There are many different colors and opacities when dealing with decking stain. Before searching for a deck stain, you should determine the look you want. Some stains (solid colors) will completely hide the wood grain while others (transparent and semi-transparent) while allow the grain to show through, this is referred to as opacity. The higher the opacity the more pigmentation resulting in less wood grain showing.

Color is the tint or hue a deck stain has. Many different colors and tints can be added to stain. The most common are natural wood colors, redwoods, and darker browns. Color is directly related to opacity. Lower opacity of a stain allows the wood's natural color to show through more while a higher opacity will hide more of the wood's color resulting in more of the stain's color or pigment to show. While all deck stains provide water protection, the more pigment a stain has the more UV protection it provides. A clear stain would provide almost zero UV protection while a solid stain would provide the most protection from the sun.

Opacity levels of deck stains are categorized as semi-transparent stains, semi-solid stains, and solid or opaque stains. 

 Semi-Transparent - A semi-transparent deck stain provides a "see through" protective layer that allows most of the wood's natural color to show through. With semi-transparent stains, the pigment color can vary widely from deck to deck. A lot of times a color sample of the stain is only a general idea because the wood's natural color will affect the overall look of the deck stain. In general transparent stains will  penetrate better into the wood, giving a more natural look to the wood.

Semi-transparent stains are the easiest to maintain. In most cases they can be cleaned with a deck cleaner to remove dirt and grime then re coated without the need for sanding or stripping. If needed they can be stripped easily.

Semi-Solid - Semi-solid deck stains will almost completely hide the wood grain and natural color. These stains provide more UV protection than a semi-transparent and are a better representation of the stain's actual color.

Solid or Opaque - These types of wood stains hide the grain completely and provide the most UV protection. Solid color stains will “film” on top of the wood, masking the grain, while looking like paint.

It should be noted that heavily pigmented deck stains are harder and normally more expensive to maintain. Unlike a semi-transparent that just fades away over time, solid stains begin to build up after several years of application making it necessary to completely remove or strip the stain to get back down to bare wood again. This requires a sanding, deck stripper, more labor, and expense.

Understanding the differences between color and opacity and the differences of protection will allow you to choose the deck stain that is right for you.

Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

Semi-Solid Wood Stain

semi_transparent_stain semi_solid_stain
Solid Color Wood Stain  
Solid_Color_Deck_Stain  
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