This post was updated on January 11, 2023
2023 Defy Hardwood Stain Review
Note: Defy Extreme Hardwood Stain had a label change in 2019.
Welcome to Deckstainhelp.com, your number one source for deck staining tips and the latest industry news on the internet. This year in 2023 those who use Defy Hardwood wood stain continued to be satisfied with the quality and longevity of their deck stain projects. We encourage discussion on our site, so feel free to leave a comment below.
Important Note: This is our 2nd Review of Defy Deck Stain for Hardwoods. See Here for First Review: Defy Hardwood Stain Review
Defy Hardwood Stain should also be considered for oil-rich woods such as Cedar and Redwood, offering better penetration for these wood types.
Important Note: Testing for Exotic Hardwood Deck Stains
Exotic hardwoods such as IPE are extremely dense and difficult to penetrate. These wood types, when stained will always fade faster than other woods such as Cedar, Redwood, and Pine. Testing will be changed to 1 year instead of 2 years for exotic hardwoods.
Defy Stain for Hardwood Scores (1-10)
Appearance After Initial Stain Application: 8
For the IPE wood, the customer wanted a reddish-brown color to enhance the grain. The best color for this is the Light Walnut. The Defy Hardwood did an excellent job of enhancing the grain. It did not film or “cover” the wood grain showing 100% of the natural color tones.
Preventing UV Graying at 1 Year Mark: 7
For Exotic wood stains, we only test for 1 year. The Defy Hardwood Stain retained about 70% of the original color after the full year. It had faded but no graying of the IPE was visible.
Wear/Tear and Peeling: 7.5
The Defy Hardwood does a very good job of penetrating exotic woods. No filming was noticed when completed and the wearing was acceptable after the year. There was some visible wearing on the steps.
Make sure that if you use the Defy Hardwood on IPE you apply only one coat. Too much stain and it will not absorb leading to an increased chance of wear/tear. We learned this from past experience when treating exotic hardwoods.
Cost Per Square Foot: 7
Defy Stain costs about $40 per gallon. We used a little over 2 gallons of the light walnut color on our 400 square feet of IPE. Coverage for the Defy Hardwood is less than other exotic wood stains.
Preventing Mold/Mildew/Algae: 9
No mold or mildew on the flooring surface or decking railings. A small amount was visible on the stairs.
Ease of Application: 8
Defy Hardwood penetrates IPE extremely well without any filming on the surface of the wood. Coverage per square foot is less than an oil-based stain but similar to other water-based wood stains. We followed the manufacturer’s advice and used a truck brush for application. It was a little messy but it did apply evenly to the surface. One coat to the floors took less than 30 minutes.
Color Shifting (darkening) after 2 Years: 10
Defy Hardwood Stain did not darken in color.
The Difficulty of Reapplication: 8
The procedure for reapplication consisted of a light cleaning with their Defy Wood Cleaner. Once dried after a few days, we reapplied one coat. We did not have any issues with the maintenance coat adhering to the first coat.
Since the Defy Hardwood Stain had faded evenly without any peeling or darkening, it would be easy to apply a wood cleaner to prep the wood. Re-coating should not be an issue since the stain had penetrated into the wood.
Overall Score Defy Hardwood Stain at 2 Year Period: 8.06
This is the second time we have tested the Defy Stain for Hardwoods and the results were similar to the first. It fades lightly through the year and can be reapplied without sanding or chemical stripping. For IPE wood this is essential for annual maintenance.
Help or Questions? Google Search Defy Hardwood Stain
Cost: $49.99 per Gallon, $249.99 per 5 Gallon Pail
Stain Type: Semi-Transparent – Water Based
Available Colors: Cedar Tone, Natural Pine, Light Walnut
Application Temperature: 45-95 F
Coats Required: 2 Coats. “Wet on Wet” for Cedar, 1-2 coats for Exotic Hardwoods
Coverage Per Gallon: 100-150 sq. ft Cedar, 200-300 for Exotic Hardwoods
Application Tools: Sprayer, Pad, Brush, Roller
Dry Time: 2-4 Hours
VOC Compliant: 250 Compliant in all States
Manufacturer: Saver Systems
Test Deck Stats:
Deck Wood Type: IPE decking
Deck Square Footage: 400 Square feet
UV Exposure: Full Sun, South East Exposure.
