Water Based vs. Oil Based Deck Stains 2022 4.3/5 (90)

This post was updated on January 19, 2022

Water Based vs. Oil Based Deck Stains

We welcome you to Deckstainhelp.com, where people come to share their knowledge and insights about deck staining in 2022. Please see below for some information that sets the record straight when comparing water-based stains with oil-based stains. As always, comments are encouraged below.


A long-debated topic is that of water-based vs. oil-based deck stains. Which one is better to use and will provide the best protection for a wood deck? Actually, there are advantages to both water and oil-based deck stains even though they do have some major differences. Both types of stains can provide a beautiful long-lasting finish on all types of wood. Both water-based and oil-based deck stains help reduce water intrusion and UV damage to increase the longevity of the wood.

Oil-based deck stains have been around the longest. Oil deck stains can preserve and enhance the wood’s natural color. They help to inhibit mold and mildew growth, which can lead to wood decay. Oil-based deck stains naturally shed water to help prevent warping, cracking, and splitting. Most oil stains are low VOC formulas that are compliant in most states.

In general, oil-based deck stains are easy to maintain meaning once the stain begins to fail after several years it will simply fade and wear off. This makes it easy to do a light wash and a recoat so the wood is protected once again. After several years of maintenance coats, it may be best to strip the stain completely off to get back down to bare wood again. Stripping an oil-based deck stain is easily accomplished using a deck stripping product.

Water-based deck stains are extremely environmentally friendly and clean up easily with soap and water. They too do a superb job of locking out unwanted moisture and harsh UV rays to preserve all types of wood surfaces. Even though they have not been around for as long as oil stains, new technology has taken water-based stains to a new level making them a great choice for long-lasting deck protection. With additives like zinc, water-based deck stains naturally resist fungal growth and wood rot. They are easy to work with for do-it-yourselfers looking for a professional finish that is going to last for several years.

Top Water-Based Stain Ratings

1. Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain
2. Defy Extreme Stain
3. Defy Hardwood/Cedar Stain

Top Oil-Based Stain Ratings

1. TWP 100 Series
2. Armstrong Clark Wood Stain
3. TWP 1500 Series

The Different Types of Deck Stains Video – DeckStainHelp.com

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Michael
Michael
3 months ago

I have some redwood stairs and railing that I initially treated with Superdeck semitransparent stain. Now I would like to switch to a water-based product. Is there an alternative to sending it down to bare wood first? My apologies, I am sure this question is frequently asked.

Michael
Michael
3 months ago

Here are pics showing post-scrubbing with a wood cleaner product.

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Michael
Michael
3 months ago

Thank you!

Chuck C
Chuck C
4 months ago

Hi, I’m in the Chicagoland area. We have a pressure treated pine deck, and then an addition covered in cedar car siding. What would you recommend? Thanks a ton!

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Dawn
Dawn
5 months ago

Installed new fence. I’m assuming it’s pressure treated pine. I live on the North Carolina coast, 1/2 mile from the ocean. Which should I use Oil or water based?

jeannie reeves
jeannie reeves
7 months ago

What is the best stain for coastal Mississippi?

Austrial
Austrial
1 year ago

I recently wrapped my front porch posts with KDAT pine wood. I would like to know which type of stain would be best for this project, water base or oil base. I’m looking to stain the posts a dark walnut and I do live in Illinois so we go thru all four seasons.

Brian
Brian
1 year ago

Thoughts on Ready Seal? That is the brand pushed by a company in the area. Looking to do the work myself. Power washed already, mixed reviews out there on stain. Want the best stain to look and last the longest!

Jo Anne Supplee
Jo Anne Supplee
2 years ago

My property has a cedar privacy fence and appears to be stained with a semi-transparent stain. Have no idea how old it is, but the stain is starting to fade. When I had to have some large trees removed, they dropped a large limb that bounced and took out two panels of the fencing. They did replace with two new cedar panels, but now I have to stain it. I most likely will have to stain the entire fence. Problem is, I have no idea what type of stain/sealer was used by previous owner. How can I tell if it was oil or water based stain so I know what to use? Any quick and easy solutions? Thank you.

Wayne
Wayne
2 years ago

i used what I thought was a top rated Behr semi-transparent weather proofing stain on my pine treated deck and it started pealing after a few years. While Behr replaced that product, I had to strip and sand which was a pain. While I’m planning to use Behr premium waterproof stain and sealer to recoat this deck, I’m concerned if this paint is my best choose as it has been sitting in my basement for 2 years. My son is planning to stain his treated pine fence and I question if a water base stain would be his best bet as I would hate to have him have to sand the fence when he needs to restain his the fence 5 to 10 years down the road. Your advise would be appreciated

NY1
NY1
2 years ago

I have a new pressure treated deck that was built 2 years ago, the wood has never been painted or stained. I bought Cabots wood sealer to apply and I was told that I should mix 1 gallon of the cabots with a gallon of paint thinner and apply 2 thincoats 2-4 hors apart and then in 24 hours apply an undiluted coat of the cabots. Does anyone have any experience with mixing these 2 products and does it make the finish last longer?
Thanks!

Tracy
Tracy
2 years ago

What do you consider better? I really only want to protect the wood, it is a pool deck and it is in full sun all day. Thank you for responding!

nance
nance
2 years ago

We have multiple cedar & pine decks. Live in VT. . harsh winter and strong sun. Do not know if wood is pressure treated. Have stained several times but all water based stains peel after 1 year. Never last more than 1 year. What are we doing wrong? Would we get a better result using oil based in this climate. We are at our wits end. Please advise.

