How To Stain A Deck

There are a wide variety of deck stains to choose from.  Companies offer both oil and latex stains in opaque and semi-transparent finishes, as well as clear sealers.  The most important step in preparing to stain your deck is choosing the correct product and making sure your deck is clean.

Product Selection

   Benefits of latex products:

  • Expand and contract with warm and cool temperatures
  • Quick dry time
  • Can be coated twice the same day
  • Easy soap and water clean-up


     Benefits of oil-base products:

  • Creates a harder finish than latex when dry
  • Penetrates the wood deeper than water-based products
  • May last longer than latex-base products

Is latex better than oil?  That is still up for debate, both products have their advantages and disadvantages.  The old adage "you get what you pay for" can be used.  If you pay $10 dollars per gallon for a stain it won't protect your deck or look as nice as the $30 dollar gallon of stain.

Semi-Transparent stain

  • Allows the wood grain to show through
  • Depending on the product you chose, most will dry to a flat sheen.  Deck stains are penetrating stains and do not leave any shine when they have cured
  • Does not provide much protection against UV rays

Opaque (solid) stain

  • Provides excellent UV protection
  • Hides imperfections on decks and covers up weathered, faded semi-transparent stains
  • Lasts up to 2 times longer than semi-transparent stains

Clear Sealer

  • Provides a crystal clear protective coating
  • Does not provide much protection against UV rays



I know your time is valuable, but preparation is almost more important than what deck stain you choose to use.  If you do not read and abide by what I'm about to say, your deck stain will fail up to 50% faster than if you do the following steps.  I guarantee it will happen because I have been selling deck coatings for years and have heard success stories and horror stories.


This section is so important, I've made a separate article for it as to not make this tutorial too long.  Check it out:  How To Prepare A Deck For Staining


Materials needed

Deck stain, brush & roller, deck cleaner, drop cloth, pressure washer (optional), garden sprayer (optional).



  1. Start by staining the railings first.  Place a drop cloth underneath to collect any drips.
  2. Apply the stain to the deck by roller, brush or garden sprayer.  If you roll or spray the stain on, be sure to back-brush the stain so it is spread evenly and pushed into the wood.
  3. Apply a second coat if necessary.
  4. Clean up tools.
More in this category: « How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets

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