are prone to cracking and peeling so only use them on vertical surfaces.
A properly done two-tone deck can really add appeal and value to your property. It may take a little more time and labor initially but as some deck owners know, the end result can be amazing.
For A Solid Stain on the verticals/railings we suggest:
For a semi-transparent stain for the flooring/horizontals look at:
Two-Toned Deck Stain Photo Ideas
Tips On Two-Toned Deck Stain Video – DeckStainHelp.com
Deck Stain Help & Questions
Stain Reviews & Comparisons
As an article and comment contributor to the site, Scott has been around the pressure washing industry since attending college. In 1993 he started his first company called Oakland Pressure Wash specializing in exterior pressure washing and deck staining. That company evolved into OPW L.L.C. shortly thereafter concentrating more on exterior wood and deck restoration. Scott and his Deck Cleaning Michigan company have restored over 10,000 decks in the Metro Detroit area since the early years. He has become an authority in the deck restoration industry and has contributed to numerous wood restoration forums and informative sites.
All the products he suggests through this site are sold through online sites and in retail stores, allowing the consumer to choose their own means of purchase. Scott’s eCommerce sites do sell many top brands he endorses and if you appreciate any of the help he has offered then feel free to purchase from one of them.
What’s the better semitransparent stain to use on mahogany ? I’ve power washed this but assume I need to use a stripper and brightener before I stain this deck.
Strip and brighten and then try one of these for your hardwood deck. https://www.deckstainhelp.com/ipe-exotic-hardwood-stain-review/
We like the RAD Stain or Armstrong Clark.
Hi, thanks for your post! Do you know what stain was used for the picture in the third row on the left? (The one with the striped mat on the ground). It’s such a lovely colour
Could be Dark Oak by TWP or Rustic Brown by Armstrong Clark Stains. Colors vary after applying based on wood type and the age of the wood so not 100% sure.
We have used Defy extreme semi-transparent deck stain twice in the past, so we’re familiar with it and we’re satisfied with it. We replaced flooring, steps, and rails with PT pine last summer. We’re ready to stain and we’re deciding between RAD or Defy. It seems that performance-wise Defy and RAD are very similar in your ratings, though I see RAD is recommended more often. It looks like Defy has come out with a new, improved stain called Defy Ultra. Do you know anything about that?
The Ultra just came out so no history yet with it. We like both the RAD and the Defy stains so either would work very well.
What coor stains are used in the photo 3rd down and on the right (has the table with black chairs)?
That is IPE decking. You cannot get regular wood like pine or cedar to look like that. No knots, etc. Color is probably a light tint like Armstong Clark in Amber.
We are have stripped, sanded, cleaned and brightened our 30 year old decks. We think it is old treated pine. Having a tough time choosing stain. Water base or oil base? Timber oil? We have tried so many samples of each. Been to many places that sell stain, but different opinions from each place. Semi transparent, semi solid. We have cedar posts and are trying to find stains that look good on both the decks and posts , knowing stains turn out differently on certain types of wood. Our home was painted a moss green and I like the darker cedar color with a pop of reddish. Can ypu help
Try Restore A Deck Stains for this.
We have a new pergola (will have grayish pavers underneath) and then a deck with metal roof. The deck has black metal spindles. When the wood has dried out and ready to be stained, what would be a recommendation of a two toned stain that could tie both structures together and with the house. (House is gray siding with white trim)
Look at the Restore A Deck Stains.
Can I have a grey deck floor with brown cedar toned railings?
Sure if you want.
Hello! We love some of your two tone stain decks but are having trouble with ours as the layout makes it funky to us! Could you help if we sent a pic??
This is the deck. We colored it on an iPad to see what it would look like. The brown isn’t the color we are using but it shows sorta what it would look like. My wife and I are struggling with the pillars especially the two white ones. We can not find a way to do those that looks good. We have colored them multiple ways all white, part white, part brown multiple different ways and all brown. They probably look the best all brown. Any thoughts on how you would do this deck two tone ? Our colors are probably close to these colors.
