Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stain Reviews 2024  4.8/5 (26)

This post was updated on May 13, 2024

Hi, I am Scott Paul, a leading exterior restoration contractor and business owner with over 30 years of experience in exterior wood staining. My reviews and help tips are based on my history as a wood restoration contractor and actual hands-on testing, all designed to present you with the top product choices. See here for more info about me.

My Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stains

Whether you’re getting ready to redo an existing deck or looking for the perfect semi-transparent stain for a new addition to your home, choosing the right product can significantly impact your stain’s durability and long-term appeal. In this guide, I compare the best semi-transparent deck stains of 2024 and answer some commonly asked questions to help you select the right stain for your needs.

Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stain

Semi-Transparent Penetrating Deck Stain

I have been using deck stains for 30+ years and reviewing them on DeckStainHelp.com since 2012. My favorite stains have always been penetrating semi-transparent stains, as they last for 2-3 years, do not peel, and can be cleaned and reapplied without the heavy lifting of power sanding and insurance scrapping.

My 5 Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stains are

  • Restore-A-Deck Semi-Transparent Stain: This simple-to-apply, mildew-resistant product makes staining projects a breeze — it can be applied to damp wood and allows for easy, water-only cleaning.
  • TWP 100 Series Semi-Transparent Stain: The oil-based, semi-transparent stain is easy to apply, allows for quick cleaning and re-coating, and comes in 10 colors to suit any home or aesthetic.
  • Armstrong Clark Semi-Transparent Stain: Praised for its low-effort application and rich tones, this semi-transparent stain offers significant mold and mildew resistance, is easy to clean, and can be reapplied as needed.
  • TWP 1500 Series Semi-Transparent Stain: Unlike TWP’s 100 Series stain, the TWP 1500 Series Stain is available in all 50 states and features an EPA-registered wood preservative.
  • Defy Extreme Semi-Transparent Stain: This mildew-resistant stain is also available throughout the country and leverages nano-technology to ensure a rich, deeply penetrating color.

See below for more information on each brand.

Penetrating semi-transparent deck stains allow the wood grain to show, and reapplying is much easier down the road if they truly soak into the wood grain. One issue is that not all semi-transparent stains are penetrating but rather film on top of the wood like paint. Stains that film on top of the wood will tend to peel and will be harder to re-coat or remove down the road.

Note: Our Top 5 semi-transparent stains are all penetrating when prepped and applied properly. Do not skip the prep steps or over-apply, as this will lead to the deck stain’s failure much faster!

1. Restore-A-Deck – Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stain and Sealer

Restore A Deck Wood Stain Review

  • My favorite semi-transparent deck stain to apply the same day as prep. It saves us time and money!

Where To Find: Restore-A-Deck Semi-Transparent Stain
Pros: Damp Wood Application allows for same-day deck prep and stain application. Penetrating, semi-transparent water-based product. Easy water clean-up. Allowed in all 50 States and Canada. Excellent mildew resistance. Able to clean and recoat as needed for maintenance.
Cons: Only 5 colors.
Consumer Star Ratings:   4.6/5 (50)
My DeckStainHelp.com Rating (On a Scale of 1-10): 8.625
See My Review Article Here: Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain Review

How To Restore Your Deck All in One Day – DeckStainHelp.com

2. TWP 100 Pro Series – Best Oil-Based Semi-Transparent Deck Stain

  • TWP Stain ReviewsMy favorite all-time semi-transparent deck stain. My company has used this on 1000s of decks until Michigan changed their VOC laws in 2023

Where To Find: TWP 100 Pro Series
Pros: Penetrating semi-transparent oil-based stain. Full-curing mildew resistant stain. 10 semi-transparent colors. Easy to apply. Excellent mildew resistance. Clean and re-coat as needed for maintenance with their Gemini Restore kit prep.
Cons: Only Available in 35 States. See TWP 1500 for the Low VOC version.
Consumer Star Ratings:   4.5/5 (41)
My DeckStainHelp.com Rating (On a Scale of 1-10): 8.69
See My Review Article Here: TWP 100 Series Review

3. Armstrong Clark – Easiest to Apply Semi-Transparent Deck Stain

Armstrong Clark Wood Stain Rating

  • My favorite easiest-to-apply semi-transparent deck stain. I use this on 50-100 decks every year.