Louis North
Louis North
2 years ago

Good info, but what are the disadvantages to each? Just bought a house that has a 1 year old pine deck that has never been stained. North Georgia, so very rainy winters, and surrounded by pine trees. Wondering which type would be best, oil or water based. Looking for a semi-transparent. I’ve had deck stains in the base that peeled one year later and want to avoid that here. Thanks

shnook
shnook
2 years ago

we live on rainy west coast…there is a new product that is oil based , claims organic, (claims to have no V.o.c.’s) but dries fast and cleans up with water, so is water soluble… Contains linseed and Tung oils and beeswax. .. I wonder how it will hold up on a new cedar deck? and if another traditional oil based product could be applied on top of it, once applied.?

Lou Roessler
Lou Roessler
3 years ago

We live in N.California in the SF Bay Area… We just replaced our 32 year old 800 sq foot redwood deck with a new one.
I used Penofin redwood tinted oil deck stain on that original deck and it looked and stayed beautiful for a few years before a recoat…
Our deck faces South and gets fried in the summer sun…We can no longer get the “good” stuff because of EPA regulations in this area…
What would be a good oil based product we could use on our new redwood deck?
Lou R.

Lou Roessler
Lou Roessler
3 years ago

We live in N.California in the SF Bay area…We just replaced our 32 year old 8oo square foot redwood deck with a new one. I used Penofin red tinted oil deck stain on that original deck and it looked and stayed beautiful for a few years before a recoat…
Our deck faces south and gets fried in the summer sun…
We can no longer get the “good” stuff because of EPA regulations in this area…
What would be a good oil based product we could use on our new deck?

Steve B
Steve B
3 years ago

I just picked up valspar one coat exterior stain and sealer Cardova brown. I am repainting a 980sq ft deck in Western North Carolina that was already done in a solid stain. It said a 10 years on decks and 25 years on fences and siding. I Already pressure wash the deck how long can I expect the stain to really last.

Should I also use this stain on the siding lattice and concrete We just purchased this house a few months ago and any help would be greatly appreciated

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Rayna G.
Rayna G.
3 years ago

I use oil based stain and have to re apply every 6 months

Emerson Lee Noddin
Emerson Lee Noddin
3 years ago

Read your review of both stain types/ Which one is better or do they perform identically? What do pros recommend in general and what for cold climates like Maine?

S. Carpenter
S. Carpenter
3 years ago

If one power washes the deck, can one use oil stain over an old solid water-based stain?

John Martin
John Martin
3 years ago

can a oil deck stain be considered water clean up and still be an oil product? Specifically PPG Timeless penetrating oil deck stain.

Mar
Mar
4 years ago

What is the VOC level in TWP?

Mar
Mar
4 years ago

what is the VOC level in TWP series 100?

Joey
Joey
4 years ago

What is better ail or water to protect agains winter and snow in Canada

katharina Ochoa
katharina Ochoa
4 years ago

I have a cider deck that is approx 1 year old. Last year we stained it with a Behr oil based product, but it has completely worn off at this point. What would be your recommendation?

Doris
Doris
4 years ago

I have a 17 year old redwood deck. I used Sikkens Cetol SRD previously for four two-year applications. I have not re-stained in 5 years so have sanded to raw wood again. If I use a water-based stain, would clear semi-transparent stain bring out the natural color of the red wood?
I shovel snow off the deck in the winter. Will it scrape off the finish? I thought using a solid stain would not hold up in Wyoming winters?
What is your recommendation for brand of stain to use?

Doris
Doris
4 years ago

If some of the wood looks too dry, then do I need to consider an oil base stain or will water base stain give just as much protection for this older deck?

Dana
Dana
4 years ago

What type of stain would you recommend for a one year old pressure treated green deck? It has faded to a natural looking colour that I really like, So looking to keep the nature wood look… oil or water based?

Dana
Dana
4 years ago

So tint of colour to the stain then? Also would you recommend oil or water based? This is a cottage deck…last time I used water based stain (with colour) on my home deck it started peeling a few months later, first time I’d ever had this problem. So want to avoid any peeling if possible.

Joe Rauer-Reis
Joe Rauer-Reis
4 years ago

Thanks for your help. Informative site.

Joe Rauer-Reis
Joe Rauer-Reis
4 years ago

This is not a deck stain question but a cedar siding question. I have a 25 year old house with what looks like to me a tinted blueish grey semi translucent stain on it. I figure oil based since it could be 25 years old. Wanting to use an oil product that is tintable in a light grey color as I don’t like the chipping effect of paint or water based stains. A semi solid would probably be better as we will be replacing some of the cracked boards and need them to match old boards. We are in Canada. Any suggestions on the best tintable oil products.
Thanks.

Kevin Grenon
Kevin Grenon
3 years ago

Benjamin Moore offers oil based semi solid (Arborcoat).

Bill Renz
Bill Renz
4 years ago

Correction to my previous question :
**Is my deck properly sealed**

Bill Renz
Bill Renz
4 years ago

I used a PPG oil based stain (uv, water and mildew protection) on my Doug fir deck a couple months ago. The wood had at least a month drying before I applied stain. I followed the directions, applying one thin coat. The deck looks nice but water doesn’t bead-up, just forming a sheen on the wood. Is my deck probably sealed?

Cherie
Cherie
5 years ago

There are advantages and disadvantages to both depending on many factors. This article seems to imply they’re both great without indicating circumstances where one is more advantageous over other. Fresh pine deck, oil or water? Why?

Amanda
Amanda
5 years ago

We applied Preserva Wood oil based to an very old untreated deck, and it turned the wood black! Why,and what can I do to fix this?

Karen
Karen
5 years ago

Cedar deck
3 years old
First application : THompsons(?) semi-transparent, water base
Next year application: Olympic Maximum, semi-transparent, oil
? Can I use the Olympic again as maintenance over existing stain, or do I need to strip entire deck.?

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