How To Choose The Best Deck Stain

You want to use the best deck stain for your new backyard deck. When you preserve the natural look of your whole deck, you maintain its aesthetic appeal. Most wood stains offer maximum protection.

The Best Deck Stain

After you install a cedar deck, for example, you’ll want to apply a wood stain. It will preserve the color and help it last longer. UV protection is important as exposure to sunlight, ice, and harsh weather will cause exterior wood to deteriorate.

Wood stains prevent direct sunlight from penetrating a treated wood surface and exterior wood areas. A wood stain repels moisture, protecting the wood from mold or becoming soft. Another benefit is how one coat will help prevent the surface from cracking. 

Keep in mind not all deck stains are the same. Here, we’ll provide information on the different types of wood stains, what to consider before buying one, a short guide on how to stain your deck, and show you 5 of the best stains on the market. 

Types Of Deck Wood Stain

Types Of Deck Wood Stain

There are three types of wood stain that can help preserve your exterior wood surfaces, whether you’re protecting a deck or outdoor furniture.

Clear Deck Stain

A clear stain is a deck water sealer. It doesn’t add color to treated wood. However, the stain penetrates the wood fibers and protects it from harmful natural elements. It’s also water-repellent and will prevent harmful UV rays from affecting the wood’s quality. With clear deck stains, you’ll need to apply a new coat every year. 

Related: How to Build a Deck Frame

Solid Deck Stain

Known as opaque stains, they’re applied to the top of a deck surface to cover the grain. It can be confused for paint because it looks similar, but solid deck stains protect the wood. While it’s great at hiding discoloration, solid deck stains are prone to cracking, chipping, and peeling. 

Semi-Solid Stain

Moe transparent than a solid stain, but suitable for high-traffic areas. It’s durable and similar to a solid stains. 

Semi-Transparent Stain

These will impart some color to the deck but will also keep the wood grain pattern visible. They’re most used for external deck staining as it’ll soak into the wood and last longer than clear stains. It’s also less likely to peel off the surface, but you will need to reapply when it loses color. Semi-transparent deck stains are more suited for railings. 

Oil-Based Stain

You’ll want to use an oil based stain if your deck will be exposed to harsh weather conditions like wind, rain, and sunlight. An oil based stain is more durable than a water base stain.

The Best Deck Stains

The Best Deck Stains

Here are three stains that will help preserve your backyard deck. 

Cabot Australian Timber Oil

The Best Deck Stain

Timber oil is good for decks, railings, and sidings. It’s made with a blend of oils formulated to protect wood surfaces. It’ll penetrate dense, resin-rich woods. It’s durable, water-repellent, and has plenty of color-depth.

Another feature is how it includes translucent iron oxide pigments that provide rich colors and dimensions, making it one of the best deck stains on the market today. 


  • Great for exotic wood surfaces 
  • Durable and water-repellent 
  • Comes in different colors 
  • Provides a rich color 


  • Has strong fumes

Thompson’s WaterSeal Waterprofing Stain

Thompson's WaterSeal Waterprofing Stain

A semi-transparent stain has pigment, it will show wood texture and grain. The stain is water-repellent, and the coating resists mildew and UV-damage.

Advanced polymers provide fade-resistant color, and you can apply it to freshly cleaned damp or dry wood.

One coat will last four years on a deck surface and almost six years on fences and house sidings. 


  • Semi-transparent – has some color 
  • Water-repellent 
  • Resists both mildew and UV-damage 
  • Fade-resistant color 


  • The formula is a little runny

Ready Seal 512

Ready Seal 512

This deck stain comes in many colors and can be applied with either a sprayer, roller, or brush. No primer is required when you use this deck stain, and it’ll reach its true color in about two weeks. No back brushing is necessary, and it’ll also never leave runs, laps, or streaks. The product will seamlessly blend into the wood and can be applied in any seasonality. 

The stain itself is oil-based and enhances the texture and grain of the wood. The formula will penetrate deeply into the wood while protecting it from UV rays, mold, and mildew.

It has some pretty good reviews from customers, and they mentioned that the deck stain goes on quick, really soaks in, and can be applied effortlessly with a brush or roller.