Where To Find: Armstrong Clark Semi-Solid
Pros: Very easy to apply. Paraffin and Curing Oil Blend. Full Curing Stain. Allowed in all 50 States and Canada. Able to clean and re-coat as needed for maintenance.
Cons: It can take a few days or longer to cure fully.
Consumer Star Ratings:   4.4/5 (62)
My DeckStainHelp.com Rating (On a Scale of 1-10): 8.5
See My Review Article Here: Armstrong Clark Stain Review

4. TWP 1500 Series – Best VOC Compliant Semi-Transparent Deck Stain

TWP 1500 Series Rating

  • My current go-to semi-transparent deck stain for Michigan.

Where To Find: TWP 1500 Series
Pros: Complaint in all 50 States. Penetrating Semi-Transparent Oil-Based Product. Full Curing EPA Registered Stain. EPA Registered Wood Preservative. Able to clean and re-coat as needed for maintenance.
Cons: Takes longer to dry than the TWP 100 Series
Consumer Star Ratings:   4.6/5 (21)
My DeckStainHelp.com Rating (On a Scale of 1-10): 8.5
See My Review Article Here: TWP 1500 Series Review

5. Defy Extreme Stain – Best Water-Based Semi-Transparent Deck Stain

  • Defy Extreme Stain ReviewMy second favorite water-based penetrating wood and deck stain.

Where To Find: Defy Extreme Semi-Transparent Stain
Pros: Penetrating semi-transparent water-Based stain. Nano-technology for deep penetrating. Zinc oxide prevents mildew better than most products. Allowed in all 50 States and Canada. Able to clean and re-coat as needed for maintenance.
Cons: It can be harder to apply than other brands.
Consumer Star Ratings:   4.1/5 (55)
My DeckStainHelp.com Rating (On a Scale of 1-10): 8.47
See My Review Article Here: Defy Extreme Stain Review

My Semi-Transparent Deck Stain FAQs

Still curious about the best semi-transparent deck stains for pressure-treated wood? Read on for a few answers to frequently asked questions.

How does the Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Deck Stain stack up?

Despite its popularity, I found that the BEHR PREMIUM® Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Stain & Sealer indicated that it may not be the best option for those searching for a long-lasting, easy-to-apply stain. You can read more in my review of the BEHR PREMIUM® semi-transparent stain.

Do you recommend penetrating semi-transparent deck stains?

As mentioned above, my favorite stains have always been semi-transparent deck stains. Instead of sitting on top of your wood deck like a solid stain, penetrating stains soak into the wood’s pores, typically resulting in greater longevity and enhanced protection. Learn more about why I recommend penetrating, semi-transparent deck stains in this guide.

Did you review the Sherwin Williams SuperDeck Semi-Transparent Deck Stain?

Yes! You can find my review of the Sherwin Williams SuperDeck semi-transparent stain here.

What do you think about the Valspar One-Coat Semi-Transparent Exterior Deck Stain?

In our opinion, the Valspar One-Coat Semi-Transparent Stain & Sealer leaves a lot to be desired. The application was splotchy at best, with significant UV damage and wear and tear over time. Read more of my thoughts in my review of the Valspar One-Coat Semi-Transparent Stain & Sealer.

What’s the Best Applicator for a Semi-Transparent Deck Stain?

The best way to apply a deck stain can vary depending on the product used, but we typically recommend stain brushes, stain flooring brushes, deck sprayers, or stain pads.

Semi-Transparent Deck Stain Photos

My Deck Stain Reviews Ratings Video


Do you have questions as to what brand of semi-transparent stain you should use on your deck?

Please ask the following questions below, I am here to help!

Please Rate This. You may also post comments or ask questions below.

author avatar
Scott Paul ~ Restoring Wood & Decks Since 1993 Owner
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.

