Deck Stains 2019 4.8/5 (595)

by Deck Stain Help

Update on Deck Stain for 2019

Please read this article and post any questions you have in the comment are below. Our newly enhanced website now offers the ability to upload and post pictures of your exterior wood or deck.

Deck stains have not changed much in the past few years. Many brands have gone away from oil-based stains to water based, but you are still able to use oil-based stains in all US States and Canada. We currently restore about 300-400 decks annually, and our favorites are the penetrating semi-transparent and semi-solids.


We have been getting great feedback here at www.deckstainhelp.com from all of the consumers who have been looking for better stain alternatives for their deck restoration. Our most popular article, “What is the Best Deck Stain” has quickly become the number one article on the web for asking questions and getting answers on restoring your exterior wood and deck.

In this article, we are going to cover what actually is a “Deck Stain”. We will compare the many different types of decking stain options available and what are the positives and negatives of each.

Deck Stains

Deck stains are used to protect and preserve your exterior wood. They offer UV protection, water repellency, mold and mildew resistance, etc. Deck coatings come in many different types of opacity and bases. Many deck stain brands can be restricted in certain states, cities, and counties based on their VOC laws.

Deck staining can be a “chore” for residential homeowners and unfortunately walking into your local store may produce some of the worst options available. Not all deck stains are created equal and there is not a perfect stain type or brand that will outperform all the others.

Water-Based Deck Stains

Water based deck stains have come on rapidly in the last 4 years. The main reason for the vast amount of water-based stains on the market today is related to changes in VOC laws across the country. Many states have adopted or soon will adopt lower VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) regulations. This has prompted stain manufacturers to increase production of water-soluble decking stains. In our opinion, water-based deck stains are “thin” paints with varying amount of acrylic and pigment.

Pros: Water cleanup, less chance of mold or mildew growth. Environmentally friendly.

Cons: Do not penetrate as an oil-base can. Slightly harder to apply as they dry quicker. Can be prone to peeling and wearing. *Restore-A-Deck Wood Stains and Defy Wood Stains are the only exceptions that we have tested. They penetrate the best of all water-based stains, nearly as well as an oil.

Oil-based Deck Stains

Oil-based decking stains have been around for 20-30 years and have been traditionally what all stain manufacturers produce. Oil-based stains are typically made up of natural and synthetic oils. Many contain oils: Linseed Oil, Paraffin Oil, Tung Oil, Rosewood Oil, Etc.

Pros: Excellent penetration into wood. The better a deck stain can penetrate, the better the performance. Easier to apply. More natural looking.

Cons: Stronger odors, longer drying and curing time. Some oils can promote the growth of mildew. Some oil-based stains will darken in color over time.

Deck Resurface Coatings

Deck Resurface products are basically similar to extremely thick paint. They are designed to mask the wood and fill large cracks or voids. Deck Resurface products will not show any wood grain. Please note that this product is far beyond conventional wood restoration.

Pros: Excellent UV protection. Enhanced traction. Fills voids and cracks. Great idea to restore an older deck if it actually works.

Cons: So far most of these product types fail miserably. They peel after the first Winter and cannot be removed with a deck stain stripper. Sanding, scraping or even the replacement of the wood is needed. There are numerous reviews on our site and other sites with angry consumers and product failures. Class action lawsuits are being filed against Rustoleum Deck Restore and Olympic Rescue-It. Behr Deckover has the same issues as well. Only a couple of these products seem to work. If you really want one of these coatings, consider the Gulf Synthetics Deck Revive. See this link for more info, articles, and reviews on these coatings: Deck Resurface Coatings

Solid Decking Stains (Opaque)

Solid deck stains look like paints. They cover the wood so you will not see the wood grain anymore. Once you apply a solid decking stain there is little chance you will ever be able to go back to a transparent stain. Solid stains come in both oil and water based versions.

Pros: Excellent UV protection.

Cons: Films on top of the wood and do not penetrate well. Prone to peeling. Looks like a paint. Harder to apply. Cannot be removed with a deck stain stripper effectively.

Semi-Solid Stains

A Semi-Solid Deck Stain will only show a small amount of wood grain as they contain a high amount of pigment. They are offered by a limited amount of manufacturers. Semi-solids can be both water-based and oil-based.

