What’s the Difference Between a Deck Sealer and a Deck Stain?  4.9/5 (222)

This post was updated on May 1, 2024

Difference Between a Deck Sealer and Deck Stain?

Here at DeckStainHelp.com for 2024, we continue to be your go-to source for the latest in deck restoration news and trending topics. See below for an article that sets apart the difference between a deck sealer and deck stain, and when is the best time to use each. We appreciate your input. Feel free to leave a comment below and pictures of your completed projects if you have them.


Deck Sealer versus Deck Stain

Deck Sealer versus Deck Stain

Deck Sealer versus Deck Stain

Some might think that a deck sealer and a deck stain are basically the same things but in all actuality, they are two different products. They both share the same purpose in general, to preserve and protect the wood but there are some major differences. Most people use sealers or stains to protect exterior wood from the elements. Surfaces such as decks, wood siding, fences, and so on need a protective coating to keep from weathering so fast.

A deck sealer is typically a clear or transparent finish that either penetrates into the wood or forms a clear film on top. It helps to lock out moisture and reduce water intrusion. Unwanted moisture can lead to fungal growth and wood rot so it is crucial in reducing the chances of jeopardizing the wood’s longevity. A deck sealer, however, will not protect from sun damage. UV rays can be very harmful to exterior wood. Prolonged and unprotected exposure to sunlight can lead to graying and fading. It also dries up the wood’s natural oils causing cracking and splitting. So although a deck would benefit from a deck sealer by repelling moisture, it will still turn gray and become sun-damaged.

A deck stain has the same water-resistant qualities that a deck sealer does. A deck stain, however, has added pigment or tone, which gives the stain some color. The opacity of the stain can vary from solid to semi-transparent but it will still have added color even if it is partially transparent. This added pigment gives the stain UV blocking abilities to help reduce sun damage. The darker the color or the more pigment added, the more sun protection the stain will provide. With stain, there are many different shades and tones to choose from such as natural, cedar, walnut, or redwood. Choosing the perfect tone and opacity can really help enhance the natural beauty of the wood while providing adequate water and UV protection.

The Different Types of Deck Stains Video – DeckStainHelp.com

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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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Gale Test
Gale Test
11 months ago

i have 4 deck post holding up the deck about 25 years old set directly concert I would like to freshen up the wood before the new patio overlay with no future maintenance, What product would you recommend? Sealant, semi stain. Faces north so does have some green alige on wood after winter.
Thank you, Gale

Ryan
Ryan
11 months ago

Hey there – I recently stained my pressure-treated deck (2 years old) using “Restore-a-Deck” semi-transparent stain product. This is my first time staining a deck, and I assume I should also apply some type of water-seal on top of the stain? Do you have a product you’d recommend? Thanks a bunch in advanced.

John
John
11 months ago

I am building a deck and piers at my place in Antigua.
I understand that I need to protect the boards from moisture ingress.
The article seems to accept that the boards need to be protected from water ingress and UV. It explains that the staining enables UV protection to be included- and that the darker the stain, the better UV protection it will provide.
Fine. However we are in Antigua. The market the deck colour, the hotter it becomes under the blazing sun. So, great I stain my boards a dark colour – but then cannot walk on them barefoot ( as you do out here!)
Why can’t UV protection be provided in a Grey coloured stain?

Bernard
Bernard
1 year ago

Do you see any issues with using a Gracco airless sprayer and then back brushing with TWP 100 series?

Phil
Phil
2 years ago

I have a new Cedar Deck – transparent stain applied 14 months ago, deck has since oxidized where in sun. I have met with professional sealing companies that offer 25 year guarantee. One time application, maintenance is annual deck clearing. These services are about 3 times more costly than having deck stained. They claim that their sealer penetrates the wood and seals from the inside of the wood. Is this sealing process effective and truly work for 25 years? I am intrigued , but a bit hesitant in believing

Linda
Linda
2 years ago

Do you recomment using a product that has both the stain and sealer? If I use either TWP or Armstron Clark oil based stain; what sealer would you recommend?

Cate
Cate
2 years ago

I like the natural colour of my deck now that it is washed and previous solid wood stain sanded off(blue tint) . Can I use a semi transparent oil finish tint base on it but not add any tint. Will it dry clear and show the natural wood through?

Liz Pickering
Liz Pickering
2 years ago

Hi,

I’ve just cleaned and sanded deck and had new railings put up. I was recommended to use a sealer product ‘Home Builder Advance Formula Wood Protector” (Canada) There is no tint to this and goes on clear. This product has acrylic technology and says it will protect from water and UV damage for 2-3 yrs (depending on exposure) My deck is full sun exposure. My question is what happens to the wood in the next few years if I go with the sealer, will it grey again and have to be continually cleaned and sealer reapplied? I’m really wondering if I should reconsider and go with a tinted stain. Does stain have to be reapplied yearly and what product would you recommend that I can purchase in Canada Thanks Liz

Liz
Liz
2 years ago

What would you suggest?

J Clemenzi
J Clemenzi
3 years ago

What is the best product for deck around a pool. Concerned for stain getting in pool as well as chlorine penetration of treated deck

J Clemenzi
J Clemenzi
3 years ago

Will stain get in the pool? Oil based or water based for around pool? Wife likes Armstrong Clark Mahogany. Good choice?

