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7 Different Types of Deck Stain and Their Uses

4 min read

Because it’s outdoors, your deck is bound to take a beating. From heavy rain and wind to harsh UV rays, piles of snow, and heat and humidity, environmental conditions will leave your deck looking dull and faded over time. Moisture, fungi, and the sun aren’t a deck’s best friend.

If your deck isn’t looking its best, you can refresh its appearance with a good coating of stain. The right stain will make your outdoor decks look like new again, plus it will also offer an additional layer of protection against harsh weather conditions.

When it comes to deck stain, though, it’s good to note that not all are created equal. There are different types of deck stain to consider, each with distinct advantages and disadvantages. Below are the seven types of deck stain and their corresponding features:

1. Solid Deck Stain

A solid deck stain creates a heavily pigmented film on the surface of the wood. This type of deck stain is the most similar to paint. It sits on top of the deck surface. It will completely hide the wood grain. Solid deck stain comes in just about any colour you could want, so it’s a good option if you’re going for a specific look with your outdoor reno. Because it has so much pigment, it also offers the most protection for the sun’s ultraviolet rays. It’s a great option if you’re looking to hide discolouration and provide a more uniform appearance.

However, solid deck stains are more difficult to apply and don’t penetrate the wood, so they’re prone to peeling, chipping, and cracking over time. If you’re going to choose this option, think long and hard about your decision first. You won’t ever be able to go back to the natural wood look once a coat of this stain has been applied, so you’ll want to be sure.

2. Semi-Solid Deck Stain

Semi-solid deck stains contain more pigment that other types of stain, but not as much as solid deck stain. After you apply this type of deck stain, you’ll be able to see just a little bit of wood grain underneath its surface. Like solid deck stain, this option offers great UV protection. However, it is hard to strip off if you change your mind down the road.

3. Semi-Transparent Deck Stain

If you’re looking for a stain that will give your deck a natural appearance and really enhance the look of the wood grain, a semi-transparent deck stain will be your preferred option. After applying this type of deck stain, the grain patterns will still be highly visible. You’ll only notice a slight colour tinting.

A semi-transparent stain is also easy to apply and more manageable to maintain than a solid or semi-solid stain. However, it doesn’t last as long and doesn’t offer great protection against UV rays. Due to their ingredients, semi-transparent stains don’t peel, although they will need to be reapplied as they tend to lose their colour over time.

4. Transparent Deck Stain

Because it contains very little pigment, a transparent deck stain will offer you a beautiful natural wood appearance. It’s very simple and easy to apply. However, it doesn’t offer much protection from the elements and doesn’t last long. As a result, you should expect to reapply transparent deck stain every year as the wood will grey quickly.

5. Clear Deck Stain

A clear deck stain offers virtually no UV protection and doesn’t protect against the wood greying. However, because it’s clear, it will give you the most natural look since it won’t alter the appearance of your wood at all. This product contains no oils and no pigments. It’s easy to apply a clear deck stain, but it wears off quickly, so you’ll need to reapply often. Expect to do so at least once a year.

Most homeowners use a clear deck stain as a sealer rather than as a stain, which is why it’s often known as a deck water sealer. This type of stain contains preservatives and water repellent.

6. Oil-Based Stain

You can choose between oil-based and water-based stain. Oil-based is often preferred since it penetrates the surface of the wood more effectively, provides a rich appearance, and tends to allow the natural wood to show through better. However, oil-based stains require more maintenance and need to be reapplied every two to four years.

This type of stain may also promote mildew and mold growth.

7. Water-Based Deck Stain

A water-based deck stain is better for the environment and more durable, lasting seven or eight years on average. When applied, it provides a solid colour, which may or may not be an advantage. It’ll hide the natural look of the wood.

Water-based products are better to work with since they’re easier to clean up and they dry faster.

During your next outdoor reno, carefully consider your choice of deck stain. Once applied, each type of stain offers distinct pros and cons.