Top 10 Best Deck Stains

When it comes to getting the best wood stain for deck, there are a ton of choices out there. Most people simply rely on the expert at the store they purchase the stain at, but these experts do not always know how to answer your questions or are told to push certain products.

That’s why it is a really good idea to figure out for yourself the type of deck stain you need. We’ll look at the factors that determine that as well as several different choices that might be perfect for your deck; but let’s start with looking at the types of deck stain that is out there.

 

Types of Deck Stain

There are quite a few different types of deck stain out there. We have decided to focus on the most common types of stain, but you should be aware that there are a couple of more – such as gel stain – that are not listed here. Let’s take a look at each type in detail.

Solid Stains

Solid stains are stains that are one solid color that is meant to cover up whatever is on there. A solid stain will usually cover up any of the less opaque stains as well as the lighter shades of stain. However, solid stain is usually best when you are working with older wood; particularly distressed wood. Sold stain is a good idea if you are trying to create some looks, but you should be aware that it may cover up the wood grain, which is not the look that everyone wants for their deck. Solid stain can also be used as a contrasting color in opposition to the wood-grain look that you are trying to create on your deck floor.

Semi-Solid Stain

Semi-stains can only be found with a couple of different brands of stains. By and far the most well-known and popular one is Cabot. However, there are a couple of other brands as well. Semi-solid stains are great for allowing some of the wood grain to show. Most people use semi-transparent if they want the wood grain to come through in the stain, but semi-solid offers this with more pigment and so fuller, brighter colors. If you use two coats of a semi-solid stain then you will get the same effect as a solid one. If the deck is prepared before use, then a semi-solid stain can last for up to 4 years.

Transparent Stain

The best way to use transparent stain is with new wood that doesn’t have a lot of damage. It is most often used when decks are first built. The grain of the wood is allowed to shine through almost completely and your deck is protected at the same time. If your deck isn’t brand new then you might still be able to use transparent stain if it has only been a few months and your deck hasn’t yet been exposed to a lot of moisture. Transparent stain is perfect for those who really love the look of the wood by itself but they still want to protect their deck from the elements. Natural wood can look really great depending upon what you choose.

Semi-Transparent Stain

The semi-transparent stain is the best option for decks that have been around for a while and have already had a coat of transparent stain. You are going to get a better color with a semi-transparent stain and it can be used on older wood that has been abused by the elements somewhat, but otherwise, a semi-transparent stain is very similar to a fully transparent stain. Basically, a semi-transparent stain just changes the tone of the wood slightly. The effect is very subtle, but it can also be really great to look at.

Water-Based Stain

The water based stain is usually best used underneath water-based finishes. These finishes do not bond well with varnish or oil-based stains, not surprisingly, unless they dry for a week or more. However, water-based stains do have some disadvantages. For example, water-based stains raise the grain of the wood and they dry really fast. That means that if you sand off the raised grain then you are going to be sanding through the color in some places. That’s why you should raise the grain and sand it off before you apply the stain instead.

Oil-Based Stain

Finally, there is the oil-based stain. Oil stains are the most common type of stain out there. They are very easy to use because the binder allows you a lot of time to remove the excess stain before it dries. However, it also means that you have a little longer before you can use your deck. You should choose oil-based stain to apply underneath any finish except for water-based stains unless you need a particular feature that is offered by another stain.

 

Deck Stain Factors to Consider

When it comes to buying deck stain, there are some factors that you need to consider. These factors will determine what type of deck stain you buy, even sometimes requiring a specific brand in order to fit your requirements. Understanding what these factors are will give you a much better basis for choosing a stain and you won’t have to rely on the so-called expert at the hardware store.

VOC Compliant

The first question that you have to ask yourself is whether or not the stain needs to be VOC compliant. A VOC-compliant stain meets certain legal requirements that some states insist upon. VOC stands for volatile organic compound, and in order for a stain to be VOC-complaint, it has to be under the amount of volatile organic compounds for that particular state – or in some cases local municipality. As a stain dries, it releases VOCs which contribute to air pollution. That’s why some areas have requirements on this; to reduce air pollution as much as possible.

