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Best Deck Stain and Sealer: It is Easy!

Here I review 7 types of deck treatments and the best deck stain and sealer in each category. From my years in the biz, some things you need to know, then we get dirty.

I’ve been using stains since my very first painting apprentice job in 1977. I’ve learned the difference and here I review the good and less good (read ‘bad’). My advice: be conservative and choose the best deck stain you can afford.

Here is the best available from my personal experience.

Just below I discuss a once-in-a-lifetime stain (“ECO”), but for traditional stains, I tell all my customers: semi-transparent stains are great because they are low-maintenance, even though it may not protect as long as thicker stains, there is never any scraping—just a quick pressure wash at most, then re-staining. Most decks last about 5 years between treatments depending on your location.

From experience, I’d say that these days the top deck stain is Extreme Wood Stain from DEFY, is made in the USA and that means a lot to us. It comes in 7 shades counting clear. A very good price and easy to clean up (water-based). Definitely one of the best deck stains on the market.

DEFY deck stain in action

More options below: are all my picks for what’s available in 2022.


Jump below to the complete list with details: best deck stain and sealer. (Also, check out our page all about deck tools and other supplies.)

Deck Stain Types (with my favorites)

These start with the easiest re-application (next time) and go to the most difficult.
  • Once-in-a-lifetime deck preservative: This is what I used on my deck. Here is my review of EcoWood Treatment. It’s a powder and you can get the five-gallon mix (a big deck) or the one-gallon mix (a porch or 2).  I found this to be the easiest to apply of any paint or stain I’ve worked with in 30+ years as a painter. It saves you money because it’s a once-per-lifetime of the deck. Low effort, low cost, great protection. Safe chemicals alter the wood so that it resists rot. Simply apply and let dry above freezing temps. Really, there is no downside, except that color selections are limited and the color, like all stains, does not stay bright forever, but neither do you or me! I used the basic powder with no tint (“Silvery Patina”). It turns your deck a weathered gray look which we love. I just cannot say enough good things about my deck with this treatment. See my review dedicated to just this product. (No I don’t work for them! Just love the stuff.) Video of samples here.
  • Clear deck sealers: I’ve done a lot of clear deck sealers and they do offer water protection (until it ages), but do not protect from sun damage: it will not prevent the color underneath from graying. My favorite for clear is the ‘Cabot Natural’  clear. It gives great UV protection like the best clear deck sealer. Made in the USA too.
  • 3 Semi-transparent stains: This is the most popular type of deck stain. There are three good products we have tested and think are good. The DEFY line called “#1 Premium” (3 colors); the Cabot semi-transparent (3 colors), and the DEFY Extreme (7 colors) are for semi-transparent, the best deck stains out there. Low effort, low maintenance, medium UV protection. Made in the USA.
  • Semi-solid stain: Simply a transition between the one above and the one below on this list. Shows some wood grain. Cabot is the one I recommend to those customers who want more color, but I caution them that this will require some scraping when time comes to re-do. That’s a dealbreaker for many.
  • Solid (opaque) stain: Cabot has been around forever (company website), and makes a venerable solid deck stain you have probably used. Almost the same as a paint. It’s exactly like paint. It’s paint. Follow the info on deck paints in my post on the best deck paint. Solid deck stain and sealer can hide many imperfections but also hides the grain of the wood. Downside? Big time scraping in 5 years. Or 10 at most.
    Honorable mention is a DEFY solid stain called #1 Wood Stain. It’s a bit more money and has good ratings. I have not yet used it.
  • Restore deck paint: BIG WARNING! These are nothing more than very thick paint and do not work and are now or have been sued in class actions. If your deck is rotting or in horrible shape, this might help delay the installation of a new deck.  They always lose. LO-OO-SE-R products! All 3 big makers, (Olympic, RustOleum, and Behr) are in class action law-suits up the Wazoo. The Rustoleum product is pictured just below after only 6 months on an internet guy’s deck.
    Deck restore after 6 months
    Deck restore after 6 months

    Some companies claim they can restore a deck, but deck restoration is not possible with paints. I have a post on restore products good and bad in the post Paint or Stain a Deck.

  • Replacement. There, I said it. My advice here is that if you can afford it, go with a new deck and treat it as soon as the lumber cures. I have recently learned that composite decking such as Trex is not as good as pressure treated wood. Trex tends to bend. If you use it, make your supports very close together.

Opinion: Please NEVER use Thompson’s Water Sealer on your deck: it lasts about a day. Oh, the bad stories I have heard.

In my 30+ years as a painter, I’ve done tons of decks, literally.

I’ve also been looking around the internet at the state of affairs of these big stain and paint makers. It’s not pretty.

Many products succumb to the elements very quickly and you have wasted your money AND you have to do it all over again!

Deck stain opacity in general

Remember that semi-transparent deck stains will allow the wood grain to show through, while deck stains with more solids are more opaque and protect cover the grain more fully.

Different woods stain differently

When deciding what is the best deck stain and sealer for you, choose a small hidden piece of wood from your deck and remove it. Take it to your local paint store or buy some small samples online and apply the different samples to the same wood.

Below you see 5 types of wood getting the same exact stain: before and after. You can see that some sections of the samples were treated with a condition for better penetration (photos from Minwax).

Different types of wood with exactly the same stain

Here is a nice article, sponsored by Minwax, explaining the chemistry of how the stain combines with the wood.

Surface graying (UV exposure)

The best deck stain and sealer will protect the wood better if it contains some solids (resins, etc) to cover and block the sun. The more solids in your deck stain, the better your protection. So this is a factor that you have to balance with your desire to have a low-maintenance deck.

big deck stained using good sealer and stain

Trusted manufacturers

Makers of today’s best deck stain and sealer are the usual suspects: Olympic, Behr and so on have decent products but I don’t recommend them these days. I don’t like the fact that some of them have false advertising (as in ‘one-coat’ paints etc).

I only go with the big makers. Avoid Thompson’s products unless you like spending money and having little protection (it looks good and protects for a year at most even if applied gentle climates). You should hear the stories I have heard.

How long will the best deck stain and sealer last?

For water-based stains with fewer solids (semi-transparent, etc), perhaps two to three years, depending on where you live. For oil-based semi-transparent stains, expect to re-coat in three to five years, perhaps.

Thicker solid stains of both types will last longer.

More solids, more opacity, longer lifespan. (But more scraping later!)

Remember: shake it

Shake well just before opening as the solids settle out fast. The store will shake a non-rusty can for you even if you have opened it, but you then need to either use it right away or shake by hand. It’s best to just shake it by hand on the spot. See my short video of how a professional painter shakes paint. (Don’t shake clear coats—it makes bubbles! Stir it Mr.Bond.)

The list: best deck stain and sealer

Tip: Thinking of spraying it? Greenlight. I researched garden sprayers for spraying stain: this is the way to go for light stains, not solid or opaque. In another post, I selected hand pump sprayers that can handle clear, transparent and semi-transparent stains. The low-cost plastic sprayers cannot do it all.

The Smith shown here is a life-long quality stain and garden applicator: just keep it clean as I explain in that post.

This one is suitable for stains up to semi-transparent. For semi-solid and full-solid deck stains (opaque stain), you need a big boy: read about air and airless DIY sprayers.

  • One-time products. I put Eco-Wood Treatment on my deck a few years ago. I’m lazy and hate to spend money, and I like gray decks. At the time I was told they only offer gray, but now they have 5 colors. I have written a lot about these products, but there is too much to say, so I have put everything in a my post: read Spray Wood Stain. It’s a powder you mix with water and can spray from any garden sprayer. You get a tint bottle with the color versions and can use all of it or not. I really recommend that everyone consider this option carefully. Normally comes in 5 colors, but sometimes they run out of tinted versions.

