Staining the Deck

by Josh on September 22, 2011 · 1 comment

in Deck,Projects

Clean the deck: check.

Expand the deck: check.

And now I can check off the last step in my deck maintenance project: staining the deck.

Before I launch into the before-and-after, first a word about deck stain. Like all wood finishes, deck stain serves two basic purposes: it enhances the appearance and it protects the wood from damage.

deck stain and brushes

Stain = Protection

Decks face extreme conditions and the damaging effects of these can be just as extreme. Not only is the deck exposed to precipitation, but unlike wood siding, the flat surfaces of deck handrails and floors shed water poorly, extending the time for water to penetrate the wood. Decks are also subject to abrasive foot traffic which can wear away finishes and tear the surface wood fibers, making it easier for water and mildew to penetrate. Lastly, the sunshine– something that makes a deck a pleasant place to be– also bombards the deck with UV radiation that degrades the wood over time.

Solid, Transparent, or Semi

When it comes to stain appearance, both performance and personal preference are in play. Solid stains have a paint-like appearance and offer the most UV protection, but they obscure the wood grain and show wear and fading noticeably. Transparent stains and sealers offer a natural or tinted appearance that shows the wood grain at the cost of some UV protection and limited color choices. In the middle are a variety of semi-transparent stains that average the attributes and limitations of the other two categories.

Oil or Water

Beyond stain appearances, would-be deck stainers also need to choose the composition of the stain product, either water or oil. Water-based stains offer easy clean-up and claim formulations for improved penetration–an important detail when they are applied to treated lumber which is intended to resist water penetration. Alternatively, oil-based finishes absorb readily but require comparatively bothersome cleanup with paint thinner.

deck overhead before

Now Back to Me

The photo above shows how the deck looked after my cleaning and rebuilding work but before staining. Obviously the contrast between the old and new wood really jumps out. I wanted the deck stain to minimize this contrast and make look a little less pieced together, so I was thinking about using a solid stain tinted to match the trim. Ms. Bungalow, on the other hand, wanted the deck to look natural which would suggest a transparent stain. What to do?

Summoning the full wisdom of a 12 year of marriage, I decided a more natural look would be best.

Specifically, I picked the oil-based Woodsman Premium stain in “Natural” recommended by a helpful Master of All Things Hardwarian at True Value. The fact that this is an oil was important to me because I was willing to overlook the cleanup hassle for a product that would not just sit on the surface but get down into the old deck wood that I had neglected for so long.

brushing on stain

Because of the deck’s small size, I chose to skip sprayers, rollers and pads, and brush apply the whole thing. Remember: when using oil-based stain or paint use natural bristle brushes.

After about a full day of work, including a whol’otta spindles on the underdeck privacy panels, the staining was finished. I put a double coat on just about everything so that the old wood would get plenty of needed protection and so the new wood would pick up a little more color to even out the appearance. Predictably, however, with a transparent/translucent stain, the color contrast between new and old remains pretty obvious.

deck stain after overhead

Still, I think the stained deck looks worlds better than it ded before staining. The color difference looks obvious with the deck completely cleared of furniture, but once I dress is up with a cafe set, a grill, some planters, and maybe even a small rug, that color difference will be much less noticable. The oil finish will also continue to darken and yellow as it ages, so it is possible that deck’s appearance will even out more over time.

deck stain repelling water

But if my reaction to the finished appearance is tempered by my preference for a more opaque stain, I am unreservedly pleased with the stain’s performance. The morning after a recent overnight rain storm, I saw that all over the deck– on new and old wood alike– the water on the deck was fully beaded on the surface. Excellent!


When I showed the finished the deck to Ms. Bungalow, she gushed about how much she loved it and how nice it looked. The world has many standards for excellence, but when it comes to DIY work, the blue ribbons go to the people who make their partners happy.

Disclosure: I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program and my DIY project as well as my posts about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jove Arthur August 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Although designs and DIYs have varying standard, satisfaction would always depend on your stakeholder. But I think you really did a great job here.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: