Best Deck Stains for 2024: 30 Years Pro Experience  4.8/5 (361)

This post was updated on June 11, 2024

Hi, I am Scott Paul, a leading exterior restoration contractor and business owner with over 30 years of experience in exterior wood decking. My Best Deck Stain reviews and help tips are based on my history as a wood restoration contractor and actual hands-on testing, all designed to present you with the top deck stain choices. See here for more info about me.

Elevate Your Deck with Premium Wood Coatings

Whether preparing for a DIY deck-staining project or looking for the perfect stain to share with your contractor, I’ve got you covered. I have rounded up the eight best deck stains available in 2024, including oil-based stains, water-based stains, and semi-transparent and solid options.

Scott’s Professional Guide to Buying Deck Stain

My favorite deck stains have always been penetrating semi-transparent and semi-solid 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 moved away from the true penetrating stains because of VOC laws and profitability. These non-penetrating stains will dry on top of the wood and may be prone to peeling and failure, looking more like paint than a stain. Believe it or not, deck stains performed better 10-20 years ago with wearing and peeling than they do in 2024. However, there have been some major advancements in UV protection in the past 5-10 years. Nano-particles of zinc oxides and improvements to trans-oxides have shown excellent UV resistance.

The good news is that you can still find some quality deck stains in 2024 that offer UV protection, penetrate deep into the wood grain, and highlight the wood’s natural beauty. These products also make reapplication a breeze down the road.

Questions on Which Deck Stain to Use?

Want personalized help? Post your questions below in the comments, and I’ll gladly guide you toward the best deck stain and sealer. Please include any pictures you may have and a brief history of the deck.

Over 30,000 Q&A Comments Below on this article. Ask Below, I Love to Help!

My Recommended Best Deck Stains at a Glance

Click on the link and jump straight to the review:

My Steps to Picking Your Perfect Deck Stain

  1. Is There a Best Deck Stain?
  2. Understanding Deck Stain Types
  3. Choosing Your Deck Stain Type
  4. Avoiding Common Deck Stain Mistakes
  5. Getting the Most out of Your Deck Stain
  6. Read My Deck Stain Reviews
  7. Deck Stain FAQ
  8. Ask Me for Help!

Is There a #1 Rated Best Deck Stain?

What is the Best Deck Stain? This is the most common question I get here on DeckStainHelp.com, and the short answer is, No, there is no #1 or best exterior wood stain for decks and wood surfaces that will outperform every other stain, every single time. A better way to approach this common question is to ask, “What is the best stain for my deck and its environment?” A wood deck stain that performs well in humid South Carolina may not fare as well in the snowy Midwest states. You also need to consider VOC (volatile organic compound) laws vary in different places, which may limit what is available in your state or country. For example, my #1 rated wood and deck stain, TWP 100 Pro Series stain, cannot be used in 17 states and Canada because its VOC content is above the legal limits. You should also consider the type of stain or appearance you would prefer. Do you prefer to see the wood grain or hide the grain fully so the stain looks more like paint?

Understanding Deck Stain Types: Transparent, Semi-Transparent, and Solid

Before reading my deck stain reviews, learn more about the three main types of deck stains you may encounter: transparent, semi-transparent, and solid stains.

Transparent Stains

As the name suggests, transparent stains are clear or very lightly tinted stains that help seal and protect wooden decks while still allowing the wood grain to show through.

  • Pros of transparent deck stains: Transparent deck stains can have several benefits. Penetrating transparent stains soak into the wood, eliminating slippery residue and sealing the wood from water damage. The stains also allow the unique beauty of your wooden boards to show through rather than hiding them below a thick coat of paint.
  • Cons of transparent deck stains: Some disadvantages of transparent deck stains include potentially more maintenance and reapplication requirements, fewer color options, less UV protection, and no opportunity to hide flaws in your deck.
  • When to choose a transparent stain: You may prefer a transparent stain if you want to seal your new deck boards while still allowing the wood grain to shine through.

Transparent Deck Stain

Semi-Transparent Stains

Like transparent stains, semi-transparent stains seal and protect your wooden deck from damage. However, these stains typically feature slightly richer colors that can provide more coverage than a transparent stain. You’ll still see the wood grain of your deck boards, but a semi-transparent stain cannot hide some flawed or damaged boards.

