information on deck stains1

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!

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  1. our deck was horrible when we moved here 8 years ago . not taken care of ; moldy ; filthy . we bought a pricey power washer ; hubby had to power wash it about 3 times ( and let it dry of course !) before we could attempt stain. We chose solid stain since it had been neglected so many years . I chose a reddish brown ; and to our horror , it turned orangey ! OH MY ! we just tried not to look at it and changed the color the next year ( after he repaired a lot of stuff ! ) they kind of are a pain in the behind ; wish we could afford the composite decking to replace it ………………. but not gonna happen for a while !
    Good article so far !

  2. On of the recent This Old House houses they installed a deck but the TOH guy who installed stained/sealed the board BEFORE installing so that all 4 sides of each board was stained/sealed.
    It seemed like a genius move to me, if you’re building a deck and not dealing with an already existing one, that is.

  3. We just moved into a new-to-us home in April. The deck and yard had been neglected for quite a while. The deck had been covered in those black indoor-outdoor mats – you know the ones that are rubber on the bottom and ribbed fabric on the top? It was such a pain to remove all the staples and nails that attached the mats to the deck. We had to replace a few boards because they had rotted under the mats. The deck had been PAINTED a weird rusty red colour that is of course peeling all over the place. UGH.

    We want to strip and stain the deck, but we had heard that you can’t stain a deck that had previously been painted because the paint seeps into the wood and would prevent the wood from taking the stain. Do you know if this is true? Are our only options to either strip and repaint or replace all the wood?

  4. You are right I can definitely see some benefit to that. That would definitely help with wood rot for a while.

  5. Aimee from what I understand the color of the paint will soak into the wood a little. You can use a semi-transparent over a stripped deck but I would encourage you to be as meticulous as possible with stripping getting every bit possible. This is going to be a tough job!!! With time the paint will go away completely as the semi-transparent stain sinks in but only if you get off all the paint of the wood that you can. Good luck and make sure you talk to your local guys about your options for your area.

  6. If I had my “druthers” I would rather have a patio or a non-wood solid deck floor(concrete or tile) with a nice wrought iron railing. Our house came with a deck and we have a patio below because we have a basement. We’ve stained it with an opaque (solid) stain. The maintenance isn’t too bad, but we do have to re-do the deck floor every third year. There are just a few places where it peels and I just sand those spots, prime and then stain the whole thing. Thank goodness the white painted rails only require a good deck washing. Since the deck’s on the 2nd floor, there are a lot of rails. Staining the deck floor is on my list this summer and I need to get to it in the next couple of weeks! Can’t wait to see what you did.

  7. Beckie,
    Poor timing, I just finished restaining my deck a week ago. The previous finish solid color and peeling. We scraped and it was still coming off in patches. I then tried orbital sander, paper needed changing every 2 minutes. Belt sander next, still slow. The last tool I used was an electric planer. I set all (most) the nails and adjusted the depth to lowest setting. It took off just a little of the wood with the stain. I was also able to take off some of the edges on slightly cupped boards. Two coats of Oil base solid stain and it looks new again.
    Now I will be replacing the lattice skirt and repairing one of the railing posts. Then more paint. The front porch gets done this year too.

  8. We used Cabot oil based solid color stain in Bluestone.
    We had Shale mixed but it came out a lot lighter than the color chip. The lumber store in town mixed up the darker shade and gave us credit for the too light gallons (2).
    I never knew this before but the price is higher for darker base/colors, more pigment. So per your research a darker base with more pigment should protect better/longer. I hope.


  9. We live in the Pacific Northwest, land of moss and moisture.

    We have used Cabots, wouldn’t advise anyone wasting money/time with that product.

    I thought I would have liked to strip and restain transparent. After considering the annual maintenance we decided to go with a longer life / lower maintenance option.

    We ended up using a opaque Behr product on the spindles & rails, and the “Restore” deck resurfacer on the deck and stair treads. The Restore was like spreading whip cream with sand in it. Love the way the deck turned out and the fact the restore is supposed to last 30 years.

    If you go with the Restore option, be sure to stain between the slats before you apply the Restore. This finish reminds us of the spray in bed liner in the back of pickups.

    You would not recognize our cedar decking. Sad in some ways, but love the fact I won’t slip on the wood and we will enjoy our deck for years to come.

  10. The information about Cabot’s semi-solid is incorrect. It is not latex based. It is oil based

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