Should I Stain My Deck?

May 26, 2016

If you have a wood deck and want to preserve it, you must seal or stain it regularly. This is necessary because wood left exposed to the elements will deteriorate. Unprotected wood will suffer from sunlight, rain, snow, sleet ice and other elements. Wood decks without protective stains and sealers will turn gray, rot, and warp as the wood expands, contracts, and cracks.

You have the option of protecting your deck with a sealer or stain. Here is what you need to know about preserving your deck surfaces.

Deck Stain Basics

Stain soaks into the wood and fills small gaps that would otherwise get filled with moisture—moisture that would expand and contract the wood. Stain will protect the wood from harmful UV rays. Stain is color and sealer in one product. There are varying types of stain, with the difference being the amount of wood grain that can be seen through the stain. Clear sealers will provide protection from water but the wood will still turn a weathered gray over time. Transparent stains have a slight tinge of color to protect from UV rays turning the wood gray, while maximizing the amount of wood grain that can be seen. Semi-transparent stains are the most common in terms of protecting wood but also seeing wood grain. Semi-solid stains provide almost full coverage of the wood grain, but do allow for some grain to show through. Solid color stains cover the wood grain completely, and are often confused with paint as they it looks exactly like a painted surface.

Deck Stain Pros

  • Show off the natural wood: Stains penetrate the wood, and will show off the wood’s natural color, texture and grain pattern. Stain gives wood a rich finish.
  • Reduces possibility of moisture damage: Staining your deck reduces the possibility of moisture getting trapped in the wood because of the water repellant properties.

Deck Stain Cons

  • Stain doesn’t last as long as paint: Most deck coatings will wear from weather and foot traffic within 2-3 years. Once you notice rain water no longer beads up on the surface, it is time to apply a new coat.
  • Can’t be used to fill cracks: If the wood has any cracks, the stain is too thin to fill them. Stain products do exist now that can potentially fill small gaps, but only a few of these products are recommended, as many of them leave an unsightly or rough finish on the deck.


  • Not recommended: We do not recommend the use of paint products on deck surfaces as they do not penetrate the wood and are more susceptible to peeling and bubbling from water sitting on top of the surface. Special situations may arise where paint would be a better product for the deck, but this is rare.

Prim Painting is a professional painting and deck restoration company serving the Columbus, Ohio area. For more information about our deck restoration services, contact us today!