This post was updated on January 18, 2023
How Often to Reapply a Deck or Wood Stain?
This is one of the most popular wood or deck staining questions we have on DeckStainHelp.com.
Exterior deck and wood maintenance are key to improve the appearance and protect the wood so it lasts for many years. A quality wood or deck stain can last up to 3 years on a deck and 5 years on a vertical surface but they do not last forever. This article aims to provide you with tips on when to reapply your deck stain for different types of surfaces and different types of stains or coatings.
Wood Staining Maintenance Tip: It is always best to reapply a deck stain prior to full failure. In many cases, you can clean and reapply the same stain and brand if the current stain is intact to the wood.
How Often to Stain Horizontals Wood Surfaces?
Exterior wood surfaces such as deck floors, wood walkways and the tops of railings typically need to be reapplied every 1-3 years depending on the brand, type, and solid content of the stain. Look for signs of wearing, fading or peeling to access when to reapply.
How Often to Stain Vertical Wood Surfaces?
Exterior Wood Surfaces such as fences, login cabins, wood-framed homes, and deck railings typically will last about twice as long as a horizontal surface. This could mean 3-7 years on a vertical surface.
Wood Stain Stripping Tip: If a transparent or semi-transparent wood stain has reached failure with more than 25% peeling or wearing, you may need to strip and brighten the wood for the prep. This will help to ensure an even application of the new coating. If you are switching stain brands or colors of stain, you will need to remove the current coating fully first by stripping and or sanding: Tips on Best Deck Prep
The Different Types of Wood Deck Stains
Not all deck stain types will last the same. Transparency or solid content plays a key role in how long the stain will protect from UV fading. The ability to fully penetrate into the wood versus filming on top of the wood also plays a role as to if the stain will be prone to peeling or not.
Wood Stain Transparency Tip: In general darker colors will always give better UV protection from graying than lighter colors. Pigment or solid content of the color is directly related to how long the wood will be protected from UV oxidation or graying.
When to Reapply Clear Sealers
Clear wood sealers offer little to no UV protection and will gray quickly. Typically used as sealers only and will gray in less than a few months. If using to protect from water absorption, you will need to reapply annually.
When to Reapply Transparent Wood Deck Stains
Transparent wood and deck stains are very lightly tinted and look the most natural as they contain minimal pigment. They also only last about 12-18 months for most scenarios on a horizontal and 18-24 months on a vertical surface.
When to Reapply Semi-Transparent Wood Deck Stains
Semi-transparent wood deck stains contain more pigment then a transparent stain while still showing the natural grain of the wood. In most scenarios can be cleaned and re-coated easily. They can be removed with a deck stain stripper if needed. The longevity of a semi-transparent stain can vary from 1-3 years on a horizontal surface and 2-6 years on a vertical surface. The variance is based on brand and weather conditions.
Semi-Transparent Stain Reapplication Tip: Our favorite deck stains have always been the penetrating semi-transparent stains. These stain types allow the wood grain to show and if they truly soak into the wood grain, reapplying is easier down the road. The problem we have noticed in the last 5-10 years is that not all semi-transparent stains are penetrating. Many manufacturers have gone away with the true penetrating stains due to VOC laws and for profitability. Top-Rated Semi-Transparent Stains
When to Reapply a Solid Color Wood Deck Stain
Solid color (opaque) wood and deck stains look like paints as they cover the wood so you will not see the wood grain anymore. They offer 100% UV protection but a prone to peeling as they film or dry on top of the surface. The solid stains will last about 1-3 years on a horizontal surface and 3-7 years on vertical surfaces depending on the brand: Best Solid Color Deck Stains
Solid Stain Reapplication Tip: If recoating a solid color stain you do not have to strip or remove all of the previous coatings. Remove what is loose and dirty but you can coat over the intact stain that is not peeling with another coat of solid stain.
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If you have any questions on this article about How Often Should you Stain your Deck, please ask below.
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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.