William
Published: March 28, 2020

While we are busy trying to decorate our house in the best possible way, we often forget the significance of a deck. Come one now; it is the first thing anyone will notice when they walk into your house. So, if you are enthusiastic about keeping your deck elegant and spotless, you need to ensure that it gets proper care.

There are a lot of ways to keep the deck neat and glossy. You have to sweep and mop it up regularly. More importantly, you need to stain it to protect it from external factors. For instance, extreme temperatures, the battering of rain, and harmful sunlight can take a toll on your deck. It eventually leaves it dull and faded. Moreover, constant trampling and mold can also lead to damage.

This is where the best deck stains can come to the rescue. A high-quality stain can protect the deck from all these issues and, at the same time, make it look fresh and new. But not all products have equal protection. So, you need to research on different types of stains and their uses. You also need to keep in mind what kind of deck stain will be suitable for your deck.

In the following sections, you will find some of the best deck stain reviews along with their features and pros and cons.

Best Deck Stain Reviews

Here we present a list of our top pick, and we firmly believe they can adhere to all your needs. Without further ado, let us have a look.

The Ready Seal 535 Exterior Stain is one of the best deck stain (as we mention in our full review). It is a semi-transparent oil-based wood stain that contains all the ideal ingredients to preserve and protect the external wood structure.

The ingredients are paraffin oil, quality resins, algaecide, and trans-oxide grounded pigments. These elements form into a unique blend to create a glossy and all-natural look for your deck. Furthermore, since it is an oil-based stain, it provides the right tone and texture to the exterior wood. 

This means the wood grain is visible through the original surface. The stain has been designed to permeate deep into the deck. It also protects the wood against mildew, mold, algae, and keeps it safe from the harmful effect of the sun. Therefore, we also consider it as one of the best deck stain for full sun.

Some other stain models often require several processes for applying to different types of decks. But this one doesn’t require any. However, you need to inspect that the wood surface is free of paints (oil-based or water-based), dust, or mildew before you apply the stain.

You can use a sprayer, roller or brush to scrape the dust off. It also comes with an instruction manual. You can even use the stain on moisture wood, and it will dry up within 2 to 3 days.

Pros

Cons

A versatile product, the Minwax Gel Stain, applies to surfaces other than wood. Since it is a gel stain, it has a different consistency compared to the other types of stain. So, it is better to test the stain on a piece of scrap wood before applying it on your deck.

It comes in many different colors and can be used with a foam brush or a roller. This stain is perfect for surfaces in which you don’t want to strip off the previous coat. You can just apply this one right over the old stain. It can be used on different types of surfaces.

For instance, you can use the stain on metal, fiberglass, wood, and plywood. You can apply this to your kitchen furniture, such as the cupboards, which will provide you an excellent result. One thing to keep in mind is that you might have to double coat your deck or any other surface with this gel stain. 

This is because, in the first coating, the stain might not be able to cover nook and crannies of a surface. You might need to wait for a few hours before applying the second layer of stain.

Pros

Cons

The Australian Timber oil stain is a fantastic product for people who want superior penetration power from their stains. Thanks to the linseed oil used in its formulation, you get a deeper injection into the wood. 

It also contains long-oil alkyds that promise durability and South American tung oil further enhances the color depths and protects against moisture or water damage. The three-way oil protection in the unit makes it perfect for use in hardwood decks. 

To protect against harmful effects of sun, the stain contains translucent iron oxide pigments in the formula. This oil-based wood stain comes in five different wooden color tones. So you have plenty of options to go with, in deciding the final look of your deck.

Pros

Cons

The Liquid Rubber Waterproof Sealant is a water-based stain that one can apply on decks and other surfaces. It has a wide range of uses and is known for its versatility. You can use it on sloped roofs, metal roofs, planter boxes, flat roofs, sheds, foundations, ponds, concrete, basements, wood, metal, and many more. It is effortless to apply.

All you need to do is take a roller, high-quality sprayer or a brush and slather it on a surface that you want. If you want to make the surface waterproof, you need to apply the heavy coating of the sealant. Moreover, if there is any leftover material, you can shut down the container and use it for later.

It does not contain any solvents, harmful odors, and volatile organic compounds, known as VOCs. You can use it both outdoors and indoors without wearing any breathing apparatus. It is safe for both pets and humans. 

Furthermore, you can apply this on a dry surface, which is free of dust, dirt, loose paint, oil-based paint, water-based paint, coating, grease, silicone, coal tar, and other such contaminants. The product is also eco-friendly. 

