Top 5 Best Deck Stains (2021 Reviews)

Last Updated On June 4, 2021

Are you looking for an awesome stain to use on your deck?

You've come to the right place!

In this ProPaintCorner.com Guide, you'll learn:

  • What types of stain to use on a deck
  • What you need to know about deck stains
  • What supplies you'll need to stain a deck

And much more!

Top 5 Best Deck Stains (2020 Reviews)

So, if you want to make sure you can stain your deck easily and get amazing coverage, keep reading our buying guide to learn everything you need to know before you start staining!

Image Product

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STORM System Penetrating Sealer & Stain Protector
  • Oil-based
  • Compatible with all wood species
  • Can be applied with any tool
  • Oil-based
  • Compatible with all wood species
  • Can be applied with any tool
View on Amazon

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Cabot Australian Timber Oil Stain
  • Available in 5 different colors
  • Oil-based
  • Superior penetration for wood protection
  • Available in 5 different colors
  • Oil-based
  • Superior penetration for wood protection
View on Amazon

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DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain
  • UV-Resistant
  • Water-based
  • Eco-friendly and low-VOC
  • UV-Resistant
  • Water-based
  • Eco-friendly and low-VOC
View on Amazon

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Olympic Elite Woodland Oil Stain
  • One-coat protection
  • Mold, mildew, and algae resistant
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • One-coat protection
  • Mold, mildew, and algae resistant
  • Lifetime guarantee
View on Amazon

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#1 Deck Solid Wood Stain For Decks
  • Water-based
  • Solid color completely hides wood grain
  • Mildew-resistant
  • Water-based
  • Solid color completely hides wood grain
  • Mildew-resistant
View on Amazon

Our Overall #1 Rated Pick

Updated On June 4, 2021

Our top choice has to be the epic STORM System Penetrating Sealer & Stain Protector.

This stuff is fantastic for all sorts of scenarios and does a great job of protecting and sealing your wood surfaces.

As a stain/sealant, it's a powerful formula which is great if you live in an area with intense weather conditions where you're dealing with a lot of water or humidity or sun. 

This will not only protect your wood grain from UV rays, but it also works on all wood types.

If you're looking for a fantastic stain with amazing pigment and durability, this is the stain for you.

Our Top 5 Best Deck Stains

If you're truly looking for the best stain finish to use on your deck, you're in the right place!

Below is a list of our top 5 stains, keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of each one:

What Types of Stain Should You Use For Staining A Deck?

While there are tons of different staining solutions out there for staining decking, there are a few key things you should consider about your deck before you start diving into stain!

Wood Types

One of the first things to think about when staining your deck is what type of wood you're working with.

Is it pressure treated? A hardwood? A softwood? 

Different types of wood require different treatments in order to keep them protected and looking their best.

Staining Soft Woods

If you're working with a softwood like cedar or pine, you might want to consider using a pre-stain conditioning treatment.

That's because softwood grains can absorb stain unevenly, leaving your end result looking blotchy.

I recently built myself a wood desk using pine wood and I'm so glad I tested the stain on scrap wood first to see if it was worth using a pre-stain conditioner. 

I ended up seeing how blotchy the stain looked without the pre-treatment and decided to go for the conditioner and the end-result turned out beautifully!

So, if you're staining a fence that's made of softwood, I highly recommend using some sort of pre-stain treatment because blotchiness can be very obvious on a larger surface area like a fence.

That said, you can probably use either an oil-based or water-based stain when working with softwoods since the wood grain is easier to penetrate.

Staining Hardwoods

If you're working with hardwood, it's important to know that hardwood can be harder to penetrate with stain.

You'll often need to go with an oil-based stain in order for the wood fibers to fully absorb and take the stain properly so the pigment is saturated. 

Not only for aesthetic purposes but also for protecting the wood surface.

Water-Based vs. Oil-Based Stains

For most applications, you'll be okay using an oil-based or water-based (sometimes referred to as acrylic) stain.

That said, there are a few key differences to consider.

For one, oil-based stains tend to be more durable and deeper penetrating for certain wood grains.

There used to be a massive difference in durability between water-based and oil-based stains, but that's no longer truly the case.

Today, water-based products have improved in quality so much that it (almost) comes down to a preference.

The benefit of water-based products is that they're much easier to dispose of and are often less hazardous to your health because they have a much lower concentration of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which are the chemicals that give stains and paints that toxic smell.

So, ultimately what stain you choose depends on your preference and the specific deck you're working with.

