What’s the Difference Between a Deck Sealer and a Deck Stain? 4.9/5 (80)

by Deck Stain Help

Updated February 2020

Difference Between a Deck Sealer and Deck Stain?

Here at DeckStainHelp.com for 2020, 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.

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Cathy
Cathy

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

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

Kyle
Kyle

We are wanting to stain and then seal our deck. Is this a good idea or will the stain itself be enough?

Lori
Lori

We want to stain our small cottage the same dark green solid stain as the cottage next to us. They used Behr stain 4 years ago and it still looks great. Behr has two options, Premium solid Color weatherproofing stain and sealer or Solid Color house and fence wood stain. The latter is half the price of the former. Would the more expensive choice be better or is there no significant difference between them? Thank you.

Amber
Amber

We purchased a home and the deck had been neglected. Stain is very patchy. I power washed it and don’t know that we will have time to stain it before fall arrives being the temps are cooling already.
1) the hardware guy told us to scrub, sand and seal the deck then until we can stain next summer? What are your thoughts on this?
2) if we do stain it this year, does it take 2-3 hours to dry and how long should we try to avoid rain for?
Thank you!

frank
frank

whats in sealer? difference from polyurethane?

frank
frank

what’s the composition of sealer? Polyurethane?

Robert
Robert

Can a stain be applied over a sealer ?

Debbie
Debbie

I just completed a test section on my deck using Thompson’s Water Seal-CLEAR, and it’s too dark for me. Is there another product that I can use that is truly clear? The wood needs to be protected-I would like to protect the nice new light color. I hope you can help me!
Thanks

Alex
Alex

Recommendation for an oil-based sealant that dries/cures quickly and is low VOCs? This is to rehab an aging playground structure at a daycare center. Work will be done on weekend but needs to dry quickly to be ready for the kids on Monday. Needs to be oil based. Seattle area.

PS thanks for your awesome reviews. I used TWP 100 on my deck four years ago, based on your reviews, and it has been holding up great!

James Smith
James Smith

I have a 10 x 20 deck that is about 1 year old. I got an estimate for cleaning and staining for approx. $2,000.

Is this a reasonable price?

Angela
Angela

new deck pressure treated wood. Will a sealer be sufficient to preserve if we want the wood to gray naturally? We live in seattle area. Every time we have had a stained deck it always would bubble or peel over time and not hold up well. so we are wondering if this would be a good alternative.

Enzo
Enzo

Do u need to reseal and then stain a deck

Navin
Navin

i have a new cedar fence that we installed on aug17,2018, just after 3 weeks, the top boards started turning black. i am not sure whats going on. i was planning to stain it in early october 2018, can someone let me know if i can stain it on the top of that black color or is there any way, i can get those black stains removed and apply stain? thanks for your time

Bob Shanahan
Bob Shanahan

8 years ago we built our deck and stained it with Penofin stain. We applied a fresh coat each year until 2016. The floor and top rails had turned black. I assume it is mildew. We are now sanding the deck. Do we need to sand everything before restaining, or can we just sand the bad areas and use the penofin again?

Linda Rappa
Linda Rappa

I live in Chicago area and moved into a house where the siding, deck rails and the deck were all painted the same color. Deck looks like treated wood, partial shade and mildew issues on the edges. Deck is peeling, seems to be paint because I can grab a piece and pull off a 5″ piece in some areas.

I bought Wolman Deck Strip and their ASR version for acrylic since I don’t know what’s on the deck. Also bought Wolman Deck & Fence Brightener. Are these good choices?

Can you recommend a stain for me to use? Do I need to sand the deck before staining? I’m thinking a semi-transparent would be good. Thanks.
Linda

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Terry White
Terry White

For over 10 years, I have been using a pigmented wood sealer on my cedar deck. The product is ADM-2000 with a Pecan color. I have been very satisfied with the product, but apparently the company that makes it is no longer in business. What deck stain/sealer would you recommend that I could use without having to completely strip the ADM-2000 that I applied three years ago?

Rosalie Sims
Rosalie Sims

Thank you for the EXCELLENT information. Do you know a Contractor in the Kansas City area? I want to use your advice, but cannot locate a Dealer. Thank you

Rosalie Sims
Rosalie Sims

What product is best for STAIN? Thank you

I am just getting started (trying to pick the best that you recommend?

I also think the EFC-38 is best for deck cleaner & brightener?

Sue
Sue

A contractor I hired applied an oil based stain on my new deck last year. The application went terribly wrong and it never fully cured in areas and remained tacky and dirt stuck to it. The contractor tried power washing and it lifted the stain off in areas. It’s a real mess and the contractor won’t fix it. I’m wondering what I need to do now so I can stain it again properly. Also, what kind of stain is best to use. We live in the Pacific Northwest so the deck is exposed to a lot of rain.

Kathy
Kathy

I have put semi transparent classic oil finish arborcoat on a piece of outdoor furniture. Do I need to put a sealer on top of it? Would it be good to put oil on it later in the season?