Pros: Very good UV protection

Cons: Only a small amount of wood grain will show. Oil-based semi-solid versions will penetrate and perform much better the water-based versions.

Semi-Transparent Stains

Semi-transparent stains contain pigments that highlights the natural grain while sealing the surface. The semi-transparent wood and decking stains are our favorite. Both water and oil-based are available.

Pros: Average to better than average UV protection. Shows natural grain. Very good penetration. In most scenarios can be cleaned and re-coated easily. Can be removed with a deck stain stripper.

Cons: Most water-based versions perform poorly compared to the oils. Many states with the Low VOC laws have a limited amount of quality oil-based stains available. May need to buy online if in a Low VOC area.

Transparent Wood Stains

Transparent deck coatings look the most natural as they contain minimal pigment. The average life of a transparent decking stain is about 1 year. Mostly oil-based only are available.

Pros: Very easy to apply and reapply as needed. Natural looking.

Cons: Below average UV protection. Typically need to be re-coated annually.

Clear Wood Deck Finishes

Clear Deck Finishes offer little to no UV protection and will gray quickly. Typically used as sealers.

Pros: Does not change the appearance. Extremely easy to apply.

Cons: Grays and oxidizes in months.

Non-Drying Oil vs Drying Oil-Based Stains

Drying oils are “curing” oils. This means that they actually dry on top of or just below the surface. They will help “seal” the wood as well. Non-drying oils are the opposite. They never actually dry, but rather dive deep into the wood to help condition the cells of the wood. Paraffin oil (not wax) is the most common.

Are Deck Finishes, Stains, Sealers, or Both?

This question can be confusing to homeowners. In general, all deck stains are sealers as well as they will help prevent water absorption. Deck sealers typically are not stains as they do not have any pigment. Some though may have a very light tint.

Low VOC Stains and States:

Currently, there are 17 States that restrict Decking Stains and Coatings. These states require a lower amount of Volatile Organic Compounds to be released into the air. This mainly affects oil-based coatings. By lowering the amount of “solvents” that can evaporate into the ozone you need to increase the amount of “solids”. This can cause issues with oil-based stains as they may have drying and curing problems. There are still a few good oil-based stains allowed in the Low VOC States, but not as readily available at your local stores. You may need to go on the Internet to find them and have them shipped. A couple of examples would be TWP 1500 Series and Armstrong Clark Wood Stains.

Current Low VOC States:

California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Northern VA, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana.

DeckStainHelp.com Suggestions:

With all of these different types of products, we prefer the semi-transparent products as they allow the wood grain to show. They offer better than average UV protection and can be easier to reapply in the future. Penetration is better for oil-based versions over the water-based versions. The one exception is the water-based Defy Stains.

See this: Top 5 Semi-transparent Deck Stains

*All decking stains will eventually fail that is why you want a deck stain that is easy to work with down the road.

5 536
4 37
3 7
2 1
1 13
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Sandy Campbell
Sandy Campbell

I’ve been testing semi transparent samples on untreated yellow pine. Light tones turn yellow, mid to dark tones turn orange. I’ve cleaned, brightened and even tried conditioner. Nothing helps. I trying for a med tone with brown hues. Must I resort to semi solid or solid??????

Matthew
Matthew

What kind of stain for a cedar tongue and groove porch ceiling? It will not get direct sunlight or rain exposure. Hoping it will last a long time without restaining

James
James

Hello, which would you choose in a semi-transparent (if you were forced to choose) between Sherman Williams SuperDeck, Cabot, or Valspar? I am paying a contractor and between my two finalists, these are the stain options.

Also, how critical is pressure washing prior to staining a two year old deck that has never been stained or sealed? One contractor mentioned pressure washing with a bleach and soap mix, and the other didn’t mention any prep work (i need to clarify with him). Would prep work vs. no prep work be a bigger deal than the difference between the above stains?

Thanks so much for any advice you can give!

Richard Rhew
Richard Rhew

I live in Lakeview, Michigan and the deck I”m going to stain is a new deck of treated pine and I plan on waiting one year before staining. I live within fifty yard of a lake, so mildew might be a problem. We get 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day in warmer weather. I would like to use a clear stain. I would like to keep the natural look of the wood. What type of stain would you recommend? Thank you.