  • Pros of semi-transparent deck stains: Semi-transparent stains are less likely to chip and peel, and some can even be applied directly to damp wood, meaning you can start staining before your deck dries completely. Semi-transparent stains may also be more durable than transparent stains while providing enhanced UV protection.
  • Cons of semi-transparent deck stains: These stains are typically better suited to well-maintained decks under ten years old. They’re also not the best choice for painted surfaces, as they won’t cover imperfections.
  • When to choose a semi-transparent stain: Consider a semi-transparent stain if your deck is newer and in good shape but may have some minor discoloration.
Semi-Transparent Deck Stain IPE

Semi-Transparent Deck Stain

Solid (opaque) Stains

I have found that solid deck stains are similar to paint in that they form a coat of solid color on top of your deck boards. Unlike paint, however, solid stains also soak into the wood and seal it against moisture, mold, and mildew damage.

  • Pros of solid deck stains: Solid stains provide the most coverage for your deck boards. They offer unmatched UV defense and enhanced durability compared to transparent and semi-transparent stains.
  • Cons of solid deck stains: Solid stains often hide your deck’s natural grain completely and create a smooth, even finish on top of the boards.
  • When to choose a solid stain: You may choose a solid stain if your deck is discolored or made of softer woods like cedar and pine, as these materials may require the additional protection offered by a solid stain.
The Best Solid Color Deck Stains

Solid Color Deck Stains

Which Deck Stain is Right for Me?

When comparing deck stain products and types, consider the following factors:

1. Color and Transparency Preferences

Depending on your taste and how much natural wood grain you want to see, you may choose a transparent, semi-transparent, or solid stain.

  • Transparent stains are lightly tinted products that protect the wood from sun and moisture damage but allow the natural wood grain to show through.
  • Semi-transparent stains lend more color to the wood than transparent colors, allowing you to match your deck boards to your home or trim and providing better UV protection.
  • Solid stains bridge the gap between a stain and paint, forming a solid coating on top of your wooden deck and creating an even color that conceals wood grain and variations in the wood grain.

2. Long-Term Durability

I believe penetrating, semi-transparent stains provide the perfect balance of customizable color, ease of reapplication, and long-term durability. Transparent stains typically require more frequent applications, while solid stains may last up to 2-3 years on a deck and 4-6 years on vertical wood such as railings with appropriate care.

3. Deck Condition

You can generally use any stain on a newer deck that’s still in good condition. However, you may consider a semi-transparent or solid stain for an older, weathered deck.

4. Climate Concerns

Finally, consider your climate. A hot, dry area may require stains with enhanced UV protection, while you may prefer a product with strong mold, mildew, and moisture protection in areas that receive heavy rainfall.

Common Deck Staining Mistakes to Avoid

Even if you choose the best deck stain on the market, these common mistakes can impact long-term durability and appeal:

  • Not preparing your deck: Failing to clean your deck or remove old, flaking, or peeling stain from your boards can prevent a fresh coat of stain from adhering properly.
  • Not checking the weather: Rain, extreme temperatures, or high humidity can impact stain application. Check the forecast for two or three dry days with temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, try to apply stain earlier in the morning or in the afternoon to avoid direct sunlight.
  • Over-applying stain: You may think more stain equals more protection from moisture, mildew, and sun damage, but that’s not always the case. Too much stain can prevent the product from penetrating your deck boards. As a result, it may form a film on top of the wood that peels or flakes off over time.
  • Not maintaining your deck: Even after your stain dries, it may require ongoing maintenance. Keep your deck dry and swept to eliminate grime and reduce the risk of mold or mildew. Finally, touch up spots showing signs of fading, chipping, or UV or moisture damage.

Getting the Most Out of Your Deck Stain

No one wants to apply fresh deck stain only to find it needs a reapplication a few months later. With that in mind, consider the following tips to get the most out of your deck stain:

  • Take the time to prep your deck before applying stain to ensure maximum durability. Start by sweeping off dust, dirt, and grime, then use a scrub brush with a hose or a pressure washer on a low setting. Always use the appropriate deck cleaner or stain stripper. Not sure how to prep your deck? See our article on Deck Prepping, and we will gladly help and offer advice: Strip, Clean, or Sand Your Deck?
  • Apply your stain on a dry, partly sunny day with mild weather. Want to stain your deck the same day as prep? If using the Restore-A-Deck stains, you can apply them to damp wood after prepping!
  • Apply stain using a roller, stain pad, or stain brush.
  • Always follow all manufacturer directions regarding the number of coats to apply and whether a second coat should be applied wet on wet or wet on dry.
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Top-Rated Deck Stain Reviews

See below for more in-depth reviews of my top-rated deck stains in 2024.