We would normally do all the verticals in the same color so this would be white in your case for all posts.
What is the reason for that? This is good information to have. We were considering the white as just an accent color.
It blends with the house trim when looking at the deck from the yard.
Ah. I am still learning all of this. My wife is concerned about the posts being difficult to clean if all white. Do you expect or know if that will be an issue?
So to ensure I’m confirming what you’re saying with all verticals.
All spindles, posts, and then the banisters near the spindles would be white? Floor, railing on top and steps would be the brown?
Is blending in with the house trim a good thing? Not sure I understand that completely. Sorry if I’m asking too many questions. This is our first house and we actual had problems with our original stain. The entire deck is having to be done for a second time.
They are vertical posts, they will not get that dirty. You can really do whatever you like, it is all personal preference.
Am thinking about staining my year old non stained deck 2 tone. I am thinking g about using Armstrong nature oak semi transparent on floor and their cedar semi transparent on the railing. Do you think their will be enough contrast between the two to look right
Hard to say. Have you done any test spots with samples?
We have replaced the decking of a previously painted deck, and allowed it to age 1 year and then prepped it and will be staining it with AC semitransparent. We did not replace the railings and the facing boards below the deck (which is 15′ up), which are stained with Cabot solid, and which we will continue to use. It is difficult to stain the vertical edges and endcuts of the decking without it dripping down on the facing boards, and cleanup is difficult due to the height. Can we use the Cabot solid on the vertical edges and enducts of the decking, or would this look strange and/or not be a good idea for some other reason? If not, how would one control the dripping? Thanks!
No, don’t use on end cuts and edges. It will look bad.
We had our deck rebuilt last July. The decking, stairs and sides are composite, and the uprights and deck supports are pressure treated wood. It’s time to stain the wood, and from what I read I see solid stain recommended for vertical surfaces and semi-solid for horizontals. What is recommended? Thank you!
What do you want to stain? The rails are already white and the rest is composite wood and you do not stain that. You do not need to stain the supports or the underside of the deck.
I realize that the white rails and composite do not get stained. I don’t need to stain the supports or the underside, but want to add some color for aesthetics. I do not like the look of naked sticks holding up the deck. : ) Thank you!
I would use a white solid stain then so it blends with the rails. Try the Restore A Deck Solid Stain.
Thank you! Great idea, will consider this.
We didn’t do the right research when we built our upper deck. It started out as a maintence project and turned into a complete tear down and rebuild. We used regular pine, sanded & stained as it was being built with all in one Behr. Less than 2 years later, with mildew, and peeling, we are re-doing. We were advised to use the stripper that matched the stain we used, so used the Behr stipper. Not very helpful & very messy. Doing the research now, I realize I should not have used regular pine, or sanded or stained when being built. We have been sanding this 12×14 deck for hours & hours (with helpers). The spindles are tedious & it is challenging to get to all the nooks and crannys. I am trying to preserve the underneath by not having to sand and restain. I am hoping I will be able to scrub off the stipper than left white from between the floorboards on the underside. The deck gets all afternoon sun. We also added rafters/pergola above which gets the worst UV exposure. I am considering replacing the pergola with cedar or pressure treated wood. If I do, is there any product I can use on it now or do I need to wait until next year to take them all down again and add perhaps a clear marine varnish or a stain?
I want to clarify that the semi transparent stain is better on the floors/top rails vs. semi solid. Is an elastomeric coating an option I should pursue?
I was all set to go with AC semi trans & they have been so helpful to answer questions on the phone & mailed me samples. However, I came across a website that tested many stains over 14 months, & the AC stain was graying considerably. Now I am looking at TWP or Cabot. However, I like the fact I reach an owner when I call, I have actual samples to test the color and the reapplication doesn’t require special products to clean the deck.
I was also set to use an oil stain this time and then I read that the water based stains last longer. The more I research, the more confused I become.
My goal is to make the best of what I have with the longest lived product available.
Answers to your questions;
-No, you cannot top coat with a marine varnish on a deck.