Cathy J Hadaller
Cathy J Hadaller

Great information but answer this please to one that knows nothing about wood! What is NEW wood? New to me, i.e., I just bought it? New because it was just cut at the lumber yard? I mean, how am I supposed to know? I bought treated lumber from a big box store and built a deck. It’s early fall now and I feel compelled to get the deck treated before the snow flies in a few short weeks, but, is my deck wood too new to successfully treat? (I would use semi-transparent oil based TWC if I can find it. Thanks for your input.

Max
Max

I just put Cabot semi solid on my deck. It looks really good but if I would of seen your site before I got the Cabot, I would of got the restore a deck stuff you recommended. Can I put the restore a deck over the Cabot in a year or two? How long do you think the Cabot will last? Am I wrong in thinking that these semi solids and semi trans will fade in time and not peel like a solid stain? I’m in Ohio and just want something that will last a long time even if it costs more. What would you do in this situation? Whatever you suggest I am going to do. Thanks for your help and time.

Deb
Deb

Have a new deck which will be powerwashed in 1-3 months….we have a lot of trees and very little sun…what would your recommendations be?

LAVETA BONNEY
LAVETA BONNEY

not in the sun?

LAVETA BONNEY
LAVETA BONNEY

when is the best time to put stain down?

Deb
Deb

What is the best transparent oil based stain to put on a new,pressure treated lumber, deck that gets a lot of very hot sun in the summer?

Minda
Minda

My questions are: How should the porch floor be prepped to be redone, meaning repainted, or stained, whichever would be best? I’m pretty sure it can be sanded down to bare wood. Should it also be power washed.? What would be the best product as I’d like to have the product matched to a a BM color, Rockport Gray. What do you think of California Paints, Enduradeck Storm System?

1. New Wood or Older Wood? Older wood
2. Does the Deck have a Current Coating? Yes, chipping and flaking porch paint
3. Are you Switching Brands of Deck Stain or Applying a Maintenance Coat of the same Brand and Color? Switching n/a
4. Deck Stain Brand Previously Used? Enter unknown if you do not know. unknown
5. What is the Current Deck Stain Type? Oil-based or Water-Based? Clear, Transparent, Semi-Transparent, Semi-Solid, or Solid Stain? I believe it is acrylic porch paint over very old lead paint.
6. Mold or Mildew Issues? Some
7. Reason for Previous Stain Failure? Age, improper care, exposure to weather in northeast
8. You Must Include Picture(s) of the Current Condition.

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Wil
Wil

Hi, do appreciate your site. Easy to read with constructive information!
Within the last few weeks had a new cedar deck build, in central Texas, which was stained using Sherwin Williams 3502 semi transparent water based stain. Some drops of stain can be found along the railing and look very much like a solid because of insufficient penetration. Some people are giving advice to apply a 2nd coat immediately but am concerned this will not penetrate and look like a solid. Should I apply a 2nd coat and if so am I better of applying a transparent stain instead of the same semi transparent or maybe a completely different product?

Mike
Mike

Have you reviewed Pittsburgh Paramount deck stain/sealer yet?

Dave Brown
Dave Brown

When trying to match old wood with new will a semi solid stain be similar to a solid stain ?
Will the semi solid stain be easier than the solid stain to remove after 2 or 3 years ?

Dave Coulter
Dave Coulter

30yr old House that’s been stained 15 times with Olympic semi transparent natural tone redwood.Would like to put on a better quality semi transparent stain what would you recommend that would be compatibly with Olympic? I’ve scrubed the house with wood brighter.

Cyn
Cyn

Hi
I have 30 year old Olympic semi transparent alkyd/oil deck fence and siding stain on my cedar house siding. Can I stain over top with another type of semi transparent that won’t peel off?
Thanks

Sue
Sue

Treated lumber has not held semi solid Cabot stain. Can Behr solid be used overtop after 4-5 yes? Both stains water clean up.

George Chacon
George Chacon

do some, water base semi- transparent stains darken in time with ceder?

