The Best Deck Stain: 10 Options You Need to Consider

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So you’re sitting on your deck, having an adult beverage, enjoying the nice summer day when you look down, notice the color’s faded, see the surface peeling a bit, and suddenly you’re thinking: I wonder what the best deck stain is?

Which gets you thinking more: What is deck stain anyway? Where do I get it? How do I find out what the best deck stain is?

And there goes your afternoon. But at least you’re on your way to a nice, new deck. And the good news is: Deck stain isn’t that hard to figure out.

The term “deck stain” applies to a variety of products intended to cover, color, and protect wood surfaces.

The best deck stain may be water-based or oil-based. Also, it may penetrate the wood or sit atop the wood’s surface as a film.

What are the types of deck stain?

There are generally three types of deck stain.

Solid stains are opaque products, similar to paint, that conceal the grain of the wood when applied. They may be thicker than other kinds of deck stains and, as a consequence, last longer. But they may also be prone to peeling or cracking, like paint.

Semi-transparent stains color a wood’s natural grain but don’t cover it up completely. You’d want to use them if you’re staining wood with an attractive grain (more so than simple pine, for example). They tend to wear out sooner than solid deck stain.

Clear sealers are not stains — they add no color to the underlying wood — and have a clear or transparent finish. They allow the natural color of the wood to show through. The wood may fade or change color from exposure to the sun as it would if it were unfinished.

What does a deck stain do?

The best deck stain prolongs the life of your wooden deck.

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Colored deck stains shield your deck from the harsh effects of UV sunlight, which can cause the wood to dry out and crack.

Deck stain also protects the wood from the effects of moisture, which can seep into the wood and cause it to crack and warp or develop fungus or mildew.

The best deck stain is tough enough to stand up to dirt, foot traffic, and other physical wear and tear, and keep your wooden deck in great shape for several years.

Things to look for in the best deck stain

You’ll want to decide whether to use a water-based stain or an oil-based stain.

Oil-based deck stains have more waterproofing qualities and can help fight mold and mildew. It’s also easier to remove when you want to apply a new coat of deck stain.

Oil-based stains are flammable when wet, so exercise caution when using and applying them. Don’t smoke when you’re using them! You’ll also need a solvent such as paint thinner to clean up spills and brushes.

Water-based deck stains may be more environmentally friendly to use. And, unlike oil-based deck stains, you can clean up with soap and water rather than with solvents. New types of water-based deck stain may also protect against fungus and wood rot.

But you don’t need to worry about setting water-based deck stains on fire as they are not inflammable.

New rules mean that the best deck stains must have lower quantities of so-called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are bad for the environment and can be a health hazard.

The best deck stain for you depends on how you want to use it.

Things to avoid when refinishing your deck

If you built your deck before 2004, it’s possible it may contain pressure-treated lumber containing a chemical that resists rot and bugs but contains arsenic.

The government phased out the use of that chemical — called chromated copper arsenate, or CCA — out of concern that the toxic arsenic would leach into the soil.

So if you have such pressure-treated lumber in your deck, the government advises you to use penetrating deck stain (semi-transparent or clear stain) to help lessen the arsenic leaching.

Also, if you want to remove the old finish or replace the CCA-treated lumber, you may need to call a professional.

Where to buy the best deck stain

You can buy the best deck stain at a lot of different places.

Hardware or paint stores, warehouse home improvement retailers, and online retailers such as Amazon should offer a wide variety of various deck stains.

You can also check the websites of major manufacturers of the best deck stains to identify retailers in your zip code.

How We Came up with the Best Deck Stain

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We did a comprehensive search of the best deck stain on the web and evaluated dozens of review sites, customer reviews, bulletin boards, and postings to get a read on what consumers felt about them.

To come up with our list, we reviewed consumer comments on deck stain purchased through Amazon for a good sampling of the best deck stain.

The 10 Best Deck Stain

We compiled the following list of best deck stain as rated by users of Amazon. The list is in descending order of rating, starting with the highest-rated deck stain.

1. Ready Seal Wood Stain and Sealer for Wood

Ready Seal stain is an oil-based, semi-transparent stain and sealer in one for exterior wood projects. It penetrates the wood to protect and preserve it from mold, mildew, and damaging UV rays.

  • Oil-based stain and sealer
  • Natural cedar, dark walnut, light oak, mahogany, mission brown, pecan, redwood
  • Five gallons
  • Average rating of 4.5 out of 5.0 stars from more than 340 reviewers on Amazon

2. #1 Deck Stain Premium Wood Stain

The #1 Deck Stain is a stain and sealer that is intended to protect the wood from UV rays and the elements. And it’s both a deck stain and deck sealer that comes in a semi-transparent finish that dries to a flat, natural-looking finish.

  • Water-based stain and sealer
  • Cedar, dark walnut, light walnut, natural
  • One gallon
  • Average rating of 4.4 out of 5.0 stars from more than 30 reviewers on Amazon

3. Thompson’s WaterSeal Waterproofing Stain

Thompson’s WaterSeal Waterproofing Stain provides waterproof protection for your deck. The manufacturer promises protection long after the initial water beading goes away.

