Why Penetrating Deck Stains are Best  4.7/5 (116)

This post was updated on March 3, 2024

Why Penetrating Deck Stains are Best

We appreciate you visiting Deckstainhelp.com as we continue to be your go-to source for the latest in deck restoration news and trending topics through 2024. Below, we talk about Why Penetrating Deck Stains are Best. Feel free to leave a comment below with any pictures you may have.


Finding the right stain for your wooden deck is the key to getting lasting results. But with so many deck stain choices it can be a daunting task, to say the least. To narrow down the search for the best deck stain you first need to understand what the different types of protection are.

Without getting into oil vs. water-based debate or colors, tones, and opacity levels there are basically two different types of characteristics of a deck stain – film forming and penetrating. Both of these deck stain characteristics will provide adequate protection from the sun and lockout unwanted moisture. They both can also enhance the beauty of the wood and provide general overall protection from mold and mildew, freeze/thaw damage, and heavy foot traffic.

Film Forming Deck Stains

Film Forming Stain Failure

Film Forming Stain Failure

The main differences between the two are appearance, longevity, and maintenance. The way a film-forming deck stain works is basically like the name suggests, it forms a film or barrier of protection that stays on top of the wood surface. Film-forming stains are normally semi-solid to solid stains that come in a wide array of colors. They mostly hide the wood grain and show a lot more color almost like paint. The downside with film-forming stains is the way they wear over time. As the wood stain begins to age and breaks down it literally begins to crack, flake, or peel off of the wood.

 

Film-forming wood stains are typically more heavily pigmented than penetrating stains making them much tougher to get rid of once a recoat is necessary. Not being able to remove an old coat means applying a new coat over top. Although the wood surface may look better initially following a recoat in this manner, it doesn’t tend to last as long because this type of deck stain doesn’t adhere well to itself. Over time, the buildup of multiple coats begins to create more frequent peeling and flaking, mold and mildew issues, and a nearly irreversible mess.

Penetrating Deck Stains

Penetrating Stain 2 Years Full Sun

Penetrating Stain 2 Years Full Sun

With penetrating deck stains longevity is normally better and future maintenance is much easier and less expensive. Penetrating wood stains don’t sit on top of the wood surface like film-forming stains but rather penetrates or dives into the wood pores to give superb protection. Penetrating deck stains are excellent water repellants and do a good job of blocking harmful sun rays. They are usually transparent or semi-transparent allowing the natural beauty of the wood to show through and are available in different colors or tones.

A penetrating wood deck stain ages and begins to wear it does not peel or flake but instead, it just fades and begins to disappear. They are also normally much easier to remove using a deck stain stripper so a recoat can be applied. In the case of using the same penetrating stain for a recoat, you can even do a light wash to the wood without removing the old stain before applying a new coat of the same penetrating stain. This recoat over an old coat of stain is much more effective with penetrating stains than with the film-forming type.

When choosing a deck stain type it isn’t hard to see a clear winner. As far as a more natural enhanced wood appearance, longevity, and ease of future maintenance – penetrating deck stains are best.

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author avatar
Scott Paul ~ Restoring Wood & Decks Since 1993
#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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lori
lori
7 months ago

Hi Scott!
We live in a high humidity area and wake up every morning to a deck that is wet with dew. We built a front porch (gets full sun) with pressure-treated lumber last fall and are ready to stain and seal it. I’ve read through your recommendations about the best stains to use, but I was wondering if you had any additional advice given our local climate.

Shawna
Shawna
9 months ago

How can you tell if a product really is a penetrating stain and sealer?

Kenny
Kenny
9 months ago

Hello Scott,

I know this isn’t a deck but the beams on my house which receives at leas 8+ hours of full sun a day is showing signs of wear. I do not know the original product used. What would you recommend I do here to protect and refinish these beams? Let me know if you need better pictures. Thank you!

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Kenny
Kenny
9 months ago

Thank you for the recommendation Scott. Just curious, I think the beams currently have a film forming finish. Will Restore a Deck Stripper be able to remove it? Thanks again.

Kenny
Kenny
9 months ago

Here’s a picture for reference. I think it does have a film forming finishing. Will the restore a deck stripper kits remove it?

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Kris
Kris
10 months ago

If I used a film forming deck sealer, how do I switch to a penetrating oil stain?

Erin
Erin
1 year ago

Power washed then stained our deck with Pittsburg ultra advanced stain from Menards last summer. It looked great. After one Chicago winter this is how our deck looks now. How should we remedy? Power wash it off? Use some kind of remover?

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Veronica
Veronica
1 year ago

Hi. I have a mahogany deck. It is faded and turning grey. Should I sand the deck before using penetrating oil stain? What stain do you recommend.

Roy
Roy
1 year ago

I am confused on what brand deck stain to use on my newly built pressure treated pine deck after reading so many negative reviews. Looks like no one brand is perfect. What brand do you guys recommend also should I use oil base or water base. Also one that doesn’t peel. Also looking for one that has a dark gray color tint. Thanks

Stephanie Murphy
Stephanie Murphy
2 years ago
  1. Deck Location State: Kentucky LAKEFRONT on Rough River Lake
  2. Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Parts is full sun, others partial to full shade (lower deck)
  3. Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
  4. Mold or Mildew Issues: Yes
  5. Reason for Previous Stain Failure: Fading, some peeling, 5th year since stained now
  6. Previous Stain Brand and Type of stain (Solid, Semi-transparent, Transparent, etc): Cabot Timber Oil

I was advised to fill a sprayer with bleach and power wash before staining, but it seems this site advises against using bleach? I need a stripper and brightener?

