Normally, we don’t think of staining things as something to pay for. However, the unassuming nature of a nice, glossy stain for your porch, patio or boat deck is a good way to preserve the surface while improving user traction and gaining aesthetic points to boot. For many, the function beats the form, and there are stains that aren’t meant to be noticed at all while providing the full spectrum of protections that paints and sealants are generally supposed to impart. These include shielding from the sun’s UV rays, the day-in and day-out footfalls of passers-by, temperatures off both ends of the scale and precipitation of the wet or frozen sorts.
Fortunately, stains typically don’t require primer because of their watery, soak-in consistency wherein the coat becomes a part of the wood instead of just sitting on top. This allows primer to help old and weathered wood decks mend together while providing total protection from the inside and out. As with deck paint, you always want to thoroughly strip and clean your deck prior to using a stain. Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s check out the comparison table and run you through some reviews of the best deck stain picks to help you decide on the product that’s right for you.
Best Deck Stain Comparison Table
|Coverage for First Coat (Sq Ft Per Gallon)*||Base||Finish||Number of Colours||Check Price|
|DEFY||1 or 5||100-150||Water||Crystal Clear and Semi-Transparent||7|
Best Deck Stain and Sealer
|#1 Wood Stain||1||100-150||Water||Natural||4|
Best Deck Stain Reviews
DEFY Extreme Exterior Wood Stain – Best Water-Based Deck Stain
This water-based stain from DEFY Extreme is designed to provide an environmentally friendly solution that goes on clear and protects your deck from every outdoor element under the sun — including the sun itself.
Being water-based, you can apply a new coat over top of previous oil-based stains that might still be on the deck, simplifying the process. You also don’t need to worry about using a primer, and to top it all off, DEFY’s stain solution is environmentally friendly. This means that you can use it inside and out without concern for children or pets due to residue or runoff.
This particular stain is completely clear, meaning that it doesn’t tint the wood at all. Instead, it allows the natural color to come through with a bit of sheen. Since there’s no emphasis on aesthetic additives here, you’re getting 100 percent deck protection with this product. In other words, expect great results.
As a result of all these factors, you not only have one of the best deck stains that lasts 2-3 times longer than the competition, but you also keep the recoating down to a minimum. Users generally find that this is a straightforward, easy-to-use and no-nonsense barrier for your indoor and outdoor decks that doesn’t suffer from any glaring problems.
Rust-Oleum Wolman F&P – Best Natural Finish Deck Stain
Rust-Oleum is so much more than a rust treatment company. These days, they’re making awesome products of all kinds, and you’re looking at one of them here.
The Wolman F&P is a natural finish stain that doesn’t add any pigmentation to the substrate, keeping the color exactly the way it was before you applied the coat. This means that you’ll want to apply this only to surfaces where you’ll be satisfied with the original color. The slight glossing effect also helps to bring out the textures in the wood by reflecting more light, which is considered an aesthetic benefit by most.
This finish and preservative includes protection from UV-based graying of wood substrates, water damage, mold, and mildew. Additionally, you can expect rot prevention with this solution although it’s rather redundant to advertise it when that’s one of the very purposes of a stain. Nonetheless, if you didn’t know that it would help keep wooden substrates intact, you do now.
One of the main issues to look out for is the UV protection: It’s said to be a bit lacking. However, that’s not the real problem here. Some users have found that rather than being clear as it’s advertised to be, it’ll deeply tint the deck red. Some found that it was a pale tint; others ended up with a highly saturated result that ruined their investment. We should point out that the issue was reported by a minority, and there are many happy reviews on it.
Penofin Ultra Premium – Best Deck Stain for Full Sun
Penofin brings a versatile, clear-coat offering to the mix with the Penetrating Oil Finish. It’s designed to protect more than just decks: It can also be used on boats, siding, panels and other wooden features of your home.
While it does lean toward the costlier side of the fence, it’s a solid product that brings 99 percent UV protection with an anti-mildew additive. Overall, it goes on easy and doesn’t require sanding or priming prior to laying it down. Being clear, you should ensure that your desired surface is the correct color before slathering this on.
The coverage per bucket rests at an average of roughly 300 square feet with smooth surfaces and about half that on rough ones, so don’t think that you’re paying more to stain more. What you’re getting is a product that means business and gets to work sealing the various wood surfaces around your home as needed.
You’ll need to keep one thing in mind, however:
There’s little more to say about Penofin’s product. It doesn’t cover a wide spectrum of features, but it does provide exceptional coverage against mildew and UV rays while offering a buffer against traversal, rain and temperature damage. Additionally, since this is a single-coat deck stain that doesn’t require any prep work beyond simple cleaning, you should be able to lay it over top of other stains. We think you should probably strip as much as you can beforehand to be safe, but don’t expect any issues if you don’t.