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Jon
Jon
5 days ago

Should I Brighten IPE again after sanding and rain? I scrubbed and power washed our 25 year old IPE deck with oxygen bleach and then brightened with oxalic acid. It still had a lot of scratches, planter and furniture marks so I hand orbital sanded it with 60 grit paper. Now it has rained every other day for a week and I’m waiting to re-coat with Defy Extreme Cedar Tone that I had applied 2 years ago. Does the IPE need to be re-brightened after the sanding, and what is your advice about re-brightening IPE after rain? Thanks!

Marion Schaefer
Marion Schaefer
5 days ago

Two part question: 1. best product for porch where sun exposed part gets so much more sun and tends to darken and wear off 2. is it necessary to sand or strip completely down before converting from BM Arborcoat semi

Kelly
Kelly
1 month ago

We have a deck that was treated with Permaseal a few years ago, now we want to stain, which stain would work best on this treated deck?

James
James
1 month ago

Hi Scott, for untreated doug fir decking that has already weathered for 4 months, would you go with Restore-A-Deck or TWP 1500? Restore-A-Deck looks appealing for ease of application and cost, but TWP seems like it might help the wood resist cracking better and maybe last longer between coats. This is in Northern California with lots of sunshine and hot summers. Thanks!

Krystal Watson
Krystal Watson
6 months ago

I like the 1st picture on this post can you tell me the color used on the floor I am looking to stain this massive porch. And I have cedar post columns

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Mark
Mark
7 months ago

We have a new screen room. The new decking is kiln dried. What might be your recommendations in a water based stain or do you recommend an oil based stain for new kiln dried wood? Thank you for your time and consideration, Mark

Ellen
Ellen
8 months ago

Hi Scott,
I’m looking for help from a deck expert so I don’t find myself repeating prep again in a couple years. We’ve just sanded off about 3 layers of paint(?) from our deck surface after buying a new home. We’d prefer a semi-transparent stain because I love the look of wood grain but am not sure if the wood is in good enough condition for it. So far we’ve sanded the deck and used a deck cleaner with a power washer.

Based on the first 2 pics, do you think that’d be possible? Do we have to do a solid stain or paint? What further steps/brands do you recommend? Just an FYI, we have had to replace a few boards that were splintering and we live in the northern Midwest, so the deck is exposed to all seasons. I can’t say for sure the type of wood they used or how old the deck is. The 3rd pic is our goal for the deck.

I truly appreciate any & all advice!

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Tina Inman
Tina Inman
8 months ago

I live in Allegheny NY. There is more clay here then dirt. I have to stain my deck every year no matter what I use, it only looks good the first 4 to 6 weeks because the clay stains the stain!. Do you know of a product I can stain my deck with that the clay won’t stain???

Tyler Huffman
Tyler Huffman
8 months ago

Hello! I have 2 quick questions:

We want to strip and stain our deck two tone brown. Our deck currently has solid stain railings and an untreated floor. (Photos 1 & 2 are our deck)

Q1) Can you please let me know if the following is the correct process and recommended the best products?

1. Stripper on railings
2. Cleaner on floor
3. Power wash both
4. Sand both
5. Brighten both
6. Stain

Q2) We want to do 2 tone brown, can you recommend some stain colors to get a similar effect as photo 3 below? I think our deck is just standard lumber, maybe Douglas Fir.

Thanks!!

Tyler

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Tyler Huffman
Tyler Huffman
8 months ago

I actually posted a better/more updated question in the forum that you’ll probably see soon.

Sorry Scott, this comment disappeared after I posted it, so I thought it was deleted!

The forum post is the best one to read.

Tyler Huffman
Tyler Huffman
8 months ago

A few other questions if you have time, Scott. Thanks!

1) Can I sand if I want to or will it do more harm than good? (the railings are pretty beat up and need sanded)

2) Is there a good stripper for solid stain, cleaner for the floor, and brightener that you recommend that isn’t Restore-a-deck? I plan on doing it this weekend and I can’t get RAD delivered in time.