  • Easy application 
  • No back brushing is required 
  • Can be applied in any seasonality 
  • Penetrates deeply into the wood 


  • Color fades quicker than some of the other deck stains

Deck Stain Vs Sealer 

While stains and sealers protect and preserve wood, they aren’t the same. Sealers are clear and transparent, while deck stains have pigment and wood brightener that adds color. Many people use sealant or a translucent stain on top of a semi-transparent stain because it’s the easiest way to prevent decks from changing colors. It also keeps the deck cleaner

What are the Different Stain Bases? 

There are two different stain bases – oil and water. Oil-based stains are designed to repel water and condition the wood. They can also withstand various elements, are more durable, and require less maintenance.

However, its downfall is that they’re flammable when wet and can take up to 2 days to dry.

Once dried, however, they produce a richer color than their water-based counterparts. 

Related: Be Sure to Get the Best Deck Cleaner for Your Patio

Water-base stains maintain the color of the deck and dry faster. It also doesn’t have as strong of an odor and isn’t as flammable. Since they don’t emit volatile organic compounds (VOC), they’re also environmentally friendly.

However, the downfall of water-based stains is that they don’t penetrate as deeply as oil-based stains. 

What to Consider

There are three things you need to consider when purchasing deck stains – durability, price, and the amount of effort required for cleaning. In terms of durability, various stains come with different ingredients – resulting in various thickness levels.

While some stains can last for several years, others would need a re-coating every year. 

Deck stains come in different price points for price, so you’d need to figure out what works with your budget. However, if you buy a cheaper deck stain, you may need to apply a second coating as it won’t cover as much area.

If you can, try to purchase a more expensive deck stain as they last longer and have both a better coverage and finish. 

Finally, for your convenience, it’d also be best to purchase deck stains that are easy to clean and require only water and soap. If not, you’ll have to buy additional cleaning materials or sand before applying the stain. 

How to Stain a Deck – Step by Step Guide

The Best Deck Stain
  • First, you’d want to sweep your deck thoroughly. If it’s dirty, you’d want to wash it as well. Though if you decide to clean your deck, you’ve got to wait for it to dry.
  • Then, you’d need to take some sandpaper to smooth the wood and get it ready for absorbing the stain. 
  • Before you stain your wood, it’s good to invest in a pair of knee pads since you’ll be on your hands and knees most of the time. 
  • You’d then want to sand the deck floor thoroughly before using a leaf blower to remove all of the sawdust from your deck floor. 
  • After that, it’s time to stain! You’d need a brush to help you with the staining, and you should select a brush with natural fibers. 
  • While staining, you’d want to do it one board, at a time to avoid any overlap. 
  • After you’re done applying, allow it to dry for at least 48 hours. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What Tool Should I Use To Apply Semi Transparent Stains To A Deck?

You need to apply a semi-transparent deck stain evenly. The best tool to use is a roller. First, pour stain into a roller tray. When you use a roller, drip marks and excess stain will remain on the surface.

Should I Stain An Old Deck?

It depends on the deck. Staining is easier than painting, but painting does a better job of filling cracks and offers more protection. 

Can I Pressure Wash My Deck After I Stain It?

Pressure washing offers a fast and easy clean-up. Overall, it will not harm your deck, but you’ll need to do it right. It is recommended that you hire a professional. 

Can I Stain Pressure Treated Pine?

If  the wood is still wet, it would be a waste of time to pressure treat it. If you are staining pressure treated wood with a clear wood sealant, wood toner, or semi transparent stain, apply one thin coat with a high-quality brush or sprayer. For solid color stains, you’ll need two thin coats and apply them with a paint brush or roller. 

Is It Better To Spray Or Brush Deck Stain?

A paint brush will cause agitation and friction because the wood absorbs more stain. So, if you are spraying or rolling a stain, always back-brush it in with a brush while the stain is still wet; you’ll achieve much better penetration in to the wood

Deck Stain Conclusion

Before you buy a wood deck stain, you want to make sure it offers UV protection from harmful UV rays. When you stain your entire deck, you want to use a stain that can penetrate deep into the wood fibers.

Wood fibers need protection. On a new cedar deck or Douglas fir surface, for example, water-based stains would add to its natural beauty. With outdoor furniture, semi transparent colors are popular, so keep that in mind for your deck.

Penetrating stains can help an old stain, but you may want to consider removing the older stain. If you use a paint sprayer, you will save time but it might not be as effective as a roller or brush.

Stain and sealer are necessary. The best stain will depend on you and how you want your deck to look. However, the ideal stain will protect your deck from mildew growth. Before you build your deck, select the best wood and go from there. After you apply a stain, it should last two to three years.