Climate Zone

Another thing to be aware of is that certain stains are not going to work well in certain climates. This is particularly true in hot and cold extremes. If you live in an unfavorable climate during any part of the year, then you want to careful about which stains that you select. You should do your research and read the labels carefully before you choose a stain. Most of the time, climate isn’t going to be that big of an issue, but if your temperatures regular get into triple digits or go below zero (F) then you want to find stains that are going to be able to protect your deck in those extreme conditions.

Sun Exposure to Deck

The exposure of the sun on your deck is also something you should be aware of. Of course, you can always cover your deck to minimize sun exposure, but it still pays to do your research. UV rays are what cause damage on the wood that you are staining. These rays will cook and dry the cellular structure of the wood which damages it. This causes the wood to look terrible and allow moisture to get into it. That means that it will eventually break down completely and need to be replaced.

Types of Wood

Something else that you want to be aware of is the type of wood that you are using. This is important because the actual finished color will change depending upon the type of wood you choose. That’s why you should always test the stain that you are using somewhere that won’t be noticed before you actually stain your entire deck.

Previous Coating

The previous coating of your deck is also a major concern. It is very difficult to work backwards on the color spectrum or shading spectrum. If you currently have a solid stain then you are going to have to work very hard with stripping and prep if you want to be able to use a lighter color of opaque stain or any of the other types of stain out there, especially for a semi-transparent or fully transparent stain. You want to go with a solid stain that is going to be the same shade or a darker shade than the one that is already one there.

Stain Colors

Finally, you will have a lot of stain colors to choose from, but your choices will be severely narrowed when you have to choose a specific brand, a specific type of stain or have to allow for things like VOC-compliance. You may not be able to get the color that you want, although with so many stains being offered online now, color selection is usually not that big of an issue.

 

Top 10 Best Deck Stain Reviewed

Now, let’s look at some of the best deck stains out there to help you choose the perfect one for your deck. These are all high-quality stains that will probably serve your purpose and there is a large enough selection so that you should be able to find something even if you have some pretty specific requirements.

1. Ready Seal Oil-Based Stain

Ready Seal is a really great brand and this 5-gallon stain will give you all of the material that you need to stain your deck no matter what size it is. Most stain products take several steps to apply, but this semi-transparent stain is also a sealer. It is formulated to seal the wood and add the beautiful color that you want your deck to be. This is an oil-based stain that is suitable for any wood project outdoors and it produces a high-quality finish that you will love. Enhance the beauty of the wood that you have selected and make staining your deck easier than you thought it would be.

Pros

  • Oil-based stain and sealer all-in-one
  • Seals surfaces and brings out the beauty of the wood
  • Requires to back-brushing or wet-line application
  • Can be applied using any tool

Cons

  • Stain looks dark when you first apply it but lightens up as it dries
  • May take up to 14 days to dry completely

 

2. DEFY Water-Based Stain

This Extreme wood stain from DEFY is a water-based semi-transparent stain that creates a beautiful wood look outdoors and can be used on lots of different wood types. This particular stain uses nanotechnology to create amazing durability that is going to hold up for many years or decades. In fact, the technology that goes into this stain cannot be found in any other and has not been available until recently. DEFY Extreme is the highest performance product from this brand available and uses a variety of techniques and technology to make sure the wood is protected.

Pros

  • Durable; uses high-quality resins
  • Can be used for decks, fences, play areas and more
  • Natural matte finish
  • Uses zinc particles to reflect the sun back away from the wood

Cons

  • Simply brightens the wood without changing the color on some wood types
  • Requires a maintenance coat regularly

 

3. KILZ Best Semi Transparent Deck Stain

This beautiful and durable wood stain is one of the best semi transparent deck stains out there, with three different colors available, and useful features like mildew resistance, waterproof protection and more. Whether you are staining your deck, or you want to use on siding or fencing, this is one of the most versatile semitransparent stains out there. For example, you can use this semitransparent stain on brand-new decks and fencing that has just been built or on decks that have seen a little wear and been around for a few years. This formula is 100 percent acrylic and protects against both weather and UV damage for up to 10 years.