  • Best deck sealer. A deck sealer offers decent protection from sun (UV) damage. The sun can also cause the natural oils in the wood to become dry and crack. The best deck sealer I know of is the Cabot 3000 Natural, the translucent ‘stain’.
    It has the best UV protection out there. On this same page are all the many Cabot choices.
  • Semi-transparent stain. In my opinion this is the best way to go in a deck stain and sealer (after EcoWood above). There is next to zero prep when re-doing (just a quick pressure wash and let dry), but on the other hand, you do have to do it more often. The look has some color, but not as much as the stains below in this list. I  like three products in this, the main category.

All the Cabot 3 color semi-trans choices are here. It’s the old standard and time-tested. Cabot Stains: since 1877 !!
Also, DEFY’s #1 Semi-transparent is a quality stain for a bit more money. Three colors.
DEFY’s Extreme is the most expensive, but also probably the pick of the litter (7 colors).

These three all have very good prices and are easy to refresh every so many years.

Deck stains below here I hesitate to recommend to any customer as these products all start to involve more maintenance (scraping when the time comes). But I have to admit, they look better!

  • Semi-solid deck stain. This product comes in between transparent and solid deck stains. More protection than a transparent stain, and less than an opaque stain. If you go this route, give a look for Cabot Semi-Solid. There are not many choices out there as most folks go semi-transparent or full solid (and paint).

This Cabot is oil-based and offers fair UV protection.

  • Solid (opaque) deck stain. Opacity is the degree to which you can see the natural grain of the wood. They peel over time and require much labor to keep in good condition. The Cabot wins again. It has great ratings and the brand is of course the gold-standard. Opaque is the only product to use if you want to stain over paint. There is little difference between this deck stain vs deck paint. Read about deck paint. Cabot solid comes in 5 colors.

    Restore products: these are not the droids you are looking for

  • Deck Restore Products. Super thick paint, but most do not last and some make things worse for your wood. Even the great Sherwin-Williams is in hot water here. Some will have “4x” or “10x” on the label: this means it is 4 or 10 times the thickness of paint. This is supposed to fill cracks and “restore”.However, please read about some lawsuits involving Rust-Oleum Deck Restore, and Olympic Rescue It, and Behr DeckOver, and others.

Everyone would like a product that looks great and lasts a long time, but you have to choose between the look you want and the labor you are prepared to do (or pay for).

  • In any case, please never use Thompson’s Water Seal. It is simply paraffin wax dissolved in mineral spirits. Send your money to starving children: this will have the same deck protection as this so-called deck sealer.

Sample many stains

If you cannot take a small piece of wood to your local store, you can ask for free samples (they often have open cans for this if you ask) or you can buy a few small cans. Apply the deck stains in an out of the way areas with different amounts of light (and be sure to look at it at night if you have lighting on your deck).

What deck stains last the longest

  1. More solids in opaque stains last the longest, and less so as stains become more transparent
  2. If you have intense sun or intense snow, get the best quality you can afford: it saves money in the long run
  3. Proper prep is equally important to the quality of the deck stain

Why deck stain jobs go bad

  1. Jobs go bad because of too much stain: do it once–don’t re-coat
  2. Decks are not cleaned well with water pressure
  3. People stain or paint when damp
  4. People fail to allow all new wood to weather for some months
  5. You should not apply even the best deck stain and sealer in direct sunlight

Final tips: How to stain a deck… a summary of our other post

I explain this in How to Stain a Deck, but just to summarize:

The most difficult job I do as a painter is scraping and sanding old paint. This includes ‘solid stains’ which are essentially paint: they crack and peel with age.

For more transparent stains, the only prep for re-treatment is a light washing using our #1 prep tool: a pressure washer. They last for-ever!

We pros save an enormous amount of time by spraying the stain with a low-pressure insecticide sprayer. I take my time and protect non-decking with plastic sheets and tape and paper. This saves a large amount of time: no cleaning overspray in the end: that’s a drag. Read the list of deck tools, and just pick what you need.

Before staining ‘pressure-treated’ wood (the green/brown stuff) read about it in How to Stain a Deck

With any applicator (and a 9-inch roller is also good here), I always have a quality brush handy to push the material; into the grooves and corners. A soft spray lets the wood soak up the stain, and if there are any puddles, you push them around with your brush.


Spray Wood Stain – Zero-Maintenance Deck Stain Treatment

How to Stain a Deck Quickly, the Right Way

How to Paint a Deck With One Big Timesaving Tip

Best Deck Paint (with a Big Word of Caution)

Paint or Stain Deck? (bonus: Deck Restore Products That Don’t Work)

Be sure to have all the painter tools that you need

Good luck. Contact me with any questions in the comments below!

Deck Prep Tools: See more in our Everything Deck Page

Deck Tools: See our list

Video: My Favorite Deck Stain

116 thoughts on “Best Deck Stain and Sealer: It is Easy!”

  1. This is the best deck stain article I’ve found online, thank you so much!

    We are trying to improve our deck and I have a few questions. This deck is located in northern New England and sees a medium amount of sun and a pretty decent amount of rain & snow.

    The floor of the deck is maybe ? 5 years old and was present when we bought the home. We aren’t sure what kind of wood it is, but we think it’s pressure treated but it’s hard to say for sure. We installed a railing about 12 months ago and it’s mostly made of pressure treated wood. The top railing (one end has a built in bar top that people can sit at) is cedar. As far as I know, none of it has ever been stained. The top railing (cedar) had some sort of teak (or similar oil) applied after installation last year.

    Today, I cleaned the deck with an anti-mildew cleaner twice, once with a thick push brush and then again with a stiff hand brush. I was trying to avoid pressure washing because sometimes it can splinter older wood. What are your thoughts on this? It sounds like in your experience pressure washing is mandatory?

    Based on reviews & recommendations, I bought Defy Extreme semi-transparent water based stain. I notice you recommend this stain as well. When I went to get extra supplies, my local paint store guy said the type of stain you use depends on whether you prefer fading (oil based) or scraping & sanding (water based). I definitely don’t want to have to scrape & sand down the deck every couple of years!! I had thought that wouldn’t be an issue with semi-transparent stain, but perhaps I was wrong? Please tell me what you think.

    Finally, I’m dealing with 2-3 types of wood (under foot decking unknown, railings pressure treated, top rail cedar). I noted you said that PT wood doesn’t need to be stained, but I’d like to stain it so that everything is the same color and not gray (I dislike the gray).

    I would be so grateful to hear your recommendations for how you would treat & stain this deck!

    Many thanks–
    Rae 🙂

    • I would never apply anything to a deck without first pressure washing…with a ROTATING NOZZLE. This prevents damage to the wood. I think the paint store guy misspoke or you misunderstood. Oil can require scraping and water base can’s all a matter of how much solid you put on the surface. That’s why I never use ‘opaque stain’ which is really paint. But all that said… If you have pressure treated wood, you only need to coat it for looks and I’d be very carefull. Buy one can and test for a whole year to see if it just flakes off in you harsh New England. Try it on all the areas of different woods.. But I’m guessing it’s all pressure treated and I’d just let it go gray without doing anything. I do like the Eco stain on this page. I used it. Finally, learn to love gray! In any case, don’t create headaches for the rest of the deck’s life and yours.

  2. Hi Brad —
    We replaced our deck 3 years ago and never stained or painted it. I’m finally able to do it now, but I noticed that areas of the floor boards are discolored where the welcome mat was. It looks like the original wood color. And the rest of the deck looks more weathered. Some parts of the deck also look green/brown where maybe there is mold/mildew (but not very noticeable). Powerwashing cleaned some surface dirt, but didn’t fix the welcome mat area or the discolored parts. I’m concerned that either a semi-transparent or semi-solid stain won’t cover these issues. Am I better off just painting the deck with Cabot?

    • That area will catch up with the rest if exposed for a winter/summer. I don’t think the stain/paint you want to use will care much tho. You could do some testing on colors or just give it time to equalize. This is not a major concern. Cabot is very good. I don’t like any solid deck stains unless you want to paint, which is what that is. I like semi-trans as it can just be pressure washed before recoating in future years.

