To Stain, or Not To Stain, that is the question…

Decks take a beating year in and year out, along with the railings.  The sun and rain continually pound the deck with their relentless presence, and it takes its toll on the wood. If left untouched, a wood deck would simply rot away and into nonexistence. To help prolong the life of a deck, there are several methods available to the consumer, one of them being stain. Unfortunately, nobody enjoys staining a deck.

Regarding the timeless question of To Stain or Not to Stain, the answer is yes, you should stain your deck. Stain provides a shield from the sun’s UV rays and it helps protect against the rain. Ideally this process would be done yearly for all decking, railing, fascia, or overhead structure.

Types of Stain

What type of stain to use? The two main types of deck stains are water based and oil based. Each of these stains have their pros and cons.



  • They are easier to install.
  • You do not have to worry about lap marks as you are applying the stain.
  • Have a more natural look.
  • Easy to reapply for future staining.


  • They dry slower which can be an issue with weather and climate.
  • Higher VOC (volatile organic compounds) content which is not good for the environment.
  • Do not last as long.



  • Have more color options if you are looking to match the color of the house.
  • Lasts longer.
  • Low VOC content.
  • Dries quickly.
  • Prevents water infiltration into the wood.


  • Harder to install.
  • Tend to flake off over time if not properly applied correctly.
  • Future applications may require sanding to remove old stain.

Staining Tips

The key to successful staining of a deck is in the preparation. Whether you are applying new stain or re-applying a stain, directions should be followed to make sure the all the hard work pays off. Here are some simple steps to follow:

  • Make sure the deck is dry prior to staining. A high moisture content either from the spring rains or from a new wood can prevent the wood from taking the stain properly.
  • Proper cleaning should be done as per the manufacture recommendations. This typically involves power washing or using a cleaner to remove the dirt and debris.

Staining a deck is nobody’s favorite task, most people dread doing it. To make this task somewhat enjoyable, please prepare yourself by doing the following:

  • Put together your favorite playlist of music.  Having some music of your choice playing throughout the process can really make this much more enjoyable.
  • Have a good list of podcasts to distract you from what you are doing will also help.
  • Prepare your “beverage” selection as this may be very necessary for the application or for your victory celebration.
  • Stay hydrated and try to avoid staining your deck when it is too HOT!!
  • Call your friends and family to come over after everything is dry.  There is nothing more satisfactory then telling the tall tales of the staining of your deck.  Being able to enjoy the hard work with others can really do a lot to heal the wounds.

Staining a deck may not be the best project, but it will really protect your investment as decks are not cheap. If done correctly though, you should get a lot of enjoyment out of your deck for years to come.