Comparing Deck Stain Types in 2020 4.5/5 (18)

by Deck Stain Help

Updated February 2020

Comparing Deck Stain Types in 2020

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, 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 like 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 the 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 it does alter the appearance of the wood. Deck stains are simply deck sealers that are tinted or toned. These stains are usually the 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.

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kenny crockett
kenny crockett

top semi transparent stain for UV protection

Jay
Jay

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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Terri
Terri

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

Sarah
Sarah

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

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

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

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

Juanita McCracken
Juanita McCracken

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

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

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.

Bob
Bob

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.

I am thinking that I would pressure wash with deck cleaner then use a brightner. Would a semi transparent like Armstrong Clark work for this or would you suggest something else?

colleen igo
colleen igo

Hi – I am ready to stain/paint my deck. i have three deck colors – one is 10 years old (faded light stain), another section is a year old(natural) and the final section is 2 years old (light stain). the stains vary. I did gently powerwash and used deck cleaner – so even among the 3 sections there is definately inconsistency in the color.

What is my best option – do i use a dark semi stain or just use the deck paint. i have been reading about the paint peeling etc…i dread the thought of putting this time and effort and $$ … and then having it peel or chip in two years. What is your professional opinion. Also, can you recommend a brand…i looked at lowes, behr and sherwin…any ideas would be soooo appreciated.

Keven
Keven

I live just north of Dallas, Texas. We're just finishing up the construction of a new deck and haven't been impressed with several of the reviews regarding the solid finish resto stains. When it's time to apply, I'll be working with new decking (dried) and approximately 578 sq. ft. What would you recommend? Keep in mind, the summers down here are very hot and humid, and we're in tornado alley so the spring weather patters can be brutal sometimes.

ron bianco
ron bianco

I have an older deck, that was painted .If I strip it completely and I use a quality deck stain like Armstrong Clark or Deft Extreme. What's the best way to get the surface prepared

PSLCB
PSLCB

I have applied Olympic rescue it on my 500 sq feet deck last year, consistently with most comments about this product, most of it peeled off in less than a year. I have stripped and bleached my deck – it made a horrible mess as there was product chips everywhere – The thing is only 95% of it came off> i am sanding the rest off and I am just wondering if I should go with some type of would stain now and if so what product would be best to use. I am in Ontario, Canada so you can imagine the weather conditions, cold winters, hot summers.. In addtion, my deck is about 10 years old, it has been neglected in the past so the wood is not at its best, hence my previous choice. What do you think is my best bet?? Thanks so much – Excellent site

Jennifer
Jennifer

I had sandblasted my large (3000 sq) pool deck about 5 years ago since it had a few layers of solid stain that needed to be removed, due to peeling, and I like the natural look. After the sand blasting, we have used a water based transparent sealer annually to protect from water damage. It looks amazing, but the problem is that every transparent sealer we have ever used annually only protests for approximately 1 year, we live in NE and it is around a pool so it is exposed to water frequently. I like the weathered blonde look, so I am hesitant to use a semi-transparent or solid sealer. But, I have been told that going to a semi-solid or solid will stand the test of time over the transparent sealers we have always used to coat deck. So, Is there a transparent sealer that lasts at least for 3 years? or would a semi-transparent or solid sealer be what I should use if maintenance is my biggest issue? Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated?

sue
sue

I'm restaining an existing deck. It's had coats of semi-transparent stain over the years, none of which held up well. I used Cabot stripper and brightener per their directions but I still have some old stain left on the wood. So rather than sanding the entire deck, I'm thinking of a semi-solid stain. However, I've only found that Cabot has that type. Unhappy with how their stripper/brightener worked, I'm wondering if there are other companies that carry a semi-solid stain. Can you comment specifically on who else might carry that type, and whether it would work in my situation? I would prefer not to go to a full solid stain/coating. Thanks~

renee
renee

I have a 25 year old pressured treated wood deck (3000 sq ft) I would like to know what you recommend putting on it. I have tried the semi solid stains but the wood does not look go when I have tested it. I am looking at solid colors such as brands like SWF Flood, Olympic Max, & Behr Weatherproofing Solid. Which one would be best out of those choices. thanks

Moose
Moose

I have a floating boat dock that is 60 years old and has a gray paint on it. It is peeling and I have replaced about 10% of the wood with new pressure treated pine. What is the best coating that I can use to get it to look good again?

Phillip
Phillip

Might want to go with a semi solid oil based stain. It will cover up some of the badly weathered wood grain but remember Preparation is key!!! Use a wood brightener after you have sanded the horizontal surfaces. You must sand this deck to get the weathered wood fibers off. Then spray wood brightener on it then lightly pressure wash it off. If you do all this the stain will most likely preform flawlessly. Lots of people want to take shortcuts then complain when product doesn't perform like it should. You wouldn't build a new house on a really old failing foundation ?

Bob
Bob

We have a deck that's probably about 5 years old (we moved in about 2 years ago, so I'm guessing). It's never been stained and so it has some weather damage (fading, cracking, etc). Would we be ok just using a pressure washer with deck cleaner followed by a stain? I was originally looking at some of the deck restore products until I read your article on them. I'm just now starting to learn more about deck restoration.

tom santry
tom santry

Your site doesn't show a review or comments on Flood SWF Solid wood stain. After reading all the terrible reviews of other popular brands such as Olympic Recue It, Rustoleums Restore & the Behr brand, I'm really worried about the longevity of any of them. The peeling & fading that so many people have faced only one year after application frightens me. I used Restore on a small deck last Fall, but already it's peeling. I've been unable to find any reviews for the Flood SWF Solid.
Can you enlighten me on this product or do you recommend not using these types of products at all?

John
John

We are installing a 1300 sq. ft. multi leved deck with 2×6 cedar mounted on pressure treated framing, in Vernon BC. Canada. Summers are hot, 80 to100 decrees F. Low humidity. Winter can get down to 5 to 15 below 0 F. Some snow and rain. There is so much conflicting information it's hard to know what the best product is to use to protest the deck. We have been told it's best to stain all sides before installation and insure butt cuts have preservative applied. What would you suggest in our situation?
We also want a below deck fastener system so the top surface is not punctured. Do you have any recommendations?
Thanks in advance
John