Top Oil-

Based Stain

Top Water-Based Stain

Top Solid Color Stain

Easiest to Apply Stain

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My Top 8: Top Deck Stain Reviews & Ratings

Each deck stain review I do shows two rating types: my DeckStainHelp.com review, which is based on my experience with the deck stain, and the Consumer Star Ratings, which are based on customers’ experiences using the same stain. As you will see, my reviews and ratings correspond and are very similar to actual consumers’ ratings.

My Deck Stain Star Ratings are based on these criteria:

  • Ease of application
  • Appearance after application
  • Preventing UV graying at 2-year mark
  • Wear and tear after 2 years
  • Color shifting/darkening in color (5 Star = No Darkening)
  • Preventing mold/mildew/algae at 2-year mark

Listed below, I will summarize my Best Deck Stain Ratings for the 2024 deck season, based on the criteria stated above. I have also broken them down into the top oil-based and water-based versions.

Top 5 Oil-Based Deck Stain Ratings
1. TWP 100 Series
2. Armstrong Clark Wood Stain
3. TWP 1500 Series
4. TWP Pro-Series Semi-Solid
5. Ready Seal Wood Stain

Top 3 Water-Based Deck Stain Ratings
1. Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain
2. TWP Natural Effect Impregnating Stain
3. Defy Extreme Stain

The 8 Best Deck Stain Ratings

1. TWP 100 Pro Series Stain Review

TWP 100 Deck Stain Ratings

  • Scott’s Pro Tip: My most used deck stain in the past 30 years! We have used the TWP 100 Series on many 1000s of decks.

TWP 100 Series penetrates well into the wood, fades lightly in color, and holds up to wear and tear. I like that when it is time to redo the wood in 2-3 years, the TWP can be cleaned and re-coated or even removed with ease. This makes the reapplication process much easier. TWP 100 Series is only allowed in 35 States and cannot be used in Canada.
Stain Type: Penetrating Semi-Transparent Oil-Based. Full Curing Wood Stain.
Consumer Star Ratings:  4.5/5 (41)
My DeckStainHelp.com Review (On a scale of 1-10): 8.69
See My Review Article Here: TWP 100 Series Review
Purchase Direct for Less Here: TWP 100 Series Stain

2. Restore-A-Deck Semi-Transparent Wood Stain Review

Restore A Deck Wood Stain Review

  • Scott’s Pro Tip: My favorite deck stain to save time and money. We prep and stain on the same day.

I really like that Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain can be applied to dry or damp wood. Applying to damp wood allows me the ability to prep and stain on the same day, saving us a tremendous amount of time. Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain is an advanced, water-based, semi-transparent stain formulation designed to penetrate deep into wood pores for maximum protection and longevity. Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain protects the wood from harmful UV rays and damage caused by water penetration.
Stain Type: Penetrating Semi-Transparent Water-Based. Full Curing Damp Application Stain.
Consumer Star Ratings:  4.6/5 (50)
My DeckStainHelp.com Review (On a scale of 1-10): 8.625
See My Review Article Here: Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain Review
Purchase on Amazon Here: Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain
Purchase Direct for Less Here: Purchase Here

Restore-A-Deck Consumer Video Review

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3. Armstrong Clark Wood Stain Review

Armstrong Clark Wood Stain Rating

  • Scott’s Pro Tip: Regarding ease of application and performance, the Armstrong Clark stain is one of my top stains. We love their semi-solid colors and performance.

The Armstrong Clark Wood stain has been a solid performer for my team since we started reviewing and using it about 10 years ago. I really like how it penetrates deep into the wood grain and applies easily. Reapplication is simple after prepping with a good deck cleaner. One callout is to make sure you do not overapply. You want the stain to soak completely into the wood. Compliant for all US states and Canada.
Stain Type: Penetrating Transparent, Semi-Transparent, Semi-Solid Oil-Based. Paraffin and Curing Oil Blend. Full Curing Stain.
Consumer Star Ratings:  4.4/5 (62)
My DeckStainHelp.com Review (On a scale of 1-10):8.5
See My Review Article Here: Armstrong Clark Stain Review
Purchase Direct for Less Here: Purchase Here
Purchase on Amazon Here: Armstrong Clark Wood Stain

4. TWP Pro-Series Semi-Solid Wood Stain Review

TWP Semi-Solid Stain

  • Scott’s Pro Tip: My favorite penetrating semi-solid wood and deck stain soaks into the wood and provides excellent UV protection.

