8 Best Deck Stains for 2024: Expert Reviewed  4.8/5 (359)

This post was updated on May 11, 2024

I am Scott Paul, a leading exterior restoration contractor and business owner with over 30 years of experience in exterior wood. My 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 product choices. See here for more info about me.

8 Best Deck Stain Reviews for 2024

 

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.

For more info, see my 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. Otherwise, read on to learn more about my best deck stains of 2024.

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

My Best Deck Stains at a Glance

Click on the link and jump straight to the review:

Top-Rated Deck Stain Reviews

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

My Best Deck Stain

Oil-Based 

My Best Deck Stain

Water-Based

My Best Solid Color

Deck Stain

My Best Applying Wood Deck Stain

Questions on Which of the 8 Best Deck Stains 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.

My Professional’s 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. There have been some major advancements though with 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 you can still find some quality deck stains in 2024 that will offer UV protection, penetrate deep into the wood grain, and highlight the natural beauty of the wood. At the same time, these products make reapplication a breeze down the road.

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. 

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 existing color.
  • 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.

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.

My Top 8: Top Deck Stain Reviews & Ratings

Each deck stain review I do offers 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.

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

  • 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

  • My favorite deck stain to save time and money.

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: Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain

Restore-A-Deck Consumer Video Review

3. Armstrong Clark Wood Stain Review

Armstrong Clark Wood Stain Rating

  • Regarding ease of application and performance, the Armstrong Clark stain is one of the top stains I use.

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: Armstrong Clark Wood Stain
Purchase on Amazon Here: Armstrong Clark Wood Stain

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

TWP Semi-Solid Stain

  • My favorite penetrating semi-solid wood and deck stain. It soaks into the wood and gives excellent UV protection.

What I like best about the TWP Semi-Solid Stain is that it is simple to apply, easy to 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: TWP Semi-Solid Wood Stain

5. TWP 1500 Series Stain Review

TWP 1500 Series Rating

  • 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: TWP 1500 Series Stain

6. TWP Natural Effect Impregnating Stain Review

  • 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: TWP Natural Effect Impregnating Stain

7. Defy Extreme Wood Stain Review

Defy Extreme Stain Review

  • 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: Defy Extreme Wood Stain

8. Ready Seal Wood Stain Review

Ready Seal Wood Stain Review

  • Ready Seal Stain is not my favorite since it requires annual recoating. I do like that is applies easily.

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: Ready Seal Stain

My Top Deck Stains by Category

Best 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 the ability 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.

Best 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.

Best 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 (40)
  • My DeckStainHelp.com Rating: 8.69/10
  • Website Link: TWP 100 Series
  • Wood and Deck Stain Photos: TWP 100 Series Photo Album

Best 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.

Best 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 (59)
  • My DeckStainHelp.com Rating: 8.5/10
  • Website Link: Armstrong Clark Stains
  • Wood and Deck Stain Photos: Armstrong Clark Stain Photo Album

Best 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.

Best 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 (28)
  • My DeckStainHelp.com Rating: 8.5/10
  • Website Link: TWP 1500 Series
  • Wood and Deck Stain Photos: TWP 1500 Series Photo Album

Best 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 (54)
  • My DeckStainHelp.com Rating: 8.47/10
  • Website Link: Defy Extreme Wood Stain

Best 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, keep in mind that most users have had an unpleasant experience with products from Home Depot and Lowe’s. Reviews and user experiences with the majority of these products have been overwhelmingly negative. However, comments about Gulf Synthetics Deck Revive have been favorable.

Deck Stain Facts: Frequently Sought Answers

Often, when helping people choose the best deck stain and sealer, I 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 the Best Deck Stain for You? How to Choose the Right Deck Stain Product

There is no best exterior wood stain for decks and patios that will outperform every other stain. 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. VOC (volatile organic compound) laws vary in different places, which may limit what is available in your state or country. For example, TWP 100 Pro Series stain cannot be used in 17 states and Canada because its VOC content is above the legal limits in those places.

To understand which patio stain to choose, start by considering why your last coat of deck stain 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 cause damage to 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

Deck Stain Ratings & Review Photos

Best Deck Stain — Frequently Asked Questions:

Are you still learning about the best deck stain for your project? For more information, take a look at my top frequently asked questions.