How Many Years Tested: 1 Year
Stain Color Used: Light Walnut
*All products tested and results are from our experience as wood restoration contractors. We offer no guarantee of similar results. Take into consideration that results may differ due to different wood types, exposure to UV radiation, and natural weathering.
Defy Wood Stain Photos
The Best IPE Hardwood Deck Stain Video – DeckStainHelp.com
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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.
I’ve had an Ipe deck for about 12 years (actually Red Belau, but appears to be very similar). After many years of using oil (all the top brands) I’ve slowly watched our once beautiful deck get darker and darker, to the point of almost being black. Also, living in the wet, mild climate of Western Washington meant that, despite my efforts, it was was growing green slime quicker every year.
This year, after scouring this site and others, I decided to try something new, and I’m SO GLAD I did. Here was my regimen, which I’ll be using forever going forward:
The results? Amazing. I never thought I’d get my deck back to anything close to its original state, but this stain (and general approach) did the trick beyond my wildest dreams. Hopefully it holds up well over the winter. Next year I’ll just clean, brighten, apply more stain (without pressure washing or stripping).
The photos show my progress about halfway through, so you can see the difference.
And lastly, a huge thank you to whoever created and maintains this site!!!
After years of frustrating use of oil-based stains on my IPE deck, Defy Deck Stain for Hardwoods has proven to be dang close to a miracle. I have used Messmers, Australian Timber Oil, Penofin and several others. Despite rigorous prep, none of them lasted, all of them blackened and needed to be chemically stripped every two years. Mind you, I painted houses for several years so proper prep is a process well-known to me. None of the oil-based stains lasted. Defy is so user-friendly. I had chemically stripped the Messmers in July of last year. Defy was easy to apply and looked great. I scrubbed the deck with Oxyclean in October and put on another coat of Defy to get through the winter. It came through looking great. This past week, I scrubbed the deck again and touched up with Defy in heavy-traffic parts of the deck. It looks fantastic. No more chemical stripping, ever. Defy is water-based so it is very easy to apply and clean up. You do need to be careful with application as it will dry VERY quickly in direct sun/on a hot deck. All in all, I wish I had known about this product when the deck was built in 2006.
Thanks for the review! Do you have any pictures?
Have not had my first cup of coffee yet, otherwise would have taken more pictures, but here’s one…
Rich, your deck looks great following your prep and staining with the Defy Hardwood stain. What color tone of the stain did you use? I am planning on installing a Cumaru deck next Spring (probably won’t prep and stain until the following Spring) and the Defy is very much in the running for what I will use for the project. Thanks for your post.
Sorry for taking so long to respond. I used Defy Deck Stain for Hardwoods in Light Walnut color. The deck was resurfaced over this past weekend and bit more prep was needed including some sanding and pressure washing to remove loose stain and dark spots. No big deal and far easier than chemical stripping as in the past. After having to go through the nightmare of chemical stripping of oil-based finishes, I won’t use anything but Defy.
This is exactly the experience I had. I’ll include photos in a separate post, but you summed up my experience precisely. I’ll never go back to oil based stains.
I have a small (12×14) cabin with Canadian cedar scurled siding. It’s been stained with Penofin for about 8 years and it turned blotchy after about 4. This is in western Washington with lots of trees around it. The sunniest side is faded and the more shaded sides are darker. What can I prep it with and what product to you recommend for getting rid of the blotchiness? The wood itself was so beautiful.
Strip and brighten for prep with Restore A Deck Kits. Stain with Restore A Deck semi-transparent stain after.
I was told once that staining during pollen season would allow the pollen to become impregnated into the wet stain and cause black spots or mold/mildew to form. Is that just a old wife’s tale or is there any merit to it?