-Use a semi-transparent penetrating stain. Not a elastomeric stain.
New deck installed last fall, allowed to cure through winter and spring, now time to stain. Trying to decide all one semi-transparent vs. a two-tone since the design of the deck would look nice that way. Considering a darker stain on the “frame” and verticals and a lighter stain on the 45 degree pieces. I don’t want to use any solid since both colors will be on the horizontals. Thoughts? Recommendation on brand and color? I plan on cleaning and brightening either way.
If you do not want a solid on the verticals, then do it all one color. Try TWP stains or Armstrong Clark Wood Stains.
I was leaning that way. I think it would look cool (see picture), but I don’t know that it would be worth the trouble or if the different stains would age differently causing touch ups to be done at different times on the different colors.
That’s a composite deck. It would be very hard to maintain a stainged deck like that.
Hi, we’re purchasing a new home in northern VA and the deck is being completed this week. It will get a little sun in the morning and then be shaded the rest of the day. We’ll be following the advice we’ve seen here (waiting 2-3 months and using proper prep, cleaner, brightener). We are interested in possibly doing a two-tone deck; the house is beige with white trim. A couple of questions:
1. We would do the railings and spindles in white but I’m not sure what else. The railing are mounted to the sides, not the top. Our thoughts for the horizontal deck was a darker shade of brown in either semi-solid or semi-transparent.
2. Semi-transparent vs. Semi-solid. Thoughts? Do they hold up equally well?
3. The stairs and supports. I assumed they would be in the darker color but unsure. Basically I’m unsure how to make this look good in two-tone.
Thanks for any input.
Do all verticals in the solid color. This includes railings, outside edges of the deck, risers of steps, framing underneath, etc. Basically, if you are in the yard looking at the deck, you would see the solid color. Use Flood Solid Stains.
For the Horizontals, do all flooring, top of steps, and tops of rails. Use a semi-transparent. Dark Oak by TWP or Rustic Brown by Armstrong Clark.
Posts some pictures when done!
I have stained my deck with Olympic Stain 3 times over the last 20 yrs and loved it. However the last time (last summer) it started to peel off in spots. What can i do to correct this problem before I restain it this year?
Strip or sand it down to the bare wood and start over. FYI, the Olympic has gone through numerous formula changes and is not as good as it used to be.
I installed new deck wood in June this year, it is not Oct 3. Should I wait until next spring to stain or has it been enough time to stain before winter?
You can do it now. Prep first. Deck cleaner and then a wood brightener.
I have a stain that I need stripped off. I did a small section to test it. The salesman said to do 10 ft sections at a time. The question is, do I put the revive on it RIGHT after I am done with each section or do I wait till I get the whole deck done? what is the time frame between stripper and revive.?
Do you mean Brightener? You can neutralize with the brighener after you strip all of the wood.
I have a two tone deck in Massachusetts; my railings have several coats of solid stain which is peeling and mildewy. Chemical strippers do nothing. Floor was painted with Behr deck restore (unfortunately) two years ago and so I am sanding ALL wood bare prior to refinishing.. My question(s):
1)Do I need to do any SPECIAL PREP AFTER SANDING BARE or can I simply apply the finish right away? I want to refinish with a semi solid or semi trans on the deck surface but would love to cover up defects with a more opaque finish, PREFERABLY ONE THAT CAN BE TINTED. The wood is pressure treated pine and is about 20 years old. I can’t seem to find any tintable stains outside of Sherwin-Williams which I do not want to use.
2)Can you RECOMMEND A HIGH QUALITY STAIN WHICH CAN BE TINTED? I cannot use a high VOC product in Massachusetts.
3)IS IT REALLY MISSION CRITICAL TO RESAND AFTER RAIN?Also I have read that if the wood gets wet after sanding that the grain would raise and would have to re-sand. I am using a Metabo paint remover tool followed by a 36-40 grit sandpaper.
