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The Best Deck Stains? 4.8/5 (121)

The Best Deck Stains

Armstrong Clark in Rustic Brown

Note: This is an updated version of our most popular article What is the Best Deck Stain?

We have had over 11,000 Q&A questions for the first article, helping consumers find the best wood and deck stain for their deck and specific environment.

The point of this article and DeckStainHelp.com is to offer guidance in choosing a quality deck stain that works well and will not create larger issues down the road when time to reapply. We have updated our original article by including answers to some of our most popular questions that we receive.

Here are some of our most popular answers to remember, before proceeding with any questions below:

  1. No deck stain will last 5+ years. A good quality stain will last 2 or maybe 3 years on a deck floor (horizontal) and typically twice as long on railings, siding, etc. (verticals).
  2. Penetrating stains will have less chance of peeling as they soak into the wood grain and do not film on top of the wood grain when fully cured.
  3. Penetrating deck stains are easier to maintain by cleaning and reapplying after 2-3 years.
  4. Filming Deck Stains that dry on top of the wood are harder to remove and/or reapply as they are more prone to peeling, wear, flaking, etc.
  5. Not all Deck Stains are penetrating. Even when they claim otherwise.
  6. Semi-transparent, Transparent, and Semi-Solids will show the grain of the wood to some extent. Solid stains, Deck Resurface Coatings, and Paints will not.
  7. 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 = better UV protection.
  8. Deck Stains are either Oil Based or Water Based. Filming or penetrating. Transparent, Semi-Transparent, Semi-Solid, Solid (opaque) Stains or a Deck Resurface Coating. See here for more info on Deck Stain Types.
  9. Oil based stains can still be used in all States and Canada as long as they are compliant to local VOC regulations.
  10. When switching brands of deck stain it is always best to remove the old coating first. Do this by using a Deck Stain Stripper and/or sanding.
  11. Always apply a Wood Brightener after prepping with a Stain Stripper or Wood Deck Cleaner to neutralize the caustic.
  12. New Decks (less than a year) are treated differently than older decks (more than 1 year). New decks need to be prepped and usually cannot be stained right away. See this about Staining New Decks.
  13. Prep, Prep, Prep = increased longevity of a stain.


 

What is the Best Deck Stain For My Deck?

This is the top question by far that we have gotten on DeckStainHelp.com. Unfortunately, there is not a “best” deck stain out there 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 it’s environment?” A wood deck stain that performs well in humid South Carolina does not mean it will perform well in the snowy Midwest states. VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) Laws come into effect for different parts of the country as well. This may limit what is available in your state or country. For example, TWP 100 cannot be used in 17 states and Canada that have a low VOC content of 250.

To understand a deck stain and its potential longevity, we should first look at why deck stains fail:

  1. UV rays from the sun will damage the wood resulting in degradation of the wood 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. Freeze/thaw will expand and contract the wood resulting in the stain “bond” with the wood cells to fail.
  4. Mold, mildew, and algae will leave the wood unsightly/dirty and can result in rotting.
  5. High traffic areas will wear faster.
  6. The previous stain used was of low quality or applied poorly.
  7. The Stain was not applied properly or the wood was not prepped properly prior to application. Bad prep is the number one reason stains prematurely fail!

 

Once we figure out the main reasons for failure, then we should research what stains would better for your deck or exterior wood.

In our example deck, we will ask 5 questions. Based on these answers (Answers are in Red) we will narrow the choices to 2-3 stain brands:

Example Deck Questions and Answers:

  1. Deck Location State: Michigan
  2. Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun in Am, Shade in Afternoon
  3. Wood Type: Cedar
  4. Mold or Mildew Issues: No
  5. The reason for Previous Stain Failure: Dried Blotchy and Peeled after first Winter.
  6. Previous Coating? If so brand name and type of stain (Transparent, Semi-transparent, Semi-solid, Solid Stain): Behr Premium Semi-Transparent

 

Michigan is currently a high 550 VOC state, so all decking stains are currently available. If you reside in Canada, East Coast States, or California, then you may have different options. We would suggest a penetrating stain 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:

 

Ask in Comment Section Below. Make Sure to Include Answers to the 5 Questions.

