What Product Should You Apply On Your Wood Deck


Deck Painting vs Staining

There are pros and cons with all products made to protect your wood deck when deciding between deck painting vs staining.  Knowing the proper product to apply to your wood deck will enhance its natural beauty and increase longevity.  The right product depends on the age of the deck and what was previously applied.


What Product Should you apply to a wood deck


What Product Should You Apply On Your Deck?  How Much Wood Grain Do You Want To See?

Several types of deck stain exist:  These stain and paint options are in order from translucent to opaque.

  • Transparent stain
  • Wood preservatives and toner
  • Semi-transparent stain
  • Semi-solid stain
  • Solid stain
  • Paint

       Clear Wood Preservative                         Wood Deck Sealer Olympic Honey Gold             Semi-transparent Stain Olympic Tundra

       Deckscapes Clear wood Preservative           Olympic Honey Gold Wood Preservative                            Olympic Tundra Semi-Transparent


Each type of stain differs in the amount of UV protection it offers. For example, clear wood preservatives and toners allow the maximum amount of wood grain to be visible.  Unfortunately, the more wood grain visible,  the less UV protection.  The deeper the colorant the more protection and the longer the product will last.  That is why clear wood sealants only last 6-12 months, and Olympic Semi-transparent can last 3-4 years.

On the opposite spectrum of clear sealants, are solid deck stains.


                              redwood semi-solid stain on deck                    Solid Latex Stain on Wood Deck

Semi-Solid Redwood Stain From Cabot                                                        Solid Stain From Sherwin Williams



The age of your deck and the last product applied to it help you determine which type of stain you can use to refinish your deck. I recommend Olympic Wood Preservative for decks under eight years of age and you want to see the wood grain.  Why?  The grain of the wood still has some youth, and it is easy to apply.  Also, the moisture content is not relevant so you can clean and seal on the same day.


Wood preservative and toners are ideal for younger decks, while a semi-solid stain is better suited for middle-aged decks, such as those that are around 10-years-old. An old deck, one that’s more than 15-years-old, will be protected best with a solid stain.

what stain to use on a deck



Another thing to note is that as your deck ages and you begin to apply more opaque stains to it, you can’t go in the reverse direction. If you use a wood toner on your deck for several years, then start to use a semi-transparent stain, you can’t go back to using the wood toner. You can begin to use a semi-solid or solid stain on the deck, however.

It’s also important to understand that not all brands of deck stain are created equally.  Some of the brands we recommend using include Deck Scapes, Cabots, and Olympic.

What of Paint Product Should You Apply On Your Wood Deck

Technology for wood decks products has changed for the better.  Today you will see names on labels “waterborne” and “hybrid.”  This is a good sign of a quality product because it takes the best of both oils and water-based products into one can.  These hybrid paints are water clean-up and have low volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which also makes them a greener option.  The waterborne products come in all makes and models from translucent to opaque.

Waterborne Stains by Sherwin Williams


The best type of stain to use on a wood deck is a waterborne formula deck paint. A hybrid product is a mix of oil-based and water-based paint. One of the waterborne products we recommend is SuperDeck.



  What Product Should You Apply On Your Wood Deck A Paint or Solid Stain?  Maybe A Combo!

Staining your deck is almost always better than painting it. Stains are more flexible and can better withstand the wear and tear decks experience. Paint doesn’t have the flexibility of a stain. When the horizontal surface of a deck is painted, water can get under the paint more easily. As the water evaporates, it separates the paint from the surface of the wood, which leads to peeling and cracking. As time goes on, the painted surface develops more cracks, which leads to even more peeling.


Sikkens Rubal Deck Paint

When a deck is stained, water evaporates from the surface, rather than beneath the deck. There is less cracking chipping and peeling with solid stain.

The only instance when we would consider using paint on the horizontal surface of a deck is if the deck had significant protection from the rain and sun. Although paint isn’t ideal for the horizontal surface of a deck, it can be appropriate for handrails and vertical surfaces. If you want the deck’s handrails to have a sheen, your only option is to paint.  Since the handrails are upright and moisture won’t cling to them, the paint will hold up well.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Stain?

pros of using deck stain

There are several advantages to using a stain to finish your deck:

  • Keeps wood from drying out: Wood dries out as it ages, and as it dries, it can begin to crack. Applying a coat of stain to the wood helps to slow down the drying process and reduce cracking.
  • Protects your deck from UV rays: Just as the sun’s ultraviolet rays cause your skin to age and wrinkle, they also cause wood to age. You can think of deck stain as a sort of sunscreen for your deck.
  • Tends to provide more traction: Stain on the horizontal surface of a deck tends to be less slippery than paint.  It is worth pointing out that sand can sometimes be added to paint to improve its traction.