  3. This is my first time treating my porch. I built my home in 2020 and it has a wraparound porch. My home is grey, and I love the grey antique look so the eco wood treatment seems like it will be great for what I need. I have a question though: If I use this do I need to apply a sealer over it to protect the wood from rot?

  4. Great website. Great information. After going down the rabbit hole investigating often conflicting information about water vs oil based, etc. etc. etc., it was great to find your site that appears to be genuinely honest and without a hidden agenda.

    I do have several questions. I’m replacing decking boards with new red cedar. The boards appear to be quite dry, although the lumber supply company could not answer me as to whether they had been kiln dried. Do I need to wait months to stain? Also, it appears that I should be cleaning, applying wood brightener, and sanding to mitigate probable mill glaze. Although other articles suggest that if water does not bead on the new wood surface, then this is not necessary. Would simple sanding with medium grit sand paper suffice? I plan to use oil-based semi-transparent stain/sealer and am considering Cabot and Ready Seal 512. Do you have any experience with the the Ready Seal stain? They have preferable colors vs the Cabot and were highly recommended by several apparently independent reviews of competing stain options. I’ve also read that the boards should be stained/sealed on all six sides prior to installation. But wouldn’t the fasteners introduce incursion points for water penetration after installation? I suppose, I could stain/seal five sides before installation and then stain the actual deck surface after installation. Any advice you can provide on the above choices with which I’m struggling would be greatly appreciated!

    • Thanks. Yes, wait to be sure. Cleaning? I don’t think so. A pressure wash and let dry would be advisable.
      Water beading is a good indicator, but let me tell you the horror of staining or painting treated wood. The HORROR.
      No, not with Ready Seal stain.
      Remember on weathering that decks require regular treatment in general. But treated wood is enough for 20 years. Most people do add more as time goes by as you will get a longer life out of the wood…depends on your location.
      Yes try to stain before installation. Don’t worry about screwholes etc. You have to give in to impermanance! Sounds like you will have a long lasting deck.

  5. Our deck is 9 years old. I’ll admit we didn’t do anything to it for a few years. My husband cleans it with a pressure washer and has tried to stain it a couple of times. I believe with Thompson products (which in reading you do not recommend). Perhaps that is why is no time it doesn’t even look like he did anything to it. He thinks he needs to redo every year. I don’t like the way it looks because it doesn’t even look like anything has been done. What would you suggest us doing? We also have an area around our pool. Do you recommend anything different for decks near pools?

    • I think you are spending too much money if you are doing something every year. Look at semi-transparent stains. Every few years, you just pressure wash then re-apply. It’s somewhat a preservative and it’s also very easy to re-do. Works best in my view.

  6. Hello Brad,

    Thank you for this website and wealth of information. We just bought a house in Cape Cod, Massachusetts (first time home owners!) and are in the process of giving our deck some new life

    The previous owner had the deck put in around 2012 and from the looks of it, I do not think there was any sealant put on in the past 5-7+ years (if ever!). I power washed the deck last week and turned it from a very, very weathered grey look, back to an almost new wood color. Candidly, I do not know what type of wood it is.

    The deck gets a good amount of sun throughout the day. Maybe 60-70% of the day. The deck is definitely showing some wear (some cracks here and there on the boards) but overall still in good shape. Approximately 400 square feet

    Tomorrow I planned on going to buy a sealant but I am not totally sure where I should land. I think I am between a Cabot clear, or Cabot semi translucent gray color as we like the coastal look of that color

    I guess my question is… which one to go with! With the salty cape cod air, do you think a clear coat will return over to a weather grey look soon anyways, or would I be better off going with a Semi translucent grey color to “speed” up the process?

    A little bit of a wild card… with the deck already being 11+ years old, would it make sense to go with a solid or semi solid gray color, and touch up any areas that start to chip over the next 3-5ish years? Considering the deck probably does not have decades ahead of it? Or would an 11 year old deck that is already showing some cracks be more prone to chipping?

    Also, I was thinking a solid or semi solid could cover up some of the weathered deck with the cracks, and any imperfections in my pressure wash job

    Sorry for a million questions! Appreciate your help here!

    • I don’t think the material you choose is as important as finding out if the wood has been pressure treated or not.
      If it’s pressure-treated wood, you must be very very careful.
      I suspect it is because nobody builds a deck in Mass. using normal wood.
      So, with that deduction, I’d say only worry about color. The pressure treatment will preserve the wood for life and you don’t have to do anything for years, if at all. Paint or heavy stains, i.e. solids or semi-trans… on p.t. wood is NOT a good idea.
      My advice, don’t worry about looks. It’s going to age and your initial good looks will be gone as fast as Bette Davis.

      And yes, gray as that will be the color the wood wants to become naturally. Really, don’t do much on this deck. Solid stain is a big mistake, and no, will not fill cracks in the long run. Hope that helps.

      • Ok great! So if it is indeed PT wood, I should just do a Cabot clear sealant?

        And if it is not PT wood, I should go with semi-trans Cabot grey color?

        Thank you so much for the quick response!!

        • If not PT wood, yes anything you like. If you paint, use oil primer…but “I wouldn’t do that if I were you”…. decks peel wood and they are a mess to repaint.
          If PT wood, no, no sealer. Just nothing. Look at EcoWood on this site. It’s once per lifetime and it has some colors you can reapply over the years: super easy. You don’t need it’s protection but why not use if for color?
          Honestly, I’d do the least application possible… for me that would be nothing. I’d buy nice party lights and not look at the wood!

  7. If I use EcoWood and add a packet of their stain for color, will there be a problem in the future about having to remove residuals of the stain in case I need to reapply?

    • Yes, but I would not really call it a problem…you will have a hard time CHANGING color, but if you stay with your original color you will only need to re-apply if you want a fresh color makeover. The chemicals treat the wood and it’s once per lifetime.
      If you do re-treat, yes, give a pressure wash to remove any loose dust, wood chips etc. See this site for a good pressure washer: Joe!


  8. Brad, I love your site and insight. Amazing.question: I have a mountain home with a deck. Temperatures drop to 20 degrees, lots of snow in the winter, with hot blazing sun on the deck in the summer. A neighbor recommended using Cabot’s Australian Tmber Oil to protect the deck but I see almost no reviews for this product. Have you used it and if no, why not? If yes, do you recommend it for harsh climates? Thank you! Jenny

    • Yes, we use it. IT’s one of the trusted brands…but just know that it’s not magic. Decks like that require annual work as does the rest of your wood exposed like that. Sounds like CO where I used to live.
      Just re-apply frequently. Invest in a pressure washer and maybe a sprayer if it’s a big deck..or you can always rent a sprayer too.

      Good luck

  9. Hey Brad, We have a cabin on the Mississippi River and have pretty good sized raised deck and have using Sikkens semi transparent for last 12 years. Seems pretty good for 2 years then the black mold starts taking over as we have a tree for shade so morning sun until 11am. Was reading you articles I am very pleased with you articles, Keep up with the good info! So thinking with the Defy brand in the semi transparent but I noticed they also have an ultra formula with some kind of silicone added? What’s your thoughts as my deck is only 20ft from the water but high above flood plain? Also planning on getting the X5 sprayer and their push brush as I’m getting to old brush it in takes to long lol…God Bless the USA and thank you for all the info!!

    • Hi. I think the only answer is regular upkeep, sorry to say.
      I can’t see it in person but I’d probably buy a strong pressure washer and hit it annually and just hit it with stain if needed.
      Moisture will win, so you have to just keep removing the mold.
      Yes that sprayer is a good one. Just keep it clean when done: run lots of solvent and store with the right fluids. All explained on this site.

      Hope that helps. Good luck.