Therefore, this provides you the freedom to use it on the surfaces mentioned above without worrying about the environment. 

Pros

Cons

The Olympic Elite works great for the cold weather. It is a combination of an enhanced stain and sealant. A sealant is a material that is used for sealing something by making it watertight and airtight. So, this product works as a stain and sealer at the same time.

It will provide your deck a natural woody look with its unique depth and richness of color — the stain guarantees lasting protection against UV rays, algae, mildew, and mold. It comes in 6 different best semi-transparent stain shades such as natural, Kona Brown, cedar, mahogany blaze, mountain cedar, and red cedar. You can choose the one that complements your deck.

All of the shades have been curated with a palette of fourteen wood-inspired, vibrant colors that make use of the durable pigments for lasting beauty and protection. The semi-transparent stain shades are infused with natural oils and subtle, animated colors to enrich and highlight the natural grain of the wood. 

It is fortified with urethane and contains a sturdy coating that resists mildew and fungal growth. Other than enhancing the beauty of your deck, it can also seep quite deep inside for ultimate protection. Moreover, the stain does not create a film on top of it.

Pros

Cons

The Over Armor stain by KILZ is a solid color stain that can work with both wood or concrete surfaces. It is designed to conceal any imperfections you may have on the surface while creating a smooth finish.

This stain has a coverage area of 75 square feet per gallon. The acrylic resin formula guarantees a nonslip surface that will hold up well against the test of time. Whether you are using it as a deck stain, or on the sidewalk, there is no doubt about its validity.

You get three different color choices when buying this product, chocolate brown, redwood, and slate gray. Personally, we think the slate gray finish only goes well with concrete, but the other two colors look great when using it with wooden decks.

The stain takes up to 72 hours to cure fully. For the best durability, you should apply at least two coats of the product at an interval of four to six hours. You can use it with a brush, roller, or even with a sprayer.

Pros

Cons

The wood stain from Restore-A-Deck is an enhanced, semi-transparent water-based stain that is designed to seep deep into the wood. Its extensive penetration allows it to protect the deck and increase its validity by decreasing tear and wear.

Known as the best water based deck stain, it protects the deck from harmful sunlight’s effect, mildew growth, and moisture. Its semi-transparent texture enables the grain to glaze through the stain.

Most of the time, with other products, you have to keep the deck perfectly clean and dry before applying it on the wood, but you can use this product even when the wood is damp from cleaning.

So, you can stain your deck on the same day you clean and dust it. These are the recent enhancements that have been incorporated into the ingredients to make it more robust and durable.

It is available in four different semi-transparent shades, dark walnut, light walnut, natural, and cedar. The stain is very easy to apply. Moreover, it is safe to use and easy to remove with a bit of soap and water.

It does not have a strong odor and is suitable for all types of wood, including redwood, fir, pine, and cedar. Other than a deck, you can also use it on fences, outdoor furniture, playsets, and gazebos.

Pros

Cons

Things to Consider Before Buying A Deck Stain

There are many essential factors that you should take into consideration before purchasing a deck stain. If you have newly installed a deck in your property or bought a house with a deck, then here are some factors that will enable you to make an informed decision regarding a stain.

Best Deck Stain
Image: stock.adobe.com

Transparency of Deck Stain

First off, you might want to consider when buying the deck stain is its transparency. The taste varies from one person to another, so the best thing to do is ask yourself if you want the wood grain to show in your deck.

With semi-transparent or clear stains, you can see the texture of the wood quite clearly which adds a luxurious effect to your deck. However, if you prefer to go with solid colors, a solid deck stain might be more appropriate.

Color of Deck Stain

Unless you are using a clear coating, you have a lot of color options when selecting your stain. Finding the right color is also not much of an issue since you can order anything online these days.

Although this is strictly a cosmetic factor, it impacts your overall satisfaction with your project. So, if you want to get the most out of your investment, you should take your color preference seriously.

Coverage Area of Deck Stain

By coverage area, we mean the deck area that you can cover with one gallon of the product. Since different manufacturers use several different formulation techniques, it can differ from one product to another.

Ideally, you want to ensure that you can cover as much area as possible, keeping the other quality factors in inspection. Since you need to reapply the stain within a few years, it would help you determine which product offers you the best value.

Decks Exposure to Sun

Naturally, the deck in your house will be exposed to the harshness of the sun. Although you can minimize its effects to some degree, it is impossible to prevent the sun rays from affecting your deck.

