Comparing Deck Stain Types in 2024  4.6/5 (21)

This post was updated on May 1, 2024

Comparing Deck Stain Types in 2024

At Deckstainhelp.com, we take pride in the fact that we are your trusted go-to site for all things exterior wood and deck restoration-related. In this updated article for the 2024 year, we outline the difference between deck sealers, deck stains, and deck paints, and where to put them to use. As always, we appreciate your input, so feel free to leave a comment below and pictures of your completed projects if you have them.


Deck Stains vs. Deck Sealers vs. Deck Paints

It is a common concern of deck owners whether to use a deck stain, deck sealer, or deck paint. There really is not an exact definition of any deck stain, sealer, or paint and many professionals use the terms loosely when speaking about deck coatings in general. But some clarification can definitely help. We will describe which each one is most commonly described as.

Deck Sealers

A sealer usually does not alter the appearance of the surface. It is applied to protect the surface from such things as foot traffic, water damage, mold, and mildew. Therefore, deck sealers are most commonly any clear, transparent, or translucent coating that protects the wood without altering its appearance.

Deck sealers are popular for those wanting the most natural wood look you can get while still providing water protection. Most deck sealers have excellent water repellency properties but lack of shielding against harmful UV rays causing the wood to turn gray over time.

Deck Stains

A deck stain is similar to a sealer in the sense that it provides weather protection but does alter the appearance of the wood. Deck stains are simply deck sealers that are tinted or toned. These stains are usually semi-transparent and semi-solid deck stains. They come in a wide variety of tints but most commonly are available in natural tones, browns, and reds. A tinted deck stain allows the wood grain to show through and can really enhance the wood’s beauty. Because of the added pigment, deck stains do provide some UV protection, unlike clear deck sealers.

Deck Paints or Solid Color Deck Stains

Deck paint usually refers to a heavily pigmented solid-colored deck stain. These are also known as solid deck stains. Like paint, they completely mask or hide the surface. Solid stains or deck paints are film-forming and do not penetrate the wood. They form a film on the surface and are a 100% representation of their color as no wood shows through at all. Deck paints provide the most UV protection but are also prone to cracking and peeling especially on horizontal surfaces.

Knowing the difference between deck sealers, deck stains, and deck paints can certainly clear up some confusion. It can also help you make the choice as to which product is best for your wood deck.

Question on the Different Stains Types and Which to Use? Ask Below

The Different Types of Deck Stains Video – DeckStainHelp.com

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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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kenny crockett
kenny crockett
5 years ago

top semi transparent stain for UV protection

Jay
Jay
5 years ago

I recently bought a house with cedar shake siding and I’m unsure about which treatment would work best. I have been racking my brain, trying to do all the research I can to make an informed decision and I feel like the more people I talk to and the more articles I read, the more lost I become. I stumbled upon on your website (even though you’re talking about deck stain, I still feel like this might be relevant to my project because the product would still be some sort of wood stain) and I thought you guys would probably know what to do with older cedar shake siding. I really like the natural cedar look but these shakes are 30 years old- the color all around is not uniform anymore (some areas throughout the siding are lighter/some darker/some bleached out) and I am looking for a finish that will protect the shakes the most for the longest amount of time and the house would match a uniform color. As a result, I feel like a compromise to all of these characteristics would be staining the siding with a semi-solid or solid body stain. I feel like this would take care of the unevenness so the shakes will end up uniform and the coating would last longest so I wouldn’t have to coat it every couple years. I would like to make the siding look as close to that natural warm new cedar color as possible without going the transparent/ semi transparent route due to frequent treatment. Am I understanding this correctly? Would someone be so kind to recommend what type of stain you would go with and what route you think would be best for this particular home? I am lost and unsure. I would like to make the right choice so my family and I can enjoy our new home for years to come, can someone please help? Thank you for your time.

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Jay
Jay
5 years ago

Thank you for the reply. Would the Restore A Deck product (or TWP or Armstrong Clark) just go on after using cedar wash and a good pressure wash after? In other words- 1.) cedar wash 2.) pressure wash 3.) use one of the three products you recommended?

Terri
Terri
5 years ago

Which is better Behr semi-transparent stain or Olympia Elite transparent stain

Sarah
Sarah
6 years ago

I am trying to build a wooden dance floor, on my roof. for a dance floor, I don’t care so much about the visual look as much as the texture- it must be smooth so that a dancer can roll or slide with bare skin on it. Its imperative that the stain/varnish/seal not make the surface too sticky or too oily. And as it is outdoors, it must be waterproof enough to withstand at least 2 seasons of wear and tear. I will cover with a tarp in the winter/heavy rain, but it will remain outside all year.

I have birch-ply from home depot, the nicest stuff they had. Now I want to know whats the best waterproofing product. I bought Thompsons WaterSeal, but I’m no longer sure it was the best option.

This is my first project so I’m not familiar with spar urethanes vs stains vs sealers. I’m happy with the natural color and texture of the wood i bought- i just want to preserve it against the elements in new york.

Morris Waintraub
Morris Waintraub
6 years ago

We are just in the process of finishing a brand new deck and fence in red cedar. We love the look but know that we need to protect the wood, what penetrating semi transparent stain would you recommend? What application process should we follow? We live in Toront, Ontario, Canada
Thank you

Diane Bailey
Diane Bailey
6 years ago

I have a deck that is built with pressure treated wood, and is 2 years old. I am ready to stain. It is not dirty. Would like wood to show through so do not want it painted. Which kind is best. So many different ones out there getting confused. Is Cabot better than Behr?

peter
peter
6 years ago

Can I add water seal for added protection on top of a newly deck stain

Juanita McCracken
Juanita McCracken
7 years ago

My hoa will only allow deckscapes by Sherman williams. Mine has gone away except on the Shadyside of the deck where it peeled. I know it is one of the worst paints for a deck. Do I have to sand it down or can I just rough it up so it might adhere. It is a futile task and I want to do it as cheaply and easily as I can.

DOug
DOug
8 years ago

What is the best solid color stain for my railing? I have 20 – 12 foot long sections of round wood railings on my wood log home decking. It is extremely labor intensive, sanding with multiple different sanders: orbital, belt, vibrating…etc. to get down to the wood. There is extreme water stains and using any type of cleanser is not an option for a few reasons: height of deck (12'), area below protection, wind…other. I've decided it would take months to accomplish preparation via sanding and changed my mind to prepping for "SOLID" color coating on the railing.

Bob
Bob
8 years ago

I am looking to re-stain 40 8×10" decks that currently have a solid stain on them. Most do not look in very bad shape. I do not know if it was an oil based or latex used on them before. I can't imagine having to sand them down to bare wood before re-staining, not sure how one would get all the stain off between deck boards. I would imagine I will need to stay with a solid stain and close to the same color. This is in Minnesota.

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