Best Deck Stain Reviews and Buying Guide

Kevin Brown

Choosing the Best Deck Stain

Selecting the best deck stain is crucial for your new backyard deck. Preserving the natural look and aesthetic appeal of the entire deck is important. Many wood stains provide maximum protection.

Best Deck Stain Reviews and Buying Guide

Installing a cedar deck requires the application of a wood stain to preserve its color and extend its lifespan. UV protection is crucial as sunlight, ice, and harsh weather can cause exterior wood to deteriorate.

Wood stains act as a shield against direct sunlight, moisture, and mold, keeping the wood surface intact. Additionally, a single coat of stain can prevent cracking.

It’s important to note that not all deck stains are equal. In this article, we’ll discuss the various types of wood stains, factors to consider before purchasing one, a brief guide on deck staining, and present 5 top-quality stains currently available on the market.

Types Of Deck Wood Stain

Best Deck Stain Reviews and Buying Guide

There are three types of wood stain that help preserve exterior wood surfaces: clear stain, solid stain, and semi-solid stain.

A clear stain is a deck water sealer that protects treated wood from natural elements and harmful UV rays. It doesn’t add color to the wood and needs to be reapplied every year.

Solid stain, also known as opaque stain, covers the grain of the deck surface and protects the wood. It can be mistaken for paint but is prone to cracking, chipping, and peeling.

Semi-solid stain is another option that provides a balance between clear and solid stains.

More transparent than a solid stain, suitable for high-traffic areas. Durable and similar to a solid stain.

Semi-Transparent Stain:

Imparts color to the deck while keeping the wood grain pattern visible. Used for external deck staining, as it soaks into the wood and lasts longer than clear stains. Less likely to peel off the surface, but requires reapplication when it loses color.

Suited for railings.

Oil-Based Stain:

Use oil-based stain for decks exposed to harsh weather conditions like wind, rain, and sunlight. More durable than water-based stain.

The Best Deck Stains.

Best Deck Stain Reviews and Buying Guide

Cabot Australian Timber Oil is a great choice for preserving your backyard deck.

This stain is designed to penetrate deep into the wood, providing long-lasting protection against moisture and UV radiation.

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It also enhances the natural beauty of the wood, giving it a rich and vibrant color.

The oil-based formula is easy to apply and dries quickly, allowing you to enjoy your deck in no time.

Once applied, Cabot Australian Timber Oil creates a durable barrier that resists cracking, peeling, and fading.

It’s available in a wide range of colors, allowing you to find the perfect shade for your deck.

With Cabot Australian Timber Oil, you can protect your backyard deck and make it look amazing for years to come.

Best Deck Stain Reviews and Buying Guide

Timber oil is effective for decks, railings, and sidings. It’s made with oils to protect wood surfaces, penetrating dense woods with resin. It’s durable, water-repellent, and offers rich color.

Another notable feature is its inclusion of translucent iron oxide pigments, making it one of the top deck stains on the market.


– Ideal for exotic wood surfaces

– Durable and water-repellent

– Available in different colors

– Provides rich color


Thompson’s WaterSeal Waterproofing Stain

Best Deck Stain Reviews and Buying Guide

A semi-transparent stain with pigment shows the wood texture and grain. The stain is water-repellent and 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 lasts four years on a deck surface and almost six years on fences and house siding.


  • Semi-transparent with color
  • Water-repellent
  • Resists mildew and UV damage
  • Fade-resistant color


  • The formula is runny

Ready Seal 512

Best Deck Stain Reviews and Buying Guide

This deck stain comes in various colors and can be applied with a sprayer, roller, or brush. No primer is needed, and it will reach its true color in about two weeks. It won’t leave runs, laps, or streaks, seamlessly blending into the wood.

The stain is oil-based and enhances the texture and grain of the wood, while protecting it from UV rays, mold, and mildew. Customers have given it positive reviews, saying it goes on quickly, soaks in well, and can be applied effortlessly with a brush or roller. Pros: easy application, no back brushing required.

  • Can be applied in any season
  • Penetrates deep into the wood


  • Color fades faster than some other deck stains

Deck Stain Vs Sealer

While stains and sealers protect and preserve wood, they are not the same. Sealers are clear and transparent, while deck stains have pigment and wood brightener that add color. Many people use sealant or a translucent stain on top of a semi-transparent stain because it is the easiest way to prevent decks from changing colors.

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It also keeps the deck cleaner.

What are the Different Stain Bases?

There are two types of stain bases: oil and water. Oil-based stains repel water and condition the wood, making them durable and low maintenance. However, they are flammable when wet and can take up to 2 days to dry.

Once dry, they produce a richer color compared to water-based stains.

Water-based stains, on the other hand, maintain the deck’s color and dry faster. They have a weaker odor, are less flammable, and are environmentally friendly since they don’t emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). However, water-based stains don’t penetrate as deeply as oil-based stains.

Consider these factors when choosing a stain type.

When purchasing deck stains, consider durability, price, and cleaning effort. Different stains have varying thickness levels, resulting from different ingredients. Some stains require re-coating annually, while others last for several years.

Deck stains are available at different price points. Determine which works within your budget. Cheaper stains may require a second coating because they provide less coverage.

If possible, invest in a more expensive deck stain for longer-lasting results, better coverage, and a superior finish.

For your convenience, purchase deck stains that are easy to clean with water and soap. Otherwise, you’ll need to buy extra cleaning materials or sand the surface before applying the stain.

Best Deck Stain Reviews and Buying Guide

To clean and stain your deck, follow these steps:

1. Sweep your deck and wash it if necessary. Allow it to dry.

2. Use sandpaper to smooth the wood.

3. Consider investing in knee pads for comfort.

4. Thoroughly sand the deck floor and use a leaf blower to remove sawdust.

5. Apply stain using a brush with natural fibers.

6. Stain one board at a time to avoid overlap.

After applying, let it dry for at least 48 hours.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What tool should I use to apply semi-transparent stains to a deck?

To apply a semi-transparent deck stain evenly, use a roller. Pour the stain into a roller tray. A roller will prevent drip marks and excess stain.

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Should I stain an old deck?

It depends on the deck. Staining is easier than painting, but painting fills cracks better and offers more protection.

Can I pressure wash my deck after staining?

Pressure washing provides a quick and easy clean-up. It won’t harm your deck overall, but it’s recommended to hire a professional.

Can I stain pressure-treated pine?

If the wood is wet, there’s no point in pressure treating it. To stain pressure treated wood with a clear sealant, toner, or semi-transparent stain, apply one thin coat using a high-quality brush or sprayer. For solid color stains, you’ll need two thin coats applied with a brush or roller.

Using a paint brush will cause friction because the wood absorbs more stain. So, if you’re spraying or rolling a stain, always back-brush it while it’s still wet for better penetration into the wood.

In conclusion, when it comes to deck stain, apply one or two thin coats using a brush or roller. If spraying or rolling, make sure to back-brush while the stain is still wet for optimal results.

Before buying a wood deck stain, ensure it offers UV protection from harmful rays. Use a stain that can deeply penetrate wood fibers for the entire deck. Wood fibers need protection. On a new cedar deck or Douglas fir surface, water-based stains enhance natural beauty. Consider semi-transparent colors for a popular outdoor furniture look.

Penetrating stains can help with old stains, but removing the old stain might be necessary. While a paint sprayer saves time, a roller or brush may be more effective.

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