However, with high-quality deck stains, you can bring the negatives down to a great degree. If your deck is always exposed to the sun without any protection, UV-protected deck stains are a must.

Price of Deck Stain

Deck building is not a cheap project. After investing in your project, your price may become an issue when you are looking to buy the stains. Thankfully, you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to the price range.

If you take a look at our list of products, a few of them are priced reasonably. It is important not to go for an inferior product trying to save a few bucks. There are many high-quality affordable deck stains if you know where to look.

Added Protection

With all deck stains, you get a level of protection against water. However, to get the best value out of your product, a few additional protective features really come in handy.

UV rays, for instance, can ruin the quality of your deck over time. Another enemy of wooden decks is mildew infestation. So getting a deck stain that has UV and mildew protection will give you a better result in the long run.

Location

As you are aware, there are different kinds of temperature and climate zones in the world, and the place you live will directly affect the stain that you will use on your deck.

This is true for those that reside in extreme climates where the temperatures are cold.

However, it won’t be much of an issue if you live in a climate with average temperatures, so you must inspect the product carefully to see if it has been designed for the climate zone you live in.

Prior Treatment

Choosing a new deck stain depends on the previous treatment of your deck. Scraping off the wood surface that has been previously coated with a solid stain isn’t so much fun if you have to replace it with a transparent stain.

In this case, you need a solid stain that has an even darker shade than your previous one. Hence, it will be able to cover up the coating of the prior shade of stain.

Type of Wood

Deck stains are made for different types of wood. Each works differently on different surfaces. Therefore, it is essential to know what kind of wood you have before buying a stain for it.

To make it simpler, you can use a deck stain on a tiny part of the deck and see how it works out. Afterward, you will be able to decide if you like the shade of the stain on your deck.

Woods that went through hell and high water, relentless bashing from adverse weather, are not easy to stain because they require a specific set and range of products.

In such cases, you can go for the best deck stain for weathered pressure treated wood. These stains, in particular, can come in handy if your deck has suffered from tremendous elemental damage.  

Impact of Sunlight on Deck

There are many ways to cover up a deck. You can use canopies or other types of shade to shield it against the sun. But it is still essential to find out the extent to which the sunlight hits the deck.

Sunlight contains harmful UV rays that can damage the look of your deck. It can harm the cellular construction by baking up the deck as well as drying it, which ultimately destroys the shiny look of the wood grain.

After it gets damaged, the spoiled wood soaks in moisture, which causes mildew, moss, molds, and other parasitic plants. This decreases the lifespan of your deck and creates the necessity of getting a new one.

Thus, you need to choose a deck stain that has materials that can protect your deck from UV rays and ensures that it lasts for a long time.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

VOC compliance is another thing that you need to inspect before investing your money in a deck stain. Some states are pretty strict regarding what product you are using as it can contribute to air pollution and climate degradation.

A VOC compliant product will keep the compounds under a certain standard as required by the laws of a particular state.  You should always be responsible and inspect for the VOC compliance seal before buying the product.

Opacity

By opacity, we mean how much of the interior grain is shown on your deck. There are four types of opacity. Although the names are quite self-explanatory, we will give you a quick rundown on each of them to help you figure out which one you need.

  • Toner: Does not hide the true color of the wood and acts much like a sealer than a stain. Lasts for approximately a year.
  • Semitransparent: Slight change in the wood color but does not hide the wood grain. Lasts for two years.
  • Semi-opaque: Denser than semitransparent opacity. However, you can still find some of the grain if you look carefully. Lasts for around four years.
  • Opaque: The densest of deck stains and hides the wood grain properly.

Types of Deck Stains

There is a wide variety of deck stains available and knowing their purpose will help you identify which one you need for your projects. Let us start off with a quick look at the six commonly used stains that you can find in the market.

Clear Deck Stains

Clear deck stains, as the name suggests, allow the wood under the stain to peek through the coating. If the wood in your deck is beautiful, and you want to show off the wood-grain, this type of staining is the best choice.

This stain works best if the wood is new or just under a few months old. With older wood, if there is an issue of moisture damage, it might not work as well as you expect. In those situations, a semi-transparent deck stain would be a better option.

Semi-Transparent Deck Stain

A semi-transparent deck stain is quite similar to a clear deck stain. The difference between them is subtle but still noticeable to an attentive eye. Where semi-transparent deck stains keep the original wood grain, this variant slightly changes the texture.