  10. Dear Brad
    It is easy to see from your verbiage alone that you are a “truth teller”. I am a retired contractor and know it is ALWAYS necessary to consult a professional before beginning any project. (especially a painting/staining one) The Problem: “Will the real professional please stand up”
    For every authentic professional (willing to share truth) there are 1000 posers! Sorry folks, that’s the way it is. I would trust “Brad THE Painter”

  11. I’m in cold weather now and facing a potential 3rd year without being able to treat my deck. What temp limits are there with EcoWood? I’m so frustrated with my deck contractor.

  12. Hi, I’m getting ready to re-stain my deck and trying to decide on brand, color and base. Current stain is an oil based (One-Time Wood brand, supposed to last 7 yrs and didn’t). I’ve read that if the current base is oil-based then I should used oil based again, and not water based/acrylic. I’ve also read conflicting info on oil based vs acrylic in terms of which one lasts longer. I’ve read that oil based lasts longer and also read that acrylic lasts longer. I am leaning toward a solid color stain as the semi-transparent ones I’ve used in past haven’t lasted long and it seems like the solid will last longer. And I’m getting old and am also lazy, so the less frequent I have to do this the better. I’m interested in your take on brand, solid vs semi-solid, and base. Thanks for any help!

    • Like you, I don’t like work. I feel that the semi-transparent requires less prep when it comes time to re-do. just pressure wash and let dry, then re-stain. Solid stain is paint. Paint chips, needs scraping and sanding…ick. But it does protect well.
      I’d advise doing the work more frequently with just a pressure wash and no scraping.
      I do think oil is better. If you remove the old stain, the solids sitting on the surface, you can do whatever you like. Water-based sure is easier.
      Brand? It comes down to money. The more you spend the more solids are in the solution. These solids need to be mined and dissolved in an expenisive mix. Ben moore and any of the big name brands are the safe and only way to go. Best of luck!

  13. I just built a deck using White and Red Oak 3×4 timbers. They were used to haul piping. I assembled them using 5inch screws. It has been sanded and looks like a dance floor. Which product would you recommend for a finish that I see the beauty of the grain (wish I could send a pic) , oil or water base and finally something that will last!

  14. Crazy, Bob Vila says Thompson water proof stain and seal is the best. You say don’t even touch it. Neither of you mentioned a valspar, but a few plp I know swear by it. Also surprised that flood brand wasn’t mentioned

  15. Hi Brad,

    Your website is the absolute best. My husband and I are total amateurs and first time home owners and need to do some work on our decks. We have one small deck that was done in semi transparent stain of some sort, at some point. We have zero details on the product used or timing. It feels dry and brittle. Can we just power wash, let dry, and re-stain? We have a larger deck that has some opaque stain on it. Not totally opaque but close to. It’s worn and chipping in spots. Our plan is to sand and totally remove floor and stain using a semi transparent. Then paint or solid deck stain the rails and bannister in a white. I can fathom scraping and sanding off each bannister etc. and I like the look of a two tone deck w natural floor boards and white rails. Does this all seem ok? Can we just paint over railing or do we need to strip and brighten that? Sorry for the longest comment ever! Appreciate your input!

    • Thanks for the nice words. Yes, you can probably power wash, dry, stain, but of course I can’t see it!
      Opaque is different. Treat it like paint. Scrape, feather sand the edges and prime and paint or just restain. Honestly, I’d remove it all and put on a low maintenance stain.
      It’s all ok, but a lot of work, that’s why I’d get a teenager to remove it all !
      But you’ll be fine with just recoating after proper prep.
      Good luck

      • Thanks so much for the reply! No way we are going to strip all the bannisters. Sounds horrific lol. Def feel capable of sanding off the deck floor. That’s why I wanted to just paint or solid stain the railing and bannisters and semi transparent stain the floor. But you’re saying that We still have to remove everything off railings and bannisters even if we are painting a solid staining those?

  16. Wonderful site Brad! I was about to bite the bullet on Cabot Deck Correct but it still worries me a bit. I just finished stripping the old solid stain off my upstate New York deck. How does the Defy #1 solid stain differ from the Cabot deck correct? I don’t want to ever strip this again. 🙁 or since I’ve stripped everything, would you go with a semi transparent from Defy?

    Side note.. the rails and spindles are not peeling at all and actually in great shape, but we’d like to change the color to black.. would you recommend a solid stain to go over the current solid stain on the spindles/rails?

    • I very much recommend something that you never have to scrape or strip etc. That’s what paint is. Solid stain is the same.
      Semi-transparent does leave some solids, but when the time comes for more treatment, you pressure wash, let dry and re-stain.
      The rails; again, solid stain paint and will need to be removed as it cracks and peels off. Not my choice. I’d leave them alone until they need attention. Scraping spindles? Now that’s pain.
      So that’s my choice of what you offered me, but still, I prefer the Eco-Wood you see on my site. It’s once per lifetime.

  17. How is ECO Wood at prevention of mold/mildew/algae? I just gave a thorough pressure washing to my deck, but there are still some little spots. I had used a deck wash and left it on a good while before I washed. Maybe I need to do it again? It had been neglected for a few years. Sure wish I could find brown ECO Wood Stain.

  18. Hi Brad

    Thanks for the reply and the links to other information and products. We just want to maintain the natural fir appearance as it is – so water based or oil based? And it looks like the Cabot Natural clear product might be good. Some sites recommended the Seal Once Marine product. What do you think? And you are so right about the Trex decks needing more support than wood decks.



    • I never used Seal Once. Sounds good, but Once becomes thrice… Cabot is a very good maker.
      Check Ben Moore’s clear oil. It used to be our go-to product.
      Send me pics before and after and i’ll make you a star!

  19. Hi Brad

    I have learned a lot from reading the questions and your comments but want to ask you about our deck. We live in Denver and just replaced our wood deck with a trex deck which is very pretty. The supporting posts and pergola are pressure treated douglas fir and we just love the color and how it matches the actual trex deck color. We just want to seal the fir to maintain the natural color and protect it. Someone recommended Arborcoat clear penetrating stain or a Marine water based product. What would you recommend for this project? Thanks

    • Yes, that sounds good. Take a sample to your paint store and ask for a color match. Obviously, take both the wood and the Trex etc.
      It will not be perfect, but close.
      I hope I understood. If not reply again.

  20. Hey Brad,
    We have a 12×12 covered back porch. The new pressure treated pine has weathered 10 months. There is some filtered morning sun and occasional blowing rain from one side. We’re thinking about using Rainguard Water Sealers Premium Wood Sealer. Here’s the information from their site. I’m just curious about your thoughts on this produce.

    Wood Sealer Penetrating Water Repellent Protection For Wood
    The best wood sealer for vertical and horizontal wood surfaces.
    Protect, restore, and extend the life of your home with Rainguard Water Sealers Premium Wood Sealer. This sealer is formulated with a water-based silane and siloxane blend to provide superior protection against wind driven rain, mold, mildew, and other moisture damage. The penetrating formula means no film is created and the surface will not become any more or less slippery than it already is.

    Penetrating formula dries invisible
    Prevents growth of mold and mildew
    Allows wood to grey naturally over time
    Stain resistant to oil, gas, and anti-freeze
    Great winterizing agent – Protects wood from freeze / thaw damage

    Thank you,

    • Hi. It sounds as good as any of the products around these days. I like the EcoWood stain because it’s once per lifetime. In the questions on Amazon, the Rain Guard dealer wrote: You can apply every year if you like, but you shouldn’t need to do so. When properly applied, Wood Sealer should give you uptimes to 5 yrs of protection.

      So, never? Hmm. But yes, it seems good.
      Use a backpack sprayer to apply. I wrote about good ones here.
      It seems you do not need a high-priced sprayer if the Rain Guiard is very thin and clear.
      Otherwise, you need a good one. I have a budget one that keeps on going.
      Good luck, let me know how it goes? If you take before and after pics, I’ll make you famous!!


