Everything You Need To Know About Staining A Deck

The outdoor deck spaces are often cherished by the homeowners. Undoubtedly, these add aesthetic sense and serenity to your home.

Be it the rain, snow, or sun’s heat these elements could actually end up the natural elegance and finish of these exterior spaces if exposed for long.

Your decks may appear sad, worn out, flaked, and worse with time. Whether your deck is repelling water or not is a big deciding factor before you stain your deck.

staining a previously stained deck

Many more questions move around as the stains, sealers, or paints which is the best option? Oil-based or water-based for new decks? How to apply a deck stain? How many coats to apply? All the questions that may be popping in your mind are honestly answered in the write-up below.

In case your deck is in need of a full-on overhaul, facelift, or a refresh then staining in the most appropriate way is the need of the hour.

Stain vs. Sealer vs. Paint

Though it’s a personal preference whether you stain, seal, or deck paint. All three work amazingly to provide protection to your deck while letting you save tons of cash.


  • They highlight the natural beauty of the wood grain.

  • They are short-lived than paints.

  • These are budget-friendly.

  • These are easier to apply.

  • They offer less variety.


  • They prevent the grain from rising and give a clearer finish.

  • Pro-active sealant is a part of many stains.

  • These are budget-friendly.

  • These are easier to coat.

  • They offer lesser variety than the paints.


  • They don’t give a clear finish but certainly the best protection with your favorite color.

  • These require more maintenance than the stain as they may flake with time.

  • These are expensive out of the three.

  • Involves time and efforts though last long.

  • They offer a huge variety.

Different Situations: Stain, Sealer, or Paint

As we mentioned above too that choosing a sealer, stain, or paint is a matter of personal preference. All three will give a different appearance and you should select the one according to the terrain you stay in.

As the weather and climate of a place are also the major factors that will dictate your decision to select right. Let us move further by considering a few aspects prior to what we choose and apply on our deck:

Before doing any of the three a simple sprinkle test can be done for checking the condition and absorption quality of wood.

when to stain a new deck

  • If you love the natural look for your wood then go for stain/sealer that will give a beautiful appearance with protection too.

  • Paint dries to a slick surface and the stains dry to a more matte-finish. Hence it is a cinch to sweep away dust, debris, or dirt from painted surfaces than the stains/sealers.

  • If you choose paints that are surely long-lasting and easier to maintain than the stains, then be aware that the paints may chip or flake when exposed to extreme, hot, humid, or cold climates.

Note: Sealers, stains, or paints whatever you choose should be of good quality that offers longevity. Maintenance and care are also required for best results when it comes to the deck’s appearance.

Oil Based or Water-based Stain – A Quick Comparison

Oil-Based Stain

  • These tend to penetrate deep into the wood providing a richer and more realistic color.

  • These provide an even finish though take more time to dry.

  • Extremely durable to use.

  • Less environmentally friendly like water-based stains.

  • Susceptible to mold and mildew.

Water-Based Stain

  • These are thinner let the water through and can be used under water-based finishes.

  • These dry quickly and require just water for cleaning.

  • Good but not great for all surfaces.

  • More environmentally-friendly.

  • Mold and mildew-resistant.

Which One Should I Choose For Oil-Based Or Water-Based Stains?

Like any other product even for the stains it is absolutely the woodworker’s preference. Certain things surely tend to become your guide when you finally opt for one:

1. Consider the type of wood, weather exposure, and any previous wood treatment.

For e.g. Water-based is the best option for cedar and cypress wood type.

staining new decks

2. All the elements such as wind, rain, and sunlight can spoil your deck wood and an oil-based stain works great for covering wood that will remain exposed to such conditions for a longer duration.

3. If your need is covering simple woodworking projects with some quick-drying options then the water-based stains are perfect to use and mold and mildew resistance are also provided wonderfully by them.

Wood Stains And Their Different Opacity Levels

There are a variety of deck stain colors available and all differ in opacity levels. These can mainly be categorized into three types:

  • Semi-transparent stains

  • Semi-solid stains

  • Solid/opaque stains

Semi-transparent stains

  • The natural look of the wood is shown through as these provide a ‘see through’ protective layer.

  • These provide the least UV protection.

  • These fade away with time.

  • Less protective and more decorative.

Semi-solid stains

  • These almost hide the wood grain and its natural color.