Yes, that is very possible but typically is more of an issue with oil-based stains. The Defy Hardwood is water-based.
Ok, pollen season is just starting I figured I’d ask.
First off – thanks so much for this site! Extremely helpful and informative. I bought a house with an old Cedar Playset, some areas more weathered than others (see example picture). Some sites I researched said the only prep required is to powerwash with soap. Is the RAD cleaner/stripper required? What stain and color would you recommend out of the TWP, RAD, Defy, etc? Any recommendations on a good exterior grade wood putty to fill carpenter bee holes?? THANKS!
You have to remove the current stain when switching brands of stain. Strip and then brighten for prep. Do not use a wood filler. It will not work and will not “stain” to blend with your new stain. Try TWP or RAD Stains. Any color that you like.
Looking for the best opaque stain for my deck. Suggestions please?
See here: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/what-are-the-best-solid-color-deck-stains/
Can Restore-A-Deck Same Day Semi -transparent stain be used anytime after cleaning?
Yes, that is correct.
I have new Cedar wood. I used Defy wood cleaner and wood brightner. Each time i rinsed them off with Well water and let them dry . No problem they looked good I applied Defy Semi- Transparent Crystal Clear wood stain. 2 days later i squirted my deck with my garden Hose which is well water to clean it off. when it dried i have water stains EVERWHERE. And they wont come off. All that work for nothing. Whats going on?
Did you weather the new wood and prep it as directed? Sounds like you may not have, and your coating was unable to soak into the wood grain. You will have to remove and start over.
I bought the wood and It sat Outside for about a month and covered it when it Rained before i starting Prepping it.
That is not proper weathering. It needs to be built and then weather fully exposed for 3 months or longer. Then prepped correctly before staining.
I bought a house in Chapel Hill, NC with a 14 year old IPE deck that has grayed and has checking. I am not looking to change the color looking to protect the IPE from weathering.
What sealer should I use in my deck?
You need a stain for UV protection from graying and you cannot apply a clear sealer over a grayed out wood. You can clean the deck to remove the gray and then apply a clear sealer that will allow it to gray naturally again. Try Defy Extreme Clear.
Sounds rather labor intensive. Would a UV sealer with a tint work to avoid cleaning the gray. If yes, suggestions. Also, gray cleaner suggestions.
No matter what you have to prep. Try this for prep: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/restore-a-deck-cleaner-system-review/
I used IPE oil for the past three years on my IPE deck. I want to switch over to a water based stain like DEFY Deck Stain for Hardwoods. If I clean for prep, would I be able to apply Defy Deck stain for Hardwoods? Also what color would you suggest since the IPE Oil appeared to have some colorant. Thank you for the fantastic and helpful information on your website by the way!
You need to strip and brighten for prep: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/restore-a-deck-injectable-deck-stain-stripper-review/
Use the Light Walnut color.
Thanks so much for the quick reply. Is the RAD brightener the best as well?
Thanks so much. RAD looks like a great product line. I used TSP alternative and bleach on a smaller portion of the porch because of mildew. I am out of time because of the weather. I am wondering if I can just stick to this cleaning with tsp alternative and bleach for the winter. In the spring I would like to do the stripper and brightener as well as moving to the water based stain. Would that plan work or will the deck suffer from the tsp alternative and bleach cleaning without a stain? Thanks again for all the expertise.
You will be fine until Spring.
Have a few year old cedar railing on large deck. Floor is vinyl. Last product used was a water-base Behr stain. We liked the look of it but it hasn’t stood up well. Some mildew issues and difficult application (maybe was too warm weather). We have removed the old stain with 30-second cleaner, a stripper, sanding and still not completely removed. Am interested to try Defy Extreme Stain or Defy Extreme Stain for Hardwoods. Do we still need more prep…even on the well cleaned pickets?
Does ipe need to be stained on all sides before installing?
No, only the exposed side after install.
A customer of mine has an outdoor shower on the shady side of his house that sees little if any sunlight. The enclosure and floor are untreated Ipe. There is a lot of green algae and some mildew. The floor gets very slippery. After washing with an algae and mildew cleaner I need treat the Ipe so that water sheets off so the structure dries and algae doesn’t grow. Would Defy Extreme be a good choice for this project, or is there something better? Thanks!