Make sure you do deeper research on the specific stain you're looking at and whether or not it's right for your needs.

Check out the video below to learn more about the differences between using an oil or water-based stain for staining a deck.

Semi-Transparent Deck Stain vs. Solid Deck Stain

When choosing the stain you want to use for your deck, it's important to decide what kind of finished look you're going for.

If you want a full-coverage on your deck boards, you'll want to opt for a solid stain.

This will prevent any of the wood grain from peeking through when you're done staining.

But, if you don't want to cover your decking with a solid color, semi-transparent stains or semi-solid stains can offer the opacity you're looking for.

They enhance the color of the natural wood which allows for all the natural beauty of the wood to shine through.

If you want to be able to see some of that beautiful wood color coming through even after you're done staining your deck, semi-transparent stains are perfect for you.

Even a semi-solid stain can do the trick, it will just tend to have a higher opacity than a stain marketed as a "semi-transparent" stain.

The beauty of using wood stains though is that you can kind of determine the overall opacity as you go by putting down a lighter layer or only opting to put down one coat.

Stains are far more versatile that way than paints.

What Do You Need To Know Before You Start Staining Your Deck?

There are a few things you need to prepare before you're ready to start staining your deck, even if you have the right stain for the job!

Prep Work

Prep work is especially important when staining a deck because it's going to prepare the surface to accept the stain properly.

If you're staining an existing deck, I'd highly recommend taking a pressure washer to the surface first.

Even if the fence doesn't look dirty to the naked eye, I promise you there's plenty of grime to remove before you dive into staining.

You want to make sure you're working with bare wood, not wood covered in hard water stains from rain, grime, and other dust or debris.

Luckily, you can rent a pressure washer from your local Home Depot or Lowe's if you don't have one handy.

Getting the boards completely clean before applying stain is essential when you're staining your fence.

If, however, you're working with previously painted or stained wood, make sure you do a great job sanding that existing paint off first so you can get down to the wood's natural color so the stain can do its job right.

Did you know: Airless paint sprayers are the fastest, most efficient way to lay down paint with as little physical toll on your body as possible.

What Supplies Will You Need to Stain A Deck?

Let's quickly go over some of the essential supplies you'll need to do a good job when staining a fence.

Obviously choosing the right stain is important, but you don't want to forget the other essential supplies and have to go back to the hardware store every 15 minutes when you find out you need something new.

Supplies You'll Need

  • Drop cloths
  • Paint roller (if rolling)
  • Paintbrush (for detailing)
  • Paint sprayer (if desired)
  • Paint tray or cup
  • Stain
  • Pre-conditioning treatment
  • Wood cleaner
  • Sealer (optional, some stains have sealant included)

Now that you know what you'll need to get the stain job done right, let's go over some of the best stains to use for staining a deck.

Read More >> How Much Does It Cost To Paint/Stain A Deck?

Our Reviews Of The Top 5 Deck Stains

Our top choice is the deck stain is none other than the STORM System Penetrating Sealer & Stain.

This stuff is one of the best stains out there for staining a wood deck, especially at this price point.

Not only does it come in several different stain colors, but it's incredibly versatile and can be used on all types of wood grains - softwoods and hardwoods alike.

This exterior wood stain is fantastic for homeowners or DIY fans who want to get that new wood look on their deck without a ton of hassle.

If you want to prevent weathering on your wood deck and create some UV protection for the grain of the wood, this stuff will help prevent graying and keep your deck looking like new!

Pros

  • Oil-based wood deck protector
  • Compatible with all wood species
  • Can be applied with any tool

Cons

  • Only comes with 6, lighter colors
  • Oil-based so it has higher VOC content and is less eco-friendly

If you're looking for a highly durable, oil-based stain for your deck, that won't break the bank, the Cabot Premium Australian Timber Oil Stain is a great option for you!

This stuff comes in at a great price point, right around $40 depending on when and where you buy it, and it offers incredible wood grain penetration to ensure that your wood is protected.

Even if you're working with natural cedar, this stuff will protect and defend your wood from weathering, UV-rays, and much more.

Not only that, but Cabot is recognized as an industry leader in wood care products that are powerful and easy to use.

If you're leaning toward an oil-based stain, this is a great option for staining your deck!

Pros

  • Available in 5 different colors
  • Oil-based
  • Superior penetration for wood protection

Cons

  • Only comes in a quart or gallon size
  • Harder to dispose of because it's oil-based
  • Higher VOC content due to being oil-based

Our high-end choice is the DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain.