1. Tintable semi-trans or semi-solid stains mean they will not be penetrating stains and will dry on top of the wood like a paint, resulting in the potential of peeling. For a true penetrating stain for the floor, it will need to be pre-tinted. We would suggest the Armstrong Clark in a semi-trans or semi-solid for the floors. After the sanding, pressure cleaning and brighten the wood for final prep.
2. See above.
3. Resand after rain? No, you do not have to do that. Rain would actually help to open the grain by “swelling” the wood pores. Raising the grain is a positive, not a negative. it allows the stain to soak in better.
I stained my deck shortly after it was built last summer, with a semi-transparent stain by Sherwin Williams. The stain is peeling & is worn off. I now realize I should have waited for a year before staining it. I plan to strip it & clean it with Restore a Deck product & will be using Armstrong Clark semi-transparent stain. Will it be ok to stain it now, or should I wait another year.
Once prepped, you can stain now.
Best stain for a new deck(8 months old)?
Full sun, southern exposure with a screened in area.
Originally I was thinking of going with white railings and grey deck floor, but may be leaning towards a more “traditional” deck floor color since semi-transparent is the way to go rather than a solid on floor.
You could do a penetrating semi-trans for the floor that is gray? Armstrong Clark Driftwood gray.
What is the easiest method to paint/stain around the bottom of the balusters (where white meets brown)? Use blue tape on that area? Or use an edger?
Tape is best.
Any reviews on Sherwin William Super Deck semi-trans exterior stain
I had a new deck installed one year ago, I used TSP with Bleach and water on my deck and I thought it would turn out good and be ready to stain… I rinsed it very very well but the next day all I had was wood fuzzies… I had to company’s out and they told me I would have to sand the deck to get it even and get rid of the fuzzies… I tried using my had held palm sanding but it did nothing so I took out my belt sander with 80 grit sand paper and that still did not get rid of all the fuzzies… I had a company come out and he used a wood striper on a few spot but we kept getting some kind of residue on the Scotch green pad,
We tried going over the same area a few times with the stripper and it does look a little better but not good enough to use a transparent satin… I was wonder if there is a place I could send the wood to see if there is sometime type of chemical in the wood the is causing me this problem??? I do not want to paint it a solid color.. I talked to lowes who did a great job installing the deck and asked them if they knew where to wood came from.. they said they get most of there wood from Georgia Pacific… Does anyone have any idea where I could take some of the wood to get it tested to see if there is something in it??? just can not get it clean a residue keep coming on the paid everything I used the stripper on it…
There is nothing wrong with the wood. Fuzzies happen when you prep a deck that had been heavily oxidized. See this for more info: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/wood-fuzzies-furring-on-deck/
My cleaner dried before I put the brightener on it. Can I still put the brightener on it?
Yes but wet the deck down first.
In the picture above the railings and the horizontal wood on top of the railings are all white, but I read your comments about the horizontal surfaces peeling with the solid stain. I prefer the horizontal top of the railings to be the same color as the vertical posts, as in the picture, with the floor of the deck a different semi-transparent color. Is there any way to achieve this look or am I stuck staining the top of the railings and the deck floor the same color, with just the posts and railings white?
You can stain the tops of the railings the same color as the rest of the railings. The only downside is that the tops of the railings will need a touch every 2-3 years like the semi-transparent floorboards. The vertical parts of the railings will last much longer before touchup is needed.
We are doing a two tone deck. It used to have a solid stain so we have done the stain stripper, sanded, and are getting ready to do our brightener on the deck itself. we will be doing an oil based more transparent stain on deck. For railing we want to do a solid stain or paint (different color). It is still in good shape but there is some peeling on railings. How should we prep the railings? I am planning to do a gentle sanding remove obvious peeling stain. Do we need to use the cleaner and brightener as well? Or is in necessary to remove every bit of stain as we did for the deck?
Pep by pressure washing to remove any peeling solid stain. Just remove what is loose and use a solid over top.