Feel free to ask what are “the best deck stains for my deck”? Just post a comment below and make sure to include the answer to the 5 questions.

Feel free to include any additional information that would be useful!


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2,095 responses to “The Best Deck Stains?”

  1. Joyce Simas says:

    What's the best deck stains for my deck?
    1. CA
    2. Mostly full sun
    3. Redwood
    4. Yes, mildew
    5. Graying – waited too long to stain and reseal
    6. semi-transparent light colored stain not sure of brand or sealer

  2. Brandon says:

    1. New deck in northwest Arkansas
    2. Full sun in AM and partial sun in evening (covered deck otherwise)
    3. Treated pine
    4. No, it is a new deck
    5. No issues yet, the floor of the deck has been down 7 months and rail has been on for 3 months
    6. No coating (beyond the wood being treated)

  3. Ray R. says:

    What treatment is best for my new Ipe deck?
    1, Conn.
    2. Partial shade most of day, full sun for a few hours
    3. Wood is ipe
    4. Mold – yes, previous press. treated deck of 30 yrs was very black
    5.Previous deck cleaned but never stained or sealed, checked wood apparent
    6. None applied

  4. JEremy says:

    Houston, TX
    Southeast facing. 1/2 sun in am 1/2 sun in pm
    Cedar
    New construction

  5. alan says:

    Deck Location State: Key largo Florida
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun in Am, Shade in Afternoon
    Wood Type: Pressure treated pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    The reason for Previous Stain Failure: Dull or loss of previous stain
    Previous Coating? If so brand name and type of stain (Transparent, Semi-transparent, Semi-solid, Solid Stain):Thomsons water based semi-transparent

  6. Lauri bourenin says:

    Houston TX
    Cedar fence in vertical two by two inch strips
    Stained by contractor after built about a year ago
    Not sure of the brand of transparent stain
    Starting to grey out
    Sun and shade
    No mildew
    Do I need to remove old stain, use brighter and restrain?

  7. Steve says:

    What stain should I use for glulamb beams and redwood decking
    Deck Location State: Western Montana
    Under porch roof but exposed to some sun early and late
    Wood Type: Glulamb beams and redwood decking
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    New Construction. Never been stained

  8. Trey says:

    I've got a new cedar deck that was built 2 months ago. It's -2 degrees F with a -23 below windchill right now. Theres a few inches of ice & snow is caked on my new deck here in MN. I won't be staining for a few months but the research has started. So far, I understand prep work is key to success. That will be done before i stain. I've narrowed it down between Sansin, Cutek extreme, Armstrong Clark, & TWP stains. The goal is to use a stain that will protect & enhance the beuty of my cedar while allowing for easy maintenance coats & avoiding the massive stripping nightmares! I see this as my one chance to get it right from the start! It's brand new never been stained cedar. I'm not sure which I'll use at this point. Has anyone used sansin in my area with good results on all surfaces?

  9. Carl says:

    1. Georgia
    2. Shade in morning, full sun in afternoon
    3. KDAT pressure treated pine
    4. New construction. Old, white stairs nearby show minor black marks on close inspection.

  10. Tony says:

    1. Florida Orlando
    2. Full sun most of the day, High Humidity, Heavy summer rain (boat dock)
    3. Pressure treated pine
    4. Minor
    5. Appearance was not as good from year 2
    6. Thompson Waterseal Transparent
    Would consider a semi. Thank you

  11. Coleen says:

    1. Northern New York State
    2. Full Sun
    3. Treated pine
    4. No
    5. Peeled
    6. Rust oleum Restore

    • Coleen, no stain can be applied on top of the Rustoleum Restore. You will have to remove it all first. The only effective way to do this is to sand it all off. Once removed, you can use a penetrating stain like Armstrong Clark in a semi-solid color.

  12. Charles says:

    Best Deck Stain Charlotte NC
    Deck Location State: Charlotte NC
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Yellow Wood Aged 4 months
    Mold or Mildew Issues: No
    The reason for Previous Stain Failure: N/A- not stained
    Previous Coating? If so brand name and type of stain (Transparent, Semi-transparent, Semi-solid, Solid Stain): None

  13. Jake says:

    South Carolina
    Full sun
    Cedar
    No mold issues
    Dull, but no peel
    2 quality solid stains used over 6 years
    Deck 7+ yrs old
    You recommend…..

