Why Have a Two-Toned Deck?  5/5 (8)

This post was updated on May 13, 2024

I am Scott Paul, a leading exterior restoration contractor and business owner with over 30 years of experience in exterior wood. My reviews and help tips are based on my history as a wood restoration contractor and actual hands-on testing, all designed to present you with the top product choices. See here for more info about me.

Why Choose a Two-Toned Deck?

Two-toned decks are becoming more popular every year, and we have been applying this look to our customers’ decks for 30 years now. We use a solid-colored (opaque) deck stain on the verticals and a semi-transparent stain on the horizontals. Two-toned decks look great and can ease maintenance down the road.

Two-Toned Deck Staining

Two-Toned Deck Staining

If you have any questions or have done a two-toned deck restoration, please post the pictures below in the comment area with tips on what you used and how you prepped the wood.

My Two-Toned Deck Advantages

There are several visual and maintenance advantages of having a two-toned deck. Here are a few of the main reasons consumers have been switching to the two-toned look.

  • Using a solid-color stain allows you to color-match the railings and vertical wood to blend with the color of the house. The most popular solid-color stains are White, Taupe, and Gray, but most brands can be tinted to any color.
  • The deck floor/horizontal wood is stained with a semi-transparent stain so it still has that natural wood appearance. However, solid stains and paints do not perform well on horizontal surfaces such as decking and are prone to cracking and peeling, so they are only used on vertical surfaces.
  • Solid stains on vertical wood/railings can last 2-3 times longer or up to 6 years with little to no maintenance.
  • Future coatings typically consist of cleaning and reapplying a semi-transparent stain to the horizontal floors every 2 years.
  • Visually, your exterior wood deck has a beautiful two-color look.

My Tips on Two-Toned Decks

Here are my basic tips for prep and application of a Two-Toned Deck.

  1. Prep all wood first by cleaning and/or stripping it. It is important that you strip and/or sand the horizontal areas to remove any previous coatings. Brighten the wood afterward. There is no need to strip the vertical wood where the solid stain will be applied. Just pressure wash the railings to remove all dirt, grime, and loose stain.
  2. Apply the solid stain first to all vertical wood. Be very careful to cover and tarp the horizontal wood from any drips of the solid stain. Ensure you follow all manufacturer application directions of the solid stain brand you choose.
  3. When done and the solid stain is dry, apply your semi-transparent stain to the horizontal areas, following all manufacturer directions.
  4. Let all stain dry for 12-24 hours before using.

A correctly done two-tone deck can really add appeal and value to your property. Initially, it may take a little more time and labor, but as some deck owners know, the result will be excellent.

For a Solid Color Wood Deck Stain on the verticals/railings, we suggest:

For a semi-transparent deck stain for the flooring/horizontals, look at:

My Two-Toned Deck Stain Photo Ideas

My Two-Toned Deck Stain Video

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

author avatar
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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Anita Costanzo
Anita Costanzo
1 year ago

My deck floor has just been replaced and I’m considering a two tone look. The verticals still have a reddish transparent stain on them. Can I use solid, light color or white and then do the horizontals with a shade of brown. House us yellowish cream color with white trim.

3 years ago

Can I use a solid stain on the verticals of my deck that has behr deckover? I sanded the horizontal boards already and removed all the behr, just have not done anything yet to the verticals. Thanks

3 years ago

I’m leaning toward this two-tone and have three questions. 1) I sanded all verticals and horizontals (see pics). It’s rained on it a few times for about 2 wks. Do I need any additional prep like washing or brightening? Deck boards are curved a bit from long weather exposure, and picture shows there’s still some grey materials in exposed wood grains. Not sure of deck’s age, but home was built 22yrs ago, and deck likely same age. 2) You note that solids are more expensive to maintain than semi-transparents. Could you explain why and how (e.g., how long each lasts if I use RAD, and future prepping and restaining schedule/processes)? For instance, does the semi-transparent cover the deck cracks well enough (see pics)? While I like the two-tone, the least involving long-term maintenance is my top priority. Location is northwest Illinois. 3) Do you think the RAD semi-transparent in dark walnut you used for the deck you posted above will give me the same color with my deck horizontals? I’m using white for verticals. Thanks!

3 years ago
Reply to  Frank

Finished with the project. I ended up using Flood solid stains, white on verticals and Oxford brown on horizontals. It takes in some of the pictures.

M Adoryan
M Adoryan
4 years ago

Is there such a thing as scratching up the semi transparent oil based stain currently on my wood deck? I used a palm sander on the entire surface of the deck for the “sratchin” then removed mold with a product and the porch has dried. I am now ready to paint with oil based semi transparent solid stain, similar in color to what is on deck. But, i am being told i have to sand off ALL of previous coat. Can you help me out here ?

4 years ago

Hey there, just wondering what is involved in maintaining solid stained verticals? Does the old stain have to be stripped/sanded completely each time you apply a new coat?


5 years ago

When painting railings and staining the deck — which should I do first? Any benefit to doing one first?

5 years ago

I stripped my deck last week down to bare wood, and now it’s raining for three days. I have not brightened yet. Is that bear would going to be okay if it takes me another week or two to paint all the spindles? Or should I stain first?
And by the way, I really appreciate the quick answers! You made this project feel very doable for me!

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