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Best Deck Paints and Stains for 2020

Need to get outside for a while? Check out these deck paint and stain recommendations from DIYers and professionals.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.

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It’s Time to Freshen Up Your Deck

We’ve assembled some of the best deck paint and stain options on the market based on first-hand reviews, pro recommendations and test results. Paint (similar to solid stain) provides an opaque protective coating with a wider range of color options, but it may exacerbate water pooling and retention. Stain provides protection against water and UV damage, plus a range of transparency options. On the more transparent end of the spectrum, clear stains offer less protection and more frequent re-application is required.

To determine the best products, we considered application properties, durability and cost. Whether you’re looking to protect your new deck or restore an old deck, here are some deck paints and stains that are worth considering.

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Can of Defy wood stainvia

Best General Use Deck Paint/Solid Stain

DEFY Extreme Solid-Color Wood Stain is a synthetic-resin, opaque wood finish designed to protect against water, fungi and UV radiation on exterior wood surfaces. It utilizes a new formula with transparent oxide-based nanoparticles and it resists peeling and flaking.

DEFY Extreme products land in the $40 to $45 per gallon range.

Note: You can find the nearest dealer through the manufacturer’s website. This paint is officially distributed through select stores.

One user said it’s, “easy to apply… [but] you need to be careful not to leave overlaps with the colored stains.”

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Jug of Restore-a-Deck stainvia

Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stain

Restore-A-Deck Semi-Transparent Deck Stain is recommended by pros because it applies easily and allows for staining the same day as prep. It offers deep penetration, UV protection and mold/mildew protection for less chance of wear and tear, and comes in a range of semi-transparent colors.

It costs around $43 per gallon and the eco-friendly, water-based formula means easy cleanup.

One user said, “It looks better than all previous stains we’ve used. We’ll use it again.”

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Can of Armstrong-Clark wood stainvia

Best for Treated Wood

Armstrong-Clark’s Wood Stain comes recommended by pros and is perfect for coating treated wood. The oil-based formula can be applied even in direct sunlight — no waiting for that late-afternoon shade — and you can brush, roll or spray it on. The non-drying oils are designed to recondition older wood, while drying oils lock in the conditioning. Pigments and water repellents protect against moisture and UV damage. This is also recommended for exotic wood such as ipe, and hardwoods like mahogany.

This stain costs around $50 per gallon and is VOC compliant in all 50 states and Canada.

One user said, “It lasted five years on my deck. My redwood/cedar deck is 40 years old so it absorbed the stain instantly but looked great for many years.”

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A can of Kilz wood coatingvia

Best for Weathered Wood

KILZ Over Armor Smooth Wood/Concrete Coating is a thick solid-color coating designed to restore old, weathered wood (or concrete). It features a durable acrylic resin formula, recommended for bridging cracks, hiding imperfections and concealing splinters. This product creates a smooth, slip-resistant finish.

It costs around $30 per gallon. Though the thickness makes application challenging, many reviewers say the results are worth it.

One user said, “…this stuff is thick as tar! Filled all the cracks and splits and is tough as concrete.”

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Can of TWP wood colorvia

Best Cedartone Color-Retaining Deck Stain

Amteco TWP Cedartone VOC Stain is a low-VOC exterior stain that’s great for renewing and refreshing exterior wood surfaces on decks, wood siding, shutters, fences, porch decking, wood shingles, shakes and fascia. It can even be used on rough-sawn cedar.

This stain is designed for smooth, even application and costs around $45 per gallon.

From a user review: “Rich finish, good absorption, holds up in sun and winter moisture. More expensive but well worth it.”

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Can of Kils textured wood coatingvia

Best Non-Slip Coating

KILZ Over Armor Textured Wood/Concrete Coating is a solid-color deck coating that contains non-slip textured grit. Made with an acrylic resin formula that’s also good for weathered wood, this textured coating is recommended for slip protection on decks, porches, boat docks, railings and pool decks. It’s designed to bridge cracks and hide imperfections.

It costs around $48 per gallon.

Multiple reviewers report challenging application with this one as well, but worthwhile results. One user said, “This stuff is very thick and difficult to spread, but in the end worth the effort… the end result was amazing.”

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Earthvia Sunny studio/Shutterstock

Note on Eco-Friendly Deck Coatings

While there are limited options for truly eco-friendly exterior coatings (all will have some fungicides/biocides), here are some tips to consider.

Look for coating with:

  • Zinc oxide as the fungicide
  • Low/no VOC
  • An acrylic/latex or recycled water-based formulation

Watch out for oil-based coatings that have high VOC. And, of course, never use really old paint that could contain lead or mercury.

Nick Wiesneski
As a writer, handyman, and general Renaissance guy, I draw on my broad set of skills and experiences to bring clarity to my writing. I enjoy putting my skills to use for good, helping people, and solving hard problems.​ I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and enjoy finding big and small adventures with my wife and two daughters. I recharge my batteries with fresh air and exploration of the great outdoors by foot, or boat, or four-wheel-drive. Personally and professionally, I try to leave it better than I found it.