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 or characteristics of a deck stain – film forming and penetrating. Both of these deck stain characteristics will provide adequate protection from the sun and lock out 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
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 a 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
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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