What I like best about the TWP Semi-Solid Stain is that it is simple to apply, prep, and reapply when the time comes and holds color very well despite UV exposure. I have been using the TWP Semi-Solid colors for the last 4 years and have had nothing but positive results. Maximum UV protection and a much larger color palette are the top reasons we will offer the TWP Semi-Solid to all of my customers. The Low-VOC version is allowed in all US States and Canada.
Stain Type: Penetrating Semi-Solid Oil-Based. Full Curing Stain.
Consumer Star Ratings:  4.9/5 (6)
My DeckStainHelp.com Review (On a scale of 1-10): 8.50
See My Review Article Here: TWP Semi-Solid Series Review
Purchase Direct for Less Here: Purchase Here

5. TWP 1500 Series Stain Review

TWP 1500 Series Rating

  • Scott’s Pro Tip: My favorite current penetrating semi-transparent oil-based stain is the TWP 1500 Series. Michigan switched to low-VOC, so I now use it on the majority of decks that I restore.

The TWP 1500 Series is one of the best wood and decking stains and is one of my top choices. As a contractor, I really like stains that penetrate deep into the wood and can be reapplied without sanding. TWP 1500 fits this and more by adding excellent UV and mold protection. Maintaining TWP every 2-3 years is easy. TWP 1500 is compliant for all US states but not Canada.
Stain Type: Penetrating Semi-Transparent Oil-Based. Full Curing EPA Registered Stain.
Consumer Star Ratings:  4.6/5 (21)
My DeckStainHelp.com Review (On a scale of 1-10):8.5
See My Review Article Here: TWP 1500 Series Review
Purchase Direct for Less Here: Purchase Here

6. TWP Natural Effect Impregnating Stain Review

  • Scott’s Pro Tip: My new favorite IPE and Hardwood Deck stain is the first stain I have ever seen last more than one year on exotic hardwoods.

TWP Natural Effect Impregnators are tinted with iron oxide pigments, contain UV absorbers, and are extremely resistant to solar radiation. Their function is to preserve the wood from degradation due to UV light, microorganisms, and more. They prevent changes in wood color and promote adhesion of the Natural Effect Finish. TWP Natural Effect is compliant for all US states and Canada. This is a new product for my team, but I have tested it since 2021. So far, so good with my test deck.
Stain Type: Penetrating Semi-Transparent Impregnating Water-Based Stain.
Consumer Star Ratings:  4.7/5 (4)
My DeckStainHelp.com Review (On a scale of 1-10):8.5
See My Review Article Here: TWP Natural Effect Review
Purchase Direct for Less Here: Purchase Here

7. Defy Extreme Wood Stain Review

Defy Extreme Stain Review

  • Scott’s Pro Tip: The Defy Extremes is one of my top choices when using a water-based semi-transparent wood stain.

I have found the Defy Extreme Wood Stain to be one of the best-performing water-based deck stains on the market. The zinc oxide Nano-particles do double duty in preventing UV fading and preventing mold or mildew growth. Defy Extreme penetrates into the wood grain extremely well for a water-based stain, resulting in a non-filming coating that is not prone to peeling or wear from traffic. I use the Defy Extreme on about 30-50 deck restorations every year in the Midwest, and it’s one of my go-to brands. It is compliant for all US states and Canada.
Stain Type: Penetrating Semi-Transparent Water-Based. Full Curing Stain with Nano-particles of Zinc Oxide.
Consumer Star Ratings:  4.1/5 (55)
My DeckStainHelp.com Review (On a scale of 1-10):8.47
See My Review Article Here: Defy Extreme Stain Review
Purchase on Amazon Here: Defy Extreme Wood Stain
Purchase Direct for Less Here: Purchase Here

8. Ready Seal Wood Stain Review

Ready Seal Wood Stain Review

  • Scott’s Pro Tip: Ready Seal Stain is not my favorite since it requires annual recoating, but I do like that it applies easily. Ready Seal does not cure fully and can rub off the wood on clothing.