Pros

  • You can use a single gallon to cover up to 250 square feet of deck
  • Can cover nearly twice as much space on a second coat
  • You can brush it on or spray this stain

Cons

  • Paint pad can be used must it must be a very high-quality one
  • Coverage can vary considerably so you may not know how much stain it will take

 

4. #1Deck Water-Based Stain

If you are looking for top quality when it comes to wood stain, then #1 Deck is the brand that you are looking for. This is a water-based, semitransparent stain that is specially formulated to penetrate the pores of your wood to protect every piece for as long as possible. This wood stain creates an impenetrable barrier between your wood and the elements, protecting it against water damage even in rainy climates. It also protects your wood from UV ray damage. This is a good brand, and lots of people are impressed by how well it works, but it does have some limitations which can include certain types of wood.

Pros

  • Very safe to use
  • Has almost no odor
  • Easy to clean
  • Dries as a natural-looking finish

Cons

  • This stain will only work for certain wood types – soft woods like pressure-treated pine, redwood, fir and cedar

 

5. Thompson’s Waterseal Stain

Thompson’s Waterseal is one of the most well-known brands of stain on the market today. Part of this is due to the reputation that they have gotten from home pros and consumers alike but part of it is also due to their advertising campaigns. Thompson’s Waterseal offers moisture protection long after many of the other stains on the market today and especially long after the initial water beating is gone. You’ll be able to protect your deck for at least four years and even longer on fences and siding. Thompson’s also uses advanced polymers that maintain the color of the stain throughout the duration of protection.

Pros

  • Protects between 4-6 years depending upon what you apply this stain to
  • Offers complete protection from the elements including rain, wind and UV rays
  • Protects against mildew as well
  • A single coat offers you the protection that you need
  • Waterproofing lasts long after the initial water beading is gone

Cons

  • Will only work best on freshly-cleaned dry wood

 

6. Rustoleum Semi Transparent Stain

This Rustoleum stain plus sealer is a terrific product that has been used to protect decks all around the world. There are a lot of stains out there that are both stain and sealant together, including many of the ones on this list. However, this is one of the best out there that offer that dual action. Rustoleum is also a really well-known brand, which gives it a little more credibility as well. Plus, this stain offers certain advantages that you won’t even find with the other stains that are this list. There is no doubt that it is one of the best semi-transparent stains on the market today.

Pros

  • Only requires a single coat application
  • Dries really fast and it is ready for use in protecting your deck from water in just 48 hours
  • Protects against algae and mildew as well as water and UV rays

Cons

  • You are only able to cover up to 200 square feet with a single gallon
  • A little more expensive than some of the others on the market

 

7. TWP Semi Transparent Stain

When it comes to professional quality stains, this will definitely has the strength for professional jobs. The unique combination of chemicals offers the durability that you need for the most difficult of jobs. But this stain is not for everyone. However, it is easy to apply and it protects exterior wood in five different ways. It protects you from water absorption, keeps your wood from drying out from UV damage, makes it resistant to mold and mildew as well as rot and makes it easy to maintain your deck.

Pros

  • Protects wood in five different ways by repelling water, protecting against mold and mildew, preventing wood rot, reflecting UV rays to prevent damage and making it easy to maintain
  • Professional strength

Cons

  • Extremely powerful but due to VOC regulations this stain will not ship to as many as 21 different states
  • The color will be very difficult to discern right away and you need to let it dry to see what it looks like

 

8. BEHR Waterproofing Stain

BEHR is a brand that is a lot more well-known for their paint than for their stain. However, the quality of products that you will find in the paint section under this brand rival the quality of products will find with the stain. Customers have always been pleased with BEHR Premium products, and this semitransparent waterproofing stain is no exception. This is a combination stain and sealer the protection would and allows it to keep its appearance for many, many years.

Pros

  • This is one of the stains out there that will resist mildew and protect your deck from extremely harsh weather conditions
  • BEHR Premium is one of the most well-known and well-respected brands out there
  • Protects against water amazingly well

Cons

  • The water doesn’t dry quickly and does not penetrate the wood so you may have to remove it with a broom if the sun isn’t cooperating

 

9. Superdeck Semi Transparent Stain

Superdeck semitransparent stain from Duckback is a terrific product for a lot of reasons, but you probably recognize the name and the brand because they are one of only a couple of brands that offer semi-solid stains. Duckback always makes high-quality stains that will work on any wood type and any age. This stain is made from linseed and tung oils that offer more durability than most of the other stains on the market. The coating protects against both water and the harmful UV rays of the sun, but it is known for how well it works on water in particular.