It gives the best performance with older decks that already had a clear coating before. With clear stain, you are limited to using it with new decks, but it is not too much of an issue for semi-transparent stains.

Solid Deck Stain

Solid deck stains come in one solid color. This coating covers the original texture of the wood and replaces the color entirely. Even if there were lighter shades on the surface previously, a solid stain covers it up.

It is primarily used with older wood, especially when you are working with distressed wood. Typically, it covers up any impurities in the wood and gives it a fresh new look. However, since it gets rid of the grains entirely, not everyone wants to go for it.

Semi-Solid Deck Stains

Semi-solid deck stains are not as available as the other stains you may find. In fact, only a handful of brands focus on this type of product. It is quite similar to a semi-transparent stain but offers more vibrant color.

Despite being a form of solid stain, it allows some of the wood grains to shine through it. You also get many color options when choosing a semi-solid stain. It also has decent validity and can survive for up to four years if you prepare the deck before using it.

Oil-Based Stains

Oil-based stains are the most common products that you find on the market. It is easy to use, and you get some flexibility in how you apply it. The primary issue with this type of stain is that they have a longer drying period compared to other variants.

However, it can also be a good thing as you can remove the excess stain before it dries. It works well for any finish except water-based, but you need to wait a while for it to dry before you can use the deck.

Water-Based Stains

The primary use of water-based stain is when you are working with water-based finishes. Unless you let water-based finishes dry for a couple of weeks, they do not react well to oil-based finishes.

The main disadvantage of this type of stain is that they tend to raise the wood grain and dry too fast. So, you do not get the chance to sand the grain down unless you want to remove some of the colors. Typically, with water-based wood stains, you want to raise the grain and sand it down before applying it.

How to Prepare Your Deck Stain

prepare your deck stain​
Image: stock.adobe.com

Preparing your deck stain is not that difficult if you know the processes. It mostly involves cleaning up and sanding it down so that the stain can set evenly.

For people who are confused about the subject, the following section of the article should give a clear idea of how to prepare the deck stain.

  • The first step should be to remove any dust or debris you have lying around the deck. You can use a broom and sweep away till you have a clean surface to work with.
  • Next, you would want to use a mild detergent solution combined with an anti-grease chemical to remove any oily residue from the deck. You can use a broom or a rag to evenly wipe the surface.
  • Let the chemical solution sit for around 10-15 mins. Then you can wash it off with a garden hose and give it some time to absolute.
  • If you have a sander, now is the time to see if you can find any impurities on the surface. Any bumps or wearing needs to covered using the sander.
  • Once you are done with sanding, you should wipe the surface again to get rid of any sanding residue. Wash the deck once more with your hose and inspect for any imperfections left.
  • If everything seems okay, let the deck dry, and then you can get started on the staining process.

Deck Staining Tips

Now that you are all ready, a few tips can help you get the best experience while staining your deck.

  • Remember to wipe off the excess stain from the surface before it dries. Otherwise, it might look uneven or bumpy.
  • You need a lot of rags for this project. It is always a good idea to keep a bucket filled with clean, dry rags.
  • Inspect the grains in the wood carefully. To get the best possible finish, make sure you stain along the grain and not across it.
  • Keep a bucket where you will keep your discarded rags, especially when you are using oil-based wood stains. They are extremely flammable and must be handled with caution.
  • Finally, it is best to use a brush with a long handle. Staining is a long and tedious project. And if you are kneeling down all the time, your back will not be too happy.

Paint or Stain

People often wonder whether it is better to paint the deck instead of staining it. However, the two things are entirely different, and you need to understand the basic differences between them to decide that for yourself.

The following chart will help you figure out if you would rather paint or stain your deck.

Paint

Stain

Oil-Based Vs. Water-Based Deck Stains

As you know by now, the deck stain formula can either be water or oil based. There is no definitive answer for which one is better as both come with a set of advantage or disadvantage.

In the following table you will get a quick comparison between the two formulas to help you decide which one you need for your purpose.

Oil-Based Stain

Water-Based Stain

Stain Vs. Sealer

People often have trouble identifying the differences between the stain and sealer. If you are wondering whether you should rather use sealer instead of stains, maybe you need a refresher on the topic.

The following segment will give you a clear distinction between the two products to help you understand which one you need for your project

Stain

Sealer

Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)

best deck stain
Image: stock.adobe.com

Q: How to Prepare Deck Before Adding A Stain?

Before adding any type of stain on your deck, you need to get rid of all the dust, dirt, and rubble on it.