BEHR Premium – Best Deck Stain and Sealer
This translucent stain from BEHR is a cool mix of weatherproofing and wood-dying in a one-gallon package. It’s a simple offering but fills a complex spectrum of awesome that you’ll probably be satisfied with. It’s not like BEHR isn’t well-known or anything.
The weatherproofing is what you’d expect:
Sunshine isn’t a problem, water and rain won’t present issues, temperature fluctuations won’t penetrate the wood and leave damage, and you safely walk over your porch or patio without concern.
Woodrich Brand Timber Oil – Great for Use on New Wood
When you’re looking at buying from a brand known as Woodrich, you figure there must be something great about this product. Maybe you thought that it was rather odd they would ship the product in what looks like a five-gallon plastic drum. Who’s to say what’s acceptable and isn’t? It’s a flawless product, and that’s all you care about at the end of the day.
We’ll admit that the coverage base on this stain is far from the best. You’re getting a projected 750 square feet with five gallons of Timber Oil, which some would argue is a little short of the mark, but that’s hardly a problem when you’re willing to pay a higher dollar for an impeccable seal against the forces of nature for your deck, siding, handrails and more. The color is advertised as “brown sugar”, and sugar indeed: It looks great.
The selling points are pretty cut and clear
Speaking of boats, it doesn’t look like you can use this on boat decks, or if you can, you probably shouldn’t count on the waterproofing or traction factor.
One thing that you may not know about other stains is their odd requirement that you use them on wood that has weathered down to a point. Now, that doesn’t mean that you should wait for the forces of nature to destroy your deck before using stains in general. It’s much like driving a car for the first 5,000 miles to break in the transmission before revving it too much, lest you blow a gasket. Here, it’s a matter of ensuring that the stain can properly settle into the wood.
Finally, we’d like to mention the finish. Yes, this is all thanks to the oxide pigmentation that highlights the texture of your deck and brings out details that you hadn’t seen before. This glossing effect follows the contour of every little bump, ridge, edge and curve to emphasize the aesthetic underneath. Combined with the rich color, this is a great plus.
Duckback Superdeck Exterior – Best Deck Stain for Redwood
It’s not called Duckback because you should avoid it; it’s called Duckback because, we guess, it has something to do with ducks — sorry, decks.
Don’t let the amusing brand hold you back though: The performance of this stain just ducky. You’re handling a transparent stain that’s particularly on the longevity before a recoat is required, and that’s in addition to — you guessed it — protection and a cool-cat layer of subtle gloss to really bring out the finer details.
TWP (Total Wood Preservative) – Great for Any Surface
TWP has gained a reputation for stains, paints, and sealants that keep your deck, siding, handrails and more in good shape for years to come no matter how harsh conditions might get.
Now, let’s move on to what makes TWP’s stain so great. The manufacturer makes it a strict point to say that this is a penetrating stain, which means that it doesn’t leave a film behind. Stains generally work like this to some degree unlike paints, but with TWP’s offering here, you can expect a complete soak into the wood, almost like water.
From within, it acts to repel water, UV rays, and other outdoor elements. You shouldn’t see any notable difference in longevity whether you apply it to a wall or a floor, so feel free to splash it on any surface without worry.
A company that calls itself #1 Deck is probably confident in its product — or completely full of it.
However, users find that this is definitely a product to hit the deck with, and by that, we mean that you should definitely give this one a second look. Sliding in at a very affordable figure, you have powerful translucent pigmentation that delivers natural colors to enhance the look and feel of your deck or siding.
This versatile stain seals it off from water damage both outside and in, and it provides the usual protection from UV radiation to prevent fading. The daily thump-thump-thump of walking over it should be well-buffered by this stain as well although the focal point of its protective qualities are on natural elements. This means that temperature also shouldn’t present an issue for your deck here.
Additionally, there’s apparently a traction additive tossed in, or perhaps it’s a natural consequence of the chemical makeup, but users find that wet traction is really good on decks that were stained with this product.
KILZ Exterior Waterproofing – Best Deck Stain Cedar and Redwood
KILZ is here with a translucent offering that should bring out the best in your cedar or redwood deck while protecting it from general outdoor elements.
It comes in three colors:
- Chocolate Brown
Being 100 percent acrylic, it’s a somewhat environmentally safe product that keeps your deck shielded from the sun, precipitation, mildew and general traversal. Of course, these benefits come at a rather heavy price tag, so be prepared to pay well for a product that looks and performs well.
The only complaint that users consistently face is the bucket’s tendency to leak, which some think is more to do with the delivery than the packaging. However, the actual paint itself is nice and thick, covers a wide area and lasts 3-5 years.
Ready Seal Stain and Sealer – Best Choice for Beginners
If you have a redwood deck that’s in need of a top-notch stain treatment, Ready Seal has the glowing reviews to inspire confidence in your investment.
