Hot Topics: What's the Best Product for Staining a Deck?

Lead Image

Here on we enjoy providing a place where home improvement novices and experts can come together to share ideas and advice. Inside our Forums, users can browse threads to see what exchanges are taking place on a topic of interest or start their own dialogue by posting something for the community to take part in. With over 250,000 members and counting, this resource is quite active so each week we highlight one of the conversations that may just help you with that next DIY project.

There are many options for finishing a wood deck, but depending on your geographical location and the condition of the lumber, one size doesn't fit all.

Original Post: Oil vs. Water vs. Waterborne for Staining a Deck

Charlie2 Member

I am thinking about staining my desk. In the past I've always used water-based because it's so much easier to sand off the stain and put in a new coat. However, that's pretty much the limit of my knowledge about the different types of stains. I want to be able to re-stain the deck without first having to remove the old stains. I also want to be able to see the nice wood grains through the stains. So, which is better fit for my needs?

stickshift Group Moderator

I never remove the old stain, just clean and apply the new.

As long as the wood is in good shape, a semi-transparent stain will show a lot of grain. With older wood, I opt for a solid body stain since you want to start hiding the wood a little more.

Up here, I think oil-based is the best choice while latex stands up a bit better to the harsh sun in the south.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

In Florida and I assume other states with intense sunlight, oil-based fades out quickly and begins to deteriorate = short life. Here in east Tennessee, all three types of stains seem to fair about the same.

Waterborne stains need to either be removed or well-weathered before you can recoat. Both oil-based and latex stains can be recoated at any time provided the deck is dry and the temps are decent. I generally just clean a deck before I restain it.


Thanks for the responses. I live in the Midwest. So, if I go with oil-based, I would definitely need a couple of days of sun to dry them, but I wouldn't have to strip/sand the paint out when applying a different set of new coatings, correct?


Correct, as long as the deck is clean, dry, and temps are cooperative you can recoat oil-based stain at any time.


I've seen some decks that look shiny. Is that something that comes with oil-based, or do I have to put in another coating for the shines?


It depends on the stain and how heavily it was applied. Some waterborne and oil-based toners and semi-transparent stains will have a little bit of sheen when dry. I've never seen a latex stain that had any sheen after it dried. It is not a good idea to apply a clear coat over the stain!


Based on the discussion, I'm thinking about oil-based stains, but as far as which brand, I don't know. Any suggestions? The deck is pretty much worn out. If I want the wood grain to show and look new, I should consider sanding before applying the stains, correct?


Have you washed the deck yet? I often let how the cleaned deck looks determine the type of stain to use. A toner or translucent stain requires a new or new-looking wood. Semi-transparent needs decent wood and will allow some of the wood's color/grain to show. Solid stains are best when the deck has enough age on it where the more translucent stains will no longer look good.

Other than to repair defects I've never sanded a deck. It's too time-consuming and the nails/screws are hard on sandpaper...but there are diy-ers that do sand their decks.

Normally you'll find better stains at a paint store versus anyone's paint dept. Better advice there, too.


If the deck is worn out, it's going to look worn out after staining regardless of whether you sand. This is the situation where I switch to a solid body stain to start hiding the wood a little more.

The remedy for worn out wood is replacement.


I see. Thanks! I'll take it into consideration.

Visit the thread here: //