This post was updated on January 18, 2023
The Best Way Stain a Wood Deck
How Long Does it Take to Stain a Deck is a popular question here on DeckStainHelp.com. Deck Stains and Deck Sealers typically come in 5 different types. Clear Deck Sealers, Transparent Deck Stains, Semi-Transparent Deck Stains, Semi-Solid Deck Stains, and Solid Color Deck Stains. All of these stain types are applied differently and take different amounts of effort or time to finish the deck staining project
In this article about How Long Does it Take to Stain a Deck, we will break down the main difference between the stain types and which of them is the fastest to apply.
For more info, see our Deck Stain Facts section with over 150 simple Q&A articles that answer all the questions that you have regarding deck staining, cleaning, and prep.
We are going to use the same test deck stats for each different type of deck stain. The time to stain this deck will vary based on the user’s experience. We have restored over 10,000 decks in 25+ years of deck restoration so our results will be a little faster than most.
Note: For our timing tests, we used our deck staining procedures on this link: How To Stain A Deck Fast!
Test Deck Staining Time Stats
Square Footage: 500 Sq. Feet
Amount of Stain or Sealer Being Applied: 5-Gallons
Number of Coats Applied: 2 Coats
Railings: Yes on three sides
Steps: 3 Steps to the ground
Team: We used two people for all staining jobs
How Long Does it Take to Apply Deck Sealer
Deck Sealers are clear transparent coatings that are the easiest of all coatings to apply. In our test deck, we used the Defy Extreme Clear Sealer. This is a water-based coating that looks similar to milk when applying but dries crystal clear.
Applicators Used and Tips: We used a pump-up sprayer and a brush. We tarped the outside of the deck and sprayed all railings first. When done we applied two coats wet on wet to the floors. The railings took about 45 minutes to complete and the flooring about 45 minutes to complete.
Time to Complete: We finished this clear deck sealer deck in 1.5 hours.
Pros: Clear sealers are very easy to apply. Goof proof. Just spray, touch-up and go to the next section. Always dries evenly as there is not any color to the coating.
How Long Does it Take to Apply Semi-Transparent Deck Stain
Semi-Transparent (and Transparent) Deck Stains are tinted coatings that show the natural grain of the wood. They are the second easiest deck stain or sealer to apply. We used the TWP 100 Pro Series Stain in Cedartone Color. This a semi-transparent oil-based wood deck stain.
Applicators Used and Tips: We used a pump-up sprayer, stain pad, and a floor staining brush. We tarped the outside of the deck and sprayed all railings first. We then went over all railings to touch up any missed spots and drips. When done we sprayed one coat to the floor and the second wet on wet with the floor staining brush. We finished the steps last. The railings took about 75 minutes to complete and the flooring about 45 minutes to complete.
Time to Complete: We finished this semi-transparent deck in 2 hours.
Pros: Semi-Transparent stains are still easy to apply but not as easy as a clear sealer. You will need to take care that the stain is applied evenly to ensure it dries evenly.
Cons: Watch for missed spots and drips to avoid an uneven application.
Applying A Semi-Transparent Stain Tip: Semi-Transparent oil-based stains are easier to apply than Semi-Transparent water-based stains as they do not dry as fast. They are also easier to spread. Add about 50% more time if applying a water-based semi-transparent stain.
How Long Does it Take to Apply Solid Deck Stain
Solid Color or Opaque Deck Stains look and apply much thicker and will 100% cover the grain when done. When applying two coats, you must fully let the first coat dry first before applying a second coat. This adds additional time to complete the project. We used the Restore-A-Deck Solid Stain in Cedar Color. This a solid color water-based wood deck stain.
Applicators Used and Tips: We used stain brushes and rollers for the entire job. We started with the railings first and applied one coat to all railings using the brushes and rollers. We then finished with one coat to the flooring. The first coat took 2.5 hours to complete. We then waited for the stain to dry for 2 hours and reapplied another coat using the same procedures to the railings and floor. The second coat was much faster and took 1.5 hours to complete
Time to Complete: We finished this deck in 6 hours. This included the 2 hours of drying between coats.
Pros: The second coat is easier to apply than the first coat. Easy to spot any missed areas.
Cons: Applying a solid color deck stain is the hardest of all deck stains and typically takes 3 times as long to complete.
Time to Stain a Deck?
If you would like more information on the different types of applications such as brushes, stain pads, and sprayers, see our article here: Best Deck Stain Applicators
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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.