  14. Melissa says:

    coastal South Carolina
    Full Sun on stairs, partial sun on porches
    Yellow wood
    Some mildewing of wood
    Current stain is worn off in all walk areas. Has gotten black and sticky under chair legs on shady, humid porch. It is very slick for a couple months after applying.
    Thompsons Water Seal Transparent stain

  15. Joe says:

    Southern New Jersey
    Full sun A lot of sun
    Pressure treated decking
    No mildew
    New wood with no coating yet

  16. Peggy says:

    1.Deck Location State: Oklahoma
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Slight shade in AM, shade most of the day. Faces North

    3.Wood Type: rough cut Cedar
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: slight
    5.The reason for Previous Stain Failure: New deck, wood. .

    6.Previous Coating? If so brand name and type of stain (Transparent, Semi-transparent, Semi-solid, Solid Stain): na

  17. Michael says:

    1. Texas
    2. Partial shad AM, full sun PM
    3. Cedar
    4. Mold & mildew issues
    5. New patio railing

  18. Rob Butler says:

    1. Texas
    2. Shade on 80%
    3. Cedar
    4. Mold or Mildew: yes
    5. Siding

    Is it possible to clean or brighten without stripping the stain? The stain now is in good shape. I was hoping I could clean it then apply clear every 2-3 years?

    • You cannot put a clear sealer over top of a deck stain. No benefits to this either. If the current stain has been on for 2 or more years, then you should use a deck cleaner and light pressure washing for the prep and reapply a light coat of the same stain and color. Do this every 2-3 years or as needed.

  19. Joanne DeVincenzo says:

    1.Deck Location State: Coastal Georgia
    2.Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Full Sun after 12 noon
    3.Wood Type: pressure treated pine
    4.Mold or Mildew Issues: yes
    5.The reason for Previous Stain Failure: brand new deck
    6.Previous Coating? none

  20. Scott says:

    1) Kansas
    2) Majority sun
    3) Pressure treated Pine
    4)New deck dry time 8 months through winter

  21. DOUG says:

    Central Pa
    full sun
    Pressure treated pine…1 year old
    no mold or mildew issues
    not stained yet
    very large deck, looking for a stain that shows the grain, but last more than a year. planning on 2 shades for contrast.

  22. Blake says:

    1. Central Alabama
    2. Full sun
    3. Pressure treated pine
    4. Most of the deck is 2 years old, but there will be a few new handrail boards.

  23. Scott says:

    1. NY 1.5 hours north of NYC
    2. Full Sun
    3. Cedar on rails, PT pine on deck surface
    4. No
    5. Stain started to peel after first winter. Some boards started to warp as well.
    6. Behr Premium Semi-Transparent weather proofing all in one stain and sealer
    7. Deck is 15 years old.
    I have two decks the first is what I described above but I have no information on the second deck. It has what looks like a solid paint right now which is chipping and peeling badly. What is the best general paint stripper if you don't know the type of paint you want to strip?

    • Solid stains/paints are nearly impossible to strip. If you want it removed, it would be better to sand it all off. The Behr is a film formning acrylic. These can be stripped but it is one of the more difficult types to remove. You may need to sand this as well. You may want to sand just the horizotnals and go with a two toned deck. See this article about what is a two toned deck: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/advantages-to-havin

  24. George says:

    1. Texas
    2. Partial Full sun and partial full shade
    3. pressure treated pine
    4. mildew in full sun area
    5.Two yeas aged after application
    6.Behr Premium Semi-Transparent

  25. Courtney says:

    1 – Raleigh NC
    2 – Full sun AM, Shade PM
    3 – NEW – pressure treated pine – never treated – already weathered 1 month

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*This is first and foremost a help site from our experience as wood restoration contractors. All stain and prepping manufacturer directions were followed with our reviews and ratings. We offer no guarantee of similar results. Take in consideration that wood and deck stain results may differ due to prepping procedures, different wood types, exposure to UV radiation, natural weathering, etc.

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