  21. Hi Brad,
    Have you ever used Armstrong Clark stains? If so pros/cons? I have a cedar deck that we are stripping (prior owners used a solid stain), sanding, cleaning, brightening, than staining. Can’t decide on a stain product.

    • You are doing it right. On that stain, no I have never used it. Looking at the web page, it seems ok.
      I still like ECO stain as it’s once per lifetime, unless you want to refresh the color later. I hate work!!

      Good luck,

  22. Hey Brad,
    Thanks for all your hard work on the website. Its great.
    My question is this. I have an existing deck that I have added on to. The original deck appears to have been painted with a solid stain that is mostly gone now. I sanded the old wood next to the new wood. Still a very noticeable different in tone and color.
    If I were to paint it with a semi transparent stain do you think I would still be able to see the difference between the old wood and the new?
    The second question is if I used the eco product would you still see the difference once it did its thing over time?
    Thanks again. Scott

    • Hi and thanks for the nice words.
      In a word of reply: yes, you will see the difference for years to come…in my experience. maybe 5 years, maybe more or less, depending on your climate.
      The eco wood has the benefit that you can add more pigment to darken it. So test in spots, add more if you like. Or test 2 spots, on each wood.
      The eco wood is 1 time protection but the color does fade, esp in the sun. If you read a few of my deck posts you know, I hate scraping, so I always go with whatever stain never needs maintenence!
      Good luck,

  23. Hi, we live near Detroit and last August my husband used Thompson’s WaterSeal Total all in one toner- Pacific Redwood on our deck and latice that recieve all day sun. Today it is peeling and coming up ton some of the horizontal surfaces. In addition, our local stores do not carry this color anymore (I thought it was too red to begin with). Can you please advise the next best course of action. We don’t want to have annual staining maintenance and ready to choose the best color to apply over the current. Thank you so much!

    • Well, I’d pressure wash very well with a rotating tip and try to remove all the color. You may not be able to.
      My advice is to buy a pressure washer, and every 5 years use semi-transparent stain from a good maker.
      Many people never treat a deck and it still lasts a long time.
      I think that if you can wash and maybe use some ‘deck brightener’ to really remove all the oils from that crappy thompsons, the new stain will cover evenly.
      Always test in spots!
      Good luck,

  24. Thanks for the fast reply! One more question that I know my wife will ask. If we wait a year and then apply the Eco non color product, the Silvery Patina, it will on application color the treated wood deck to have a weathered gray look? Or does it just allow the treated wood to weather gray naturally from sunlight? Thanks…

    • The look of my old ‘green’ deck before and after did not show much difference. But you will probably see some graying right away. The sun will still fade it over the years: the EcoWood does not promise anything about that. It just promises no rot, naturally.

  25. I’m so confused. We just had a new deck built out of pressure treated pine, the slightly green tint stuff. We are in northern Ohio so we get all kinds of weather, from 100 degrees and sun, to driving snow and subzero. The new deck was built in late December so we are waiting for the weather to get better to give it some kind of treatment. Both the wife and I like how it looks as is, right now, and would like to preserve that as best as possible. We also like the idea of low maintenance since we are both over 60. I’ve leaned towards a clear sealant and see many are available now with metallic particles that give it UV protection. It seems to me that if you use even a very light transparent stain, you’re looking at more frequent re-treatments. The Eco-Wood that you promote may be my best option, but after all the “study” I’ve done, my heads ready to explode! Thanks in advance for your thoughts…

    • Yes, you are right: any stain, even clear sealer will need upkeep. That is why I did my deck with the once in a lifetime. Mine is also green pressure treated and over the 20years of life, it turned a nice weathered gray. Like you I wanted to invest a little to protect it.
      Now, the pressure-treated wood could go for many years and be fine with no extra treatment: you paid for that at the lumber yard. But why not? For about eighty bucks I was able to spray the 3 decks (one big) and a little Hut with cedar siding. Peace of mind, and no up keep.
      This Eco product is a natural mineral that prevents wood from rotting.
      For your new deck, wait another year. Just let it evaporate all the green and soak in all it can. Next spring, it will absorb the same amount of EcoWOod that it will absorb in 10 years. Let it bake in that Ohio sun. I know it gets cold there: Eric Clapton wrote about his first winter there with his new wife…in his gated community! Much colder than England, eh Eric?
      Good luck!

  26. Hello
    We currently have a older painted deck, railings.

    Thinking of using #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent stain and sealer as you recommend.

    Do we need to purchase the products Step 1 and Step 2? Or remove paint, power wash etc.

    Thank you, Stephanie

    • Yes the products they call steps 1 and 2 are useful, one if you need to remove old stain. I disagree with them that step 2 is essential, but it will make the wood more open to accepting your stain. You can see the difference. I personally just pressure wash, then wait for it to dry, then start staining. So yes, if you don’t mind the expense, use them. Good luck,

  27. Hi Brad,
    We have an older painted deck and railings. We are planning on stripping, power washing, sanding etc to put #1 Deck stain defy on the deck portion.

    1. My question is would it look good to just fresh paint the railings? Not stain them. I think removing the paint would be very time consuming before we could stain.

    We are going with either the cedar (worried if it looks a bit orange in color) or the Dark Walnut Stain.

    2. What would you recommend on type of paint to use for railings and…

    3. color choices knowning we will do either the cedar or dark walnut on the deck.

    We have a neutral brown house with white trim.

    I sincerely appreciate your time on these questions.


    • Hi. That’s a good plan and yes time-consuming, very much so. But if you take the paint off that would be it for life. With semi-transparent stain, you’ll only need to pressure wash in the future…just before applying a new stain. Much easier.
      If you choose paint, use Ben Moore’s Block Out but first use a great primer: Prime Lock also by BM.

      Colors of the deck need to complement the house: cannot really tell you more, but try to match house.
      Good luck

  28. Is there anything that will remove black mold from PT wood? Used 30 Seconds Outdoor Cleaner, as it seemed to be the #1 rated solution for mold removal, among other things. Did a relatively good job lightening it, but didn’t actually remove any of it.

    Is that expected for a mold removal solution, that it lightens/removes some of it, but not all? Did it twice over 3 days trying to actually remove all of it, but it didn’t.

    Anything else I can do?

    Thank you for your help!

    • Hi again. Well there is the mold and then there is the stain left by mold. If you used a cleaner, not bleach, that is guaranteed to kill all mold, you just have to remove the corpses. It may take sanding. But first try a pressure washer, a tool all homes really should have..washes the car too. If water pressure fails, sand and scrape, then replace protection with your choice of stain/preservative. I like the EcoWood…a powder and I just mix a little at at time when I add a shelf to my outdoor spots etc.
      BTW bleach does not kill all mold I just found out. It makes the spores that survive very strongly multiply. I like this and this

  29. So NOW I find a couple sites that don’t have such good reviews of the TWP-1500 we wanted to use, although one guy says he’s used it for 12 yrs and it help up at one time for 5 yrs, so although that’s a great testament, it’s only one. What to believe?

    Checked out your Defy link to Amazon. Problem with those reviews are first, all Qs on Amazon are answered by a customer/user, not a company rep, so they can’t answer a number of Qs they haven’t experienced – like effects in certain weather conditions (high humidity, snow, heat) and problems applying (not drying, being sticky) or removing (have to sand? can power wash?)

    The other most important thing about those reviews is NO ONE talks about longevity. Every review is about application (easy!) and color (great color!). What everyone wants to know the most – how does it hold up in their weather conditions? – is not reviewed.

    So what makes it #1? Ease of application and nice color isn’t’ really a factor. Couldn’t find any
    site where they review that.

    Back to square one.

  30. So NOW I find a couple sites that don’t have such good reviews of the TWP-1500 we wanted to use, although one guy says he’s used it for 12 yrs and it help up at one time for 5 yrs, so although that’s a great testament, it’s only one. What to believe?