  • Less UV protection is provided by them.

  • These also may behave like the semi-transparent ones or develop cracks.

  • Less protective and more decorative.

Solid/opaque stains

  • These look like paints and hide the wood grain completely.

  • Provide the best UV protection to wood.

  • These tend to build-up after many years of application.

  • Provide maximum protection.

Which Opacity Level Should Be Chosen?

There is a direct link between color and opacity, and the more opacity the higher the pigmentation leads to less wood grain showing.

You should be aware that deck stains that are heavily pigmented are costly and harder to maintain. Semi-transparent stains tend to fade away with time whereas the solid stains build-up during years and are needed to be stripped or removed after flaking.

It is again your personal choice that you want a see-through look of wood grain or colored like the solid stains. Select the right one after completely understanding their differences.

When To Stain A Deck?

For finding out the right time to stain a deck there is an extremely simple way:

There is a simple step that will help you know whether your deck is repelling water or needs staining.

Step 1: Sprinkle water on the wood.

Step 2: Wait for 10 minutes.

Step 3: If the wood absorbs all the water in 10 minutes then staining and that too quickly is needed.

stain for decking

Before you stain your deck match it with the wood type of your deck. And for getting the perfect results just keep in mind that:

  • Use oil-based stains over an old oil-based stain

  • Use water-based stains over the old water-based stain

Note: Avoid staining your deck in direct sunlight. For further details, we have more information below.

Wood Type Matters

1. If you have decks of expensive hardwoods like the mahogany or IPE then a semi-transparent or an Arborcoat translucent is a great idea to go for as they will let the gorgeous grain and texture shine through of these wooden surfaces.

2. If you have to treat less expensive or softer wood like the pressure-treated southern yellow pine or cedar then Semi-Solid/Solid stains will provide the maximum benefit by becoming a natural weather barrier.

3. There are wood alternatives known as “composite-decking” and are becoming a choice of many of the users. Similar to the other wood counterparts they equally demand protection from color fading and other elements.

after staining wood do you have to seal it

Siding stains or solid deck stains work brilliantly for their color retention for this type of decking choice. When we are in the process of selecting the right wood stain the type of wood matters the most.

Finally, How to Stain a Deck?

If you wanna refinish an old deck of yours or apply deck stain to a new deck then you need to follow certain easy steps for the perfect outcomes.

Wood stains not only enhance the appearance of your deck but also highlight the rich textures and colors of the wood’s surface.

Exterior stains tend to provide vital protection and help waterproof a deck.

Before you start just match the stain with your deck’s wood type.

Follow some essentials:

1. Check The Weather And Select The Stain

  • Try the simple sprinkle test to know the condition of wood, which we have mentioned above (when to stain a deck?).

  • The surface should be cleaned and allowed to dry for one day before you stain it.

  • Avoid direct sunlight and the days with a forecast of 50 to 90-degree temperatures without rain should be opted for staining.

  • Exterior wood stain that repels water, protects from harmful UV rays, and preserves wood should be chosen by you.

  • Incase your deck is already stained then go according to the type of previous stain used.

You need to do some scheduling first.

deck staining

2. Preparing The Deck

  • All the furnishings from the deck should be removed.

  • Any repairing imperfections or missing nails should be inspected thoroughly.

  • Any splintered areas should be treated with 80-grit paper (using pole sander or a belt).

  • Any dust and debris should be swiped away.

  • If any plants are there on deck, cover them with tar or sheeting to avoid any chemical indulgence.

best way to stain a deck

3. Washing The Wooden Surface

  • Deck cleaner and scrub should be used to wash the wooden surface.

  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions and allow the wet cleaner to soak into the wood.

  • A pressure washer or a garden hose should be used to rinse thoroughly.

  • Any kind of imperfections should be removed before you start staining it.

  • Before applying leave the deck for at least two days to dry.

deck stain ideas

4. Staining Railings And Any Other Raised Features

  • Painter’s tape should be put to protect areas if needed before applying the stain.

  • Remove the leaves, dust, or debris again if settled before drying.

  • You can do a patch test to ensure the appearance is liked by you or not.

  • Before applying stir the stain thoroughly and then pour into a paint tray.

