How to Choose a Deck Stain

The right deck stain can bring out the natural beauty of the deck’s wood grain and extend its life by protecting it against sun and water damage.


Deck Stain - Everything You Need to Know!Family Handyman

Don’t Be Overwhelmed by All the Different Wood Deck Stains

The right wood deck stain can bring out the natural beauty of the deck’s wood grain and extend its life by protecting it against sun and water damage. But choosing the right stain can be confusing because there are so many choices. Walk down the exterior stain aisle at any Home Depot store and you’ll find an endless selection of transparent, semi-transparent and solid stains in both oil and water/acrylic formulations.

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Deck Stain Considerations

Choosing the right wood deck stain for your particular deck depends on many factors like the age and condition of the wood and what type of stain has been used in the past. You also need to consider how long you’d like the new stain to last compared to how much time and effort you’re willing to invest in the prep work and application.

Then there’s the issue of weather; some deck stains require a 72-hr “no-rain” window, starting with the cleaning step and extending until the product is fully cured and ready for foot traffic. We’ll make the selection process easier by showing you how these factors help narrow down the choices to two Behr products; Behr Premium® Semi-transparent Waterproofing Stain & Sealer and Behr Premium® Transparent Quick Dry Oil-Base Wood Finish.

Factor in the Preparation and Application Time Commitments

If your deck currently has a water/acrylic base finish count on at least a half day (or more) to strip off the old finish (see Prepping an Old Deck for Re-Staining). Then allot several partial days over a 72-hour “no-rain” period for the cleaning, drying, application and curing stages before you can move your deck furniture back in place and resume foot traffic.

If your deck currently has an oil base stain, you can clean and recoat the deck in a single day using Behr’s Quick Dry product. However, you’ll have to sand off the old oil base finish if you want to recoat with a lighter colored Quick Dry finish, or if you want to switch to a water-based product. Floor and rail sanding is a task best left to professionals.

Then Compare Product Features

  • Behr Premium Quick Dry Transparent Oil-Base Wood Finish is perfect for new untreated decks or decks less than 5-years old. The Quick Dry product is transparent, so it adds color while still allowing natural beauty of the wood to show through. It’s available in five colors: Clear, Cedar Naturaltone, Redwood, Chocolate and Cordovan Brown. Quick Dry provides protection against water and sun damage and can last up to 1-2-years depending on the color you choose and the weather exposure in your area.
  • Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Stain & Sealer is designed to last up to six years on new and slightly older decks (up to 10-years). This deck sealer provides maximum protection against water and sun damage. A semi-transparent stain hides minor wood aging issues while still allowing the wood’s grain pattern to show though. This product is available in 60 colors.

Bottom Line:

Behr Premium Quick Dry provides maximum beauty with minimal effort and less worry about weather conditions. In fact, Quick Dry can even be applied to damp wood after a recent rainfall; just let the wood dry for a few hours after that last the rain stops. Surface of wood should be dry to touch. Then clean the deck and apply the product in a single day. Entertain that same evening. Re-application in the following year is just as easy—just clean and re-apply the deck stain.

Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Stain provides maximum protection against water and sun damage and last much longer (up to six years). It still shows natural wood grain patterns while hiding wood aging spots.