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 may also last longer than water-based stains. However, water-based stains are generally more environmentally friendly and can be 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. 


Please Rate This. You may also post comments or ask questions below.

Top 8 Deck Stain Rating Results in 2024

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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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Chip
Chip
23 hours ago

Hi Scott,
Bought this place couple years ago so I don’t know what was previously on the deck. I think its cedar other than the grey posts. I pressure washed it about 10 days ago and decided to do some research on stains etc. and found your site. What would you recommend as the next step and product. It’s about 8’x28′ sized deck. Thanks!

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Chip
Chip
2 hours ago

Hi Scott,
I like brown color so I guess that would be contrast. Thanks.

Karen
Karen
4 days ago

We have 2 very large pressure treated decks (total 1200 sq ft). We stained them with Defy Extreme Semi-transparent light walnut 7 or 8 years ago, and it’s waaay past time for re-staining. We also replaced a deck board which obviously has never been stained. Pics attached. We’re looking at either Restore A Deck semi-transparent or TWP for this project. Which do you recommend? We’re in the UP of Michigan. RAD clearer of stripper before brightening? Thanks for your help!

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Karen
Karen
4 days ago

Um, do I? lol My knee jerk is to say water based, for ease of clean-up and what I’m familiar with. Since I’m in MI I’d be looking at the TWP 1500 rather than the 100. If the 1500 is superior to the RAD, I’d deal with the oil-based learning curve. One thing is that a third of my deck is southern-exposure, so I’d likely be applying in full sun. RAD notes that dampening the wood before applying their stain helps absorption and keeps stain from drying too fast, and I wonder if that’s a factor in deciding.

Karen
Karen
4 days ago

I’m not sure if my response to you went through. I’m familiar with water based application, but if oil is best, I’ll deal with that learning curve. Since I’m in Michigan I’d be looking at the TWP 1500 rather than the 100. One third of the deck is in full sun and I see RAD allows for keeping the wood damp for full penetration and to keep it from drying too fast. Not sure if that’s a factor. If there’s no real benefit in one product over the other, I may price them out and go from there? Any thoughts on how many gallons I should order to cover 1200 sq ft of older wood?

Vince
Vince
4 days ago

Scott,

I just purchased a Gazebo and the manufacturer recommends sealing it immediately before assembling or right after. I live in the Midwest (St, Louis area). What product would you recommend for this to seal but retain the current Cedar appearance. The Gazebo is made out of Cedar.

Thanks, Vince

Vince
Vince
3 days ago

I do not believe it is already stained. Wood appears to be untreated or not stained Cedar, even smells like Cedar. That is probably why they says to do it immediately or void warranty.
Vince

Vince
Vince
3 days ago

I have attached some pictures, Thank You

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Vince
Vince
3 days ago

Thanks for your help

Susie
Susie
4 days ago

Hello-Our lake house is in southwest MI, we just limbed trees up so that we should get more sun- but def a mix of sun/shade (morning and evening sun). I believe we used an Australian timber oil to penetrate the new deck (after letting it weather from Aug to May). It has been 2 years since application. We have quite of bit of algae on steps and on parts of decking. It is time to reapply. Only issue of failure is algae/mold.
Your insights will be greatly appreciated. We have a contractor (an entrusted person) who quoted us an astronomical price for power washing/application (lots of metal spindles and steps to work around)and is encouraging us to use a less penetrating stain. We are inclined to stay with penetrating stain/oil.
Thank you

Susie
Susie
5 days ago

Hello-Our lake house is in southwest MI, we just limbed trees up so that we should get more sun- but def a mix of sun/shade (morning and evening sun). I believe we used an Australian timber oil to penetrate the new deck (after letting it weather from Aug to May). It has been 2 years since application. We have quite of bit of algae on steps and on parts of decking. It is time to reapply. Only issue of failure is algae/mold.
Your insights will be greatly appreciated. We have a contractor (an entrusted person) who quoted us an astronomical price for power washing/application (lots of metal spindles and steps to work around)and is encouraging us to use a less penetrating stain. We are inclined to stay with penetrating stain/oil.
Thank you

gary
gary
6 days ago

we live in Winnipeg, canada. our deck is 20 year old, pressure treated wood. what is the good choices of deck stains for our deck?