Ready Seal Wood Stain contains the non-drying oil paraffin, which dives into the wood fibers and does not cure on the surface. There are many positives to paraffin stains, such as a user-friendly application and an even finish. The negatives can be poorer UV resistance and coverage rates with an oily finish that can stay on top of the surface. Ready Seal Wood and Deck Stain is a great choice for an easy-to-apply, even finish. However, I have found it necessary to reapply every 12-18 months due to color loss.
Stain Type: Penetrating Transparent Paraffin Oil-Based. Non-Curing.
Consumer Star Ratings:  3.7/5 (56)
My DeckStainHelp.com Review (On a scale of 1-10):7.75
See My Review Article Here: Ready Seal Stain Review
Purchase on Amazon Here: Purchase Here

My Best Deck Stains by Stain Type

Semi-Transparent Deck Stain Review

I like that Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain can be applied to dry or damp wood. Applying to damp wood allows you to prep and stain on the same day, saving you a tremendous amount of time. In 2018, my first full year of using the Restore A Deck stain, I had zero issues with performance and saved a tremendous amount of time with the ability to prep and stain on the same day. I will continue to offer the Restore A Deck Wood Stain as one of my go-to decking stains for the 2024 restoration season. The Restore A Deck Stains come in both Semi-Transparent and Solid Colors.

For more, see my article on the Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stains.

Semi-Solid Deck Stain Review

Best New Semi-Solid Stain for 2024: Available in 30 Custom Colors, the TWP® Semi-Solid Pro-Series is my favorite semi-solid stain. It will keep your wood beautiful, fresh, and looking new longer! The ease of application and maintenance will allow you to enjoy your investment for years to come. TWP®Semi-Solid Pro-Series provides a broad spectrum of weather protection, is water repellent, and aids in color retention. TWP® Semi-Solid Pro-Series resists water absorption that causes warping, cracking, splitting, and prevents freeze damage in colder climates.

Deck Stain Oil-Based: TWP 100 Pro Series Semi-Transparent

TWP 100 Deck Stain RatingsTWP 100 Pro Series semi-transparent stain penetrates well into the wood, fades lightly in color, and holds up to wear and tear. I like that when it’s time to redo the wood in 2-3 years, the TWP outdoor stain can be cleaned and re-applied or removed with ease. This makes the reapplication process much easier. TWP 100 Pro Series patio stain is only allowed in 35 states and cannot be used in Canada.

  • Stain Type: Penetrating semi-transparent, oil-based, full-curing exterior wood stain
  • Consumer Star Ratings:  4.5/5 (41)
  • My DeckStainHelp.com Rating: 8.69/10
  • Website Link: TWP 100 Series
  • Wood and Deck Stain Photos: TWP 100 Series Photo Album

Deck Stain Water-Based: Restore-A-Deck Semi-Transparent Deck Stain

Restore A Deck Wood Stain ReviewRestore-A-Deck semi-transparent deck stain can be applied to dry or damp wood. Applying this stain to damp wood allows us to prep and stain on the same day, saving you a tremendous amount of time. This Restore-A-Deck wood stain is an advanced, water-based, semi-transparent stain formulation designed to penetrate deep into wood pores for maximum protection and longevity. It’s compliant with regulations in all U.S. states and Canada.

Solid Color Deck Stain: Restore-A-Deck Solid Color Wood & Deck Stain

Restore A Deck Solid Color Stain ReviewRestore-A-Deck solid-color stain is my go-to solid-color/opaque deck stain for 2024 because of its ease of use, five pre-mixed solid colors (the only solid stain on the market that comes pre-mixed), and the ability to allow us to prep and stain on the same day, which adds extra convenience. It uses the latest advances in wood stain technology to seal and protect the wood by penetrating deep into the grain, shielding your deck from UV and water damage which is responsible for the growth of mold and mildew. It’s also compliant with regulations in all U.S. states and Canada.

For more info, see my dedicated article on the Best Solid Color Deck Stains.

Best-Applying Deck Stain: Armstrong-Clark Wood Stain

Armstrong Clark Wood Stain RatingArmstrong-Clark Wood Stain has consistently been a well-performing deck stain product. I really like how it penetrates deep into the wood grain and applies easily. Reapplication is simple for us, with a good deck cleaner for the prep. It’s compliant with regulations in all U.S. states and Canada.

  • Stain Type: Penetrating transparent, semi-transparent, semi-solid oil-based, paraffin and curing oil blend, full-curing exterior wood stain
  • Consumer Star Ratings:  4.4/5 (62)
  • My DeckStainHelp.com Rating: 8.5/10
  • Website Link: Armstrong Clark Stains
  • Wood and Deck Stain Photos: Armstrong Clark Stain Photo Album
Pro Deck Restoration Contractor Quote on Armstrong Clark Stains

Jason Spurney, a professional wood restoration expert from J&S Deck Care, says,

“As a contractor, I highly recommend using Armstrong Clark for a natural look that achieves greater longevity than any other oil-based product I have used. I can confidently recommend this product to my customers, knowing that they will achieve the greatest return on their investment possible and enjoy their outdoor living space to the full.”

