A newly installed wooden deck is a sight to behold, especially if you’ve put in the work to build it yourself.
As the wood dries though, you have an important decision to make… How will you finish the deck?
Read on to learn more about why decks need to be finished as well as the options available for finishing them the right way.
We’ll also discuss some important considerations that need to be taken into account before finishing up with our top 5 picks for the best deck paintsto spruce up your decks, patios, and overall outdoor space.
Why Do Decks Need To Be Finished?
Wooden decks require proper maintenance, especially if you want yours to last.
Sure, raw wood looks attractive, but when that wood is the surface of decking exposed to the elements 365 days a year, it won’t be turning heads for long.
As time passes, the old wood will become damaged by the sun and the weather. UV rays will penetrate the fibers of the exterior wood causing the natural oils to dry up. This results in the old wood breaking down and then becoming cracked and splintered. It also causes the wood to become discolored, resulting in a weathered, gray shade.
This distressed look might be aesthetically pleasing indoors, but weathered, old wood on the exterior of your home points to improper upkeep.
When rain, snow, ice and all other forms of water are allowed to fall on your deck without protection, the boards end up soaking in that water. This causes the old wooden boards to swell and warp, and will eventually lead to rot.
This moisture also encourages the growth of moss, green algae, mold and mildew. Not only does this ruin the look of your once beautiful wooden deck, but it also reduces your property value.
To ensure your investment continues paying dividends, you should protect your deck from the elements. To do this, you need to use something that will keep it safe from the potent sun as well as protecting the exterior wood from water penetration. You can go with stain or the best deck paint to accomplish this.
Staining vs. Painting
Once you start examining categories of decking finishes, there are a number of different ways you could go.
To make this choice easier for you, we’ll highlight the main benefits and drawbacks of painting or staining your wooden deck right now since this is the first decision you’ll face.
Staining is the most common method of finishing a wooden deck. Not only is staining usually less expensive, but it can also be less labor-intensive, too.
- Sealers and stains are usually easy to apply
- When using a semi-transparent stain or clear sealer, you can retain the original beauty of the wood since the natural grain shows through
- Staining offers a natural-looking flat-finish that doesn’t become slippery when wet
- Stain is thin and can be drippy, leaving you with a messy looking finish on your decks, patios, and outdoor space
- If your wood is in bad shape, and you don’t want a rustic looking aesthetic, seeing the natural grain show through will transform into a negative for you
- There aren’t many color options with stains and sealers, and the type of wood your deck is made from will make for a wide variance in color
- Stain doesn’t have a very long lifespan, especially in high traffic areas, and needs to be re-applied every 2-3 years. Some even require that you strip and/or sand them off before re-applying.
Painting your deck with a solid color stain is also a sound option for finishing, especially if you’re dealing with an older deck or you want a unique color.
Paint (or solid color wood stain) can be a bit more costly, but in the end, it can really transform an old weathered deck and make it look beautiful.
- Painting a deck has more to offer when it comes to protecting the wood. It’s completely opaque, so it won’t allow any UV rays to penetrate
- It is highly resistant to mold, mildew, and green algae growth
- Paint best covers inconsistencies in the old wood that needs repairing. With paint, no one will detect mismatched boards
- Depending on the color, it is often easier to clean
- Paint lasts much longer than other finish options. You can usually go years between each coat of paint if you use a high-quality product
- Paintscan cause decks to become slippery when wet, especially gloss. This makes your deck a dangerous place to be in a rainstorm. It’s best to use a flat finish to avoid this hazard.
- If you want to see the natural beauty of your wood deck, you can’t get that with paint
- Paints last a long time, and there’s almost no going back to staining once you’ve painted
Things To Keep In Mind
Both staining and painting offer protection to your wood deck, but paint will serve you better when it comes to warding off UV rays. It will also fare better over time. One thing to note here, while paint can be a good idea on vertical surfaces, it’s usually a very bad idea on horizontal surfaces. It usually does a terrible job at holding up to foot traffic, or pets. Applying paint to the horizontal boards will almost always result in peeling. A better choice is a solid color wood stain. It applies just like deck paints, and has the same application characteristics, but is designed for use on exterior wood surfaces.