Kerry Dunkling
Kerry Dunkling
8 days ago

Hi Scott,
Not sure what I’d do without your guidance. I’m trying to figure out the “hard stops” on my IPE deck from the pressure washer. Am I going too hard? Is there anything I should
do before staining with RAD Light Walnut. I live in VT and it’s wet, the deck had algae and gunk even though it faces west and gets lots of sun (when we have it). How exactly should I be getting dirt and gunk off and how deep should I be going.

Nemo
Nemo
8 days ago

Planning to clean up and restain our shakes! Still look great and TWP pecan under house brow and covered porch still looks new. South facing shakes esp by rain chains have a bit of fading and mildew. Should these areas be pressure washed or just scrubbed?

Nemo
Nemo
5 days ago

I’m posting a photo of the spotting that has occurred on our cedar trim, posts and shakes on the covered patio after the Gemini cleanse and pressure wash. Any idea what has happened here? And, will the fresh coat of TWP 100 Pecan fix this? These areas were really in perfect condition we were just sprucing it all up due to some fading and mildew behind some rain chains. Thanks for your advice.

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Nemo
Nemo
5 days ago

By “remove fully” do you mean more by power washing or sanding? The fellow we had doing it has never used the product, unfortunately. We really appreciate your help.

Nemo
Nemo
5 days ago

Thx for the help!

Kerry Dunkling
Kerry Dunkling
8 days ago

Scott,
Here is another picture of our IPE after cleaning and brightening. Will using RAD Light walnut help to bring the color together? This deck is just about killing me!

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Kerry Dunkling
Kerry Dunkling
8 days ago

Should I use the power washer to go back over those spots? Did I need to go that hard on the wood? There were spots with algae and thick mold/crud that I went hard on with the power washer to get down to a nice natural color. Here is the picture of the dried wood.

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Kerry Dunkling
Kerry Dunkling
8 days ago

There was a mat in the spot where it looks so good.

Kerry Dunkling
Kerry Dunkling
8 days ago

Did I go too hard on the pressure washer? I have “hard” stops all over. What do you suggest? I’m struggling to know how much dirt, algae and junk to power wash off the deck. We live in VT there is lots of rain and gross weather that seems to put a layer of gunk down on it. Thanks for your help!

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Sam
Sam
12 days ago

First off, thank you for all of the information you provide. We live in N. Carolina. Put in new deck last year 8/23. Do we need to sand deck, railings, support posts etc before staining. Deck boards and railings are premium grade pine pressure treated. Posts are pressure treated as well. We will be using brightener/ cleaning kit as well as semitransparent water based RAD stain.

Should we use pressure washing after applying cleaner and brightening or just normal hose is ok.

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Randy Durham
Randy Durham
12 days ago

I am installing a new cedar deck on a beach front property in Southern California, the marine environment is very hash on everything. What is the best semi-transparent stain product for this environment?

If I am waiting for the wood to age should I be worried about the surfaces on the underside of the deck and between the planks which will not receive any stain?

Stan Consky
Stan Consky
14 days ago

Location: Toronto Ont.
After Noon Sun.
No mildew,mold,
40 yr. Old PT spruce/pine
only 1 coat 20 yrs ago. Sears?
which semi solid or solid stain would you recommend?
i would like it not to peel.
attached photo wet after pressure washing water only.

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Nancy
Nancy
15 days ago

Thanks for any advice you can give. I live in Indianapolis, IN, deck is around 30 years old, and as you can see, quite worn and weathered. I plan on power washing first and know I should use a solid stain, right? Suggestions? I was going to go with Rocksolid 20X, but after reading your reviews, am thinking that’s not the best way to go.

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Rhonda
Rhonda
15 days ago

Hi Scott we had a brand Cabot gold (moonlit mahogany) that lasted 7 years. We now power washed and sanded it but some of the dark stain remains in the cracks. We would like to change to a different brand with probably a semi solid or solid color? Is there one you would recommend and should we use an oil base or water base? Thinking we would go dark again to blend in what remains of the old. We would appreciate any help

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Rhonda
Rhonda
14 days ago

We used 120 grit. Should we use oil based or latex semi transparent TWP stain ? We will check out the link you sent also

Jane
Jane
16 days ago

I will be stripping and cleaning, with restore a deck, a 25 year old pressure treated pool deck that has only been stained once with oil stain when built. I have looked at many stains and your reviews. I know I need penetrating oil stain and am asking for opinion between Armstrong and TWP. Thank you.

