What Is the Longest Lasting Deck Stain? - Woodwork Boss

What Is the Longest Lasting Deck Stain?

Homeowners who spend time outside can fall in love with a deck, and they want to know the longest lasting deck stain to preserve their treasured wooden getaway. Maybe this is true of you too. What do you need to know to find the longest lasting deck stain?

Finding the Longest Lasting Deck Stain

Deck stain is a practical way to preserve your wooden deck and protect it from the elements. Good stains defend your deck from moisture, UV rays, and other aspects of Mother Nature.

Stain comes in different types and colors, so a shopper needs to know what they are looking for to get the longest lasting deck stain. To ensure your stain lasts as long as possible, you must consider the type of stain you need and the transparency you desire. And just as importantly, you need to properly prepare your deck before staining it.

Different Types of Deck Stains

Deck stain may be water-based or oil-based, and among these two primary categories of stain there are other variations to consider.

Water-Based Deck Stains

Water based deck stain has some immediate advantages over oil-based. For starters, the state you live in may have regulations against many brands of oil-based stains. These restrictions are known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) regulations.

The advantage of water-based stains is that they are easier to clean after the job, resistant to mold and mildew, and less hassle against environmental regulations.

On the other hand, they are thinner than oil-based stains and rarely penetrate as deeply.

Oil-Based Deck Stains

Oil based stain existed long before water-based options. They penetrate deeply into the wood and offer superior protection. Composed of natural (and synthetic) oils, many deck owners believe it has a more natural look than its water-based counterpart.

Using oil-based stain is more cumbersome that water-based. The odors are substantially more potent, and clean up is burdensome, requiring a strong cleaning agent. Oil based stains have also been known to darken over time and are prone to mildew growth.

How Do They Dry?

Another difference between water and oil-based stains is dry time. Usually oil-based stains require more dry time.

Among oil-based stains there are two types of oils. Curing oils dry on the surface of the wood. Though time-consuming, this helps seal the wood.

Other oils are non-drying, meaning they never cure like paint. Instead they penetrate so deeply into the wood that they do not affect the feel of the surface.

Acting as a wood sealer, condition, and overall protector, a high-end oil-based stain that will typically prove to be the longest lasting deck stain.

Prepping Your Wood for Staining

The mistake many homeowners make is getting so wrapped up in the selection of the best stain they neglect the proper preparation of their deck for staining. The longest lasting deck stain applied to an unprepared deck will not last as long as a mid-level deck stain applied to a thoroughly prepared wooden deck.

In other words, the longest lasting deck stain has as much to do with the deck as with the stain. So how do you prepare your deck for stain?

Wood Prep

Prepping your wood makes it more porous and ready to receive the stain. The stain can then penetrate the wood more deeply.

It is important to diligently clean your wood with a proper wood cleaner and wood brightener before staining.

Importance of Sanding

If you are staining new wood that has not previously been stained, sanding the wood is very important. New wood is not naturally absorbent, so the life of your stain can be greatly extended by sanding the wood.

Using a 60 to 80 grit sandpaper is recommended and can be substantially more effective than simply using a pre-stain wash. Some deck owners will even sand their already-stained decks before adding new stain.

A small deck with room for two chairs and a small table may be sanded with an electric hand sander, but a larger deck may require a walk-behind sander. If you use a large, rented sander, you will still need a small unit for the corners.

Sanding is useful and recommended for all types of deck wood, whether cedar, pressure treated lumber, or something else.

Should I Pressure Wash?

Some homeowners pressure wash a new deck instead of sanding. This is understandable given the time it takes to sand a deck. While pressure washing is not as effective and does not directly promote absorbency, it can be helpful by removing surface elements before staining.

The downside to pressure washer is that most of them provide much more power than you need to remove surface elements, and you risk damaging your wood.

If you have the skill set to use the pressure washer without damaging the wood, it can be an effective prep stage before sanding, and it can make the sanding job easier.

Special Considerations for Old Wood

If you are staining a deck that has previously been stained, you may approach preparation differently based on whether the wood is slightly worn or thoroughly weathered. For wood that is slightly worn, you do not need to sand to the bare surface of the wood.

It is sufficient to sand lightly in preparation for a new coat of stain. A 120-grit sandpaper is sufficient in this case. Be sure to remove any loose pieces.

For thoroughly weathered wood, you must consider the durability of the wood itself. You hate to remove the old finish and weathered portions of the wood until you find a usable layer below. The longest lasting deck stain will not help rotting wood.

If you believe your thoroughly weathered wood is still salvageable, you may benefit from using a stripper to remove anything between the surface and the usable wood underneath. If you strip and prep, you should still sand before applying stain.

Transparency

A stain’s transparency is based on the amount of pigmentation it contains. As a general rule, the darker the stain the longer it will last.