    Checked out your Defy link to Amazon. Problem with those reviews are first, all Qs on Amazon are answered by a customer/user, not a company rep, so they can’t answer a number of Qs they haven’t experienced – like effects in certain weather conditions (high humidity, snow, heat) and problems applying (not drying, being sticky) or removing (have to sand? can power wash?)

    The other most important thing about those reviews is NO ONE talks about longevity. Every review is about application (easy!) and color (great color!). What everyone wants to know the most – how does it hold up in their weather conditions? – is not reviewed.

    So what makes it #1? Ease of application and nice color isn’t’ really a factor. Couldn’t find any
    site where they review that.

    Back to square one.

    • Yes, I feel your pain as someone once said.
      I have found that in Colorado a deck treatment was good for 5 years only, but that is a very harsh summer sun, and very dry.
      So I used to tell people to get something that you can re-apply with no prep, or just a quick pressure washer. I think that’s the bes if you don’t want the lifetime treatment.

      By the way, if you have green or brown ‘pressure treated’ wood, you really don’t need anything. I wrote about the green wood that was buried under one of my deck posts…used as a shim. This place is very wet and cold, not like CO. The ship was in great shape after being underground for 20 years. Cool

      • Hi Brad – we have what I would call the brown color of PT wood – only because none of it is green. After power washing it, some parts are a very light color, like a very pale gray. Other parts are a darker brown. The pillars/posts are a more golden color (different wood used. PT pine but not deck boards) and the pergola tops are pretty much uniform but do vary in color. Wish there was a way to get a picture on here so you could see what I mean.

        As for you saying I really don’t need anything on it because it’s pressure treated – I asked that very Q of stores and deck builders – if it’s PTd why do we even need to use something? Shouldn’t those chemicals prevent everything but graying? Their replies were that using a stain prevents cracking/warping/cupping/drying out. Don’t know how a STAIN would prevent all that. A SEALER, yes, but just putting a COLOR on wouldn’t prevent all that from happening, right? Can’t seem to get a logical answer from anyone about that.

        Anyway, we’re down to the wire now. Will use one of the Defy Extreme products and hope for the best. Waiting for a reply on Deck Stain Pro site to the Q of the difference between the Extreme and the Extreme 40 semi-transparent clear coat to see which one we’re gonna use.

  31. Thanks for your reply, Brad. I know I’ve read about Defy, but can’t remember whether it was good or bad. I HAVE read about and this stuff called TWP-1500 which I can use in my state of NY. The reviews are all good from what I remember. (Hard to remember good from bad after reading about SO many) AND it’s carried by Walmart, though not in the stores. Online only.
    Apparently there’s a number of numbers – TWP-1500; TWP-100; TWP-300, etc. – which I guess because of the chemicals in each one(?) can’t be used in certain areas. I think the 100 can’t be used in Canada nor NY.

    Although I was ready to order the TWP – because I’m tired or reading about them all and husband says “just pick one! We’ll see how it does and deal with it in a year or two” – I’ll go back and check out Defy. Just to confuse me more 🙂

    As for that Eco stuff you used, I understand your reason for paying like $5k (reasoning having to pay $500 every year to do the deck for 10 years = $5k) we really don’t want to shell out that kind of money for something that we haven’t read any reviews of it having been on a PT wood deck for 5 or more years. Lifetime guarantees always have caveats it seems. Maybe we’ll do it after reading YOUR review of it after 5+ years, but right now at about $60/gal for 3-4 gals of whatever we would buy now is only about $240 max and we’d see how it held up. Anyway, that’s our theory.

    Thanks again. Will keep checking here to see what’s going on…………

  32. Hi Brad – First, can you tell me, since I can’t find any explanation, why a water based deck product is harder to apply and remove than an oil based one? I’ve read where the water based stains, whether clear or semi-transparent or solid, show overlap marks, need to be sanded off, peels and have more problems with mildew, etc. Whereas the oil based, from what we seem to be reading, can be power washed off, soaks into the wood better, and doesn’t seem to have the issues water based ones do. It would seem that the oil would have to be sanded off and the water one could be power washed, but not what we’re reading. Can you give your opinion on that?

    Also, we were ready to go with Ben Moore Arborcoat until reading some more about it. Another site says Benjamin Moore Arborcoat isn’t good, that BM knows there’s issues with it but continues to sell it. Even Consumer Reports gives it a one star out of 5. Other sites have the same review. Seems no matter WHAT kind of deck cover is contemplated, there’s always some review that says it’s bad. What’s a person to do????

    • Hi again. It’s hard to say why the water-based stain builds up on the overlap, but it may be that it starts to dry faster than oil, and builds up a layer. Oil would still be wet and tend to flatten out, even out. Just my guess.
      Never work in heat or direct sunlight: this causes any product to dry too fast and gunk up.

      I’ll call my Ben Moore rep: thanks for bringing this up.

      Lately, I’ve been changing my recommendations to the DEFY deck stain called “#1”. Good reviews.
      Solid stain
      Semi-transparent stain

      Here is my real recommendation to you though: If you have all the old stain removed, consider a once in a lifetime stain on this post

      I used it because I hate decks! The safe chemistry in this stain that you mix from a powder prevents rot int he wood permanently.
      It has colors that may fade and you might re-apply to refresh the color, but you never need to do that.
      Eco Wood won me over in many Q and A with the company.
      It solves so many problems.

  33. We have a house in Catskills NY and the deck starts to peel every year. We cannot put gutters on the house because of snow. It starts peeling where the overhang from the house drips on the deck. Any where the rain drives hard on the deck it starts to peel. I think we have been told to use the wrong product. What do you recommend so we do not have to stain it every year?

    • Hi. Any deck taking that kind of punishment; it’s going to be hard. If you have applied a solid deck stain, which is basically exterior paint, you just keep re-applying or strip it all and use a stain that does not peel. If you used a semi-transparent, which still ‘peels’ but not as much because it has far less solids in the stain, it’s the same thing…but you can pressure wash most of it off, sand the rest and apply a lifetime protectant from rot. The color would take a back seat boy howdy don’t you make me stop this car!
      But really, the Eco Wood on this page, if you can strip down past any sealant/stain you have already, is the way to go: no more maintenance. but again, the color thing…

  34. Having a “discussion” with husband about “sealing” our pressure treated deck. Re: your comment: Also, finally, pressure treated wood is good alone for many years. He thinks it needs to be “sealed” (clear coat). Since we can’t stop the graying anyway (using a clear coat) I say since the wood has preservatives in it, we don’t need to do anything else to it. It’s not like the clear coat would do anything different, like prevent splinters, it’s used to prevent water absorption, which is what the preservatives do, so sealing it is redundant.

    Could you please state your opinion as to whether a pressure treated wood deck needs to have anything done to it, so we can stop “discussing” this issue? Thanks very much.

  35. Hi Brad – I have a Q I haven’t seen asked anywhere: What is the purpose of “sealing” a wood deck? In the case of of pressure treated pine wood (or I guess cedar or any other kind of “treated” wood, natural or not) the wood has preservatives embedded in it, supposedly to prevent rot/decay/bugs/water absorption, etc. So why put a sealer on it?

    I understand if someone wants to paint it, which would protect the sun from getting to it, but a transparent (clear coat) or semi-transparent stain wouldn’t do that, so what’s the purpose of doing it at all? Especially since none of it would prevent the wood from graying. Isn’t the purpose of the preservatives to protect the wood? What’s the benefit of a clear coat or semi-transparent coat, other than having color in the semi-transparent situation?

    Thanks very much for your help and insight.

  36. Hi Brad,

    Thanks for all the info! We recently used the EcoWood treatment on our newly installed deck. It was installed last year and we let the treated wood cure, then did the treatment a couple of months ago. I’m concerned that there is no beading at all on the surface and water seems to be soaking into the wood. Since we just spent a ton replacing the deck, and plan to sell the house in a year or two, I’d hate to have to replace it again before we move. Does the EcoWood treatment really protect the wood? It just doesn’t look like it. Is there any way to really tell if its working? Thanks for your help.

