Top 5 Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stains (2021 Reviews)

Last Updated On January 1, 2021

Are you looking for an awesome semi-transparent 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 semi-transparent deck stains
  • What supplies you'll need to stain a deck

And much more!

Top 5 Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stains (2020 Reviews)

So, if you want to make sure you can stain a 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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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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KILZ Exterior Waterproofing Semi-Transparent Wood Stain
  • Mildew-resistant
  • 3 year warranty for decks
  • Trusted brand
  • Mildew-resistant
  • 3 year warranty for decks
  • Trusted brand
View on Amazon

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DeckWise Ipe Oil Hardwood Semi-Transparent Stain
  • Extremely low-VOC
  • Specifically made for hardwood decks
  • Can be used on exotic hardwoods
  • Extremely low-VOC
  • Specifically made for hardwood decks
  • Can be used on exotic hardwoods
View on Amazon

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Olympic Maximum Semi-Transparent Stain + Sealant
  • 6 year warranty on decks
  • Can apply on damp wood
  • Weather-ready application between temperatures of 35 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 6 year warranty on decks
  • Can apply on damp wood
  • Weather-ready application between temperatures of 35 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit
View on Amazon

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#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain For Decks
  • Water-based
  • Mold-resistant
  • Works on damp wood and is eco-friendly
  • Water-based
  • Mold-resistant
  • Works on damp wood and is eco-friendly
View on Amazon

Our Overall #1 Rated Pick

Updated On January 1, 2021

Our top choice semi-transparent wood stain has to be the amazing DEFY Extreme stain.

Not only is this stuff incredible at protecting your wood grain from UV rays, but it also offers the perfect opacity for a semi-transparent tint.

Plus, it has a low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) count which means there are fewer toxic fumes coming off of it when you're staining your deck.

This stain is amazing at protecting your wood deck from weathering because it's formulated with zinc nano-technology that penetrates the wood fibers and protects them from sun damage.

If you're looking for a super high-quality wood deck stain at an affordable price, look no further than DEFY Extreme!

Our Top 5 Best Semi-Transparent Stains

If you're truly looking for the best semi-transparent stains to use for your DIY project, 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:

Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Professional For Your Paint Job?

Click here to check out our pro painter search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) painters in your local area.

Process Takes About 30 Seconds

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

While there are tons of different staining solutions out there for decks, 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.

Why Go With A Semi-Transparent/Semi-Solid Stain?

If you don't want to cover your deck boards 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 texture of the wood grain 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.

Read More >> What Are The Best Airless Paint Sprayers?

Did you know: Airless spraying not only cuts down on time (sometimes more than 50%-75%!) but it also creates a much cleaner finish than other traditional methods.

Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Professional For Your Paint Job?

Click here to check out our pro painter search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) painters in your local area.

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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 Semi-Transparent Stains For Your Deck

Our first 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 zinc nano-particle 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 best budget deck stain is the renowned KILZ Exterior Waterproofing Semi-Transparent Wood Stain.

Not only is this stuff fantastic for waterproofing your deck, but it also comes with a 3-year warranty on decks, and a 5-year warranty on fences and siding.

Plus, it's a more eco-friendly option because it's water-based, which also means it's easier to clean up.

As if this stuff couldn't get any better, it has a low drying time, excellent UV protection is water-repellent and mildew-resistant.

All of that is packed into this one-gallon can for just about $30, it's pretty hard to beat!

Pros

  • Mildew-resistant
  • 3-year warranty for decks
  • Trusted brand

Cons

  • Limited color choices
  • Only comes in a semi-transparent option on Amazon

Our high-end choice for an amazing semi-transparent stain is none other than the DeckWise Ipe Oil Hardwood stain.

This stuff is made with just enough pigment to offer coverage but still bring out the natural beauty in your wood grain.

Not only that, but it's specifically made for hardwood decks to offer the most UV protection while also offering grain enhancement too.

One of the best things about this stain is that, even though it's oil-based, it still has low-VOC content which means you're getting all the durability with fewer toxic chemicals.

It's truly one of the best deck stains out there for enhancing the beauty of the wood and yet still protecting it from extreme weather conditions.

Pros

  • Extremely low-VOC
  • Specifically made for hardwood decks
  • Can be used on exotic hardwoods

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Only comes in 1-gallon sizes (but can order multiple gallons at once on Amazon)

Our next choice is the amazing Olympic Maximum Semi-Transparent Stain & Sealer.

 This stuff is amazing for so many reasons!

If you're looking for incredible, high-quality protection of your exterior wood surfaces, this stuff takes the cake.

Not only is it a fantastic option for homeowners looking to protect their decking, but it's also affordable, protects your wood grain from UV rays, and offers a 6-year warranty on decks!

If you're looking for a weather-ready stain and sealer to apply a rich color to your deck that is also water-repellent, the Olympic Maximum Semi-Transparent stain is for you.

Pros

  • 6-year warranty on decks
  • Can apply on damp wood
  • The weather-ready application between temperatures of 35 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit

Cons

  • Only comes in 7 different colors
  • Doesn't come with Amazon Prime shipping

Our last (but not least) choice is the amazing #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain.

This is one of the few high-quality wood stains you can find on Amazon that is 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 that offers a tight water seal, this is a great option for you.

This stain really brings out the natural grain of the wood and is made specifically to protect decks from fading due to sun damage, graying, peeling, and mildew.

You can use this stain on natural wood or pressure-treated softwoods, just keep in mind that hardwoods will require more maintenance and reapplication.

Pros

  • Water-based
  • Mildew-resistant
  • Works on damp wood and is eco-friendly

Cons

  • Only comes in 5 different stain colors
  • Doesn't come in a 5-gallon size option

Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Professional For Your Paint Job?

Click here to check out our pro painter search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) painters in your local area.

Process Takes About 30 Seconds

Our Top Pick: DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

Our top choice still has to be the amazing DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain.

This stuff is just such a great option for all different weather conditions and wood grains.

If you're looking for something that isn't too pricey but is still durable enough to protect your deck from sun damage and offer a beautiful tint to your wood grain, look no further!

Check out the lowest price available 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!

Got A Paint Question? Ask Your Pro Painter!

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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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