A deck is an essential part of a home’s exterior. It provides an outdoor area for homeowners to relax and spend time with family and friends. They can use the deck year-round as a space for entertaining and even cooking. An exterior deck also adds value to a home when the house is put up for sale.
However, exterior decks require regular maintenance to retain their aesthetically pleasing appearance and functionality over time. Without sufficient care and attention, decks can deteriorate rapidly and lose some of their value.
If you’d like to avoid this, one of the most common ways to maintain a deck is by staining it.
What Is Deck Staining?
Staining is the process of adding a protective layer or coat to a deck. Stains are often water-based, but oil-based stains are sometimes used instead. The coating protects the deck from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and helps maintain the natural color of the wood. It also protects against mold, mildew, algae, and other elements that can cause the wood to deteriorate.
Why Stain A Deck?
An exterior deck stain is an investment in your home’s aesthetic beauty and value. Staining a deck is typically less expensive than replacing wood or other materials. It helps preserve or restore the original look of your home, adds character and charm to an outdated space, and gives you more time to enjoy spending time outdoors.
Here are several reasons homeowners choose to stain their decks:
- Staining adds a protective layer that shields the wood underneath from rain, snow, and ice damage.
- Stains also help prevent mold, mildew, and fungus growth on the deck’s surface. These growths can cause splinters and even permanent damage to the wood’s structure.
- Stains provide a protective coating against the foot traffic that the deck receives.
- Stains can help keep a deck looking clean and new.
Choosing A Stain For Your Deck
There are essential factors homeowners should consider when choosing exterior deck stains for their homes. Here are six tips for choosing the best deck stain.
Consider The Type Of Wood
First, consider the type of wood that will be stained. Homeowners should always begin their research by contacting a professional to determine the best kind of stain for their deck. A professional contractor can help homeowners determine which deck stains are appropriate for their home’s particular wood type.
Different types of wood require different types of stains. Each type of wood has a unique requirement for nutrients and moisture levels.
Cedar And Redwood
Decks made of cedar or redwood are often susceptible to temperature changes and differing moisture levels. Redwoods and cedars also contain high levels of natural tannin, which helps protect the wood against fungi growth. However, homeowners should not use water-based stains on these decks because they’ll trap moisture in the wood. Instead, they should use oil-based stains or deck stains especially formulated for redwood and cedar decks.
Pinewoods are softwoods that are often used to create decks. However, when exposed to moisture and water, pine may turn gray over time. To avoid this, use a color-preserving deck stain designed for softwood. Additionally, since this type of wood absorbs water quickly, you should consider an oil-based stain that offers moisture resistance.
Hardwoods include ipe, mahogany, oak, ash, and maple. Decks made from these are often less susceptible to moisture changes than redwood or cedar. They’re extremely durable and require a stain with lower volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions to prevent damage from sunlight. Low-VOC deck stains usually dry to a less glossy finish than other exterior stains.
Hardwood decks still require a tough exterior deck stain with good weather protection despite their durability. Homeowners should choose an oil-based stain because water-based stains may not provide the same level of protection against the elements.
Pressure-treated wood decks are often found in homes built on piers or in regions with extremely high humidity levels. The pressure treatment process often includes alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ), a type of lumber that’s very corrosive. Any exterior stains used on this type of wood must withstand harsh weather conditions and moisture exposure.
Consider The Wood Finish
Consider the type of wood finish on the deck before purchasing a new product. Decks typically have one of three different finishes:
Clear Wood Finish
Clear wood finishes provide a natural and delicate look. This finish shows off the wood grain and lets the wood naturally shine through. Clear exterior deck stains typically have low or no VOC, with a soft sheen.
Dark Wood Finish
Darker woods have less visibility of the wood grain underneath, so they typically require a bolder and more vivid stain color. Dark finishes are often made by adding one or two colors to a clear base coat.
Painted Wood Finish
Some decks are painted with oil-based alkyd paint instead of stained with wood stain. Alkyds are very durable and can last for years without needing recoating.
Consider The Wood’s Condition
You should consider the condition of your deck before applying a new stain. This tip may seem obvious, but many homeowners fail to fully prepare their decks for staining when they don’t realize that the wood needs sanding or priming first. It’s essential to strip off any flaking paint from the deck before applying a new finish.
Consider Climate Conditions
You should also factor in the climate conditions of your location before selecting a stain. Homeowners who live in hotter climates may need exterior stains with high heat resistance. Even those who don’t live in extreme heat should consider an exterior stain that offers UV protection, as well as water repellency to keep their decks looking nice despite heavy rain and snowfall.
Some homeowners apply exterior stains during the winter months, which is often a big mistake. It takes at least three to four days for exterior stains to cure fully before they can be exposed to foot traffic or rain. It’s also best to avoid applying the deck stain on rainy or extremely windy days, as it will make the product run and drip more than usual. For these reasons, before beginning the staining process, you should wait until the weather conditions are ideal.
Compare Deck Stain Brands And Colors
You should be sure to compare stain brands and colors when selecting a product to use on your deck. Some stains may dry quickly, and others may take several days; it’s best to compare brands and their qualities before settling on a product.
Color is also a factor. You should select an exterior deck stain that matches your paint colors or decking boards. It’s highly recommended to use a colorant when selecting a new exterior deck stain since the natural tone of the wood may not match what you want. Some homeowners use samples of paint colors to select a stain color because it’s the best way to match their home’s current exterior accurately.
Consider Stain Ratings
Look at the stain ratings on various types of exterior deck stains. Some products have a low rating because they tend to flake or peel easily after being applied. Others may have a high rating because they offer an exceptionally long-lasting exterior finish.
It’s important to consider the ratings before choosing a stain because you don’t want to spend your money on a product that will need to be replaced after only a few years. Look for professional reviews and online consumer feedback when choosing the best exterior deck finish for your needs.
Types Of Exterior Deck Stain
When choosing an exterior deck stain, you should know the different types of stains available. Three basic types of deck stains are popular among homeowners today.
Oil-based coats are made with tung oil or some other kind of oil. They’re highly pigmented and give long-lasting durability, but they take longer to dry than water-based stains.
Water-based stains are made using alkyd, hydroxyethyl, and acrylic resins. They’re easy to apply, but they wear down quickly and require many reapplications.
Hybrid stains are a combination of oil-based and water-based coatings. These are penetrating coatings that protect the wood and create a sheen.
Certain types of stains are better for certain environments. For example, oil-based stains are best for decks that receive a lot of direct sunlight because they don’t fade or crack. However, these products are harder to apply and maintain.
Water-based stains dry quickly and penetrate deeper into the wood’s surface than oil-based stains. They’re easy to apply, but they typically need to be reapplied annually.
Hybrid stains are the best choice for homeowners who want something that dries quickly and offers reliable protection against UV rays, rain, ice, and snow. These products provide a slight degree of sheen and come in various colors.
Exterior deck stains are an affordable way for you to preserve your wooden deck’s natural beauty. Choosing an exterior deck stain might seem like a daunting task when you consider the many brands and styles of stains available on the market, but it can be easy when you follow the above tips.