Choosing a Stain or Sealer

July 22, 2015

When choosing a stain, remember that the finished color varies based on the wood itself. If you’re applying a new stain over an old one, choose a color that’s similar to or darker than the original. Test the color in an inconspicuous area to ensure proper color.

Redwood and cedar contain pigments that may bleed to the surface. On these woods, use a dark color stain that makes the bleeding less noticeable. These stains require recoating every two to three years.

  • Clear water repellent provides basic protection, including waterproofing, minimal UV protection and sometimes mildew growth prevention. Because of the minimal UV protection, this type of sealer allows the wood to turn gray, though without splitting, warping, cupping or cracking. Recoating is required at least once a year.
  • Wood toners are similar to clear water repellant, but they include a hint of color to help maintain or restore the natural beauty of wood. They provide similar levels of protection against splitting, warping, cupping and cracking but tend to last a little longer.
  • Clear wood preservative with UV protection protects your deck and prevents graying. These are often used on cedar and redwood decks to preserve the original color. Oil-based preservatives can last for up to two years.
  • Semitransparent stains are subtle and show the grain and texture of wood. These stains contain pigment that protects against sun damage better than a clear preservative. Oil-based semitransparent stains provide the most protection, better color retention and longer life.
  • Solid stain is available but tends to wear quickly when applied to high traffic areas. If you decide to use a solid stain, apply it to rails and benches only. If you use a solid stain on the entire deck, it will require frequent maintenance for peeling and cracking, so choose a semitransparent stain for main traffic areas. If your deck already has solid stain on it, you must either keep using a solid color or use deck stripper. Deck stripper removes clear and solid / semi-transparent stains.

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