JLIHANEY
JLIHANEY

Can I mix Cabot Australian Timber Oil (Jarroh Brown) with Penofin Red Label Brazilian Rosewood oil (transparent Redwood cedar)? I have a 1/4 can of each and a small project. If I mix them, I’ll have plenty, but not enough individually.

Barbara
Barbara

I have a 22 year old ironwood deck with pressure-treated vertical posts and risers. I think it was sealed with a semitransparent stain when new but has not had any treatment since then. I just cleaned the deck with a homemade diluted oxygen bleach (Oxiclean) and Dawn detergent solution and it looks good. I am frankly fine with the natural graying of the ironwood and the natural color of the pressure-treated vertical elements. But I wonder whether I need to seal the vertical pressure-treated surfaces, which do show some cracking, even if I do not seal/stain the ironwood. Aesthetically I am fine with the appearance but want to make sure I am not ignoring important maintenance with regard to the longevity of the deck.

Tracy Hager
Tracy Hager

One more question… is Armstrong Clark or TWP Stains good for the Pacific NW Climate? Lots of rain at time , less sun etc. Moss…

Andrea
Andrea

Have a 14 year old pressure treated deck, covered but obviously outer edges see tons of sun. It is our main entrance to the house so used a lot. Received bad advice 5 or 6 years ago – had semi transparent oil (think it was cabot) originally and restained it every couple years with the same stuff. Wanted to try something new, Lowe’s suggest a water based stain. Not positive if it was solid or semi solid but it pretty much covered everything. We didn’t clean or sand before applying and miraculously it lasted quite some time but has finally started peeling/fading, etc. We are in the process of power sanding everything, decided cost wise to replace the spindles with new (about 100 give or take) to save time as the rest is taking days/hours. The deck is 12 x 24. We have the railings down to bare, good looking wood but the floor isn’t quite so good. Understandable. We are belt sanding it and then using an orbital to get more off. Down to 60 grit now and going to try 40 as it’s stubborn. I can submit a pic if needed but wanted advice – the floor is some bare wood but also besides the pretty knots and grain there are spots that look wet (darker color)….would we be best to use a semi solid to cover? I hate to cover up what we’ve revealed, especially on the railings as they look brand new. Maybe semi transparent on railings and semi solid on floor? Husband wants to use a dark color to cover, I don’t. We are leery to use a cleaner or brightener as we have pets and free range chickens (we sell eggs) and don’t want to take ANY chance of ingestion of chemicals, even with watering down. Any suggestions, and recommendations on what brand of stain to use? I’m seeing fairly bad reviews on here of Cabot and Olympic and Thompson’s doesn’t sell semi solid. HELP!

Bill Knox
Bill Knox

In the past I used Cabot 3000 natural clear on my deck. It was not the blue top. I’he stripped off the old and ready to redo. What is your experience with the current Cabot line? Its been 10 years since I applied and I see there has been many changes.

Jerry Johnson
Jerry Johnson

Can you mix equal parts of oil base solid stain & oil base semi transparent stain

Sack
Sack

I have a dock on the intercoastal waterway.

1. South Carolina
2. Full sun
3. Pine wood pressure treated
4. No mold issues
5. Dock builder applied Thompsons I think.

What is the best way to protect the dock for the future…

Dako
Dako

Hi I live in Northern Minnesota I have used Olympic maximum stain plus sealer. Transparent natural cedar number 417. It says last 6yrs. Well it has lasted one and put on a second coat agin this year. And all ready the area that is walked the most is starting to wear away what do you reccomend for this? I love the color of olympic but the wearing away part is what frustrates me.

Luce C.
Luce C.

best black colored stain?

Sheryl McGuire
Sheryl McGuire

Timbercare Para Ebony is as black as you can get and looks good years after application on my fence. There are no reviews of it on here. I am in Canada.

Kristi
Kristi

I cannot find a product that will remove a latex solid color stain from treated lumber.

Bonnie
Bonnie

Lowes quick selling Olympic Max stain and sealant We always used that in a honey gold. We tried the brand they sell now and it looks like baby poop. Any suggestion on where to find it.