Using a stain also has some disadvantages, such as:

  • Requires ongoing maintenance: Stain on a deck will typically start to wear off within the span of a few years. A semi-transparent stain will look fantastic during year one, will look good during year two and will be gone by year three. The more UV protection in the stain ( the more pigment), the longer it will last. Some products, such as Canyon Brown, can last up to five years because of the amount of UV protection they contain.
  • Certain woods need specific types of stain: Some types of wood, such as tropical hardwoods, are too dense to hold certain types of stain well. That said, some products are designed specifically for use with tropical hardwoods. It’s important to know what type of wood your deck is made from — whether hardwood or softwood — and to choose a stain that works for it.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Paint On Your Wood Deck?

If you are going to finish your deck by painting it, it is important to choose a paint designed specifically for use on decks. Deck or porch paint is thicker than other types of exterior paint. It also often includes mold and mildew inhibitors and has Teflon in it to provide scruff-resistance.  Although staining your deck is usually the way to go, if you decide to use deck paint instead, it helps to understand the pros and cons.

The Pros

  • Many color choices are available: You have a wide variety of color and finish options to choose from with deck paint, whether you want your deck to match the color of your home, or you want it to stand out with a pop of color. It’s worth noting that you have a wide range of color choices if you choose to stain your deck, too.
  • Creates a uniform look: Evenly applied coats of paint can give your deck a more uniform look. Some of the best paints to use for your deck if you want uniform coverage are Super Deck by Sherwin Williams and PPG Proluxe Rubbol.
  • Has a long life: Paint typically lasts for many years, but will usually require a considerable amount of maintenance. Paint peels more than deck stain, which can be a particular problem as the deck gets older and the wood begins to crack. Paint will cover up small cracks in the wood, but can’t conceal large chips and cracks.
  • Provides UV protection: Paint is opaque and provides better UV protection than a transparent or semi-transparent wood preservative. Protection from the sun’s UV rays can help your deck look better over time.


The Cons

  1. Peels more than stain: Painting the horizontal surface of a wooden deck can lead to more chipping and peeling compared to using a stain. Water can seep underneath the surface of the paint, between the paint and the wood. As the water dries, a gap opens up between the paint and wood, which can cause the paint to peel.
  2. Covers the wood grain: While the coverage paint provides can be an advantage if you’re trying to revitalize an old, weathered deck, it’s a disadvantage if you want to show off the natural wood grain of a new deck. Wood preservative with some pigment is usually a better choice for new decks, as it offers some UV protection without obscuring the wood’s natural grain. Unless you are willing to do annual maintenance, it is usually best to avoid using a clear sealant, which will wear off after a year and require continual upkeep.
  3. Can be slippery: The higher the sheen of the paint, the more slippery it can be. There is a type of sand you can add to paint to increase traction, but if you are using a paint formulated for a deck, you shouldn’t need to add sand.
  4. Is a bigger commitment: If you decide to paint your deck, you should think of it as a long-term commitment.  Be prepared to paint it every 2-3 years  Once you’ve painted your deck you should not switch back to a stain.

What Product Should You Apply On Your Wood Deck Depends On The Age


Sherwin Williams Super Deck Semi-Solid Stain

As decks age, trying to restore the natural beauty of the wood becomes a mott point.  The best product to apply on your wood deck as it ages will be something that is more opaque.  Before I jump to a solid stain I consider a semi-solid stain from Sherwin Williams.

The Superdeck semi-solid from Sherwin Williams is a hybrid solid stain which means it takes the best from water and oil based stains. It can also be applied to damp wood which means you can clean it and stain it in the same day!

What Product should you apply on your deck if you are selling.

If the deck is over 15 years old and you are planning on selling your house soon,  a couple of coats of a solid stain maybe your best option. Why?

If you apply 2-3 coats it will fill in some of the smaller cracks.

It will hide the unevenness of the previous coatings.

Deckscapes Solid

Solid Stains and paints look terrific for about 3-5 months.