Semi-Solid Wood Deck Stain: TWP Pro Series Semi-Solid Stain

TWP Semi-Solid StainThe TWP brand of stains is one of our most commonly used wood stain brands, as I have applied it to more than 10,000 decks over the past 30+ years as wood restoration contractors. What I like best about the TWP semi-solid stain is that it’s easy to apply, it’s easy to prep and reapply when the time comes, and it holds color very well, even under UV light. TWP semi-solid stain is only allowed in 35 states and cannot be used in Canada.

Make sure to check out my full article on the Best Semi-Solid Wood Deck Stains.

Wood Preservative Deck Stain: TWP 1500 Series Semi-Transparent Stain

TWP 1500 Series RatingTWP 1500 Series exterior deck stain is one of my top choices for the best outdoor wood stain because it protects the wood from rot and severe weather. TWP 1500 Series stain is the only deck stain on the market that is registered as a “wood preservative” with the EPA. As a contractor, we really like stains that penetrate deep into the wood and can be reapplied without sanding. TWP 1500 Series patio stain fits this and more by adding excellent UV and mold protection. Maintaining TWP stain every 2-3 years is easy. TWP 1500 Series stain is compliant for all U.S. states but not Canada.

  • Stain Type: Penetrating semi-transparent, oil-based, full-curing, EPA-registered exterior wood stain
  • Consumer Star Ratings:  4.6/5 (21)
  • My DeckStainHelp.com Rating: 8.5/10
  • Website Link: TWP 1500 Series
  • Wood and Deck Stain Photos: TWP 1500 Series Photo Album

Deck Stain for Mildew: Defy Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

Defy Extreme Stain ReviewDefy Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain penetrates into the wood grain extremely well for a water-based stain, resulting in a non-filming coating that is not prone to peeling or wear from traffic. I use the Defy Extreme on about 30-50 deck restorations every year in the Midwest, and it is one of the best outdoor wood stain options on the market for preventing mildew. Compliant for all US states and Canada.

  • Stain Type: Penetrating semi-transparent, water-based exterior wood stain
  • Consumer Star Ratings:  4.1/5 (55)
  • My DeckStainHelp.com Rating: 8.47/10
  • Website Link: Defy Extreme Wood Stain

Deck-Resurface Coating: Gulf Synthetics Deck Revive

Gulf Synthetics Deck Revive ReviewHomeowners are always looking for an alternative to a deck replacement. When wood is neglected, it can be expensive to have it restored or replaced. If you’re looking for a deck resurfacing Stain, remember that most users have had an unpleasant experience with Home Depot and Lowe’s products. Reviews and user experiences with most of these products have been overwhelmingly negative. However, comments about Gulf Synthetics Deck Revive have been favorable.

Deck Stain Facts: Frequently Sought Answers

When helping people choose the best deck stain and sealer, I often hear many of the same questions. Here are some facts and words of advice about exterior wood stain that can help answer these questions:

  • No exterior deck stain will last five or more years. A good-quality stain will last two or maybe three years on a deck floor (horizontal) and typically twice as long on railings and vertical surfaces.
  • Penetrating stains will have less chance of peeling, as they soak into the wood grain rather than settling as a film on top of the wood grain when fully cured.
  • Penetrating deck stains are easier to maintain by cleaning the deck and reapplying the stain after two to three years.
  • Filming deck stains that dry on top of the wood can be harder to remove and/or reapply, as they are more prone to peeling, wear, flaking, etc.
  • I have found that not all deck stains are penetrating. Some brands may claim that they are, but it may not be the case when you apply it to your exterior space. Always do extra research to ensure that the stain you purchase is penetrating.
  • Semi-transparent, transparent, and semi-solid stains will show the grain of the wood to some extent. Solid stains, deck resurfacing coatings, and paints will not.
  • Clear sealers without any pigment/color will not prevent UV graying. Lighter-pigmented stains that are transparent, semi-transparent, or semi-solid will have less UV protection than darker-pigmented stains in the same transparency. More color/tint means better UV protection.
  • Deck stain types include oil-based or water-based, filming or penetrating, and either transparent, semi-transparent, semi-solid, or solid (opaque). Deck resurfacing products are also an option.
  • Oil-based stains can still be used in all states and Canada as long as they comply with local VOC regulations.
  • When switching brands of deck stain, I have found it’s always best to remove the old coating first. Do this by using a deck stain stripper and/or sanding.
  • Always apply a wood brightener after prepping with a stain stripper or wood deck cleaner to neutralize the pH.
  • New decks that have been installed less than a year before treatment have different needs than a deck that is more than a year old. New decks need to be prepped and usually cannot be stained right away.
  • Always prep your deck for the outdoor stain you use to ensure a long-lasting finish.