Mark Hudson
Mark Hudson
18 days ago

We live in Louisville KY. Deck is seven year old treated lumber with high solid Sherwin Williams Superdeck coating – original and first re-coat 4 years ago. Has not held up the best and lots of mold as the pictures show. Full sun.

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Amanda weaver
Amanda weaver
18 days ago

My deck is 28 years old, which stain would be best out of the TWP semi solid, or the restore a deck semi transparent? Or another you think might work even better than these two.

Dora
Dora
18 days ago

Colorado. Lots of sun, snow, temp fluctuation, high traffic
Almost full sun on the majority of deck except some early morning shade.
Redwood. 10 years old. Stained 3 times before with TWP. Natural/light color.
It didn’t fail, just need to know if this is the best choice for our deck. It lasted 3 years, railing still in ok shape, base and benches around are worn. Quite a variety in condition of deck. No greying.

Dora
Dora
18 days ago

Thank you so much!

Jane
Jane
18 days ago

I live near Flint MI and we built a deck around above ground pool 25 years ago. It was stained once with oil based stain and held up for a very long time. It is in desperate need of a redo now. I am planning on using restore a deck stripper and brightener to clean it up for new oil based stain. Being around a pool what would your best stain recommendation be? TY

D Robinson
D Robinson
19 days ago

I live in Northern California about 50 miles west of Sacramento in Suisun City and my deck is two years old

How much sun/shade does your deck get? Full sun all day

What type of wood is your deck made of?redwood

Do you have mold or mildew issues? No

Why/how did the previous stain fail? Turns gray and dark and I have had to clean and restain each year.

What type and brand (if known) of stain did you use last time?penofin red clear very first time and transparent for redwood second time. I have cleaned and prepped this year but want to try a different product.

D Robinson
D Robinson
19 days ago

Thank you.

Karen Fugate
Karen Fugate
19 days ago

I have a home in High Point NC. The deck was put on new in December so it’s going on 5 months old. There are no trees over it, just some tall bushes next to it that I keep cut back. It faces north. I was going to use a Valspar semitransparent stain & sealer but now I’m rethinking this based on this article

D Robinson
D Robinson
19 days ago
Reply to  Karen Fugate

Thank you.

deannak
24 days ago

Our cedar deck is under cover, about 1000sf. 3 years old. We used Penofin the first year and it was fine. Used Penofin the second year and 6 months later we’ve got lots of black spots, everywhere, except under rugs. We should strip, then brighten, then use what paroduct? TWP isn’t sold in PNW stores that I can find, we live just north of Portland, Oregon, in Vancouver, WA (not B.C.)

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DeannaK
DeannaK
24 days ago

Thanks will do.

? Any idea what caused the black “mold spots?

About 40% of the deck is covered with it. My husband and I followed the instructions perfectly for prep and application.

? TWP – what to expect with accurate application? Will We need to redo the deck every year or every other year?

FWIW Definitely not using penofin again.

DeannaK
DeannaK
24 days ago

Also… Do you recommend TWP 100 or 1500 for a very wet climate in Washington state. Deck is completely undercover, but still a lot of moisture in the air

Evie
Evie
26 days ago

I live in Glen Allen, Virginia. The deck faces south so it gets a lot of sun. Replaced boards three years ago, pressure treated wood from Lowe’s. Definitely have some mold/mildew issues. Stained the deck last year, using Southern Tradition Ultra Water Repellent and Deck Seal, redwood. The stain faded, scuff marks, mild/mildew. What would you recommend? Thanks.

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Susan Wolek
Susan Wolek
28 days ago

What is the best semi transparent stain to use for new exterior pine siding that will resist hard winters and mold. Our new cabin has been sitting w/o stain over the winter, so thinking of a water based stain Would using an oil base stain cause mold if it could be damp inside of wood? Thank you.

David Mcmillen
David Mcmillen
28 days ago

I was thinking of using Tung Oil instead of a stain. Any thoughts?

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