Why Penetrating Deck Stains are Best 4.7/5 (112)

This post was updated on January 19, 2022

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 2022. 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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Roy
Roy
2 months 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
1 year 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.

Lake House Deck.jpeg
Deck 1.jpeg
Deck 3.jpeg
Deck 4.jpeg
Stephanie Murphy
Stephanie Murphy
1 year ago

Thank you! 🙂

Bee
Bee
1 year 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
1 year 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
1 year 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
1 year ago

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

Rod St Louis
Rod St Louis
1 year 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
1 year ago

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

Robert Schultz
Robert Schultz
1 year 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
2 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
2 years ago

Recommendation for best semitransparent penetrating oil?

S Skinner
S Skinner
2 years ago

What is your opinion of OnetimeWood stain?

Carol Myatt
Carol Myatt
2 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
3 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.
3 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.
3 years ago

Behr

J.M.
J.M.
3 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
3 years ago

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

Mher
Mher
3 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
3 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
3 years ago
Reply to  Linda R Owens

What do you think we need to do

George
George
4 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!

Jay
Jay
4 years ago

I’m a new homeowner with a deck that is in need of staining- bare wood. I found a big sale on Cabot solid oil stain for synthetic decks. I have a natural wood deck and didn’t realize the mistake until I was home. Can I use this stain on a wood deck.

Daniel
Daniel
4 years ago

Our “home owner association” says I need to match their “approved color” which is a dark brown stain.
Can penetrating stains be tinted?
I want to use the “best” stain possible.
Thank you for your time and advice. Daniel

S B
S B
4 years ago

We want to put a wood oil finish on our 1 year old lake dock and are looking at Behr and Livos brands. I do not want to use a stain as the maintenance is always a concern so have been researching wood oils and think that this might be a good option. I need the name of a high end one that will be available in Canada.
Thanks

Scott
Scott
4 years ago

Olympic Summit Woodland Oil. Is this not an oil based product that works similar to TWP or Cutek albeit cheaper quality?

Scott
Scott
4 years ago

According to Olympic the Summit version is the same as the Elite Woodland Oil. I seen it was recommended and Cutek being the top choice on an article on this site.

Linda Georgina Riseborough
Linda Georgina Riseborough
3 years ago
Reply to  S B

There is one its called BEHR PREMIUM wood coatings transparent penetrating oil wood finish you can buy at Home Depot in Canada.

Andrew
Andrew
3 years ago

I have this from Home Depot ready to stain a fence in Ontario. What has your experience been, thanks.

Greg
Greg
4 years ago

Great ideas on this website-thanks!

I’m looking to stain my red cedar deck that I finished building last fall. I didn’t have a window to stain it before the rain came, so this summer it has been prepped and pressure washed and looks like new again. I’m ready to stain and see that so many brands have lousy reviews. TWP ships to Canada now, but apparently only the 200 series. Ideally a transparent penetrating oil with cedar tint is what I’m looking for. Do you know if the 200 series is acrylic, and if so, am I setting myself up for disappointment by ordering online? They don’t ship samples unfortunately.

Question is, how and where would one get a comparable product in Canadian (Vancouver Island) stores?

Thanks!

Aaron
Aaron
4 years ago

This seems to have good reviews? Behr penetrating oil? Thoughts?

Natalie
Natalie
4 years ago

I have a deck that surrounds a above ground pool that was built last summer using pressure treated wood. This spring I used the deck cleaner that home depot recommended I use before I used Behr penetrating oil wood finish. It is now 1 month later and water beads in some areas but over all water is not beading on the deck. Should I apply an additional coat of the penetrating oil wood finish, should I just leave it be, or, should I try a different product?
Thank you

John
John
4 years ago

I applied Behr penetrating oil deck stain to my deck. After 5 days it is still wet. No tacky, Wet!
I spoke to a Behr technical expert who told me the deck should have been dry in 72 hours. I’ve seen on line where this product is still not dry for weeks. The Behr technical expert suggested I pick up mineral spirits to remove their product. Great, then what? The Home Depot paint experts told me this was between me and Behr. My advice is don’t buy Behr and don’t shop at Home Depot.

Mary Kerr
Mary Kerr
4 years ago

Hi, I have a three year old pressure treated deck. I’ve been using Thompson’s WaterSeal waterproofer plus tinted wood protector in desert brown. I love the color and the visability of the wood grain but each summer I have to recoat the deck boards. The deck is in full sun, gets a winter full of snow, and I have two dogs. The upright parts seem to hold their color not too badly but the parts we walk on completely fade away. What do you recommend? Also, I have heard of “oiling” decks, could you explain what that is and how it looks ?
Thank you

Barb Carmon
Barb Carmon
4 years ago

We have three dogs that at times leave muddy footprints on our deck. When it rains, we would hope the prints would wash off. The last stain we used did not wash off. Any dirt would stick or absorb into the stain. What is the best transparent stain that seals also?

Robert S.
Robert S.
5 years ago

An older dock on a freshwater lake will be pressure cleaned and some dock boards will be replaced with new boards. I’ve been told by some that I should NOT use pressure treated pine new boards as semi-transparent stain will not penetrate pt lumber. Is that correct?

Brandon N.
Brandon N.
5 years ago

I’ve read several dozen articles on different websites in researching the best stain for a new red cedar deck. I’ve been to local specialty stores that frankly they weren’t that helpful. They weren’t pushing any particular product but seemed to know less than I do about the products they sell and ideal products considering the information below. Deckstainhelp.com has been more help than other sources but looking for expert suggestions. I thought I’d settled on TWP and then Sikkens Semi Transparent Cetol SRD but now I’m less certain. I understand TWP is a great product but their pigments don’t match our needs.