What is a deck stain?

Deck stain is a type of finish applied to the wooden boards of your deck. Generally speaking, deck stains come in three types —transparent, semi-transparent, and opaque —and are available in a wide range of colors to suit your taste.

What deck stains will protect from UV graying?

Answer: The deck stain must be tinted to protect it from UV graying. I prefer semi-transparent stains, as they do not mask or cover the wood but highlight the grain while providing UV protection.

What deck stains perform the best?

Answer: My favorite deck stains have been penetrating semi-transparent and semi-solid 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.

What deck stain types can be cleaned and recoated as needed?

Answer: Penetrating deck stains are not prone to peeling, and we can clean and reapply them as needed. Deck stains that dry or film on top of the wood are much harder to maintain and prep when reapplying.

Can I use a deck stain on wood siding?

Answer: Absolutely! Deck stains are wood stains and work very well for wood fences, vertical wood siding, and log cabins. They last even 2-3 times longer on vertical wood.

How long should you wait to stain a new deck?

The waiting period before staining a new deck can depend on the material used to build it. Take a closer look at our recommended time frames based on deck material:

  • New, smooth wood decks: Wait at least 3 months before applying stain.
  • Rough-hewn wood decks: No wait time is needed; you can apply stain as soon as the wood is clean and dry.
  • Kiln-dried or KDAT wood decks: Wait 1-2 months before applying stain.

For more information, check out this guide on how long to wait before applying stain to your deck.

What are the most popular deck stain colors?

The most popular deck stain colors of 2024 include:

  • Cedar tones
  • Brown tones
  • Honey tones
  • Redwood tones

What’s the best way to apply a deck stain?

The best way to apply a deck stain can vary based on the product used, but my personal favorite applicators include flooring brushes and stain pads. Learn more in this guide to the best deck stain applicators.

What’s the difference between a deck stain and deck paint?

Deck stain and deck paint are similar in that they add color to a wooden deck. However, deck stain typically penetrates into the fibers of wooden deck boards and often results in a more natural final product. On the other hand, deck paint is typically thicker and creates an opaque layer of color over the wood.

What’s the difference between water- and oil-based deck stain?

Both water- and oil-based deck stains can provide rich color and long-lasting protection against moisture and UV damage. However, there are some differences between the two stains.

For instance, oil-based stains may offer advanced protection against warping or cracking and last longer than water-based stains. However, water-based stains are generally more environmentally friendly and easier to apply and clean up. Many water-based stains also feature additives to prevent fungal damage or wood rot. Learn more in this guide to the differences between water—and oil-based stains.

Additional Deck Stain Rating Questions

If you have questions on this review of deck stains, please ask me below in the comments.

Want My Help Finding a Deck Stain?

I am here to help you narrow down all the deck stain options and offer advice on what would work best for you and your wood deck. To understand which wood stain to choose, start by considering why your last coat of coating (if applicable) may have failed:

  1. UV rays from the sun will damage wood, resulting in the degradation of the wood’s cellular structure. This will break down the stain while causing the wood to oxidize (turn gray).
  2. Water, snow, and ice will damage the wood by breaking down the exposed cell structure.
  3. Freezing and thawing tend to expand and contract the wood, weakening the stain’s bond with the wood cells.
  4. Mold, mildew, and algae will leave the wood unsightly/dirty and can cause rotting.
  5. High-traffic areas will wear faster.
  6. The previous stain used may have been of inferior quality or applied poorly.
  7. The wood may not have been prepped properly prior to application. Bad prep is the number one reason stains prematurely fail!

Once we determine the primary reasons for failure, we can look at what stains would be better for your deck or exterior wood. Here are the questions that will guide your choice:

  1. In which state is your deck located?
  2. How much sun/shade does your deck get?
  3. What type of wood is your deck made of?
  4. Do you have mold or mildew issues?
  5. Why/how did the previous stain fail?
  6. What type of stain did you use last time?

