Comparing the Differences in a Deck Stain

To protect a wood deck from sun fading and water damage, a quality deck stain is highly preferred. The durability, longevity, and appearance are normally the biggest factors in comparing deck stains. One factor may be more important to a deck owner than another but a thorough deck stain comparison may be able to reveal a deck stain with all these attributes.

There are so many different brands of deck stains as well as different types. First you have the choice of clear, transparent, semi-transparent, semi-solid, solid or opaque. Then you have the choice between water based, oil based, and even hybrids of both. Some stains are acrylic based and others are enhanced with silicone. Comparing deck stains can certainly be overwhelming. Start by eliminating the deck stains you do not want to help narrow your options.

According to most deck restoration professionals, you want to stay away from solid deck stains and paints especially on the horizontal surfaces like a deck floor. These types of stains may hold up well on vertical surfaces but on horizontals they are prone to cracking and peeling. They are also extremely hard to maintain as multiple coats begin to buildup peeling, flaking, and mildew become common. Solid stains are tough to remove so switching to a semi-transparent look from a solid color can be nearly impossible.

Another option in a deck stain comparison is the deep penetrating stains. These are commonly the transparent or semi-transparent deck stains. They come in a wide range of tones but still allow the wood grain to show through. They do not form a film on the surface like the solid stains but rather penetrate the wood pores providing excellent protection. They are not prone to peeling and are much easier to maintain.

Most oil based deck stains will penetrate better than water based stains, though some water based stains such as Defy Stains do compare. Oil based stains are normally easier to apply and are more natural looking but can be more susceptible to mildew. Water based stains have less odor and cure faster than oil based stains but are prone to peeling. Water based deck stains have become more popular in recent years due to tough VOC laws regulating oil based stains.

Where you buy a deck stain is also a key factor. Many of the big box stores sell deck stains. The downside to this is they are selling a cheaper version of deck stain to meet price requirements. You are actually buying a watered down version of a stain you might know and trust. When comparing wood deck stains always compare brands from a reputable paint store or online stain dealer.

Use these guidelines when doing a deck stain comparison to reveal the best deck stain for your particular situation.

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    Geordon · 07/19/2020
    Additional images.
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    Geordon · 07/19/2020
    Additional pictures.
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    Geordon · 07/19/2020
    I have a Garapa hardwood deck built in 2008, stained with TWP 100 Honeytone/Pecan 50:50 mix. I have restained it about every 2 years, after prepping with a mild solution of Extreme Solutions/Woodrich EFC38 cleaner, followed with Citralic brightener. Attached are pictures of the current state of affairs, living in Michigan, near a woods, which leads to shading in the morning and evening hours. The deck has lost much of the stain, and the last few applications went down somewhat "blotchy", is the best way I can put it. Where the deck has not grayed, it has started to peel. I suspect the unevenness is due to an improper prep job several years ago, but I am no expert by any means. Additionally, the vertical 4x4 posts may have been stained only once in 12 years after the initial stain, and have merely darkened and gathered green stains, but have not peeled or grayed. This also leads me to believe the issue lies in my preparation and not the TWP 100 product, itself.

    Before I installed the deck, I performed the clean/brighten to remove the factory finish. I have included a picture with an original stained deck board kept in my garage for the past 12 years, compared with the deck as it is now. I have a second picture comparing another original stained board side-by-side with an untreated board, kept in my garage the entire time. As you can see, the original Garapa is fairly light colored, but when stained with a soft yellow tone, results in a very warm hue, not nearly as red as the mahogany IPE.

    I am looking for suggestions to restore the life and color back into my deck. Should I just strip with HD80, neutralize/brighten, then apply TWP 100, again? Should I use a different brand stripper, or belt sand it? Should I switch to a different brand stain, such as Armstrong Clark Hardwood Amber?

    Thank you.