Deck is about 20 years old: large upper and lower deck.

Previous owner said the bottom deck floor is a special kind of treated wood that is supposed to never need staining… ??

I had an estimate from Ever Seal… cost is too high, plus they said they can’t do it because the previous stain won’t come off with their process.

The 1st picture is from 5 years ago … LOTS of deck

Pic 4 shows a lighter color board where I power washed and a white spot where bleach we were using to clean the siding spilled.

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Stephanie Murphy
Stephanie Murphy
2 years ago

Thank you! 🙂

Bee
Bee
2 years ago

Can you do a review of Sunfrog penetrating oil stain? Apparently it’s highly recommended in the Pacific Northwest where the amount of rain we get basically ruins all stains within 6 months. I’d like to see what you guys think of it.

Brock
Brock
2 years ago

So I built a cedar deck in 2017 and used a water based Sherwin Williams “stain” because of their strong recommendations, and even after just one year the peeling problem showed up. I’m now redoing the finish and want to do it right. I’ve been sanding everything down to get rid of the bad old stain, but I’m wondering, do I need to sand the weathered, “silvery” cedar down to fresh wood to get a penetrating oil to look consistant? Is the sanding in the first picture enough? I’m also wondering what’s the best way to get the stain off from between the radiused edges? (second picture)

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Brock
Brock
2 years ago

I really want to move to an oil based stain if possible. Can I use something like Armstrong clark or cabot Australian timber oil if I make sure I sand all the stain off?

Rod St Louis
Rod St Louis
2 years ago

That is a large worked out large one where it’s large as LARCH large

Rod St Louis
Rod St Louis
2 years ago

I built a deck with large lumber last year stained it with semi transparent restore a deck stain flakedAnd all the horizontal deck boards it seem to have worked on vertical looking to find out what I can do do I have to get the remaining stain off to re-stain should I try another different kind of stain please give me some advice

Ferris
Ferris
2 years ago

Can you use penetrating deck stain on old faded composite decking?

Robert Schultz
Robert Schultz
2 years ago

If we have old boards with non penatrating stain do we have to sand the boards completely before using the penitrating stain?

Terry L. Schulze
Terry L. Schulze
3 years ago

Looking for the best product to protect the pressure treated wood floor and sides of a utility trailer. It seems like a penetrating sealer would be best. I would like a stain to change the color but my first priority is long lasting protection. Thank you.

Vince
Vince
3 years ago

Recommendation for best semitransparent penetrating oil?

S Skinner
S Skinner
3 years ago

What is your opinion of OnetimeWood stain?

Carol Myatt
Carol Myatt
4 years ago

Is it possible to get satisfactory results by using a penetrating deck stain over a solid stain if most of the stain has flaked off?

Blair
Blair
4 years ago

Used Behr penetrating stain about 18 months ago. It is worn off in high traffic areas. Can I use remainder of stain to restain traffic areas? Eventually I guess I have to restain the entire walkway. Would I need to strip or can I stain over worn and unworn areas?

C.L.
C.L.
4 years ago

Used penetrating oil wood finish 12 days ago on underside of deck roof and it’s still very tacky. How long does this take to dry?

C.L.
C.L.
4 years ago

Behr

J.M.
J.M.
4 years ago

Live in Kentucky. Just put up a new deck. Recommendations for easy, long lasting stain that will be easy to re-stain in a couple years.

j. keizer
j. keizer
4 years ago

will beauti-tone oil deck & siding semi transparent stain peel

Mher
Mher
4 years ago

I live in North Carolina and have a new 6 month old pine deck. I am looking to use a relatively clear stain that actually penetrates into the wood and protects from decay, mold and algae, but which also doesn’t require stripping to reapply. I would also like a stain that lasts a few years but from what I’ve read, they all need re-application each year.

I have already purchased the Cabot clear stain, however after reading about TWP, I am wondering if it is worth using TWP instead. Is there really a difference?

Linda R Owens
Linda R Owens
5 years ago

Our deck has solid stain on it, and it’s in the sun, but it keeps getting mildew and peels off. Too..we have tried several brands of stain, and can’t seem to stop it..itstreated lumber, pine I think

Linda R Owens
Linda R Owens
5 years ago
Reply to  Linda R Owens

What do you think we need to do

George
George
5 years ago

Our Middle Tennessee home was finished in 2015 a covered deck and lightly stained with a water based BEHR product the same year via spray gun. In Feb 2018 a covered deck addition was added and we are ready to stain the entire structure. A few Questions: We are leaning towards TWP100 (awaiting color samples to test color and adhesion). Will this oil based stain have any problems soaking into the previous very light coat already existing? Can you suggest any other penetrating stains that are equivalent or better quality? Given the entire structure is covered how important is dry weather? We have curtains up and outdoor carpet over the majority of the deck. Should these be removed well in advance or just the day before? It is a double deck structure and we plan to stain the posts, under deck and joists. Any considerations for the under deck? Is there any truth to decoding the wood stamp on the lumber to get information about the wood? Thanks!