Elsie & Huska
Elsie & Huska

Our Cedar deck is approximately 16 years old. We just finished scrapping and sanding off the Behr DeckOver that was applied and was peeling off in sheets. We would like to apply a clear water proofing on the deck. What would be recommended for the Cedar Deck. We are in Manitoba Canada.

Vincent Ciccarello
Vincent Ciccarello

I need a oil based deck clear for the pool area. I have a salt water pool, and the floor boards get wet a lot.

Annie
Annie

What is the quality of penofin verde stain? Is it recommended for a mahogany deck?

Annie
Annie

Can you use a water based stain three years after the application of an oil based stain?

David S
David S

Any thoughts on ABR X-100 Natural Seal Deck Finish? Went through a gallon of it and need to re-stain my deck and wondering if I should stick with this brand or try something different.

Andrea Neviackas
Andrea Neviackas

We used Benjamin Moore oil based mahogany flame on our mahogany deck three years ago and the odor was horrible and lasted a year! We have a toddler and infant now and really would like to minimize exposure to vocs. A few pieces are rotting out and we have to deal with something. What do you recommend?

Carol J Laux
Carol J Laux

I’m using TWP 100 series and I would like to know instead of using the bleach water solution they recommend for cleaning, could I use the Restore a deck cleaner /brightener instead? I am using this on 1 year old Cedar that has never been stained. It is for a dock. Is there a better product than TWP 100 series that I could use for the dock because the wood gets wet near the shore? Thank you.

Sarah
Sarah

Planning on staining a pergola that was built by previous owners- built approx 3/4 yrs ago. I want to stain it black and am looking for a solid black look. After reading reviews will stay away from Behr (thank you) who I initially was going to go with.
Recommendations on brand I should use.
Located in Ontario, Canada.
Should note pergola is in the sun 99% of the day

Details painting
Details painting

A solid black stain calls for an oil primer first.

Ruby Vice
Ruby Vice

You don’t want the Olympic Maximum Stain-Sealer. It peels and separates in 6-8 months. I didn’t read the fine print on can so did not know to put 2 coats on. It is supposed to be guaranteed for 10 years on decks, and 25 years on fences. When I called today to file a warranty complaint their excuse it was supposed to have 2 coats. I believe it would still have peel off with 2 coats. I am not able to do this work myself and can’t afford someone to come scrape and apply 2 more coats. They are only going to reimburse me the price of product used. Never again will I buy any Olympic products.

Alissa McCall
Alissa McCall

I have painted my decks for the last 15 yrs with Thompsons water seal Deck and House oil stain. I have used the solid stain in a pewter gray. It peels on the horizontal surfaces every year like paint would and I usually have to redo the tops of the railings and the deck surface every year. Last year they stopped making the product. This year I am looking for another product that I can put over it hopefully to match the same color so I don’t have to do the entire deck. Someone at Lowes told me that there is nothing I can put over it because it had a wax base. Do you know if he is correct or if there is a product out there I can use? I am not sure if the person at Lowes was familiar with the product I have been using.

Zulfi
Zulfi

Help! I am from Toronto and would like to Stain my deck which can last really longer. I have looked for options like Armstrong but the colors are limited in Semi Transparent. Please suggest me few names that can last longer and have tons of color options to pick from.

Ruby Vice
Ruby Vice

Don’t get Olympic. I recommend sticking with old faithful Thompson’s Sealer.

Marla
Marla

Hi There! Just built new deck. We will be using a semi-transparent stain probably. I’m worried about the deck being too hot for our dogs feet, as well as ours lol. Can you help? Is there an extra coating? Something we could mix into the stain we will use ? Thanks so much!

Eva Lanczos
Eva Lanczos

Hello,

We had our patio completed last August. The contractors had the cedar in our driveway months before they started the work, so the cedar was already damaged by the time the actual construction started.
In addition, after completion, they informed us that staining wasn’t included in the price. Because of our busy schedule, we haven’t been able to stain the patio at all.
As you can see on the pictures, we have water stains, faded posts and facade, and sap stains (?). As of yesterday, we also have the pleasure of hosting carpenter bees. We are now ready to stain and looking for your guidance as to how to best clean and stain our patio. Thank you very much! Eva and Allen

