Many people ask what types of deck stains are available when curious about deck care and maintenance. Deck stains, in general, are for preserving and protecting exterior wood. They provide water repellency, UV protection, reduce fungal growth, and enhance the natural beauty of the wood. In 2017 deck stains come in several types of opacity levels all having pros and cons.
Solid Deck Stains
A coat of a solid deck stain completely hides the wood grain by creating a heavily pigmented film on the surface similar to paint. These come in any color imaginable and are available in both water-based and oil-based formulas.
Pros: Superb UV protection due to so much pigment
Cons: Do not penetrate well and are prone to peeling. Little chance of ever going back to natural wood look. Looks like paint. Hard to apply and prone to peeling.
Semi-Solid Deck Stains
A semi-solid deck stain also contains a high amount of pigment but not as much as a solid. You will see a small amount of wood grain through a semi-solid. For whatever reason semi-solids are limited by manufacturers.
Pros: Good UV protection
Cons: Water based versions do not penetrate as well as oil based. Similar to thin paint only a small amount of wood grain will show through. Hard to strip off.
This type of stain gives the most enhancing appearance. They contain just enough pigment to enhance the natural beauty of the wood grain. Although they will not last as long they are easier to maintain.
Pros: Easy to apply and maintain. Gives a natural appearance. Enhances wood grain. Available in different tones.
Cons: Less UV protection than more solid stains. More frequent maintenance. Typically only available in oil-based version.
Transparent Deck Stains
The most natural looking deck stains are the transparent stains as they contain very little pigment. They will allow wood graying quicker and typically only last a year.
Pros: Super easy to apply. Gives a natural appearance.
Cons: Very little UV protection. Only last about a year before needing a recoat.
Clear Deck Stains
Clear deck stains offer almost no UV protection but look the most natural because they do not alter the appearance of the wood. They are typically used as a sealer as opposed to a stain.
Pro: Does not alter the appearance. User-friendly and very easy to apply.
Cons: Does not protect against wood graying. Wears off quickly and needs to be recoated more frequently.