Based on the following information, I’m interested in recommendations.

Location:
-Prior Lake, MN (southern side of Twin Cities)

Deck Specifications:
– Newly built early spring 2017
– Red cedar decking
– Wrapped with with rough hewn red cedar on all vertical surfaces, including stairs
– Joists and supports are green treated pine
– Elevation is about 8ft from bottom of joists
– Powder coated railing
– 10 x 21 (about 5 x 21 gets the majority of foot traffic. The rest of the traffic is around a large dining table and furniture)

Exposure:
– Nearly due east exposure with a fair amount of wind all year
– Full un in summer months from about 9:30 to 3:30 central time give or take early spring to late summer
– Deck will have potentially significant snow accumulation during MN winters with high foot traffic area cleared regularly

Customer Requirements
– Pigmented semi transparent stain. Need a wider range of pigment options since my wife has pretty particular ideas for colors.
– Vertical surfaces will have a different pigment than horizontal surfaces
– Maximum durability considering exposure and traffic
– Prefer to re-stain no less than every 3 years on horizontal surfaces with seasonal cleanings/mainenance
– Do not want a stain that needs to be stripped and/or sanded before re staining
– Minnesota does not restrict higher VOC stains
– Don’t want a stain that will flake or bubble
– Intend to use the the same brand/type/color stain indefinitely (or at least brand/type if colors are discontinued in the future)

Lots of information in know and appreciate the time to review. Big box, small box, specialty stores didn’t give me a lot of confidence in their suggestions based on the same information above 🙂

Mike Accarino
Mike Accarino
5 years ago

Cabot solid acrylic . I’ve been using it for ten years. It does not penetrate a wood deck. You can strip it, rough up the surface, use a primer, let a new deck age, put down a seasoner on new wood. Doesn’t matter. After the winter it peels off in a bad way. Every spring you will have a major job on your hands to remove an enormous amount of peeling stain. Let dry and redo. And the same thing will occur next spring. Major peeling . Do yourself a favor. Don’t even get started with Cabot Solid Acrylic. Buy a penetrating oil based stain.

Ted
Ted
4 years ago
Reply to  Mike Accarino

This is accurate across all brands. If its semitransparent and rated for 4+ years, chances are you will have a mess on your hands by winter #2 at the latest. Its sad but all they will do is ship you more stain to make up for the loss. Behr 6 year is awful

Cynthia Barnes
Cynthia Barnes
5 years ago

We are wanting to refinish our deck after years of using Thompsons Water seal. It just peels off in the snow. We plan to use TWP because our cedar home is finished with the same. What would you recommend as a preparation for the stripper and any other preparations before applying the TWP?

Tom
Tom
6 years ago

Is Behr Transparent Oil-Based Waterproofing Wood Finish a film forming stain or a penetrating deck stain? I desparately want to avoid a product that will peel and/or flake off. Open to suggestions.

JUlianne Biehl
JUlianne Biehl
6 years ago

Have a low to ground deck which peeled badly and had to be scraped off/ Penetrating is bet but deck must breathe. what is best stain for this.?

pbean
pbean
6 years ago

How do you know which of the 2 kinds of stains you're getting?

pbean
pbean
6 years ago

Thanks. I also saw on your comparison table. Very helpful. Paul

Betsy
Betsy
6 years ago

We have used stripper and powerwashed. Even with sanding all of the previous product that was used will not come out. The sanded wood looks ok dry but when wet, you can tell something is still on the boards. Are we safe using a penetrating stain or will the boards look bad? We do not want to use a heavy stain that will flake and peel and are at our wits end. Our deck is elevated and is about 40 feet by 16- we don't want to have to replace all of the cedar. Help!

Betsy
Betsy
6 years ago

We have applied stripper and power washed but the solid staid remained. We have sanded and dry it looks ready for a penetrating stain but some boards look like there is some sort of product deep inside the wood – maybe a penetrating stain was used years ago. The deck is 40 x 16 and we don't want to replace all the cedar boards. Are we ok to use another penetrating stain?

Fran
Fran
7 years ago

Replaced some old deck boards with new ones. Let some of the new ones dry out for 3 months and other new ones 12 months (has been a work in progress). Had the deck power washed and cleaned. Applied Armstrong Clark semi solid Oxford brown stain to blend old
with new. Looked great first few weeks ..now some of the boards are oozing sap. Sap is turning white. How do I get that off and return the boards to a better look? Also, can I restain next spring for better penetration?

Alyssa
Alyssa
8 years ago

I am a facilities manager on a campus with Craftsman-style buildings. The newest building, built in 2000, has tons of exterior wood trim, wood stairs, and a huge upper deck. It was originally stained with Cabot transparent stain to show the grain. Due to construction with new, poor quality wood and/or stain failure, the wood railings were badly split and dried out within 4-5 years. Because lots of patching was needed, transparent or semi-transparent penetrating stain was not an option. For the last 10 years we've stained it with Cabot OVT solid stain. It's been stained 3 times – most recently just 2 years ago and it looks horrible and even has termites. It is way too much wood (10,000 sq. ft. building) to completely remove all the solid stain. Short of that, what are your recommendations for prep and a better solid stain product? Thanks.

Tyler
Tyler
9 years ago

I'm torn between TWP 100 and the Cabot 4300 Wood Preservative. Are there any reviews for this new Cabot product? I can't seem to find any mention of it.

Cabot is available locally whereas TWP I would have to order.

Thanks!

Margie
Margie
9 years ago

Can I change from a solid deck stain – one coat which is pretty well worn off – to a penetrating stain? From reading this site, it seems I'm in for a bad problem if I apply solid again because it will peel. What is best?

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