5 Types of Deck Stain Explained

Water beading up on a deck

Deck stain can help protect your deck against the adverse effects of moisture, fungus, and ultraviolet light. At present there are hundreds of deck stain brands available on the market, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. All of these, however, can be included into one of the three major types of stain: clear, semi-transparent, and solid stains. Read on for a separate look at each type and its most distinguishing characteristics.

Clear Stains

A coating of clear stain, which is also known as deck water sealer, allows the grain to show through. This is due to the fact that clear stain brands contain no pigments or oils. They do, however, have wood preservatives and water repellent to protect the wood from moisture. As a rule, these stains are not very durable and need to be reapplied at least once per year. Moreover, they will not prevent ultraviolet rays from penetrating and damaging your wooden deck.

There is a small fraction of clear stain brands which incorporates features of the other two types. Similar to them, they contain oils and permeate the wood, need to be repainted less often, and offer better deck protection.

Semi-Transparent Stains

brushing stain onto a deck

Although a semi-transparent or opaque stain will impart some color tinting to the deck, it will also keep the grain patterns visible. As semi-transparent stains soak into the wood, they last longer than most clear brands and provide stronger protection. Also, due to their ingredients, they are much less likely to peel off the deck surface. With time, however, they will lose some of their color and will have to be reapplied.

Solid Stains

Solid stains do not seep into the deck wood. Rather they sit on top of the deck surface and cover the grain like paint. They are good for hiding discoloration and can provide a uniform appearance. These stains, however, are prone to chipping, cracking, and peeling.

Having discussed the three main types of deck stain, let’s consider some of the best brands you can purchase nowadays.

One Time Wood

An acrylic resin product with a pine scent, One Time Wood is the best stain to use if you have a bare deck, i.e. one that has not been stained before. This stain comes in chestnut, natural, red cedar, clove brown, and golden honey colors and serves as a good protection against fungus. Its manufacturers are so proud of its durability that they offer it with a 7-year warranty, warning though that it must be reapplied every five years.

Unfortunately, the price of One Time Wood is proportional to its qualities and that’s why it is much more expensive than the other stains with a price range of $65 to $85 per gallon.

Cabot's Stains

paint brush on open can of deck stain

If you are strapped for money, you can opt for Cabot’s stains, which you can purchase at a price between $12 and $35. Cabot’s products range from translucent, semi-transparent, and clear stains for wood grain visibility to solid and semi-solid stains for greater longevity. In general, all these stains must be reapplied every other year.

Unlike the One Time Wood stains, Cabot’s products do not require cure time, which is particularly handy if you intend to use them within an establishment, such as a bar or restaurant, that cannot close its deck for a long period of time or does not have much exposure to sunlight.