If you’re looking for the best deck stain in 2020, it can seem like an overwhelming decision to make.
Luckily, we have everything you need to find the top-rated deck stains from reviews to instructions.
Choosing the right deck stain is a very important decision because the choice you make will influence both the appearance of your deck and durability of the wood.
Before jumping into the best deck stain reviews 2019, consider a few critical factors to streamline your buying decision.
Factor #1: Type of Deck Stain
First of all, do you prefer an oil-based or water-based stain? 20 years ago, oil based stains were the best choice. But oil based stains contain higher amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) which can be harmful to the environment. With the VOC laws changing in the last 10-15 years, all oil-based stain manufacturers have had to change their formulas and some are not as effective as before. Additionally, water-based stain technology has drastically improved to the point where many water-based stains outlast their oil based counterparts.
If you have more questions on this, check out our handy breakdown right here.
Factor #2: Transparency of Deck Stain
With that decision made, next think about what transparency you want in your stain. You’ve got 4 choices when shopping for top-rated deck stains:
- Clear Stain: A clear stain or sealer leaves the natural grain of the wood exposed. While this type of stain doesn’t contain any pigments, your wood will still be protected against the elements and preserved to some extent.
- Semi-Transparent Stain: You’ll get a little color imparted with semi-transparent stain while still leaving the grain visible. Penetration is excellent, and you shouldn’t need to reapply the stain for 2-3 years. Water-based versions of this stain tend to perform better than oil-based.
- Semi-Solid Stain: Containing a higher level of pigment, you can still see some of the grain. The key selling point of this type of stain is the outstanding UV protection it provides.
- Solid Stain: Solid stains, also known as opaque stains, last for 3 years or more before you need to reapply. This type of stain sits on top of the wood rather than penetrating. It works well to mask any flaws or inconsistencies in the decking. The flipside of this type of stain is that it can be prone to peeling on horizontal surfaces.
Factor #3: Color of Deck Stain
Deck stain comes in an array of colors.
When choosing, also consider other elements such as the exterior paint and deck furniture to make sure you are happy with the color over time.
Semi-transparent stains typically come in pre-packaged colors. There are some brands that can be tinted to custom colors, but most are standard colors that are already pre-tinted. Solid stains are more similar to paint, and can usually be tinted to whatever color you like.
Make sure to conduct a small test first if possible. This way, you can be sure you like the look of the stain on the decking before committing to purchase. Test the stain in an area that is not visible or less visible.
Factor #4: Coverage Area of Deck Stain
Don’t obsess over coverage area at the expense of quality. Try to get the balance right.
As a rough guideline, most stains cover about 100 square feet per coat.
Using wood cleaners and wood brighteners open up the pores of the wood so that maximum stain absorption can occur. This is an important step in helping the deck stain last. The deeper they soak in, the stronger their bond is with the wood. But keep in mind that if you clean and brighten the wood as you should, the wood will absorb more stain, and you may not cover as much area as advertised because more stain is absorbed. The upside is that the stain will last longer.
Now, this is assuming that the wood stain is made with high-quality resins that will actually soak in and bond in the first place. Using a cheap, poor quality deck stain that just lays on the surface won’t last and won’t be worth it which brings us to the next factor.
Factor #5: Price of Deck Stain
Price always plays a factor in any buying decision, but it should never be the only deciding factor.
You would think that the most expensive deck stains (some reaching $60+ per gallon) would be the longest lasting, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In addition, some stain manufacturers have 3-5 year warranty claims. In reality, this is just a marketing gimmick. No stain will last 3-5 years on a horizontal surface. The idea is that they’ll sell more product because they have a warranty, and those increased sales will outweigh any warranty claims they have when their product fails to last.
But, on the other end of the spectrum, a cheap stain will be low quality, won’t penetrate the wood, won’t protect the wood, and won’t last long.
Regardless of whether you want an oil-based or water-based stain, the best deck stain doesn’t come particularly cheap. This is all the more reason to make sure you get the most appropriate treatment for the wood and your preferences.
What to Do Next
Check out our selection of the top rated deck stains below. We tested 30 different deck stains to see how well they performed. To document our testing, we installed cameras over a board and took 1 photo per day for a year. Click on each product to view the time-lapse video results and read our deck stain reviews 2019 to see how each one might work for your home.
|Overall Score||Stain Title|
|Best Semi|| |
DEFY Extreme Wood Stain Review
|Best Solid|| |
DEFY Extreme Solid Color Wood Stain Review
|Best value|| |
#1 Deck Stain Review
Restore-A-Deck Stain Review
Sikkens WB Stain Review
Superdeck WaterBorne Stain Review
TWP 100 Stain Review
Wolman DuraStain Stain Review
Arborcoat WaterBased Stain Review
Thompson’s Deck & House Oil Stain Review
Arborcoat Oil Stain Review
Thompson’s Waterproofing Stain Review
Cabot Semi Transparent Stain Review
Cabot Wood Tone Stain Review
Flood CWF-UV5 Stain Review
Wood Defender Fence Stain Review
Olympic Waterproofing Stain Review
TWP 1500 Stain Review
Olympic Maximum Stain Review
Sikkens SRD Stain Review
Armstrong’s Wood Stain Review
Behr Semi Transparent Wood Stain Review
Ready Seal Stain Review
Penofin Oil Stain Blue Label Review
Messmer’s UV Plus Stain Review
Penofin Ultra Premium Stain Review
SuperDeck Oil Stain Review