Moreover, you have to make sure that all traces of the previous coat of stain have been scrapped off because this can negatively impact the new stain’s texture on your deck.

One way to do this properly is to sprinkle the surface of the wood with water. If any beads are formed, then you know that there are unwanted chemicals that need to be washed off with soap and water.

If there are not any chemicals present, then the water will be absorbed inside the wood.

Q: How Long does a Deck Stain Take to Dry?

Generally speaking, a deck stain takes around four hours to dry. The time may also be higher depending on the product you are using. Additionally, it needs a long curing time until you can see the true color of the stain.

Q: How Long does it Take Before I Can Reapply the Deck Stain?

Most deck stains require a second coating to enhance its validity. But before that, you need to make sure that the first coat has appropriately settled. You also need to remove the excess stain using a brush so that there are no bumps.

The exact time before you can re-apply the stain varies from one product to another. But in most cases, you are looking at a waiting period of four to six hours, at least.

Q: How much stain do I need?

It depends on the total size of the deck and any additional parts you are working with. Once you have calculated the total area of the deck, inspect it against the coverage in your deck stain. If you want to make a couple of passes, you need to account for that too.

Q: When to stain a new deck?

To know when your new deck is ready for staining, inspect the dryness of the wood. Most deck stains require the wood to be dry before applying, but that is not always the case.

Typically, you should consult the product specifications as that will tell you whether the wood needs to be completely dry or not. Sometimes you might need to wait up to months before staining to ensure that the wood is dry.

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

Molds and mildew are a common issue with decks but can be removed quite easily. It does take some elbow grease, but if you are persistent, you can get it done. You should use a blend of soap and water and use a light scrubber to scrub it clean.

Q: Should I use a pressure washer to clean my deck?

People often have different opinions on this subject. Some people claim that it is entirely safe, while others say that it damages your deck. To be safe, it is better not to use a pressure washer on your deck. If you absolutely have to, it is better to use a low setting.

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

It varies from one product to the other. Most deck stains work better with dry wood. However, you can still apply a few stains on slightly damp wood. But if the wood is completely wet, you should wait before staining it.

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

No. Staining can be done above the previous coat without any problem as the new stain covers it up. However, if you want to apply a transparent coat over a solid coat, then you might see the color get lighter.

Q: Is It Safe to Apply A Stain on Worn and Damaged Surfaces?

Yes, there are, in fact, deck stains that are specially designed for weathered pressure-treated wood. These stains will transform your worn-out deck into a glossy and shiny one.

There are several options available as different products come with different shades and tones. However, if you are looking for the absolute perfect stain, we would say that your stumbling in the darkness because there is no such thing.

Why? Preferences vary from one person to another, and because of that, you can’t put your finger on one particular color that outshines other colors. Get something that compliments the house, and more importantly, get a color you love!

Coming back to the question, deck stains designed for weather wood offer mending properties and higher protection for the wood surface. However, they cannot magically repair a deck that has become structurally damaged or collapsed due to a lack of connective links such as missing nails.

So, before you apply a stain on a particularly old deck, you need to do the necessary replacements or repairs on it.

Q: Are There Any Reasons to Prefer A Stain Instead of Paint?

When it comes to stains, they are inexpensive, straightforward to apply and remove, and they hardly require a coating of primer before being applied onto a deck. This means that the stain can simply be poured on top of the clean and stripped surface of the deck and then polished evenly with the help of a roller, spray, or brush. 

Most stains don’t even need to be leveled out. All you have to do is pour it out and let it sit for a while. But make sure to read the instruction manual of your product so you can know the details of how to correctly stain your deck without damaging or messing it up in the first try. 

Final Notes

Stains are quite essential for your deck. Even if you are not enthusiastic about the aesthetics of your outdoor structures, such as your deck, it is still necessary to cover it with a protective coating.

This is because the stain will shield the properties of your wood or concrete in the long run. Wood is more prone to have a breakdown due to its organic structure, which causes it to decay from the inside out.

This leads to mold, mildew, and pests. So, you are not only protecting the deck but also your home from a fungal or pestilent invasion. Therefore, having the best deck stain by your side will definitely benefit you in the long run.

If you are still in a dilemma about whether to choose paint or a stain, you might want to consider thoroughly changing the color of your deck.

This you can do with an opaque coating or just brighten up the color which seeps inside the deck and shields it from every angle. But choosing a stain will always protect your deck from UV rays, mold, and extreme temperatures.

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