Pros

  • One of the most well-known brands out there when it comes to protecting your deck against water
  • Works even in harsh climates
  • Resists marring and scuffing better than other stains

Cons

  • Your deck can get kind of slick when it rains and you walk on it
  • This should be used for decks and siding only and not on outdoor furniture

 

10. Cabot Deck & Siding Stain

The previous brand on the list is one of the few brands that offer semi-solid stain, but it was actually Cabot that offered it before anyone else. When most people that prefer to use semi-solid stain think of the brands associated with it, it is definitely Cabot that comes to mind. But the brand also offers other types of stains as well that are of the highest quality; something that is easily demonstrated this semitransparent stain. This sealer and stain is a neutral base that can be used indoors or outdoors and is applied with a brush. It has a light pigment that protects against UV rays and prevents color from fading.

Pros

  • Indoor and outdoor applications
  • Lightly pigmented which gives you more UV protection than other stains
  • Oil-based formula that can be used on decks, fencing and siding
  • Protects your wood against color fading

Cons

  • This amount of stain will only cover around 150 square feet so you will likely need more than one
  • Should only be applied with a brush

 

Conclusion

The bottom line is that there are plenty of things to consider when it comes to choosing the type of stain on your deck. There are weather conditions to keep in mind, the type of wood your deck is constructed from, the age of your deck and lots of other factors. But you should have a better idea on how to proceed with the information listed here.

 

FAQ

Now, let’s take a look at some of the frequently asked questions that people with decks often ask. These questions should give you even more information about deck staining so that you will not only know how to choose a stain but also how to use it and maintain your deck.

How much stain do I need?

The first question that you have to answer is how much stain you will need. The best way to figure this out is to determine how many square feet you have and take into consideration extra parts of the deck that you are going to stain. Then check the stain that you are looking at to see how much area it is supposed to cover. You also need to be aware of whether you’ll need a second coat or not.

When to stain a new deck?

When should you stain your new deck? Not right away. When you have new wood it takes some time to dry out. The most common kind of wood is still wet when you buy it and it will be heavier than lumber that is kiln-dried. You should wait at least a few weeks – and possibly as many as six months. Your stain will tell you whether wood must be completely dry or just damp.

What is the best stain for old deck?

If you have an old deck, then you might be looking for the best stain for it. Obviously, you have to make sure that you make any repairs first and then prepare the deck for staining. After that, you want to use an oil-based stain that will allow you to rejuvenate the cells of the wood and replace the oils that were lost naturally.

What is the best deck stain for pressure-treated wood?

If you want to stain pressure-treated wood, the best thing to do is look at the stain itself and see if it is recommended for pressure-treated wood. For example, one of the stains that we showcased here – the #1 Deck water-based semi-transparent stain – is specifically for pressure-treated wood. Pressure-treated wood is considered a soft wood type and so you may want to look for that on the stain label instructions or on the manufacturer’s specifications.

How do I clean mold and mildew off of my deck?

Cleaning mold and mildew from your deck should be done with some soap and water and some kind of light scrubber. You do want to make sure that you are not going to be scrubbing the color off or damaging the stain that is already on there. What you may actually want to do instead is find a stain when you’re ready to stain your deck that specifically resists mold and mildew. That way, it will take very little effort to clean the mold and mildew the builds upon your deck.

Should I use a pressure washer to clean my deck?

Whether you should use a pressure washer to clean your deck is a topic that is often up for debate. Some experts say that it is okay to use a pressure washer to clean your deck while others say it will damage it. The truth is, either one of these could be right. It depends on a large number of factors including the type of stain that was used, the water pressure of your washer and the type of wood that your deck is made of. The best way to protect your deck is to avoid the use of a pressure washer or use on a very low setting.

Does the wood need to be completely dry before I apply the stain?

In most cases, the answer is yes. However, there are some exceptions. You can look on the instructions listed on the stain label or on the manufacturer specifications that are listed online and determine whether the wood has to be completely dry before you stain it or if you can apply the stain to damp wood. In the latter case, the wood has to be almost dry. You should never try to stain wood that is wet.

Do I need to remove old coats when applying new stain?

You normally do not have to remove old coats of stain when you are applying a new stain. The exception comes when you’re trying to stain a deck that already has solid stain with something like transparent stain; or you are trying to stain your deck with a lighter color than already exists on the wood. The best way to determine this is to test a small area that no one else will be able to see.