How To Change from Water Based to Oil Based Deck Stains  4.7/5 (69)

This post was updated on May 1, 2024

Change from Water Based to Oil Based Deck Stains

DeckStainHelp.com continues to be a trusted source for the latest in deck restoration news and trending topics throughout 2024. Water-based stains and oil-based stains have their advantages and disadvantages. If you wish to change from a water-based to oil-based deck stain, or vice versa, here are some suggestions. Any questions? Ask below!


How to Change From Water Based to Oil Based Exterior Decking Stain and Vice Versa

The longevity of a deck or other exterior wood structure depends highly on how well it is maintained. A wood surface left alone or neglected will not last long in a harsh environment. Wood needs to be sealed and protected from moisture, UV rays, mold, mildew, and such contaminants that will cause rot and decay. The most common types of wood protectants are oil and water-based.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Once a wood surface is coated with a particular type of stain it is usually maintained every few years with another light maintenance coat of the same type of stain. However, on occasion, some homeowners may decide to change from oil-based to a water-based stain or vice versa.

To do this successfully a few guidelines need to be followed.

When switching from one particular type of stain to another, you have to remember the characteristics of the stains you are working with. These two types of stains will not perform well together. If the wood has a penetrating oil-based stain on it now, a water-based stain will not be able to penetrate the wood. If it is film-forming stains you are dealing with, they will not adhere well and normally the topcoat stain will fail prematurely.

To successfully change from oil-based to water-based or vice versa, you have to remove all of the existing stain. There are products like Restore-A-Deck Stain Stripper that can help break down existing stains to make them easier to remove. The stripper is applied to the wood surface and allowed to dwell. It works to soften the stain so the wood surface can then be pressure washed or scrubbed clean. The second step of a wood brightener is then applied to neutralize the stripper and prepare the wood for a new stain.

Removing an old stain and getting back down to bare wood is the only way to ensure the new stain will adhere or penetrate the wood properly. Removing an old stain is not always easy. Solid stains and some water-based stains can be extremely stubborn. They may take several attempts to strip and sanding may be necessary. Once the existing stain is gone you can apply the new oil or water-based stain to a clean wood surface.

Please Ask Any Questions Below

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Scott Paul ~ Restoring Wood & Decks Since 1993 Owner
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.

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Dayna
Dayna
1 day ago

Hello. We had some confusion this year and what we did by mistake was put an oil-based stain over our previously treated (3 years prior) water-based stained deck. It did not turn out very well and much of the stain just sat on top of the wood, and I had to wipe it off but a good amount remained. The deck is very old and has many splits in the wood. We decided that it needs a solid stain, should have done that in the first place. We are using Behr stain. I am assuming I will need to strip and clean the oil-based stain off. I am sure I cannot get down to the bare wood especially in the areas where the old water based stain remained. But I am hoping to get at least this top coat of oil based off. Especially since it wasn’t prepped for it in the first place. Just wondering if this is what you recommend or if there is anything else I should do? What are your thoughts on how well the water based solid stain will adhere at this point? Also wondering your opinion on the textured stain they have now. Thank you!

Dayna
Dayna
16 hours ago

Thank you. And just to confirm, the brightener is different than the cleaner, correct? Do I need to use both? I was using the Behr all in one wood cleaner. But idk if that has a brightener and it sounds like you wouldn’t recommend Behr anyhow.

Alene Weese
Alene Weese
2 months ago

I have a pressure treated deck. The floor is Australian Timber Oul. The raillings are all a Cabot modified water / oil mix. What can I do to make it all the same product? Tks.

Dick
Dick
1 year ago

Just oil stain my outside deck, the wife did not like the color, can I apply a darker oil base stain over it? It

Sidne
Sidne
2 years ago

I have a small area of cedar decking that was stained with a semi-transparent water based stain three years ago and has had to be scraped and restained every year since then. I have been able to remove all of the water based stain by using a pressure washer. I think the way to go would be to apply an oil based transparent stain to cut down on the yearly maintenance. Do you agree? Do I need to do anything in the way of prep now that the old stain is off?

