How to get the Best Deck Stain for Redwood

Redwood is a gorgeous wood that is naturally resistant to damage, making it very popular for outdoor furniture, decks, and fences. While it’s relatively resistant to weathering and damage caused by ultraviolet rays, it still needs a bit of extra protection to look its best for years to come.

An exterior waterproofing wood stain will protect your new redwood deck from water that causes mildew growth and UV rays that cause the the wood to turn gray. Many stains also bring out the natural beauty of redwood decks by highlighting their rich color and unique wood grain.

If you’ve just built a new deck or want to restore life to some old outdoor patio furniture, our guide will help you choose the right deck stain for your redwood deck and give you tips on applying it for amazing results.

How to Stain a Deck

The key step to wood staining is preparing the wood surface properly. If you have an older wood deck, follow the steps below to renew and restore the character of the wood.

If the deck is new, you’ll want to allow the wood to weather for 3-6 months first. This allows time for the elements to break down the natural oils of the wood and allow it to better absorb a deck stain. After the wood has weathered, the first step is to clean the deck with an oxygenated bleach wood cleaner and a pressure washer. These oxygen bleach deck cleaners are a safe way to clean and dirt, grime, or mildew stains from wood surfaces. It will work to reveal the natural beauty of the wood. Pressure washing ensures a more thorough cleaning, and helps rinse away any oils, mill glaze, and dirt before applying the stain.

After the wood has been cleaned, apply a wood brightener. A wood brightener will brighten the wood and make it look new again. It also neutralizes any remaining cleaner and brings the wood back to a neutral pH. Once the wood is dry, apply your chosen deck stain with a brush, roller, or sprayer. A great deck staining tool is actually a car wash brush. It saves your back and knees and makes the project go much faster. It’s often a good idea to apply the stain to a small area before moving onto the entire deck so that you can confirm that you’re getting the color and finish you want.

If your deck has more square feet than your house, consider renting an airless sprayer to save time and give you a more even finish. It’s important that when spraying a deck stain, you need to back-brush it to break the surface tension and help the stain absorb into the pores of the wood. A car wash brush is a great back-brushing tool.

Avoid oversaturating the wood and only apply as much wood stain as the wood can absorb. Use a brush to apply the deck stain in the corners and difficult-to-reach areas.

And that’s all there is to applying a redwood deck stain. You can refresh the stain every couple of years to ensure maximum protection from moisture and the sun.

How to Seal a Deck

Sealing and staining a deck tend to follow the same procedure. In fact, the only real difference between a stain and sealer for redwood is the amount of pigment in the product. Stains usually have pigments that bring out the wood’s character and range from lightly tinted to almost opaque.

Sealers are sometimes known as transparent stains. They also protect wood from mildew and weathering but don’t add a tint of color that brings out the wood’s natural grain.

Regardless of whether you use a wood stain or sealer, the process remains much the same. Just make sure that the product you choose offers:

  • A mildew-resistant finish
  • UV protection
  • Waterproofing

A good wood protector will have all three of these features. Avoid any ones that don’t mention all three.

Choosing the Right Redwood Deck Stain

When you start shopping around for deck stains for any wood project, you will probably find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice. Knowing which stain is right for your redwood fence, wood patio furniture, and any other outdoor wood surfaces depends on several factors. Consider the following when you begin your search for the best redwood stain.


Wood stains come in two broad categories depending on their base component: oil-based stains and acrylic-based (water-based) stains.

Oil-based stains offer the following advantages:


  • Penetrate easily into wood fibers
  • Easy to apply
  • More forgiving – won’t leave lap marks with longer dry times
  • Restore some of the wood’s natural oils, which can prevent warping and cracking


One of the drawbacks of using oil-based substances is that they tend to contain higher levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and take a very long time to dry. You’ll have to use special thinners or solvents to clean your brushes and wear a respirator to avoid breathing in unwanted chemicals. You’ll also want to make sure to keep kids and pets away from the fence or deck during the application and drying process. Additionally, you should plan on re-applying oil based stains at least every year, as they don’t hold up as well as acrylic stains.