As with most stains, no primer is required although you’ll still need to sand, strip and clean the surface prior to applying it. On the plus side, you won’t need to back-brush or wet-line the coat for this particular stain to settle in properly. Temperature is also of no concern when laying this down, and it should last evenly through all four seasons no matter how hot or cold it gets.
This goof-proof stainer is just perfect for beginners and looks wonderful on any type of wood provided you select the right color. However, take note that the color on the container may not quite be the color that you get when you apply it and it finally dries. This hasn’t been a deal-breaker for anyone, but it’s worth noting that you should test the product on a corner of the surface before slathering it on.
DeckWise Ipe Oil – Best Deck Stain for Exotic Hardwood
Oil-based products are an interesting way to coat your deck. Generally speaking, you want to use it in outdoor settings, but due to its properties, it tends to absorb sunlight rather than deflect it, which results in a rapidly heated surface and a coat that needs re-layering inside a year or sooner.
However, DeckWise’s product incorporates an additive that helps offset this weakness by scattering inbound UV, so you should find that this solution lasts longer than the average product of similar consistency. You’ll also find that it penetrates into any type of wood without breaking a sweat regardless of the density that you’re working with.
Since the finish is natural, it shouldn’t impart any damage to the wood itself — how ironic that would be if it did! The complications that users had with DeckWise’s sealant is that it behaves as more of a stain with the amount of pigment in it, which throws off the natural color of the substrate some. If you’re okay with this, the only other talking point is the durability, which some say is a little shorter than they like. Since this is an oil, you should be prepared for this factor anyhow.
Best Deck Stain Buyer’s Guide
Deck stain is designed to protect objects used outside from ultraviolet rays, pests, and high humidity. When store shelves are filled with a vast variety of deck stains, you have to pay special attention to their selection and application.
Difference between Outdoor and Indoor Stains
Today, they manufacture a lot of various compounds intended for treatment of wood surfaces, and deck stains, in this respect, have one major advantage – they preserve the unique, one-of-a-kind structure of natural material that makes it so valuable.
Painting and coating materials are categorized by certain criteria, and one of such criteria is the environment in which the wood is to be used. Outdoor objects stay under the open sky, which, naturally, makes them exposed to weather conditions: the wood swells and then shrinks. Deck stains designed for treatment of exterior surfaces create elastic film on the surface of the material, which helps the wood to resist potential swelling and drying. Stains for treatment of indoor surfaces do not have the same degree of elasticity; therefore, the film soon flakes and starts peeling off.
Deck stain is used for treatment of the following structures:
- Wood steps, terraces, front porches
- Parts of the roof
- Facades of houses made of wood
- Walls of bath-houses
- Wooden sculptures and garden furniture
- Entrance doors
Best Deck Stain: the Properties
Ultimately, all deck stains represent compounds that are capable of forming a protective film on the surface of the material. To extend the service life of wood, the deck stain must have a number of important characteristics:
1. Wear resistance. If you are planning on using the deck stain for your fence, walls or other vertical surfaces, and you want to save some money, choose a compound with an average wear-resistance value. For steps or terraces, which are highly susceptible to friction, we recommend products with increased resistance to mechanical damage.
2. Drying time. Usually, the drying time of applied deck stain depends on the base and takes about 24-30 hours. But there is also an alternative – a quick-drying compound that allows you to finish work within a few hours. Keep in mind: the instructions usually indicate several stages of drying: tackiness time (the timeframe during which dust and small particles stop sticking to the treated surface), the drying time of the first coat – preceding the finishing coat – and the time required to form a solid film itself.
3. Resistance to mechanical damage. Wood belongs to the category of soft materials, and all products used under the open sky require special protection.
4. Resistance to ultraviolet rays. The UV rays are the main reason for fading of paints and stains because they quickly lose their protective properties in the sun. Therefore, it is very important that the components of the deck stain include additives that increase resistance to UV rays.
5. Water-repellant. A tendency to decay is another “soft spot” of wood. And that means that deck stains must repel moisture.
6. Fire-proof. You must pay special attention to flammability factor, especially if the wood has not been pre-treated with special chemicals that protect the material from fire. The same applies to surfaces located in places with an increased risk of combustion, or those that are used in a high-temperature environment.
Types of Deck Stains
There are several types of deck stains, and every one of them comes with its particular properties, advantages and disadvantages. The choice of a particular product depends on the properties of the material, the service conditions of the product, and the desired result.
The main component in these products is purified, thermally treated oil that provides the required properties. The quality of coating depends directly on the quality of the stain base, thus we do not recommend purchasing cheap brands of oil-based stain.
The second component of these stains is synthetic or natural resin, and most of the compounds sold in stores today contain the synthetic one. The drying time in oil-based stains is quite long; so, our advice is to apply it during a clear day, at a temperature of 10 degrees C and above, and medium humidity outside.