Opaque Stain

Opaque stains, also called solid decking stains, cover the wood like paint. They allow none of the wood’s natural grain to show forth. They also run an irreversible risk, because it is nearly impossible to get back to the bare wood after applying opaque stain.

However, opaque stain does offer the most resistant UV protection, and for those who do not like the natural wood look, you can have fun choosing colors much like paint.

Transparent Stains

Transparent stains allow nearly all the wood’s natural appearance to remain visible. While it is the most natural wood appearance, it has the least pigmentation and potentially the least longevity.

Unlike opaque stain, transparent stain is easy to apply and reapply as needed, but it offers much less UV protection.

Semi-Transparent Stain

Semi-transparent stains allow some of the natural wood to maintain their visible characteristics while adding enough protection to be long-lasting. They are available in oil-based and water-based.

While it is not the longest lasting deck stain, semi-transparent stains are perhaps the best middle ground. They protect your wood from the sun but still look natural. They penetrate deeply but could still be removed (with some hard work) if you had a total change of heart.

Stain Care

While picking the best stain and properly preparing your wood to be stained are both vital aspects to long-lasting stain, the longest lasting deck stain is often the one that is properly maintained.

Be sure you apply your stain on days when the weather matches the instructions for your brand of stain. As a general rule, always aim for room temperature. Avoid unusually hot or cool days. Even on days when the temperature is in a fitting range, it is best not to apply stain in the direct sunlight.

Also, you may not get your entire job done in one day. Be thoughtful how you store your stain. For safety’s sake, store your stain in a high location away from children. Also, remember that stain is flammable, especially oil-based stains, so avoid open flames or fire hazards.

Avoid storing stain in extreme temperatures. A good stain has the potential to live a long life if stored properly, so whether you are storing between weekends or over the winter, do not allow your stain to freeze or become excessively hot.

Many stains will become unusable, or at least lose their top-end quality, if not stored properly.

Conclusion

There are several factors that go into obtaining the longest lasting deck stain. With so many brands and variations on the market, it can be difficult to sort them all. And with wooden decks of so many shapes and sizes, every person’s needs are different, from sanders to pressure washers.

As a general rule, oil-based stains last longer than water-based stains, and more pigmentation leads to more longevity. However, the person on your block with the longest lasting stain is likely the one who bought wisely, prepared his wood diligently, and cared for his stain most attentively.

Homeowners who spend time outside can fall in love with a deck, and they want to know the longest lasting deck stain to preserve their treasured wooden getaway. Maybe this is true of you too. What do you need to know to find the longest lasting deck stain?

Finding the Longest Lasting Deck Stain

Deck stain is a practical way to preserve your wooden deck and protect it from the elements. Good stains defend your deck from moisture, UV rays, and other aspects of Mother Nature.

Stain comes in different types and colors, so a shopper needs to know what they are looking for to get the longest lasting deck stain. To ensure your stain lasts as long as possible, you must consider the type of stain you need and the transparency you desire. And just as importantly, you need to properly prepare your deck before staining it.

Different Types of Deck Stains

man fishing on a wooden deck during sunset
image source: pexels

Deck stain may be water-based or oil-based, and among these two primary categories of stain there are other variations to consider.

Water-Based Deck Stains

Water based deck stain has some immediate advantages over oil-based. For starters, the state you live in may have regulations against many brands of oil-based stains. These restrictions are known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) regulations.

The advantage of water-based stains is that they are easier to clean after the job, resistant to mold and mildew, and less hassle against environmental regulations.

On the other hand, they are thinner than oil-based stains and rarely penetrate as deeply.

Oil-Based Deck Stains

Oil based stain existed long before water-based options. They penetrate deeply into the wood and offer superior protection. Composed of natural (and synthetic) oils, many deck owners believe it has a more natural look than its water-based counterpart.

Using oil-based stain is more cumbersome that water-based. The odors are substantially more potent, and clean up is burdensome, requiring a strong cleaning agent. Oil based stains have also been known to darken over time and are prone to mildew growth.

How Do They Dry?

Another difference between water and oil-based stains is dry time. Usually oil-based stains require more dry time.

Among oil-based stains there are two types of oils. Curing oils dry on the surface of the wood. Though time-consuming, this helps seal the wood.

Other oils are non-drying, meaning they never cure like paint. Instead they penetrate so deeply into the wood that they do not affect the feel of the surface.

Acting as a wood sealer, condition, and overall protector, a high-end oil-based stain that will typically prove to be the longest lasting deck stain.

white bench placed on a wooden deck
image source: pixabay

Prepping Your Wood for Staining

The mistake many homeowners make is getting so wrapped up in the selection of the best stain they neglect the proper preparation of their deck for staining. The longest lasting deck stain applied to an unprepared deck will not last as long as a mid-level deck stain applied to a thoroughly prepared wooden deck.