Regardless if you are selling your house or not by the time your deck reaches near the end of its life, the only reasonable option is a solid stain.  At this point, I’d recommend Super Deck because it is the only Solid Deck Stain that I am aware of that can go on a surface with a moisture content no higher than 25%.  All Other Solid Deck Stains and paints are 16% moisture content.  Superdeck is also easy to work with and holds up well.


What Product Should You Apply On Your Wood Deck for Longevity

What product will give your wood deck the best longevity?  Stains with the lightest amount of coverage, such as a clear toner, will also have the shortest lifespan. A clear sealant will typically be gone after about a year. If you use a wood preservative that has some pigment in it, you can expect it to last for at least a couple of years. If you choose a semi-transparent stain, it might last for about three years on the horizontal surface of your deck.

              Product                                               Flat surfaces Longevity        Vertical surfaces       

  • Transparent stain                                              6-12 months                                12-18 months
  • Wood preservatives and toner                        24-36 months                             36-48 months
  • Semi-transparent stain                                    30-40 months                             40- 50 months
  • Semi-solid stain                                                 32-42 months                             40-50 months
  • Solid stain                                                           24-36 months                             40-60 months
  • Paint                                                                     24-36 months                             40-60 months

The longevity of these products is from my personal observation.  This is not from testing but from my 30 plus years as a painting contractor.

Longevity observations from 30 years of experience.

Flat surfaces that take a lot of full sun take a disproportionate amount of wear.  These flat surfaces also get the snow, foot traffic, rain, frost that vertical surfaces are excluded from.  This is why horizontal surfaces may need to be treated in 2-3 years while verticle surfaces can wait 1-2 years longer.  Please note that solid stains and paints are not the best choices for flat surfaces but fair best for vertical surfaces.

since people run, walk and generally move across the horizontal surface of a deck, it gets a lot more wear and tear than the vertical surfaces and handrails

What Product Should You Apply On Your Wood Deck When It Is Brand New

Pressure-treated wood is a great option for outdoor projects like decks since it contains chemicals that help it withstand the elements much better than standard lumber. Most people love their green new deck and want it to stay just the way it is for as long as possible.  If that describes you, apply a clear sealant on asap. The green in the wood will fade in a few months if left untreated and it will begin to slowly turn gray.  Applying a clear sealant will give it moderate protection for a year before it will need an additional coat.  Once the green look is no longer an option. you can switch to a toner. The wood toner will add a little bit of color and protection.


What Product Should You Apply On Your Wood Deck When It Is Damp?

Most products want the surface to be under 16% moisture content.  There are several products that can be applied when surfaces are damp.  This is great because you can power wash your deck in the morning and seal it later that same day.

They include:

  • Olympic Clear Sealent
  • SW DeckScapes Clear
  • Olympic Wood Preservative
  • SW Deckscapes Semi-Transparent
  • Olympic Semi-Solid
  • SW DeckScapes Wood Toner
  •  Deckscapes Semi- Solid
  • SW Deckscapes Solid (under 25% moisture)

Can You Stain Over Paint on a Deck?

Once you paint a deck, there is generally no going back to using a stain. The same is true when you start to use more opaque stains on the surface. You can’t apply a solid stain one year, then switch back to a semi-transparent stain a few years later.

If you painted your deck and no longer like it, your best option is to contact a painting services company to discuss the available options for your deck. Klappenberger & Son will examine your deck and help you decide what to do next, such as replace the deck and start fresh or apply a different paint or stain color.

can you stain over paint on a deck

Can You Paint Over Stain Without Sanding?

Generally speaking, we don’t recommend sanding a deck to remove stain from the surface. The only time when it might be acceptable to sand your deck is if it is brand new and has a solid stain on it, but you prefer to see more wood grain. In that case, it’s a good idea to hire a professional to sand the deck to remove the solid stain and start fresh with a wood preservative or semi-transparent stain.

can you paint over stain without sanding

If you do want to paint a deck that was previously stained, you can skip sanding by priming the surface first. You can also hire professional painters to do the work for you.

Deck Painting and Staining From Klappenberger & Son

deck painting and staining from klappenberger & son

When it is time to give your deck a new look or to perform maintenance, work with a team of experienced professionals to get the best results. Klappenberger & Son offers deck services to homeowners in the Mid-Atlantic region, including Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. We can recommend stain and paint products for your deck that will meet your needs. We treat your home with the level of care and respect we would want for our own homes. If it’s time to refresh your deck, contact us online to schedule your project today.

COVID-19 Update: Klappenberger & Son Is Still Open For Business

Klappenberger & Son is still open for business during COVID-19