I'm a novice when it comes to any sort of home repairs and maintenance. We bought a house 2 years ago and are just getting to the decks now. The decks are very old, gray, split, and weathered. We live in MA and one of the decks is in direct sunlight most of the day. The horizontal are free of obvious stains, but the railings have some remnants of red on them. I'm not sure if semi-solid or solid stain. My plan is to pressure wash and sand to get rid of it all. I have been told by some people that since it was a dark color to begin with, I need to stick with a dark color. I want to use a solid white stain on the railings and a red semi-solid or transparent on the horizontal. Will this work if I get rid of all previous stains?
If you remove all the stain then you can go any color and type of stain for the floors. You do not have to remove all for the railings that will be painted white, but you may need a few coats to cover the red. Use Flood solid stains for the rails and Armstrong Clark in Sierra Redwood or Sequoia for the flooring.
I don't want to paint the railings as paint chips, I want to stain them. I thought I needed to remove all prior stains before applying new stain so it adheres to the wood. I know Behr makes a solid white stain. Do you not recommend this?
We do nit suggest any Behr products. If you want a solid color deck stain, try the Flood or Cabot versions.
I have an old redwood deck that has not been maintained. We are getting it professionally restained. The contractor is pushing for using a dark colored, acrylic solid stain (SW Woodscapes) on the verticals and light colored semi-transparent on the floor. The verticals are simple rough cut 1x1s – not round smooth spindles. I am leaning towards doing Defy Extreme semi-transparent on the floor and rails. The advantage of solid stain would be better coverage and longer initial wear. The disadvantage is peeling down the road and more difficulty redoing it once it has peeled. Which would be the least future maintenance of the verticals: restaining with semi-transparent every 2-3 years or having to scrape, sand and redo the solid stain every 5?
Solid stain will work much better on verticals. It will last 3-4 years with minor touchups. You will not need to scraps and sand to reply the solid. Just clean and reapply.
Color opinion needed! Almost ready to order my stain. I am looking at the AC Oxford brown for the flooring and really don't want to commit to white railing so am thinking about the semi trans cedar. I need to keep the flooring semi solid for UV coverage and there is some newer replaced wood with the much older. Need some idea on the color for the railings to go with Oxford brown. I am just too afraid to commit to the white railings and a little scared to commit to a total Oxford brown deck. It's traditional style and square with a bump out on one end. Opinions!
I do not know if that will look good that way. I would do either all Oxford or do a true two toned deck by using a solid for the railings. Vertical will not peel with a solid or will take many many years to do so. They will peel though on horizontals. Do you just the verticals in the solid. ie. railing spindles, posts, etc. Do the horizontals in the Oxford/ ie. Floors, tops of rails, etc
I have been trying to find a picture of a total Oxford brown deck and can't find one. I've googled images etc. and just can't find an image of one to get an idea of what it would look like. This is my summer project and I don't want to screw it up! I originally saw a dark brown composite deck that had all the lighting and it was really my inspiration image however my deck is PT so I don't know if it will produce the same effect. Does anyone out there have a picture of a total oxford brown deck?! AC is a little limited on the semi solid colors and the others are too red for me and the mountain cedar looks kind of muddy. Have a lot of nails on the flooring too along with intense sun so the semi-solid is what I need.
I am wanting to do the two tone project on my deck. What oil based product do you recommend for the white on the rails, or do I need to use an oil base? I am assuming the oil base will handle the summer/winter elements in NW Missouri better than a latex base product.
For the solid white on the rails you could use either the Flood or Cabot Solid stains. You do not need an oil based stain.
Are they latex based then? Do I prep the rails the same as deck floor for painting with solid stain?
Water based or oil based for the solid stain. Prep all wood the same.
I am currently redoing an old pine deck in Baltimore, Maryland that is 800 square feet. I am stripping the deck floor and am trying to find out the best way to do the verticals. The railing has a solid stain on it that needs to be redone. My question is what preparation do I need to do to the verticals need before I stain them or paint them. I would like to strip all of them but it would take too long. Also, does it matter if I use stain or paint?
You will have to do another solid stain. Prep by removing dirt and and peeling stain before reapplying another solid.