Depending on the proportions of resin and oil, the compounds can be oily, semi-oily and short-oil. For treatment of external surfaces they use oily deck stains only (2 parts of oil and 1 part of resin), because they are resistant to weathering.
Such compounds include alkyd-urethane and polyurethane deck stains. The first type is used for surfaces that are constantly exposed to water. Alkyd-urethane stain creates an elastic film on the surface that maintains its solid appearance even when the wood compresses or expands.
Polyurethane stains are easy to use; they provide high-quality coating even if you are using it for the first time in your life. They dry quickly and protect the surface from friction, mechanical damage and ultraviolet rays.
Compounds based on alkyd resins and solvents provide a solid, durable and reliable coating on the surfaces. It is not susceptible to chemicals, and therefore, you can clean the surfaces with any cleaning agents.
This type of compound is based on water dispersion (for instance, acrylic) with a small amount of solvent. That is why it does not have strong smell and does not emit toxic fumes, and you can apply it indoors as well. Water-based stains come in a wide variety of colors and give the color tone you need, and it also preserves the unique structure of the wood. The surfaces treated with such stains are well protected from fungi, mold and microorganisms, and they look amazing.
Water-based stains are divided into two kinds:
- Acrylic only (one-component compounds)
- Acrylic with polyurethane (two-component)
Technical Characteristics of Different Types of Stains
|Type of Stain||Composition||Average Drying Time||Durability|
|Oil||Oil and resin, with an increased amount of resin to facilitate rapid drying of the compound, but reduces durability of the coating||24-72 hours||High|
|Alkyd-Urethane||Alkyd resins, organic solvent, urethanes||2-4 hours||Very High|
|Polyurethane||Base with hardener (two-component), base with curing agent and solvent (three-component)||4-12 hours||Very High|
|Alkyd||Alkyd resins, solvents (white spirit, solvents), substances that accelerate drying||up to 48 hours||High|
|Water-Based||liquid polymer (acrylic dispersion), antiseptic, plasticizing agent||24 hours, but it takes 10-14 days to form the film||Average|
Best Deck Stain FAQ
How do I prepare my deck prior to adding a stain?
As with paint or sealants, you always clean the deck of any dirt, dust or detritus prior to applying new layers to the surface. Additionally, you’ll need to ensure that all traces of prior chemical coats have been stripped off since these can adversely impact a new stain’s adhesion to the deck. Since these chemicals can occur in small enough amounts to be invisible, you’re recommended to perform the water test: sprinkle water all over the deck and take note if any of it beads up. If it does, there’s leftover product that needs to be power-washed off. If there are no chemicals present, the water will absorb into the wood instead.
Can I apply a stain to damaged and worn surfaces?
Yes. In fact, there are many stain products that are designed specifically for use with weathered decks, particularly those made of wood. Keep in mind that while these typically offer greater protection and mending properties for the wood, they are not viable for decks that are structurally unsound, collapsing or missing connective elements such as nails. You should perform the necessary repairs or replacements to your deck in these situations prior to adding a stain.
Is there any particular reason to choose a stain over a paint?
Stains are less expensive, easier to apply and rarely require a coat of primer before laying them down. This means that you can simply pour it onto the stripped and cleaned deck surface and even out the top layer of the application with a brush, spray or roller. Many stains don’t even require this much; you can sometimes just pour it over the surface and let it sit. Be sure to read the instructions for details into the chemical nature of the stain and how to properly apply a coat without damaging your deck or requiring a do-over down the road.
What exactly is the difference between a paint and a stain?
Stains are translucent or transparent and have a watery consistency that allows them to soak into the deck. Paints are typically viscous, opaque, powerfully pigmented and sit on top of the deck instead of seeping inside. Both have their benefits.
Even if you’re not wild about the aesthetic of your deck — be it hidden from view or simply not a priority to you — you’re still wise to apply a protective coat to it since this will protect the properties of the concrete or wood for the long run. Wood is especially susceptible to break down because it’s an organic material that’s prone to rot from the inside out due to water, pests and mildew. Not only are you protecting your deck but also the home itself from a pestilent or fungal invasion that was given ample leverage over something as easily overlooked as the porch or patio.
If you’re still not sure whether paint or stain is right for you, the real question to ask is whether you want to completely change the color of the deck with an opaque coat (paint) or simply liven up the hue with a watering application that seeps into the deck and protects it from all angles. As mentioned before, stains usually (but not always) can be laid down without primer, but this isn’t necessarily an important factor when working out what’s best for your deck. Also keep in mind that while paint is traditionally a more expensive option, chances are good that the deck itself is worth many times more than the difference in cost to get it looking and feeling just right.
Whichever way you go, professionals recommend that you always protect your investment with a chemical that buffers out rain, snow, temperature fluctuations, UV radiation and traversal.