No stain will work for an outdoor IPE shower floor. It will wash off.
How about the shower enclosure?
Will not work.
Hello: great web site, very informative.
I am living in Canada. I am planning to install a ceder pergola. I wanted to stain the wood before the installation. I know the wood has been in the store over the winter. Can I prep and stain instead of stain after installation. If so, what brand would you suggest? Is defy extreme water base a first choice? Thanks
No, you cannot prestain. Install, weather, prep, then stain: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/staining-a-new-deck/
Your site is fantastic. Like so many others, I wished I would have found it sooner, although I have stumbled upon many of your basic teachings by years of mistakes as well as trial and error. I am planning on replacing my Cedar deck next Spring with Cumaru (probably won’t prep and stain until the following Spring to allow wood to season). I am in Michigan and although parts of my deck are exposed to direct sunlight at times during the day, much of the area is shaded by trees. The surrounding trees also drop a fair amount of organic matter on the deck throughout the year. Defy is very much in the running, but I am also considering Ipe oil, Mesmers, and Armstrong. I have a few questions.
1) Given the conditions I describe, which product do you think is best suited?
2) Of the Defy and Armstong, are there color shades more or less likely to show staining from surrounding trees?
3) For application and wear issues, which tops the list?
1. AC or Defy Hardwoods
2. Darker colors may help some but will not hide all.
3. Both can be cleaned and reapplied as needed. This will need to be done annually for your wood type.
Thanks for the guidance. Much appreciated!
I have a new, clear cedar deck, and want to use a water-based stain. Would the Defy Hardwood or the Defy Extreme be more appropriate?
The Defy Hardwood will soak in better.
Would this be a good product for my new (in March) cedar fence in Seattle? West facing, full sun in summer. Lots of rain as well. I’m looking for semi-transparent, lower maintenance, cedar color (not orange). Thank you!
Yes, this is a great product for your fence. Cedar colors in deck stains are orange though. Light Walnut may be a better option for you.
Thanks very much. Would the Defy Hardwood version definitely be better than Defy Extreme?
Actually, on a fence, the Defy Extreme would be your best option. More colors as well.
Does this require a wet on wet application, or is it a one coat application not requiring wet on wet.
Depends on the wood type you have and the age of the wood.
I’m planning to use Defy for Hardwoods on my mahogany deck. I sanded, cleaned and brightened it. Your review says to only use one coat on hardwoods, but the the product info says 1-2 coats on exotic hardwoods. What to you recommend for mahogany?
Depends on how porous the wood is but more is not better. Try the one coat to be safe.
We have a deck made of larch wood. The deck is 2 years old and the lumber yard applied a clear coat protective finish which didn’t last long. The wood has grayed and where the metal spindles connect into the wood it has turned blackish. What would be the best cleaner/restorer? What would be the best sealer to use? I would like to use a water based sealer. Would the Defy for Hardwoods be best? I like the review of the RAD Wood stain as it can be applied damp and would prefer to use that if it would work well on the larch. Thank you!
Try stripper and brightener for prep. You need to make sure the clear sealer is removed. Either RAD or the Defy Stains would work well for this. Whatever you prefer.
We have powder coated aluminum spindles on this deck. What stripper and brightener can be used without harming the finish on the spindles? Thank you.
Hard to say 100%. Best to test first to see a reaction or not. Most likely no.
Hi I’m looking for a stain to put on trailer deck- hardwood I think. Going to be pressure wash trailer so need to protect from bleach chemical and other chemicals. Also planning on going over with plywood for extra protection. Thoughts or suggestions? Thanks
Erik, no brand of semi-transparent deck stain will be Bleach or harsh chemical resistant. The plywood should be enough to protect the wood underneath.
great forum! i have old greyed out redwood decking(which i love) and brand new port orford cedar decking (very hard and looks like pine) in napa. i really want to stain them to look the same color. i like the review of the defy hardwood stain. how can i get the old decks and the new decks to look similar? they aren't right next to each other so it doesn't have to be a perfect match, but i do want them to look cohesive. sincerely, merilee
Merilee, it will be hard to match two different wood types and especially when you have older and newer wood. Make sure the prep is done correctly as that is key. Use the Defy Wood cleaner for the prep and the Defy Wood brightener when done with the cleaning. Once the prep is done then you can use the Defy Hardwood stain.
