Choosing a Deck Stain

Back in 2009 my father-in-law and husband built a deck for us.  We waited one year (like you are supposed to) before we sealed it.  We simply went to the Depot and purchased a Behr Solid Stain in the color we liked and then went to town and applied it to our deck just like you would paint.  We only put one coat on and didn’t do anything beside sweep it off before applying the stain. Within one year it was chipping and peeling and looked awful.  Apparently there is a proper way to prep a deck…doh!


Those of you who have decks know that it is a maintenance item for your home. Constant maintenance comes with the territory.  However using the right products for your weather conditions can really help in how often you have to re-stain your deck.  Since it is such a chore to take care of a deck you definitely do not want to skimp when it comes to products that will help your deck maintain its beauty.


I decided to interview Darren from my local Glidden who has 30 years of paint/stain experience. Apparently there are four options when it comes to deck sealing/finishing.

Beckie’s Top Tip: Before you consider staining or re-staining your deck I highly recommend you talking to a professional in your area.  All areas are not created equal as far as the climate goes and you need to consider this when staining your deck.  Make sure you know what type of wood and finish is on your deck when you consult a professional.

Transparent Stain – This seems to only be an option for newly built decks and not for one that has been stained or painted before. Many people choose to start this way because you still see the beautiful wood grain and texture through the stain but it protects against moisture and sun damage. However, with any finish this eventually fades and deteriorates over time and because there is no pigment in it tends to wear faster than any of the other stains.


Semi-Transparent Stain – This is a product that adds a bit more color to the wood but still allows some wood grain to show through.  The semi-transparent stain is also available in more colors than just wood grain colors such a grays, red and blues. Since the semi-transparent stain does contain some pigment it will last a bit longer than just the transparent stain but not nearly as long a the semi-solid or solid stain.

olympic deck stain pic

Semi-Solid Stain – This one has a little more pigment than transparent stains but it still lets some of the grain shine through the stain. If you use two or more coats you will get the same color as a solid color stain blocking most of the grain of the wood. This is designed to last longer than the semi-transparent stain because it offers increased UV blockage.  However it is made with latex so over time you have to deal with chipping and peeling.

cabot semi-solid stain

Solid Stain – This offers the most pigment giving much color to your deck and looks a lot like the deck is painted.  The Glidden expert recommend 3-4 coats on new wood in order to get maximum color and protection. Unlike transparent stains which are mostly oil-based solid stains contain some latex with some oil resins to help with durability.  Because of this added latex component after a number of years it will chip and peel whereas the transparent and semi-transparent stains will just fade.  Now while this lasts the longest between coats it also is the hardest to restore (if not properly maintained) because once it starts chipping and peeling you are having to stain or strip the deck.  Which believe me…is a bear!sherwin_williams_solid_color_stain

Tip: It’s actually the pigment that helps to protect wood from weathering caused by exposure to UV-light from the sun so choosing a natural finish isn’t usually the best option if you don’t plan on coating it often because it offers little to no protection against UV-rays.

The more pigment in the stain, the more opaque the coverage will be, and the longer term of protection it will provide for the wood from the elements.

Reds are not a good choice because the color oxidizes faster and you may find that you will be re-treating the wood within a shorter amount of time.

The darker the color you choose the more heat it retains.  So know this if you are going for a dark solid color stain.  You might end up with a hot deck!

If at all possible do not consider painting your deck boards. If you live in a location that experiences four seasons it is guaranteed that it will peel and chip over time. The reason for this is that paint does not absorb into the wood. Instead it sits on top (a lot like the solid stains). Over time moisture will get underneath it and it will begin to pull up the finish which causes the peeling and chipping. If this happens, plan on having to sand and strip the entire deck. About the only advantage of using paint is you can change the deck color with every new coat.

Okay Beckie what is the best option, they all seem faulted?  Truth: they all are.  A deck is a maintenance item.  There is no such thing as a maintenance free deck.  Even deck with composite boards fade over time.  Everything deteriorates over time, especially when exposed to outdoor elements.

So Beckie, what option did you choose for your deck?

Stay tuned…I will tell you tomorrow!