In other words, the longest lasting deck stain has as much to do with the deck as with the stain. So how do you prepare your deck for stain?

Wood Prep

Prepping your wood makes it more porous and ready to receive the stain. The stain can then penetrate the wood more deeply.

It is important to diligently clean your wood with a proper wood cleaner and wood brightener before staining.

Importance of Sanding

If you are staining new wood that has not previously been stained, sanding the wood is very important. New wood is not naturally absorbent, so the life of your stain can be greatly extended by sanding the wood.

Using a 60 to 80 grit sandpaper is recommended and can be substantially more effective than simply using a pre-stain wash. Some deck owners will even sand their already-stained decks before adding new stain.

A small deck with room for two chairs and a small table may be sanded with an electric hand sander, but a larger deck may require a walk-behind sander. If you use a large, rented sander, you will still need a small unit for the corners.

Sanding is useful and recommended for all types of deck wood, whether cedar, pressure treated lumber, or something else.

Should I Pressure Wash?

Some homeowners pressure wash a new deck instead of sanding. This is understandable given the time it takes to sand a deck. While pressure washing is not as effective and does not directly promote absorbency, it can be helpful by removing surface elements before staining.

The downside to pressure washer is that most of them provide much more power than you need to remove surface elements, and you risk damaging your wood.

If you have the skill set to use the pressure washer without damaging the wood, it can be an effective prep stage before sanding, and it can make the sanding job easier.

Special Considerations for Old Wood

If you are staining a deck that has previously been stained, you may approach preparation differently based on whether the wood is slightly worn or thoroughly weathered. For wood that is slightly worn, you do not need to sand to the bare surface of the wood.

It is sufficient to sand lightly in preparation for a new coat of stain. A 120-grit sandpaper is sufficient in this case. Be sure to remove any loose pieces.

For thoroughly weathered wood, you must consider the durability of the wood itself. You hate to remove the old finish and weathered portions of the wood until you find a usable layer below. The longest lasting deck stain will not help rotting wood.

If you believe your thoroughly weathered wood is still salvageable, you may benefit from using a stripper to remove anything between the surface and the usable wood underneath. If you strip and prep, you should still sand before applying stain.

Transparency

A stain’s transparency is based on the amount of pigmentation it contains. As a general rule, the darker the stain the longer it will last.

Opaque Stain

Opaque stains, also called solid decking stains, cover the wood like paint. They allow none of the wood’s natural grain to show forth. They also run an irreversible risk, because it is nearly impossible to get back to the bare wood after applying opaque stain.

However, opaque stain does offer the most resistant UV protection, and for those who do not like the natural wood look, you can have fun choosing colors much like paint.

Transparent Stains

Transparent stains allow nearly all the wood’s natural appearance to remain visible. While it is the most natural wood appearance, it has the least pigmentation and potentially the least longevity.

Unlike opaque stain, transparent stain is easy to apply and reapply as needed, but it offers much less UV protection.

Semi-Transparent Stain

Semi-transparent stains allow some of the natural wood to maintain their visible characteristics while adding enough protection to be long-lasting. They are available in oil-based and water-based.

While it is not the longest lasting deck stain, semi-transparent stains are perhaps the best middle ground. They protect your wood from the sun but still look natural. They penetrate deeply but could still be removed (with some hard work) if you had a total change of heart.

top view of wooden plants

Stain Care

While picking the best stain and properly preparing your wood to be stained are both vital aspects to long-lasting stain, the longest lasting deck stain is often the one that is properly maintained.

Be sure you apply your stain on days when the weather matches the instructions for your brand of stain. As a general rule, always aim for room temperature. Avoid unusually hot or cool days. Even on days when the temperature is in a fitting range, it is best not to apply stain in the direct sunlight.

Also, you may not get your entire job done in one day. Be thoughtful how you store your stain. For safety’s sake, store your stain in a high location away from children. Also, remember that stain is flammable, especially oil-based stains, so avoid open flames or fire hazards.

Avoid storing stain in extreme temperatures. A good stain has the potential to live a long life if stored properly, so whether you are storing between weekends or over the winter, do not allow your stain to freeze or become excessively hot.

Many stains will become unusable, or at least lose their top-end quality, if not stored properly.

view of a brick wall on top of wooden floor
image source: pexels

Conclusion

There are several factors that go into obtaining the longest lasting deck stain. With so many brands and variations on the market, it can be difficult to sort them all. And with wooden decks of so many shapes and sizes, every person’s needs are different, from sanders to pressure washers.

As a general rule, oil-based stains last longer than water-based stains, and more pigmentation leads to more longevity. However, the person on your block with the longest lasting stain is likely the one who bought wisely, prepared his wood diligently, and cared for his stain most attentively.