It’s meant for use on decks, fences, outdoor furniture, and other exterior wood. And it will let medium wood grain and medium color show through.

The manufacturer promised that a single coat would protect decks for four years and fences and siding for six years. It’s made from advanced polymers.

  • Polymer stain and waterproofing sealant
  • Coastal gray, harvest gold, maple brown, Sequoia red, woodland cedar
  • One gallon
  • Average rating of 4.4 out of 5.0 stars from more than 20 reviews on Amazon

4. TWP Total Wood Preservative

The TWP 100 series combines several chemicals at professional strength in an easy-to-apply formula. The manufacturer designed it to protect exterior woods from water intrusion, UV damage, wood rot, and mold and mildew.

TWP cannot ship the product to several states because of restrictions on volatile organic compounds. But the company’s 1500 series of products can be used in those states and has a similar color.

  • Oil-based stain and sealer
  • Cedar
  • One gallon
  • Average rating of 4.4 stars out of 5.0 from more than 30 reviews on Amazon

5. Olympic Maximum Stain + Sealant in One

Olympic Maximum Stain + Sealant is a semi-transparent formula that can be applied to exterior horizontal and vertical surfaces. It provides enhanced waterproofing and sunblock UV defense to strengthen, protect, and condition wood fibers, ensuring the wood’s natural beauty lasts.

  • Water-based stain and sealer
  • Clear, cedar, redwood, Navajo red, Oxford brown, canyon brown, honey gold
  • One gallon
  • Average rating of 4.4 stars out of 5.0 from more than 30 reviews on Amazon

6. Olympic Smartguard Clear Multi-Surface Spray Sealer

Olympic SmartGuard Multi-Surface is a concentrated clear sealer formulated for easy application and fast drying.

This Sealer penetrates the wood. And you can apply it even after rain or cleaning. Plus, it dries in one hour. You can apply it quickly and easily from a pump sprayer or with a brush or roller.

  • Water-soluble sealer
  • Clear
  • 15 ounces makes 2 gallons
  • Average rating of 4.4 out of 5.0 stars from more than 15 reviews on Amazon

7. Tall Earth Eco-Safe Wood Treatment

Tall Earth makes non-toxic eco-safe wood treatments that are safe for kids, pets, soil, and groundwater, but remain effective for wood protection.

The manufacturer promises that the stain penetrates the wood fibers and changes the wood structure for a stain that will never fade.

Also, the treatment provides a silvery patina with a soft sheen, designed to protect against moss, mold, wet rot, dry rot, and fungus. And Tall Earth won’t peel or flake, won’t need scraping, and protects the life of the wood structure after one application.

  • Water-soluble stain and wood preservative
  • Gray or brown
  • One gallon
  • Average rating of 4.3 out of 5.0 stars from more than 200 reviews on Amazon

8. Bond’s One Time

The One Time wood preservative stain and sealer will rejuvenate the color of any wood surface, according to the manufacturer. It also promises that the no-drip formula will not overlap, crack, flake or chip.

  • Petroleum-based stain and sealer
  • Clove brown, redwood, honey, natural
  • One gallon
  • Average rating of 4.3 stars out of 5.0 from more than 20 reviews on Amazon

9. Restore-A-Deck Professional Grade Wood Stain

Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain is a water-based, semi-transparent stain formula designed to penetrate wood pores for maximum protection and longevity.

The company says Restore-A-Deck Wood Stain will protect the wood from UV rays and damage caused by water penetration.

This wood stain has low odor and is easy to clean up with soap and water. You can use it on all wood types, including pressure-treated pine, cedar, fir, or redwood.

  • Water-based stain and sealer
  • Cedar, dark walnut, light walnut, natural,
  • One gallon
  • Average rating of 4.2 stars out of 5.0 from more than 10 reviews on Amazon

10. DEFY Extreme Exterior Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

This environmentally friendly, water-based deck stain allows the wood grain to show through its semi-transparent, natural matte finish. You can use it to stain wood decks, fences, siding, playsets, outdoor patio furniture, and more.

  • Water-based stain and sealer
  • Butternut, cedar, clear, driftwood gray, light walnut, natural pine, redwood
  • One gallon
  • Average rating of 4.0 stars out of 5.0 from more than 190 reviews on Amazon

What We Know About the Best Deck Stain

The best deck stain depends on you. Different stains do different things, and it falls to you to decide which one works best for your deck.

You have to decide whether you want oil-based deck stain or water-based. Then figure out how much time you want to spend prepping and applying the deck stain.

Remember that oil-based stains take more time to apply and dry and may last longer. Water-based stains take less time but may not offer you all the protection you need.

Finally, think about the environmental effects of your deck stain. Oil-based stains may have a greater effect and may be more toxic.

Which deck stain do you think is best? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author Emily Taylor

My name is Emily Taylor, gardening is my passion and I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone. I know that there are millions of people out there want their backyard and garden be attractive just like their front yard, so I am here to help you create your own backyard paradise.

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