  • Long and even strokes by a paintbrush should be performed.

best way to apply deck stain



1. Don’t trust any untested deck stain. As you may end-up messing with new trials.

2. The right application technique is a must.

5. Stain The Deck Boards

  • Paint pad applicators should be used to stain the deck boards as this will turn out to be easier for large decks.

  • One coat in long and even strokes should be applied.

  • A paintbrush can be used to target problem areas and cracks.

  • The place you want to exit should be chosen before (deck stairs or home’s back door).

  • Generally, one coat is sufficient.

  • The brushes and paint tray should be cleaned after task accomplishment.

  • At least 24-hours should be given the stain to dry.

staining a new deck

Going the right way will give you professional results and also protect your deck from fading, water damage, and natural wear.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How Dry Should A Deck Be Before You Stain It?

Ans1. If the deck is newly washed then 48-hours is sufficient time to let it dry. One more thing is supposed to be noted here that the sun-facing decks tend to dry up faster than the ones that are on the shadow side. For the decks that have less or minimal sunlight, at least 72 hours is the waiting time before you apply stain/sealer.

Q2. How Long Does A Stain Or Sealer Take Time To Dry?

Ans2. The drying time of stains or sealers may vary for different terrains and related circumstances. Like a humid place will require more time for the stain to dry than a dry and sunny location. Generally, the ideal drying time is 24 to 48 hours and you can increase the time to 72 hours for being surer.

Q3. Do The New Decks Need To Be Washed First Before Staining?

Ans3. Yes, even t6he new decks need to be washed before applying the stain. You need to use a deck cleaner of good quality along with a pump sprayer and proceed with the pressure washer or a stiff brush for cleaning the wooden surface.

Q4. What Is The Ideal Time To Wait Until I Weatherproof My New Deck?

Ans4. In case your deck beads up then you will have to wait as it is showing signs of still being wet. It all depends on the water absorption and this indicates that the wood is ready to be stained or sealed.

When the wood is ready ensure that you apply a sealant as longer hours of exposure may increase the chances of damage by moisture and UV rays.

Q5. Which Is The Best Finish That I Should Use For My Deck?

Ans5. An exterior wood stain is an ideal option that should be used for finishing a wood deck. Ample water and sun protection is provided by a semi-transparent penetrating stain. The natural beauty of the wood will be enhanced by this and the appearance will be augmented.

Q6. What Is The Ideal Number Of Coats Of Sealer That Should Be Applied?

Ans6. If you are applying sealer then two thin coats will prove to be sufficient. Ensure that they are not uneven and thick in some areas. The right way is to apply two coats in the opposite or perpendicular direction for assuring that they have covered the space evenly.

Q7. Can A Deck Be Stained After One Day Of Rain?

Ans7. You should ensure that before you stain your deck it is completely dry. Neither 24 hours before or 24 hours after you apply the stain any rain should be there. Until and unless the deck is thirsty the stain should not be applied in order to get amazing results.

Q8. Is It Necessary To Remove The Old Stain Before Re-Staining My Deck?

Ans8. The old stain may be worn out with time or start peeling. It is best to strip and remove the old stain properly to remove all imperfections before you re-stain your deck. Much-needed protection is provided by the solid deck stains for wood protection.

Q9. Is It Essential To Sand A New Deck Before Staining?

Ans9. By sanding you can get a great feel for your deck but for making it stain ready a light wood stripper and pressure washing is the best way to clean the deck surface. Though sanding won’t harm anything it is not everything to prepare the deck wood to accept a new stain.

Q10. Should I Seal My Deck After Staining?

Ans10. As we have mentioned in the write-up also that stains, most of them include a protective sealant. If it needs re-sealing then you can definitely go for it. If there are water-based stains they can adhere to water and oil-based coatings nicely which are already present on the wooden surface.

Q11. How Long Do The Wood Stains Last After Being Applied On Your Deck?

Ans11. If the stains are of good quality, they may stay for three to five years after you stain your deck whereas the low-quality one may turn out to be awful in a year only. The shelf life of a wood stain is generally three years, so storing them is also not a problem. Be it the oil, solvent-based, or water stains they can last even longer if proper care and maintenance are in your habit.

Q12. Will My Plants Remain Safe While I Work On My Deck?

Ans12. While staining your deck you can use a tarp or sheet to cover the plants for preventing any harm that could be caused by the chemicals or any other harmful elements present in the stains.

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