Sidne
Sidne
2 years ago

Thank you! Reading elsewhere, I see that I can expect to have to re-stain every two or three years even with the best stain. Does that sound right? Regardless, not having the stain peel would be a worthy goal.

Sidne
Sidne
2 years ago

Many thanks for your help and your quick reply.

Sally
Sally
2 years ago

My deck is my own hell realm. I have a three story southern facing redwood deck. The first stain was suggested by the person who we hired. It was for boats. He said it would last. It started pealing within three months because the wood swelled. Then we paid to have the whole thing sanded and re-stained with a semi-transparent stain in oil based because we were told it lasted longer. We have to re-due it every one to two years. It really didn’t last long here in San Francisco. Now its hard to get oil based stain from the manufacturer unless I go to Nevada to purchase it and it’s not environmentally friendly. Once again what to do. I’m 67 years old and I don’t have the money or the stamina to clean, strip, and add a wood brightener to three stories of decking and stairs before I apply a semi transparent stain. Its too many steps. What I don’t understand is why no one is actually making a water based stain that can be applied to an oil base with out having to start from the beginning. A bridge so to speak between the oil and the water based which seems to be the direction we are all moving given the VOC’s and pollution. The internet is so full of options it is useless. I went to This Old House, and they said you can add water base over oil. Odd because in general you can’t to that. So I’m just not making any progress. My deck seems to be sealed, but faded. Three are only two areas that seem to be worn out on the treads where you see the wood. So essentially a stain is probably not what I could use as the wood is sealed. Because it wouldn’t be able to penetrate. What a confusing mess.

Sally
Sally
2 years ago

Thanks.

I'm A Little Teapot
I'm A Little Teapot
2 years ago

I have a screened porch that has been previously stained with a semi-transparent (I think) stain. I don’t know what type of stain, or how long ago – but probably a very long time based on the rest of the house. We’re getting ready this year to repair and restain it, likely with a solid stain so we can significantly lighten the color. Minimal wear is expected. How do I determine the type of stain that was used? Or can I safely cover with oil or water based, regardless of what is currently there? We’ll be cleaning, but do not plan to completely strip.

pete bennetts
pete bennetts
2 years ago

years ago i used a decking oil on a treated pine deck.Well they called it an oil but its water based so it cant be . I recently replaced parts of the deck and also added bits now i want to paint it to keep it all the same can i use an oil based or turps wash up type paint ? i recently used a brand here in Australia on pavers and a concrete shed that dried really quick and appears to be very hard much harder than a water wash up type paint? i have just tried applying some on a small section that i can easily sand off and it seems to have taken really well cheers for any advice and merry christmas to all

Reza
Reza
2 years ago

How can I change the color of brown solid stain to white color without deck stripper? The brown solid stain has been done recently and it is Behr based 5013.

Reza
Reza
2 years ago

Many thanks for quick response. Wondering if I should use the same brand but white color solid stain or you thing there is a better brand white solid stain to used it.

John L.
John L.
2 years ago

Hello. I stained an outdoor porch with interior stain because I was told I could just use spar urethane to seal it and therefore the stain type wouldn’t matter. When I read the directions on the spar urethane it stated that it was not to be used on outdoor floors. A worker at the local hardware store confirmed this. I do not think the interior stain will provide an appropriate amount of protection from the elements. I thought of putting an exterior timber oil over the interior stain but read that the previously stained wood will not accept the timber oil. Currently, water puddles on the newly stained porch. Most of my porch is covered. The stairs and northwest corner receive most of the rain and sun exposure. What would you suggest? Thanks!

Carol Weide
Carol Weide
2 years ago

We used an oil based transparent stain 4 years ago but the smell was too strong.I want to switch to water based. Is that ok.

Carol Weide
Carol Weide
2 years ago

The man we hired is going to pressure wash it . Is that enough? What about spindles? He’s says hes washing them also . Another question. Is there an oil based deck stain semi transparent that is not overly smelly.

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