This stuff is a fantastic exterior wood stain that is UV-resistant, water-based, and super easy to apply.

Plus, since it's water-based, it's also more eco-friendly and has low-VOC content.

Not only that, but it's fortified with a zinc oxide technology which makes it ultra-resistant to weathering and graying if you live in an area with a lot of sunlight.

If you're looking for an incredible stain that will protect your wood deck for years to come, look no further than the DEFY Extreme formula.

Pros

  • UV-Resistant
  • Water-based
  • Eco-friendly and low-VOC

Cons

  • Only comes in 6 colors and a clear coat
  • A bit on the pricey side

Our next choice is the Olympic Elite Woodland Oil Stain which offers a one-coat formulation and a lifetime guarantee! 

If you hate having to deal with endless reapplication and just want to get the job done in one coat, this is probably the only stain that I'd recommend doing a single coat with.

This is the only product from Olympic's Elite line to offer that lifetime guarantee, which ensures lasting protection from UV damage and weathering.

Not only that, but it's mildew-resistant and water-repellent too!

If you're looking for a super high-quality penetrating stain that will highlight the natural grain of your wood and offer the perfect opacity, the Olympic Elite Woodland Oil Stain is perfect for you.

Pros

  • One-coat protection
  • Mold, mildew, and algae resistant
  • Lifetime guarantee

Cons

  • Hard to find other colors on Amazon
  • Longer drying time (due to being oil-based)
  • Higher VOC content (due to being oil-based)

Our last (but not least) choice is the amazing #1 Deck Solid Color Wood Stain.

This is one of the few high-quality solid wood stains you can find on Amazon and it's also a water-based stain!

If you want to avoid the hassle and high VOC content of an oil-based stain and still get all of the preservative power of a stain, this is a great option for you.

Not everyone wants to go with a transparent color stain, so if you're looking for an opaque tint to your deck and want a high-quality solid stain, this is the one for you!

It'll protect your deck from fading due to UV damage, graying, peeling, and mildew too.

This stuff truly does it all!

Pros

  • Water-based
  • Solid color completely hides the wood grain
  • Mildew-resistant

Cons

  • Only offers 6 colors on Amazon
  • On the pricier side
  • Only comes in a 1-gallon size

Our top choice still has to be the epic STORM System Penetrating Sealer & Stain Protector.

This stuff truly takes the cake in terms of durability, price point, and ease of application.

If you're looking to protect your deck for years to come with a deeply penetrating oil-based formula that you can use on softwood or hardwood, this is the stuff for you!

Plus, it's such a good value for the money, check out the lowest price on Amazon now!

Other Things To Note Before You Start Staining Your Deck

Now that you've gotten the lay of the land when it comes to choosing the right stain for your deck, it's important to note a few other things before you dive into your DIY project.

Safety First

When working with stains - especially if you're using a paint sprayer - it's important to remember to take proper health safety precautions.

Stains have a lot of toxic components to them which is why we always recommend using a paint respirator of some kind to protect your lungs.

We also recommend using safety goggles and gloves to keep the components from reaching your eyes and penetrating your skin.

Read More >> What Are The Best Respirators To Use With Paint Sprayers?

Ask For Help!

If you're new to the DIY game and you've never taken on a project like this, make sure you consult an expert about your particular project before you dive in.

Often times you can find a knowledgeable person at your local hardware store or big box home improvement store who will be able to answer any specific questions about your project.

Taking the time to do this can not only save you some headaches but potentially prevent you from making costly mistakes.

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Madison Rude

Madison Rude

I’m kind of a painting nerd. My mom taught me how to paint when I was nine, and since then I’ve painted rooms, furniture...you name it. I’ve written technical advice for Wagner sprayers, and I’ve spent a lot of time DIYing my own home. I’m no expert, but I love to learn. And here at ProPaintCorner, I learn more about painting every time I work with one of our painting pros to bring you the best product reviews and How To advice available. Together, let’s make your next painting project the best it can be!

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Madison Rude

Madison Rude

I’m kind of a painting nerd. My mom taught me how to paint when I was nine, and since then I’ve painted rooms, furniture...you name it. I’ve written technical advice for Wagner sprayers, and I’ve spent a lot of time DIYing my own home. I’m no expert, but I love to learn. And here at ProPaintCorner, I learn more about painting every time I work with one of our painting pros to bring you the best product reviews and How To advice available. Together, let’s make your next painting project the best it can be!

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