    • Hi. That sounds perfectly normal. This is not the kind of oily sealer that beads water. I think you are just fine where you are. I know it does not look like much, it just stains it to a weathered look unless you use the tints they offer (I did not). I’ll forward your question to the rep I have worked with in understanding this product and if he has any sort of different opinion than what I just wrote, I’ll email you.
      Best wishes on your sale.

      • Thanks Brad,

        Sounds good. I would love to know how that product really works. What is it that “preserves” the wood? I know they say its a mineral/chemical process, but that is so vague. Just curious. How long have you had it on your deck without re-applying? We used the “silvery patina” with a pump sprayer. It went on easy enough. I have a couple of other locations where I’m thinking of using it. Just want to be sure it’s going to work. Thanks again for your help.

  37. Hi Brad! need your expertise here.
    Let’s say I’m a brand new baby, and have no clue how to do any of this. 🙂
    I have a cabin in Utah at 10,020 ft. We purchased this last Oct of 2018. The previous owner passed away in June of 2016, so I’m not certain when the last time the wood was treated.
    We were unable to get to the cabin because of the record snowfall right close to 30 feet.
    No bull, it was over the roof, single storey “A” frame, onlt the smoke stack was poking out.
    Once the melt off occurred in June 2019, we were able to finally visit.
    We have a small deck with wood seating in the front (about 7 by 12′)
    The back has a deck approx 30 x 20′ and numerous hand built chars around the fire pit.
    Both decks have railing.
    I Have have a good pressure washer, good wood, (just starting too peel), no big cracks, but want to avoid the enevitable of rebuilding.
    I have a newer belt sander, and a smaller ‘mouse-type’ sander for tight spots.
    grits are 50 to 120.
    Could I just wash and sand mostly the faces of wood? Or does that compromise the sides?
    I prefer less work of resanding seal and staining, I do not mind the gray if a once seal.
    I read the one coat permanant article, I like it thank you!
    I’m not certain of the wood, but I think it was all purchased at Home D 2×6 in the lumber isle.
    aside from the prep, your opinoin on sealant is most appreciated, coloring does not matter.
    Great info on your site!
    I would like to send before and afters to you.
    Please advise my friend!

    • Without seeing it in person, I’d say it’s fine to sand, wash (in that order) and re-coat or treat for the first time. Just sanding one side is not a problem. You did not mention how the wood was treated before, or if it was. If it has no sealer, look into the Eco Wood stain that I used on my deck…search this site for ‘zero’… as in zero maintenance. Even at that altitude, you’ll never do it again…until you replace the wood. Nothing will stop old wood from dying.

  38. Dear Brad—thank you for this info. You’ve convinced me: I want to treat my new red cedar deck just as you did your deck. I’m happy to embrace silver, and my deck is already well on its way. It was built late last summer and weathered the Metro Detroit winter without treatment. Now the cedar is gray, I suppose with decay, and has some green surface spots looking like algae more than mold. In this case, should I use a chemical deck wash (I’ve used Sherwin Williams) before applying Eco Wood Preservative?

  39. dear sir, i just replaced the floor in my utility trailer [ 8×10 ] wiith pressure treated lumber—also added some side boards and a tail gate but they are just normal pine boards—it has been about a month and i am almost finished with it [i am 65 and i got sick in the middle ]—my quetion is i do not want to do this again—what do you think i should use to protect the wood—it sets outside when not in use—thank you for your time and have a great day

    • Hi. The non-pressure treated wood will be fine. I have some under the earth for 20 years, and it’s fine and it’s a wet area.
      The sides etc, advice is what I used on my deck: once in a lifetime natural stain.

      Read this

      Write again if you have questions but it’s all in that post.

  40. Thanks for the reply. One more Q (hopefully): If we choose a stain – a light color, not dark – will that prevent the wood from graying? Or will the wood still start graying even with a stain on it so that we’d still have to power wash and restain every one to however many years? So even with a stain of any color on it, the wood will always go to gray unless maintained. In essence, it doesn’t matter what we do to it – stain, not stain, just use a clear coat – maintenance is key. Our deck isn’t just a deck, it has pillars and pergola tops, so maintenance would be an issue – the less the better. BTW, is there a way to attach pictures here? How would I do that? Thanks again for your help. Really appreciated.

  41. Hi – we have a one year old pressure treated wood deck – built Sept pf 2018. Now that it’s weathered we’d like to just clear coat it because we like the look/color of the wood when it’s wet – and a clear coat basically gives that look (we tried a couple on pieces of unused deck wood that was left). Q is: Is there any clear coat product that will prevent the wood from turning gray? That’s what we’d like to prevent. Don’t want to paint or stain, just clear coat. If there isn’t a product like that, is there one you would recommend that we can just pressure wash and redo, that will last a few years? A friend has a friend who says he just pressure washes and clear coats every 2-3 years and his deck doesn’t turn gray, but they don’t know what product he uses. It’s all so confusing looking at all the options out there. Don’t want to do anything to the wood that would be bad for it, but how does one know without trying something and then finding out later it’s the wrong thing to use? Any help would be appreciated.

    • BTW, in trying 6 different stains and clear coats, we really liked Thompson’s because it’s the only one that beaded up in a rainstorm – the others didn’t – but in reading your comments about it not lasting even a year in instances, now we don’t know WHAT to use!

    • I replied to your 2nd comment first… Just as a PS, there is no product in the universe that will keep it looking new forever. Just not possible. Impermanence rules us! You friend has a good idea. My suggestion is to let go of trying to keep it from turning gray. Embrace gray! Or go color. Above all, avoid re-doing very often. Unless you enjoy this kind of work… Also, finally, pressure treated wood is good alone for many years.

  42. Hi Brad,

    I am trying to avoid toxic finishes and found this candidate: Cedar-Seal VOC-Free Non-Toxic Clear Satin made by AgriLife. It’s supposed to be as effective as conventional options but completely safe with zero harmful ingredients.

    What do you think?

    • Is this for a deck outside? If so, that would certainly be ok..from a quick read of the label I see exterior and interior… but I’d wonder. Before you pull that trigger, have a read about Zero Maintenance stain: once per lifetime except that for color, you may need to re-apply.
      If unsure, buy a 1 gallon mix and test some spots.

      • Thanks, Brad. Yes, it is for an outdoor application. I looked at Zero Maintenance stain and it seems to check most of the boxes. From what I can tell, the Silver version basically produces instant weathering, so you immediately get the same look as if you had used a sealer with no stain and let nature take its course.

        BTW, thank you for sharing your expertise with us engaged amateurs. I know how much work goes into creating and maintaining a website and providing thoughtful responses to comments so quickly. Your effort is much appreciated!

  43. Hi, Brad…I just shelled out $2500 for a contractor to pressure wash and stain (one coat) my fence and deck with Sherwin Williams SuperDeck oil-based transparent tinted Canyon Brown).
    – There is no beading on either the deck or fence. Will I have to apply a waterproofing product?
    – He also informed me that the fence (pressure treated installed two years ago) soaked up so much stain that he’s out $500 for additional product.
    – The stain was applied in full sun at about 94 degrees. Is this going to affect the performance?
    – When and what should I apply for good maintenance?

    • Hi. Oh, boy, sounds like trouble. I really cannot comment as I cannot see the problem in person, but the fact that the wood soaks up the product is normal: of course it will. But because it is not beading up water, like you see in Thompson’s commercials (by the way Thompsons lasts about 1 year…I always talk people out of it), it does not mean your product is not protecting your wood. Don’t know about the heat: could complicate things. Email SW for that question, but the answer may be that you warranty if voided. Cannot comment on that painter’s demand for more money: if he gave you a price for labor only and you have to buy the stain/paint etc, yes, you owe that , but if he gave you one price for all, it’s his problem… this is my guess without knowing the details. On the last question: yes, products like this need reapplication every so often to protect the wood. That’s why I went with the once-in-a-lifetime stain.
      It may be too late for you to use it, but email the company if you want to ask: they are great. Good luck.