3) I did a little more research about color and we came up with the 2 color schemes below, do you have stain recommendations that might help match both themes? (Not RAD, because I can’t get it in in time. Photo 1 – Browns. Photo 2 = Sea Salt/Driftwood and Dark grey/black

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Kristy
Kristy
10 months ago

I would like to use Defy deck stain because we live in a wet forested area of NC and it is rated a 10 for mold. I have read that an oil base will last longer. Is the Defy Ultra as good as the Defy Extreme? Thanks

Brittney
Brittney
11 months ago

Hi, questions on re-staining a cedar deck. The first time it was not applied very well and it was cheap. We want to do it right this time. Prior to finding your website and watching videos, we have cleaned & pressure washed the deck and also applied Pittsburgh wood stripper. We are sanding now any rough areas and planned on finishing with Pittsburgh deck refresh.
I like the natural color of the wood.
1. What would you recommend with our treatment that we have done already?
2.Would you recommend finishing with the deck refresh treatment or a different product (something available in store) TWP 100 Pro Series or 1500 Series. Or something completely different?
3. Any comments on ProLuxe brand?

Brittney
Brittney
11 months ago

After all the cleaning listed above in addition to brighter wash

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chris
chris
11 months ago

Hi, do you have any advice for outdoor wood furniture? We are in CA, so full sun and I am tired of having to re-sand the table and chairs each season or every other. I am pretty sure I used a marine spar top coat last year (but can’t remember the stain I used) and it is peeling so need to start again and don’t want to make the same mistake. I would love to just use like a deck stain and keep topping up the color once its needs it (like the deck) but know this would ruin clothes as would take too long to cure but any experience with something for wood furniture that acts the same way and wouldn’t have to be sanded in a year or two? thx p.s. for the decks I usually use ready seal and am pretty happy with it.

Chris
Chris
11 months ago

Thx, any advice on wood furniture staining? (The ready seal I used on the deck but need something with good longevity for the furniture that I don’t need to keep sanding every year)

sheri kaufman
sheri kaufman
1 year ago

Hello, We are in west Washington state (mostly wet, overcast with short hot summers) and we installed a 1500 sq.ft. pressure treated wood deck in august 2020. We haven’t applied any seal or stain. The pressure treatment is fading and much of the wood is showing cracking/splitting along the grain. What steps are needed at this point to stain (semi transparent) and seal? Will we need to sand or can we proceed to clean, stain and seal? Thank you

Brian McInnis
Brian McInnis
1 year ago

Hello, I previously stained my deck with Defy “extreme” semi transparent 3 years ago. It’s a good stain but I saw their new Ultra and had just bought some of it. I also bought RAD cleaner/brightener. I’ve since noticed on deck restore sites like yours that the Defy Ultra is not being recommended and I’m still within the return window. Would you recommend changing to the Defy extreme or switching to the Restore a Deck stain? It’s pressure treated wood a few years old. Thanks

Richard Z.
Richard Z.
1 year ago

We are going to have a new cedar fence installed and want to apply the best semi transparent stain in a color that is more brown than redwood color. What brand of stain would you recommend? We want the longest lasting color, minimal greying and as much water repellent properties as possible.

Last edited 1 year ago by Richard Z.
Bill L.
Bill L.
1 year ago

What is best for Redwood flooring on porch that is covered. Is being sanded and prepped for finish

Tara Buhr
Tara Buhr
1 year ago

I would love to hear your views on the defy extreme vs. the defy ultra (satin sheen). I like the look of the ultra, but I see that the defy extreme is the best. I have a deck that is almost ready to stain in Oregon. Want to use Defy 100%

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 year ago

I appreciate the post. I’m about to stain decks at a beach home in Florida. In the past, we’ve just done a couple of coats of Thompsons (no need to make fun of me…I know that was stupid), but now we’re looking to replace it with a semi-transparent that will last longer. I don’t know what (or if) the previous homeowner used on the decks, but they are 15 years old and in pretty good shape (we’ve replaced a couple of boards).

Should we go with Restore a Deck or the TWP100? I want it to last as long as possible.