Let’s look at my example deck:

  1. Deck Location: Michigan
  2. Sun/Shade: Full sun in the morning, shade in the afternoon
  3. Wood Type: Cedar
  4. Mold/Mildew?No
  5. How Did the Last Stain Fail? Dried blotchy and peeled after the first winter
  6. Which Stain Was It? Behr Premium Semi-Transparent

Michigan currently has a VOC limit of 550 (250 VOC as of 2023), so not all exterior deck stains are available. You may have different options if you live in Canada, on the East Coast, or in California. I would suggest a penetrating semi-transparent or semi-solid stain that does well with UV protection and fades evenly over time, making future reapplication easier. Based on these questions and answers, we would suggest one of these stains:

Let Me Help You Find the Best Wood Stain for You

I am here to help you find the best wood deck stain for your situation! Just post a comment below with answers to these questions.

  • In which state is your deck located?
  • How much sun/shade does your deck get?
  • What type of wood is your deck made of?
  • Do you have mold or mildew issues?
  • Why/how did the previous stain fail?
  • What type and brand (if known) of stain did you use last time?

If you can, please add a picture or two of your deck’s current condition. I’ll do my best to suggest the best wood deck sealer and stain for your needs.

NOTE. Make sure to Post Comments Below for Personalized Help!

Choosing the Best Wood Deck Stain: A Video Guide

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author avatar
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.

Related Deck Stain Help Articles & Reviews

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John
John
2 days ago

Just had my Ipe deck power washed after 10yrs the wood is pretty clean with a drift wood look. I have used penofin in the past. I’m considering wolman oil raincoat. Pros and cons of using either penofin translucent to wolman oil raincoat. Looking for easier matenance. I heard I can reapply wolman product next year wit out prepping. Your thoughts thanks.

darrell frizzell
darrell frizzell
6 days ago

Getting ready to stain my deck this year. I have use OneTime in the past so I will
need to strip this stain off. Looking for advice on removing OneTime from my deck?
Will I need to sand the deck also?

darrell frizzell
darrell frizzell
3 days ago

Scott I have three different areas:

  -Front Porch
      Cover/Cedar
  -Back Porch
      Half covered, half not full shade treated lumber
  -Pergla
      full shade treated lumber

Thanks
Darrell

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Gary
Gary
7 days ago

The Deck gets Full afternoon sun and is pressure treated pine

Gary
Gary
7 days ago

Deck is 2.5 years old and never stained. I am in Middle Tennessee. Only a slight amount of mildew. What semi transparent stain would you recomend?

Mark
Mark
12 days ago

Looking for info on staining a shed, it’s a year old, unsure of wood type (I think either pine or larch) has a single coat of
Natural Kote’s soy based stain. I would like to stain it again as it doesn’t look too be very UV resistant. The current coat is not peeling, just fading some on the south side. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated

Ann
Ann
13 days ago

500 sq foot cedar deck about 10 years old. I have removed former stain/seal that has warn and peeling. The deck has been washed with mold armor e-z deck wash. Looking for a semitransparent finish. The deck full sun in Minnesota weather. Local stores have recommended PPG Proluxe- some have said the product has change when company changed owners. Sansin- Canada made similar to MN weather, enviro/stain and expensive. Finally Woodluxe made in Illinois by Benjamin Moore. I have no idea which way to go. Let’s be real I am a Pediatrician Nurse trying to do a home improvement project without breaking the bank and not being disappointed next spring with peeling deck finish. Below is a photo thanks for your advice❤️

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Larry
Larry
15 days ago

We found thee most comfortable deck chairs. They are composite and $600 a piece. I can make them for less but still$$. Real wood is a consideration. Pine decking seeps no matter how old. So, I wanted to seal them with something like rust oleum deck restore (but bad reviews… )The wood will be new, what is my best bet for a smooth splinter free chair seat, back and arms?

Roberta
Roberta
16 days ago

What is the best stain for 12 year old composite deck.

Joseph Margiotta
Joseph Margiotta
16 days ago
  • In which state is your deck located? MA
  • How much sun/shade does your deck get? Morning shade; Full afternoon sun
  • What type of wood is your deck made of? Meranti
  • Do you have mold or mildew issues? Minor
  • Why/how did the previous stain fail? Deck is 2 years old and never sealed/stained
  • What type and brand (if known) of stain did you use last time? Not applicable
Alexandra H
Alexandra H
17 days ago

Going to stain our deck which is about 8 yrs old, we are the second owners and are not entirely sure what it is but we assume treated pine as that is most common here, we stained it about 4 years ago (yikes) and used Sherwin Williams, was not happy with that quality.
We are located in Western New York, deck is exposed to all seasons and it is shaded in the morning and full sun the remainder of the day.
I like oil-based products the best, just wondering which to use to restore the deck. We recently power washed, is that enough prep? Really hoping I do not have to strip it as I will be doing this myself while tending to a 1 year old.