Comparing Different Types of Decks Stains

Applying deck stain

To keep your deck looking its finest, protect it by cleaning and sealing your deck regularly and applying the best deck stain for the look you want. Staining helps prevent cracking and protects the wood from exposure to the elements.

Prepare Your Deck

Before applying stain to your deck, it's important to prep the area. Remove items like planters, grills, patio furniture and protect with drop cloths areas like sidewalks or steps that will not be stained. Check the surface of your deck for wear and repair things like:

  • Cracked boards
  • Surface wear
  • Popped nails

Choosing the Best Deck Stain

When choosing a quality stain for your deck, the color your buy plays a factor in how long your deck will look the way you want it to. Color choices are numerous, so it's easy to find one that compliments your exterior décor. However, a stain with a deeper color will last longer and look fresher than if you pick a lighter color. With that in mind you may have to choose between aesthetics, durability or a combination of both. When deciding on the best deck stain for your project, consider the following:

  • Stains come in an assortment of opacities. Some are oil-based and others water-based.
  • The more pigment added to your stain, the less you'll see your decking's natural wood.

Oil-Based Deck Stains

Oil-based stains are one of the more traditionally used products for staining a deck.


  • Lets more of the natural wood show through
  • Penetrates the surface better
  • Provides a richer look


  • Requires more deck maintenance and re-application every two to four years
  • May promote the growth of mold and mildew
  • Cleaning up oil based stain spills is more difficult
  • Cleaning paintbrushes used to apply stain is more difficult

Water-Based Deck Stains

Water-based stains are a newer product that don't promote mold growth the way that oil-stains can.


  • Solid color
  • Lover volatile organic compounds
  • Better for the environment
  • More durable than oil-based stains, typically lasting seven to eight years
  • Dries faster
  • Easier to clean up


  • More likely to hide the natural wood look
Deck Stain

Deck Stain Reviews

Deck stains change from year to year as manufacturers seek to improve their product. Get the current ratings to determine what the best deck stain truly is at these review sites:

Purchasing Deck Stains

Once you determine the type of deck stain you are looking for, find it at one of these retailers:

Take Care of Your Deck

Decks are often subjected to intense environmental conditions. Stained deck surfaces often need to be retreated every two to three years. If your deck is exposed to direct sunlight, cool damp shade or experiences heavy foot traffic be sure to inspect it each year. Taking care of your deck will add longevity to your finish.

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Comparing Different Types of Decks Stains