What’s the Difference Between a Deck Sealer and a Deck Stain? 4.9/5 (220)

This post was updated on May 2, 2022

Difference Between a Deck Sealer and Deck Stain?

Here at DeckStainHelp.com for 2022, 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

Please Rate This. You may also post comments or ask questions below.

Related Deck Stain Help Articles & Reviews

guest

109 Comments
newest
oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bernard
Bernard
2 months ago

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

Phil
Phil
1 year 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
1 year 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
1 year 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
1 year 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
1 year ago

What would you suggest?

J Clemenzi
J Clemenzi
1 year 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
1 year ago

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

Kelley
Kelley
1 year 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
2 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.

unnamed.jpg
1405423869324.jpeg
western-red-cedar-1.jpg
IMG_7846.JPG
Jonathan Arciszewski
Jonathan Arciszewski
2 years ago

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

krakatoakt
krakatoakt
2 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
2 years ago

What stain color is this? Thanks!

comment image

Gary
Gary
2 years ago

Thanks!

Elizabeth Montejo
Elizabeth Montejo
2 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
2 years ago

Would the best protection be stain then a sealant?

C M
C M
2 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
2 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
2 years ago

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

Dodson
Dodson
2 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.

IMG_1370-1.jpg
Michael Guerrera
Michael Guerrera
2 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
2 years ago

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

Derick
Derick
2 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
2 years ago

Can you add a stain on top of a sealer?

CECILIA L BELL
CECILIA L BELL
2 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
2 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
2 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
2 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
3 years ago

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

Kyle
Kyle
3 years ago

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

Lori
Lori
3 years ago

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
3 years ago

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!

Cosimo
Cosimo
2 years ago
Reply to  Amber

Hi I just sealed my deck a couple of weeks ago should I do a second coat

frank
frank
3 years ago

whats in sealer? difference from polyurethane?

frank
frank
3 years ago

what’s the composition of sealer? Polyurethane?

Robert
Robert
3 years ago

Can a stain be applied over a sealer ?

Jeff
Jeff
3 years ago

Can a stain be applied over a stain? In the context of a good slathering before winter hits and snow sits on it all winter…montana deck

Debbie
Debbie
3 years ago

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
3 years ago

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
3 years ago

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?

James Smith
James Smith
3 years ago

here are some pictures of my deck. We are in Lawrenceburg, KY.

IMG_3580.JPG
IMG_3581.JPG
James Smith
James Smith
3 years ago

So my deck is less than 1 year old. What do you recommend? Sealing and/or staining?
Sorry, just confused about what needs to be done to preserve the deck. Thanks!

Angela
Angela
3 years ago

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
3 years ago

Do u need to reseal and then stain a deck

Navin
Navin
4 years ago

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

Navin
Navin
4 years ago

please see the pictures. it is a new cedar fence installed just one month ago, have observed these stains after 2-3 weeks and now it is spreading all over other parts also. can you suggest what to do?

IMG_1378.jpg
IMG_1385.jpg
IMG_1383.jpg
Navin
Navin
4 years ago

Thank you. Will try. Can you suggest any specific cleaner for cedar fence

Navin
Navin
4 years ago

Thanks. Will do. Can I try wood bleach ?

Bob Shanahan
Bob Shanahan
4 years ago

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
5 years ago

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

20170717_194047.jpg
20170719_190705.jpg
20170719_190633.jpg
Terry White
Terry White
5 years ago

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
5 years ago

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
5 years ago

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
5 years ago

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
5 years ago

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?

Shannon
Shannon
3 years ago

So I should decided to seal OR stain my fence, not both, correct? And that is true with water or oil based products? Thank you

109
0
Questions or leave a review, please comment!x