Deck Stain Types

How to Choose the Right Deck Stain

By Mark J. Donovan

Staining a deck is a great way to protect your deck from the effects of moisture and ultra violet light damage. There are many deck stain types and products on the market today that offer a plethora of color choices. Staining a deck is a home improvement project that most do it yourself homeowners can tackle.

There are three main phases to staining a deck. The first phase is selecting the right deck stain type for your particular deck project. The second phase is preparing the deck surface for staining. The final phase is actually applying the deck stain. In this article I will focus on phase one – selecting the right deck stain.

Selecting the right Deck Stain Type

If your deck has never been stained, sealed or painted you have more options to choose from when it comes to selecting a deck stain.

When picking out a deck stain type, you will first want to decide if you want to use a clear, solid or semi-transparent stain (alkyd stain).

Clear Stain / Deck Water Sealer

A clear stain will allow the grain colors to show through the stain. Clear stains are also referred to as deck water sealers and only contain wood preservatives and water repellant. Most clear deck sealers typically have no pigment or oils in them. Typically clear stains have to be reapplied every year or two. Some clear deck sealer stains do however have some oil in them that penetrates the wood and helps to protect the wood longer.

 Deck Stain Types

Solid Stains Types

A solid stain actually sits on top of the deck surface and does not permeate the deck wood. Consequently solid stains, like paint, are not good for decks. Solid stains will quickly show signs of wear, including chipping, cracking and peeling. Solid stains are however good for hiding discoloration patterns and can provide a uniform appearance. However, if you choose to use a solid stain, plan on having to reapply a new coat every year.

Opaque Stains or Semi-Transparent Stains (alkyd stains)

An opaque stain or semi-transparent stain provides some color tinting and will allow the wood grain to show through the stain. These types of deck stains permeate the deck wood and thus have a tendency to last longer and do not peel away from the deck surface. Instead they just fade in color. Once the fading is significant you can reapply another coat.

Selecting a Deck Stain Type on a Previously Stained or Painted Deck

If your deck has previously been painted, water sealed or stained with a semi-transparent or solid stain then you should use the same type of deck sealer again on the deck, unless you first want to sand the deck down to bare wood.

Deck Installation Bid Sheet

If the deck had previously been sealed with a semi-transparent stain you can change the tint of stain.

For help on building a deck, see’s Deck Installation Bid Sheet. The Deck Installation Bid Sheet will teach your how to hire the right deck contractor, and help to ensure that your deck project is completed on time and budget.

Related Information

Additional Deck Building and Design Resources

Get Free Deck Building Price Quotes with No Obligation!

Fill out our 3-5 minute quick and easy form, and receive a free price quote on decks from one of our pre-screened and licensed deck contractors. This process is free and there is no obligation to continue once you receive your decks price estimate.