Deck Location State: Houston, Texas
Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
Wood Type: Western Red Cedar
Mold or Mildew Issues: Only water stain
Reason for Previous Stain Failure: None

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Kiki
Kiki

HELP!!! I have a 20 yr. Old deck which is treated pine. Approx. 3 yrs ago I used Behr solid in a dark gray on it. Within 2 weeks it was seriously peeling. I called the manufacturer and they said I had to strip it all of and redo it. I waited a year or so and redid it with the same stain. Horrible stuff! Peeled within a week and now a lot of it is off but there is still alot of stain that would not powerwash off. Most of the upright/ verticals are still decent. We are now replacing the railing and using hog fence/goat fence instead of spindles. What can I Do? My deck is 74ft. Long by 10ft with a 14×10 extension so I really don’t want to have to keep redoing it so often. Also can I leave the post and stain over them or paint them in a Matt black? Desperate for advice. I live in Michigan. Lots of snow, hot sun in summer until approx. 2pm. Also will a stripper work? What kind, where to buy and will it damage cement patio below.

A.Novick
A.Novick

Large deck in NJ 8 years, part full sun, part shade, used Behr semi transparent water-based that applies/dries like semi- solid (as mentioned elsewhere on your site) and peels miserably. I power washed / lightly sanded last year and reapplied same stain. Of course, came out blotchy and is peeling worse than ever. Am skeptical that I can get back to bare wood so I can apply a proper semi-transparent stain. This was confirmed by pro deck guy who wants to sand and apply sherwin williams solid. Really don’t want to go the “paint” route… Looking for advice.

Deloree Burd
Deloree Burd

New deck in the pacific northwest, Washington State last year with alaskan yellow cedar. Used Behr deck and siding stain, which has done well in the past. entire deck has peeled/ gooey and is blotchy.. in process of power washing…deck is over 1200 SF …so disappointed. Power washing only getting portions… seemed like stain never was absorbed by the wood. Is it a stain product problem or type of wood or both….really want to get it right this next time.. suggestions for removing and then what stain to use. I heard there are two types of oil stains….plant based and petroleum based

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Dave
Dave

Pine deck is about 2.5 years old and was stained with Ready Seal 1.5 years ago. Horizontal surfaces show no stain color anymore. Will the cleaner and brightener be enough prior to staining with RAD or will I need the stripper?

Gus
Gus

We just had a new deck built over the weekend. We live in Arkansas. It is just a plain flat 338 Square foot deck. What would be the best stain to use? Want as little maintenance as possible, but we want a darker brown color to match some wood pillars we have on our adjacent porch.

What is the best way to apply?

David
David

We were shopping for a stain that got good reviews and found your article. Please help with advice on best stain to purchase for our house! We live in The southeast and have a cabin with exterior siding of cypress wood. It has been weathering for several years without any finish. We also have a covered front and back porch with a wooden wheel chair ramp off the back porch, so lots of wooden surfaces to cover. Our contractor is recommending Behr stain. We are retired and want something that is low maintenance, won’t peel, protects the wood and easily reapplied when needed. What would you recommend and should we use a different stain for siding and porch floors since they get a lot of wear? Also can the contractor use a sprayer for TWP? Thanks in advance for your help!

Jacob
Jacob

So my deck is all prepped, Armstrong Clark chestnut arrived in the mail yesterday. Cloudy skies…ready to stain! Question is…what is the fastest way to stain? Can I use a pump sprayer and then have my wife come behind me with a big wide brush to stroke the oil in good? should I roll it? or use my Graco sprayer?
Thanks!

Frank
Frank

I’m at Lowes’s now and I have no idea what to buy. I live in New Jersey and my deck is only around 300 sq ft. I replaced it with new pressures treated wood/deck. What’s the best thing I can buy here at Lowe’s? They have Thompson’s, valspar, Cabot, Australian Timber Oil. How much do I need to buy? A gallon good for 300 Sq ft? I want something that can last me a long time and less maintenance. I want to stain and seal combination, no resurface as I had that and that is the reason I’m pull every single deck board out and replacing it with new ones. Should I get semi-solid or semi-transparent? Your reviews shows semi-solids is better in terms of pros and cons but semi-transparent is your favorite. Which one should I buy?