Deck Stain or Clear Deck Sealer 5/5 (21)

by Deck Stain Help

Updated February 2020

Deck Stain versus Clear Deck Sealer

Here at DeckStainHelp.com, we are proud of the fact that we are the Internet’s number one reference for your deck stain questions, opinions, and reviews. In this updated article for 2020, we outline the differences between deck stains and clear deck sealers. Clear deck sealers continue to be an option for protecting your wood deck from water damage, but unfortunately, do not provide any protection against UV rays and graying/wood darkening. We would like to hear what you think, so feel free to leave a comment below with pictures of your projects if you have them.


Should you use a Deck Stain or Clear Deck Sealer?

To enhance the appearance of a wood deck and protect it from the elements the wood need to be treated with a deck stain or sealer. Both deck stains and deck sealers protect against moisture and water damage but there are some differences between the two.

Wood and Deck Stains

A wood deck stain locks out moisture, which can cause board warping, cracking, splintering, mold, mildew, and wood rot. In addition, deck stains protect against sun damage, which can lead to wood graying and board cracking. Deck stains are normally semi-transparent stains that have color or toner added to them. This tone enhances the wood while allowing the natural wood grain to show through.

The extra pigment in the toner is what gives the wood adequate sun protection. Most commonly, deck stains come in Natural, Cedar, Redwood, and Brownish tones. The final appearance will depend on the type and condition of the wood deck since the stain is usually semi-transparent.

Deck Stains come in different transparencies. Most common and best are the semi-transparent for great penetration and UV protection. They also come in transparent (light pigment), semi-solid (heavier pigment) and solid color stains.

Clear Wood and Deck Sealers

Deck sealers also give wood protection against moisture. Sealers are clear and do not have any pigment in them. This leaves the wood in its natural state while giving it the ability to repel water. The wood deck can look so natural that it is hard to tell if there is a sealer present at all until it rains and the water noticeable beads up and doesn’t penetrate the wood.

The lack of pigment, however, leaves the deck vulnerable to sun damage. Deck sealers will not block out the sun’s UV rays which may cause the wood to turn gray over time.

Being aware of the differences of a deck stain or deck sealer will make your buying decision a little easier when it comes to deck maintenance. Evaluate the differences to see which fits your needs.

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

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Carol Roberts
Carol Roberts

Is Cabots crystal clear waterproofing a good option to seal a pressure treated dock?
If not, what is?/

John
John

Wish I had read this before I had a contractor do my deck. We had some miscommunication (I do take some of the blame) and they ended up putting a clear deck sealer on my deck and fence when I was expecting a transparent or semi-transparent natural stain. I asked for a clear natural stain which I guess doesn’t actually exist. The interpreted that as a clear sealer. They put the sealer over really old pressure treated lumber and it looks terrible!

Richard Wustefeld
Richard Wustefeld

Does anyone know of the product Permasealusa. They guarantee a 25 year protection. Only can find any knowledge of this product thru their web site. A$1,800 250 square foot application. It is a Canadian product ideas to treat there telephone poles due to their harsh weather conditions. This deck thing can really be overwhelming. They sell their product as an “investment” to your property as you will never need to do it again.

Martin Musson
Martin Musson

I live in Ontario where oil based products are no longer available although I have American neighbours who will bring me such products from the USA. I have a pressure treated deck of about 600 sq.ft., about 20 years old. I have been covering it with Cabot oil based solid stain about every 2-3 yrs. Some areas tend to peel and most of the wood is still in acceptable shape. Unfortunately more than half the deck plank are fastened with galvanized ardox nails which make sanding a major problem. I have two questions: can I apply a water based stain over the oil based one? If so, what prep. is required and what would be the best stain product? How effective would the final result be? If I use an oil based stain from the USA what is the best product choice? Reviews on Cabot solid stain seem to be very poor at this time. I would be extremely grateful for any help that you can give me!

Eric
Eric

I installed treated decking about 6 months ago in the fall and it has gone through the winter in Missouri. I went out the other day and sprinkled water on the boards and some boards definitely beaded up and some it appeared to soak in. Should I wait awhile longer or go ahead and treat? I can’t decide for sure whether I want to do just clear or semi-transparent and I assume that wouldn’t matter as far as when I treat it.

Jon
Jon

I am looking to protect a redwood bench and redwood planter boxes primarily from sun damage. Is there a product or type of product that is best suited for UV protection? I would prefer not to stain the wood….
thank you

Albert
Albert

Good article ! Where can I find on this site the best and recommended clear sealers (not stain) ?
Thanks,

Jerry McNevin
Jerry McNevin

Great article.