I'm having a new IPE deck been built next to a pool over a concrete subfloor with good drainage. Should I seal each board on all 4 sides before installation? Then after its installed should I use the brightener and seal the top again?
No need to stain all sides. Just install, wait a couple of months, clean and brighten for prep then stain.
I applied Defy for Hardwoods last month. I used the cedar color which turns out to be actually ugly ORANGE on white cedar. It also is sticky in places. I suspect that the two solid weeks of rain beginning the day after application might be part of why.
My question: I want to recoat it in the spring with a different, darker color of Defy. Can I get by with prep that is only cleaning? Could I lightly sand the sticky spots if still sticky before recoating in the spring? I spent a lot of time stripping this deck and don't want to restrip next year if I can avoid it. Thanks
It should not be sticky by the Spring. Sticky means it was most likely over applied. I believe you can clean and reapply a different color as long as the next color is darker. You can go darker but you cannot go lighter without stripping. Usually we would do this after 2-3 years and we know then it will take. doing this after 6-9 months may be an issue so might want to contact them for advice.
I stripped my deck with defy stripper and most of the stain came out but there are numerous spots especially around the knots in the wood. It was a lot of work. I used a powerwasher to get it off . What do I do now with all the spots which are now actually darker than the stain was.
You could try sanding or make sure that your new stain will blend it all together so it does not show when done. Did you use the Defy Wood Brightener?
Did not use the brightener yet because I didn't know if I would need to do the stripper again. Will the brightener help with the spots? Also, I am not sure how to blend in the stain to hide the spots? The spots are also much darker than the stain was – is that from the chemical reaction from the stripper?
Stripper in general raises the pH level of the wood and darkens the wood\’s appearance. Brightener lightens it back. Feel free to post a picture in our forum if you would like us to view.
Thank you . How do I post picture here.
In our forum area.
Some dark spots on IPE are so tough that no stripper or wood brightener will get rid of them and the only way to do so is with sanding….I use a palm sander with 60-grit aluminum oxide.
I have a Mahogany deck that was stained with a Cabot wood stain that did not perform well. I have stripped and neutralized and am ready to stain. Most recommendations for a hardwood stain on this site are split between Defy Hardwood and Armstrong. Are there conditions under which Defy or Armstrong would perform better that the other? My house is in SE Pennsylvania, is totally surrounded by woods (and therefore enjoys a damper atmosphere), and enjoys mostly sunny, but partly shade conditions. Would the damper atmosphere cause me to lean toward water-based Defy?
Yes it your deck attracts mold. What was the issue with the Cabot?
I had it done by a contractor who was recommended to me before I learned of this site. He power-washed it and applied the Cabot. The first time he did it, it looked OK for one year but the second time, it looked all mildewed and moldy within three months. I suspect he did not wait long enough after power washing before staining it. And I also suspect that he used plain water to power wash (with nothing to kill the mold and mildew). And finally, I think Cabot changed its formula. Now, I have used a stripper (and a fair amount of elbow grease) and a neutralizer and it now looks very good. My hope is that, going forward, I can use Defy Hardwood Stain and only need to neutralize and apply a maintenance level of stain on the horizontal boards annually, every two or three years for the vertical spindles. Is that a reasonable expectation?
You have to clean and brighten for future prep, not just brighten (neutralize).
According to the Defy website you just need to brighten.
"It may be beneficial to use DEFY Wood Brightener to clean and brighten the surface before the maintenance coat. "
I spoke with one of their customer services rep and he confirmed this. Is it possible that their brightener has some cleaning agents also.