Kelley
Kelley
3 years ago

Adding to existing deck. Would like to stain old and new wood same stain color (Armstrong Clark mahogany). What suggestions do you have to accomplish even coloring throughout. Thank you in advance.

Jonathan Arciszewski
Jonathan Arciszewski
3 years ago

How can I get my new clear cedar deck to look like this? Is this a clear oil based product? or a tinted stain? I like the ambering effect of oil based products. I’ve done some research and some information says that clear finishes don’t have UV protection? I do have some Thompson’s Waterseal Waterproofer PLUS CLEAR Wood Protector that claims UV protection.

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Deck Stain Looks Too Orange
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Jonathan Arciszewski
Jonathan Arciszewski
3 years ago

Thank you for the information! I have ordered some Sansin products for testing.

krakatoakt
krakatoakt
3 years ago

I have a rough cut wood barn that I need to protect (2700 sq ft). The wood was from pine trees we cut off our land and had the local Amish mill band cut. The wood then sat for about 3 years before being put on the barn. I’m in Missouri (4 seasons and humidity) and it gets plenty of sunshine.
What would you recommend? Being such a large sized barn, I’d like to not have to spray it too often… meaning Id like something that last at least 5-10 years.

Also, what about preparation??

Your thoughts would be most appreciated!

Thank you
K

Gary
Gary
3 years ago

What stain color is this? Thanks!

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Gary
Gary
3 years ago

Thanks!

Elizabeth Montejo
Elizabeth Montejo
3 years ago

Ok, so I thought I was confident in buying a clear deck stain.. they told me at the store that means I just buy a sealer.. that’s clear.
We hated the paint that was ion there before. My husband worked hard took it all off and sanded. It’s in good condition. Can we just seal it? Or is it better to do a transparent seal and stain? That’s what I’m seeing as the options and feel like just sealing isn’t enough

Meg
Meg
3 years ago

Would the best protection be stain then a sealant?

C M
C M
3 years ago

Is a stain and sealer all in one a good product to use on a 4 year old deck that has not been treated thus far?

Boston
Boston
3 years ago

so a stain is a sealer — but with pigments. not too different.
a better explanation would be the difference between types of penetrating compounds (oils) or some that provide a film or layer on top (acrylics, polyurethanes?) found in types of sealers and stains.
there still is a massive confusing array of products out there — but i bet they come down to only a few different technologies whether old school paraffin wax, linseed and new school urethanes and so forth.
notwithstanding, your website is amazing and good for you.

Kirk Mitchell
Kirk Mitchell
3 years ago

Should you stain your deck then a month later seal your deck or is that over kill?

Dodson
Dodson
3 years ago

Hello! See attached picture. This is my 2 year old deck. The top beams are untreated pine wood. As you can tell, there is mildew on the beams. My plan is to either pressure wash or use the Armstrong restore-a-deck kit. My question is – should I stain or seal the top untreated pine wood beams? I’m leaning towards staining since the untreated pine wood isn’t directly exposed to the sun since the clear roof provides UV protection. The Armstrong Clark semi-trans cedar color would be a nice bonus as well. My concern is the moisture which makes me lean towards sealing.

Based on my situation, would you stain or seal? Is there a difference since the untreated pine wood is inside the deck and not directly outside exposed to the sun? Thank you in advance for your help, I appreciate it!

P.S. The side of the desk are treated wood so I plan to leave that the way it is.There is a small amount of mildew so I do plan to power pressure wash this area.

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Michael Guerrera
Michael Guerrera
4 years ago

I stained my new deck Tyson summers ago. But did not put any sealer. Now it’s all pealing. What do I do ?

Raquel Mercado
Raquel Mercado
4 years ago

I thought staining acts as a sealer but with a tint? Sorry so confused! Lol

Derick
Derick
3 years ago

What can I do if deck is already stained, and now splintering? Sand to remove stain then start over? Which should I apply first? Stain or sealer?

Emily S O'Rourke
Emily S O'Rourke
3 years ago

Can you add a stain on top of a sealer?

CECILIA L BELL
CECILIA L BELL
4 years ago

Your site suggests that a stain is the way to go over a sealer. However, we have been looking and can only find “stain with sealers” (for example- Olympic Maximum 1 gal. Redwood Semi-Transparent Exterior Stain and Sealant in One). Can you please suggest what you would consider the best product to put on a new deck with KDAT decking planks that is going to be covered by a three season room? Thanks. I did read the article mentioned in the comment below (damien) but we are still confused as to what product to purchase and the best place to purchase those products.

damien
damien
4 years ago

New deck put in last summer. Do I use stain, sealer or a combo of both. I’m edging towards just stain, but appreciate your take on this. I’m looking to use as clear as possible stain. Where I am is hot summers and frigid cold winters

Mike
Mike
4 years ago

We’re going to stain our KDAT deck with either a Sherwin Williams Superdeck or a Cabot stain. Would we still need to seal the KDAT? Thanks!

Cathy
Cathy
4 years ago

i want to seal the tongue & groove ceiling over my porch, as it won’t get any direct sun i’m more concerned with moisture barrier. We live in the caribbean on the water, so think humidity, salty spray & hurricanes. I would like to go with a transparent Armstrong but am wondering if it’ll give me the protection that I need. Maybe i should use a semi-transparent? Does the TWP have better moisture barrier? Advice please?

Brandy
Brandy
4 years ago

Is the photo in the picture a seal or stain? and if stain, what is the color?

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