Styling Your Deck Fence - Stain Ideas

Gloved hand staining a deck
  • 2-8 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 100-500

Choosing a deck fence stain can be a little bewildering. There are many different types and names for stains.

Once you understand some of the terminology and the basics for choosing a deck stain color, it’s not difficult to buy the best stain for your home. Pricing on different types of stains is usually similar, so it's these features you want to consider.

Color or No Color?

If your deck is made of a high quality, attractive wood, you may want to use a deck fence stain that has little additional color to it.

Generally speaking, wood that is of lower quality will be covered with a stain or paint that better hides the wood, so the color becomes the item of visual focus, rather than the grain or color of the wood surface.

Transparent Stains and Sealants

For a beautiful wood deck fence, transparent stain is a great option. These transparent stains may also be called sealants.

These go on with minimal or no alteration to the color of the wood. Many of these clear sealants are water repellant only, while others have preservatives as well. They are often water based, so they do not penetrate the wood like an alkyd stain does.

Those clear stains containing penetrating oils can be absorbed into the wood and will last longer than the non-penetrating varieties.

Semi-Transparent Stains (Alkyd Stains)

weathered decking boards

For deck and fence stain, an alkyd semi transparent is a great choice. The grain of the wood is still visible when you use a semi-transparent stain, but it is not entirely clear. These stains add a color to the wood, so it will no longer be a natural wood color.

These stains soak into the wood and offer the best protection from weathering. While they don’t peel, they do eventually wear off and fade, and will need to be reapplied.

You cannot apply a semi-transparent stain if you’ve used a solid stain in the past, since the surface of the wood is sealed and won’t allow the stain to soak in. You can apply a solid stain after a semi-transparent if you decide to do so.

The semi-transparent is the most durable option for deck surfaces, but since deck fence stains don’t get the same kind of heavy foot traffic, you may choose other options for the fences, railings and lattice work around the decks.

Solid Color Stain

Water beading up on deck boards

Solid stains cover the surface of the wood. They don’t penetrate the wood at all. The have a solid color that obscures the look of the grain entirely.

Some people really like the look of the solid stain, particularly on a weathered wood. However, if you put it on the flat surface of a deck, it will soon chip and wear. Some homeowners solve this dilemma by using a semi-transparent stain on the horizontal surfaces of the deck, then use a solid deck fence stain in a complementary color for the fences, railings and decorative additions on the deck.


Choose a stain color that complements one of the trim colors on your home. You may choose a color from the stone or brick, or you may choose to match shutters or the trim.

Then the deck will look like a part of the home rather than an awkward addition.