No it does not have any cleaning agents. We would still clean and brighten.
I've just expanded an ipe deck which was about 7 years old, adding about 50 sq ft of area to the deck. I've pressure washed the whole deck so it seems to be quite ready to take the stain. My question is whether or not I need a sealer. My neighbors (who have the same decking, as it was the same builder originally) said that they had a contractor come who "added some stain to the sealant" which he applied. Without sounding like an idiot, is the Defy all I would need to apply to my freshly-cleaned decking?
Yes that is all you would need.
We've been using Defy Deck Stain for Hardwoods for 7 years on our red cedar deck. This deck gets pounded pretty hard with long days of direct sun in the summer and a lot of cold / wet / snowy days in the winter (Pacific NW near Puget Sound). It holds up better than described in the test results in this review. No peeling; just slow, very gradual fading. A few areas show mild weathering, but no mildew at all (and our area is notorious for mildew and mold).
We get more than 1 year out of the first coat on the horizontal surfaces and a 2nd year+ by first applying Defy Wood Cleaner before re-coating. We have no issues at all with re-coating (as long as you only apply one coat). Most vertical surfaces hardly need touching up even after 3 years. Of all deck stain products we have used over the last 25 years in two homes, Defy is the unquestionably the best. Just be sure to follow the instructions exactly.
thank you for this encouragement. I can now feel good about going forward with it for my Seattle deck of cedar that will be covered.
How long had your deck been drying before application of the cleaner and brightener?
Sorry about taking so long to get back to you. I wasn't aware of your reply / question. I've never used DEFY Cleaner. I use their Stain Stripper and Brightener before re-doing the stain. The Stripper can be used at any time and the deck should be slightly wet. It is important to apply the Brightener immediately after the stripper so the stripping chemicals get fully neutralized before allowing the wood to dry. And, use plenty of water to eliminate the Brightener after it does its work.
Could you tell me what color hardwood stain you have been using for your cedar? I'm trying to decide between the pine and the light walnut for a new cedar deck. Thanks in advance!
I want to create a 2-tone pergola deck. Pine is on the floor and I think I like the color of Defy Light Walnut for that. The pergola on top is cedar and I'm leaning towards the butternut color since it is darker. Since butternut isn't available in the Hardwoods color would the regular Defy Extreme be ok for the cedar? Or should I use the Defy Hardwood for the pergola and settle for Light Walnut? I know the cedar will be darker so it will automatically give it a little bit of a two tone look, but with walnut and butternut the contrast would probably look better.
I absolutely do not want any peeling as I've spent almost a week sanding the entire thing back to bare wood due to a previous peeling paint (Behr)
Yes the pergola cedar will be fine with the Extreme Butternut. After sanding you should clean and brighten the wood fore additional prep on the floors. This will allow the stain the penetrate deeper.
Yes just one coat – is the stores recommendation to sand and put on another coat feathering it a good idea – they said not to power wash it. Note – the peeling is down to the very surface so you can now see the bare cedar wherever it peeled.
I would not sand. That closes to wood pores so the stain absorbs even less. Best to strip and brighten. Might want to get some tech help from the manufacturer. Saversystems.
We used Defy for hardwood light walnut last year – we had a very rough winter and this spring after the snow melted there are numerous places on the deck that are peeling. We checked with the store we purchased the product – their advice to us is to lightly sand using 80 grain and put another coat on the floor feathering it – the railings are just fine. They said they believed the Cedarwood which was about nine months old at the time must not have been dried out enough to properly absorb the stain and that could be why we have so much peeling. I would be interested in your thoughts on this.
Deb, peeling is usually the result of not prepping correctly or over applying. If the Defy is unable to penetrate then it can film on the wood surface. Did you only apply one coat to the new wood as directions state?
I have a forty year old cedar deck and the decking has irregular surfaces from using pressure washing. Can I sand this deck to level the surfaces(barefoot is painful)? I assume I must clean and brighten afterwards.
You will need to power sand out the pressure washing damage: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/how-to-sand-your-wood-deck/