Be sure to give your deck a thorough cleaning before painting it. Painting over a dirty deck is pointless since it won’t adhere properly.
Clean your deck regularly and if you see the paint beginning to crack or peel, take action and fix it before it becomes a bigger problem.
Best Wood Deck Paints
Here are 5 of the very best deck paints (solid stains) up for grabs:
This paint/stain is a 100% acrylic formula that is made to protect your wooden deck for years to come.
The finish of this solid deck stain is completely opaque, meaning no natural grain will show through at all.
This stain has the same application characteristics as paint and it does an excellent job at hiding previous finishes and can be brushed, rolled, or sprayed on the deck. One coat will dry in about 1-2 hours depending on the temperature and humidity. It’s the best solid deck stain if you live in an area with unpredictable weather.
It comes in several popular colors. #1 Deck Stain also has a semi-transparent line of stains. A new trend that’s becoming popular is to stain the horizontal boards with a semi-transparent deck stain, and the vertical posts and railings with a solid stain. This has a really nice look, and you’ll get an extremely long lifespan out of your vertical posts and railings with easy maintenance on your horizontal boards.
- Eco-Friendly Acrylic based stain formula
- 100% opaque
- Limited range of colors
This acrylic paint/stain from DEFY is an outstanding solid deck stain.
DEFY has always made great semi-transparent deck stains but their new solid stain is a game-changer. There are 2 reasons why – 1) It contains zinc nano-particles that give it amazing UV resistance against color fade, and 2) It uses that latest and greatest in resin technology that has a minimum 5-year lifespan without peeling or degrading, even with high foot traffic. For a solid deck stain, it has great application characteristics and the water based formula actually penetrates the wood quite well to eliminate any chance of peeling.
It dries quickly and offers superb protection from mold and algae growth.
- Water based deck stain formula with excellent penetration and protection
- Lasts longer than oil based deck stain
- 5-year minimum performance lifespan
- Low risk of mold or algae buildup
- Wide range of colors that can be tinted to your liking
- Zinc additives naturally resist sun damage and mold growth
- Must be tinted at the store
- Only available through Do it Best local paint and hardware stores
Available in 5 pleasingly neutral colors, Restore-A-Deck is a strong contender for the best solid deck stain.
With this water based deck stain, you can complete the process the same day you prep the wood, saving you some precious time.
The stain adds color while simultaneously sealing it to ensure it’s waterproof and safe from harmful sun exposure.
This stain also inhibits the growth of green algae, mold and mildew.
- Premixed colors
- Easy clean up with soap and water
- Water based formula that outlasts oil based deck stain
- Eco-friendly and safe
- Only available online
This paint comes from the highly reputable KILZ.
The anti-slip paint is textured, making it less likely you’ll fall on your painted deck. It comes in gray, brown or red.
Formulated with resin to fill in any cracks and imperfections on old wood, it will cover up to 75 square feet of decking per gallon.
Once cured, the paint is mold and algae-resistant and also less prone to cracking than other options at your disposal.
- Outstanding coverage
- Resin compound fills in cracks
- Textured to reduce the risk of slipping
- The paint is very thick, so application can be tricky
This paint comes in several colors, and all have a textured finish.
The 5 colors are all wood-toned, so they look more like natural wood than paint.
The textured finish will help to create a non-slip surface, alleviating any chances of falling on the deck when it’s raining.
Choose from 1 gallon to 5 gallons depending on your needs.
- Great for use on weathered, old wood
- 100% acrylic adding to durability
- Paints up to 160 square feet of decking per gallon
- Doesn’t do well in colder climates