Chris
Chris
1 year ago

I am restoring an outside and an inside deck in central western Maine.
There was nothing done to these decks in about 20 years. They are pressure treated wood. The outside deck is in tough condition, the inside (screened) porch is in fair to good condition. I’m currently cleaning the outside entry deck with a 50/50 mix of simple green / water. After scrubbing and scraping. Whatever preservative was used is long gone! I may sand the outside deck to insure I have a good surface before coating.
I’m looking at using the TWP 1500. Is there a better choice?

Chris
Chris
1 year ago

Thanks, I still have a fair amount of scraping of the surface to do. It will look so much better when done.
This is the western mountains of Maine.
How late in the season can I treat it?
I obviously need to get down to clear wood and let it dry.
What is my minimum night time temperature and for (approximately) how many days of drying time?

Joe Jacobsohn
Joe Jacobsohn
1 year ago

We had a deck built onto our porch last summer, I am currently sanding the paint from the old porch and want to stain all of it. I might have waited too long, as the new deck wood is starting to turn an ash gray and black mold spots are starting to appear. My questions are: 1, how can I get the paint out from in between the boards on the old porch? See attached photo. 2, will pressure washing the newer part of the deck be enough before staining? 3, I love that redwood semi transparent water based. Will that be a good choice or should I be looking at oil based? One thing I read says water based is better, the next says oil based. I am very confused about which I should use and why.

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Joe Jacobsohn
Joe Jacobsohn
1 year ago

Thank you for the help.

Anna
Anna
1 year ago

Hello! I’m hoping you can give me some feedback. I had a deck stained a few weeks before these pictures were taken. All the marks that are visible in the pix do not come off with sweeping or washing. I also tried Simple Green with a deck brush, and when it dries, all these marks return.
Can you guess why this happened or what it is? I appreciate your best educated guess(es)! Thanks!

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Anna
Anna
1 year ago

Hi! Thank you so much! I assume “over-applied” means too much was put on? Removing is done by sanding, right? (Sorry to be such a novice). What’s the best brand you’d recommend for a deck that is (1) exposed to the elements/uncovered, and (2) has soil around it with clay in it (which I would hope wouldn’t matter, but this is the excuse the worker who stained my deck is giving me –he’s blaming it on the clay content of the soil that then sticks to the deck). I am looking for something that won’t show dirt (lol) because this is a vacation rental. In other words, I’m less concerned about color/asthetic than I am about it being low-maintenance and easy to clean so it looks normal.

Robert
Robert
1 year ago

Hi Scott, thanks for all the information that you share! I would like to buy a prebuilt studio built in WA state, and install it in my backyard in LA. It has a douglas fir wood siding, and I would like that the shop paints it with a semi transparent wood stain that could last 2-3 years before re-applying a maintenance coat. Which one would you recommend? It will get a lot of sun. FYI: a neighbor installed a similar product and I see that the wood shrank and you can see unpainted wood.(please see picture attached).

He used Olympic Elite Solid.

Thank you!!

PS: The siding is 1×6 T&G Douglas Fir.

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Robert
Robert
1 year ago

Thank you. Actually, it’s not a prestain. It would be the ultimate exterior finishing…
After reading the link you shared, I think I should wait at least 2-3 months before staining the wood.

Sylla McClellan
Sylla McClellan
1 year ago

Hello! I just had my porch replaced and now I need to treat the bare wood. The porch has a little protection from rain, but is west facing so gets lots of sun. Ideally, I only want a very light stain to enhance the wood color. Recommendations? Thanks! Your site is very informative!

Scott Kirkpatrick
Scott Kirkpatrick
1 year ago

Your recommendation please as to best product for interior bathroom wall. Cedar veneer T&G, Rainier Plank from Defiance, Gig Harbor WA.
Thank you.

Greg
Greg
1 year ago

We are removing Behr semi transparent deck stain from a large deck. It never held up well, and peels off even sticks to your feet.We have used Behr stripping and brightening products to remove the stain. Can we use another brand semi transparent stain, Defy, for example? It is pressure treated

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