Acrylic-based stains have a water base and provide several advantages, including:

Rapid drying times of 1-2 hours

Lower in VOCs, making them safer to use


Easy to clean up afterward with simple soap and water

Longer lasting, with less frequent maintenance coats

However, acrylic stains need to be applied to a properly prepared surface. Using a wood cleaner and a wood brightener will ensure you get the maximum lifespan out of an acrylic wood stain. They will prevent mold growth better than oil based stains, as oil based stains can sometimes become a food source for mold and mildew.


Opacity refers to how see-through a stain is, ranging from completely opaque to completely transparent. The opacity of the stain will affect how much of the wood grain you’ll see.

Clear sealers are completely transparent and let the wood’s unique look shine through. While it protects wood, a transparent stain struggles to protect against UV and will require reapplication every year for best results.

A semi-transparent stain contains some pigments but still allows the wood’s character to shine through. The semi-transparent nature means that you get good UV protection and is perfect for redwood boards, redwood siding, and many other exterior wood projects.

Semi-solid stains have enough pigment to hide the wood’s flaws while still giving a rich, vibrant wood tone. It’s a good option if you have an aged and worn deck floor that needs extensive protection from the elements.

A solid stain is very similar to paint, except that it can penetrate wood pores, offering excellent protection. It’s a good option for wood decks made from poor-quality wood, and we don’t recommend it for vibrant woods like redwood.

Wood Type

Various wood types will all handle exposure differently. While all wood species need protection, some will require less intervention than others.

A penetrating stain acts on the wood’s fibers, providing the entire wood deck with extra resistance against the elements. Redwood contains many natural oils and compounds that make it an excellent material for a deck surface. A clear penetrating stain is enough to preserve the wood’s color, and it will only need a yearly refresher to keep it in good condition.

Other woods, especially pressure treated wood, require more love, making a protective deck floor stain or paint a better option.

Existing Coating on the Wood Surface

If you’ve previously used acrylic deck stains on your deck, you’ll need to remove the top layer before applying a new stain. You can do this with a deck stripper or if the stain is still intact, you’ll need to sand down the deck.

A common rule is that it’s better to go with the same shade or darker than the existing shade when re-staining. Trying to go lighter is generally difficult and produces variable results.

Added Protection

Many oil based stains will contain linseed oil or tung oil to improve the stain’s weatherproofing. If your deck gets a lot of sunlight, get a stain with anti-UV compounds. Be careful with some of these, as mold and mildew like to feed on natural linseed and tung oils. If your deck gets exposed to a lot of water and you often have damp wood, consider getting a product that’s mildew-resistant and waterproof.

While the added protection may cost extra, it could extend the lifespan of your deck.


What Is the Best Stain for a Redwood Deck?

We generally recommend either transparent or semi-transparent products that bring out the natural vibrancy of redwood.

What Color Stain Looks Best on Redwood?

Consider a matching color that complements the natural redwood shades. Avoid darker shades which produce a more opaque and uniform shading.

Can You Stain a Redwood Deck?

Yes. Staining and sealing your deck will protect it from the elements and ensure it looks great for years to come.

Which Deck Stain Lasts the Longest?

In general, a water-based , penetrating wood stain will last the longest since it penetrates deep into the wood’s pores. Products like DEFY Extreme Stain are a great stain to check out and can last up to a season or two longer than other deck-staining products. Other great water-based stains to consider are #1 Deck and Restore-a-Deck. If oil based is the direction you think best, then consider TWP or ReadySeal.

1 Comment
  1. […] their decks before applying the product. A transparent and semi-transparent stain is considered the best deck stain for redwood, as it brings out its natural vibrancy. Staining projects are completed much faster, almost half […]

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