    • Hi. If you are asking about a labor price, I’m not taking any deck work anymore. If you just want to figure the quality of stain you need, figure 400 sq ft per gallon unless you are spraying in which case more like 300 is right. It really depends. The best stain calculator is here, but you don’t have to use their stain. Good luck!

  44. Hi Brad,

    Just wanted to confirm that the EcoWood product will provide lasting protection to my deck in the same way that a more conventional stain and sealer should do- but better, more durable and longer lasting.

    The other product I was thinking of was Sikkens SRD. What do you think of that?

    Really appreciate your advice.
    Have a good day,

    • Yes that Sikkens is known for log homes etc. The Eco Wood people explained to me that it is some permanent chemical reaction and it only needs one application. The color may fade, but the protection, they say, is permanent. I opted for no color which turned my deck a gray weathered look… which we like.
      To me it’s a no brainer as I really dislike doing decks! and it’s easy to apply… a good garden sprayer is best..there is one on our site if you search it.
      Good luck!

  45. Good morning!! I was reading your tips and I think I will go with staining my deck, instead of painting over it. Recently bought a house with an outdoor deck. It has been painted over, with what seems , cheap paint. We’ve been here a year, and it began coming off about 4 months ago. Any suggestions? Thank you

    • Hi. Link at bottom has it all: Depending on the size and how much time and energy you have, go electric, like Bob Dylan. Only like Dylan you will get booed by your neighbors, not the folkie nuts. But seriously, first get a good pressure washer and you will take off 95% of the old paint with that I would guess. It does for us. Warning: chips fly for dozens of yards so lots and lots of drop cloths to keep it out of your grass etc. Then, pick up an angle grinder and the paint removal disc. It’s not as loud as a circular saw. You may need adapter nuts kit, depending on what you buy/have. Don’t get high speed as it melts paint and gums up your discs. Also, a scraper and good metal file. I just recorded a video showing how to sharpen: do that every 5 minutes or so of scraping to save your arms. In the link below, look under “Peeling deck”. Then, when removed all you can, wash again, let dry, then the easy fun part is staining. This post has all the above mentioned. Send before and after pics if you think your experience will be helpful to others: it helps to have a team behind you. I’m in. Good luck!

  46. Hi Brad, I live in Manitoba Canada- long, cold winters with lots of snow and very hot summers. We have 3000 square feet of pressure treated (green) deck- it was been stained with Olympic Toner every year for last 6 years. I would like to change things up and go with Semi Translucent Stain. I am open to Sherman Williams Deckscape and Olympic Maximum. My question, do you suggest I clean the deck with cleaner, then strip the toner and then put new semi translucent stain down? I have gotten so much different advice on what to do- it is making my head spin. Well obviously, I do not feel like spraying cleaner, waiting a day for it to dry, then stripping entire deck, then waiting again for 48 hours and then putting new stain down. The only reason I don’t feel like doing another round of toner is I would like to get a couple years break from doing this.

    • Hi. I’m afraid that changing products is not the best idea. You can do it, but then, I would not go back to Olympic Toner afterwards. I’m surprised that you treat it ever year. Seems more than necessary, but I”m sure your deck is in good shape. The pressure treated deck alone is good: I had a piece of green wood under a deck post as a ‘shim’. After 20 years (wet northeast) it was still FINE! So, go ahead and switch. Yes you should have a pressure washer (the Sun Joe on this page is tops and not that expensive). Do wash, let dry, then apply your new product. I don’t see a need for stripping Olympic Toner. It will come out with pressure and what does not come out is ok. You may not get a nice stained look like it was new wood, but that’s to be expected. Again, 5 years between treatments even where you live should be fine. Just a big tip: please read the post on Zero-Upkeep treatments. I put it on my deck and I’m very happy. Never need to do it again, or not for many years, and it’s not toxic or expensive: all natural. I think your deck will qualify if you clean it very well. Good luck!

  47. Brad, thanks for all the helpful info. I am considering using the ECO Wood Treatment that you used on your deck. My deck is rough cut pine, about 11 years old. I’ve tried various sealers (Cabot, Wolman, etc.) and find they don’t last. My main issue is mold that turns parts of the surface green over the winter (upstate NY). I can clean that up with “Stain Solver” bleach and scrubbing. But I would like a treatment that prevents it. Will ECO Wood Treatment do that?

    • Hi. I was in upstate NY for a few years: never saw so much snow. Daily. But then the awesome spring…ah. Well, I conferred with the ECO rep. He replied right away. He agreed that the prodcut will stop the “green” mold, but we both are concerned that you have already put a sealant of some kind deep into the wood, so we cannot predict the outcome. The key point is to pressure wash it very well to remove all you can, as deep as you can. Before it dries, perhaps use a light bleach solution with a garden sprayer… you must wear a respirator as bleach is deadly, something many people don’t know.

      For these tools:the pressure washer is here

      The respirator is here

      and the garden sprayer is here (towards the bottom) if you don’t want to use a small pump bottle for the bleach.

      Needless to say, let the wood become BONE dry before the ECO is sprayed (use same garden sprayer, but run water thru the tip when done… will stay like new.

      Having said that, I also cannot see how the ECO will hurt it. It’s a natural compound and if you try and it still grows mold, you can go over it the following year with the traditional stains etc.
      Good luck… please remind me of all this next year if it works …or not. Hope it does!!

  48. Question: I plan to use a dark gray Semi Solid Arborcoat for my deck floor and top rails. For my vertical surfaces, I want to go with a white Arborcoat… should I also use a Semi-Solid ?

    • Hi. Thanks for sending your photo by email. I see that you already have a semi- or opaque solid stain on the deck, so yes, you have to stay with that. You need coverage. A semi-transparent in gray or white will likely not cover the brown you now have. You could buy a tester can and see, but once you go dark you never go back…pardon my stupid humor. Be aware that opaque or `full solid`stain is just like paint and you will be scraping the cracks in some years… no way around it. Good luck!

  49. Brad,
    Lots of good info. thnx
    I have a TK cedar deck in north central WA where temps get to 100 in summer and 15 in winter with 8-10″ of snow for a couple months.
    I currently have SW superdeck semi-trans that was light tan at application. It’s now pretty dark gray from the UV. It was machine, pre-stained before install 3 years ago and after a year, it peeled on most knots.
    I’m now ready to restain, but am going to change color to a driftwood. Do you think the Superdeck is the best way to go? The painter is suggesting sanding the wood, but I would think that would seal the grain and allow the oil to penetrate? Thoughts?
    thnx, bob

    • Hi. Three years is certainly short for a deck, but it does sound lilke the elements there are intense. You are right that the UV takes a big toll. Whatever you end up doing, make sure that it’s high quality: the up front costs are a savings in the end…you should get 5 years at least.
      I used a ‘once in a lifetime’ product that is designed for un-treated wood, or aged pressure treated wood that was never stained. I’m wondering if you might like that… you would then need to sand down the surface you can reach and apply…but then it’s really nothing more for many years. The makers say ‘lifetime’ but that you may want to recoat periodically. I will do mine again someday, but it’s just a garden sprayer and some masking paper/tape. If it’s an option, just search this site for “zero” and you will find the zero maintenaince product. But anyway, I digress with this. It’s just my favorite as I hate doing decks!

      Ask other painters what they think…old guys, at least in the biz for 20-30 years. And also, paint store managers deal with many decks so give them a call…surprisingly helpful.
      The Superdeck is certainly a quality product, so yes it’s an option. Remember the more opaque you get…it’s more like paint and will peel. I always preferred transparent or semi-transparent as you have almost no prep when time to re-do. (You always have to pressure wash and let dry–a must).
      I hope this helps. Get more opinions! Let us know.


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