How to Stain Your Wood Decking

We’re taking a break from the workshop and moving outside into the yard. Don’t worry, though. We’ve still got wood on our minds here at Miter Saw Judge!

Today, we’ll walk you through treating the wood you’ve got outside in the form of decking.


How to Stain Your Wood Deck

When you’re looking to find the most appropriate stain for your decking, it pays to stop and ask yourself some simple questions before you get started. Taking time at this stage can save you a lot of hassle later down the track. Go rushing in without proper planning, on the other hand, and you’ll live to regret it.

Think about your intended purpose and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much priority do you place on ease of application?
  • Is a stain with a lengthy lifespan your primary motivator?
  • Is budget a dominant factor in your buying decision?
  • What type of finish do you want?
  • Do you know anything about the difference between water-based deck stain and the oil-based alternative? 

If the answer to any of these questions is not immediately apparent, read on and we’ll help you out every step of the way.


Long-Lasting Deck Stain Needn’t Cost a Fortune

Even if you’re looking for a stain that will last for years, it’s absolutely not essential to spend a fortune for that privilege. Once you start looking, in fact, the price of the best stains might just surprise you.

As a rule of thumb, $50 per gallon will still yield a stain capable of returning years of service before it needs reapplication.

When you’re on the buying trail, we’d suggest paying little heed to the lengthy warranties and promises made by manufacturers. This is not a case of being pessimistic. The simple fact is, when you apply stain to a horizontal surface that’s continuously exposed to harsh UV rays, driving rain and also endless foot traffic, you’ll find it needs reapplying sooner than claimed.

We mentioned above the 2 main types of stain:

  • Oil-based
  • Water-based

What’s the difference and why should you care?

Oil-Based Stain or Water-Based Stain?

For years, oil-based stains enjoyed primacy in the head-to-head with water-based alternatives. Oil-based stains are easy to apply and built to stay the distance. An inbuilt advantage is the way they repel water and inhibit mold growth, always an unsightly and unwelcome addition to any decking. To ice the cake, oil-based stain serves to prevent warping and cracking that can spoil the effect of your deck completely.

What’s the catch, then?

The serious drawback with an oil-based stain is the fact it can take 48 hours or more to dry out. Clean-up is messy, too. You’ll need to grab a strong solvent to restore your brushes to their former glory. Since it’s flammable when wet, oil-based stain contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some manufacturers have countered this by changing the formula of their oil-based stains.

You do have another option, though…

If you choose a water-based stain, you’ll get far fewer VOCs so you can reduce your environmental footprint and also safeguard yourself from those noxious fumes. When you’re done staining, all you need is soap and water to clean up. Drying is brisk too and you’ll be ready to break out the BBQ in a couple of hours.

An oil-based stain comes in somewhere around the $25 to $45 per gallon mark. With water-based stains, expect to pay $40 to $75.

So far, so good.

How about the different colorings you might have seen on decking? How can you achieve this?



The pigment of the stain is also known as the opacity.

There’s more to getting this part of the equation right than just the color and these are your main choices:

  • Toner: A toner is very much like a sealer. Toners give your decking very little by the way of coloring. This type of stain certainly protects your decking from the harsh winds and weather but you’ll need to reapply annually for best results so bear this upkeep in mind
  • Semi-Transparent: This is the most popular deck stain. While you’ll impart plenty of color to your decking, you won’t end up obscuring the wood’s natural grain in the process. You’ll need to reapply the stain perhaps every 2 to 3 years so it’s much lower maintenance than toner with a far stronger finish
  • Semi-Opaque: Also known as semi-solid, this type of stain delivers a deep and rich color but does so at the expense of hiding the wood grain. Reapplication is only required after 3 or 4 years
  • Opaque: The deepest pigment at your disposal, solid stain lasts a half-decade or more. You won’t see any of the natural grain peeking through and you’ll get long-lasting protection


Preparation is Key

Once you’ve lasered in on the specific stain for your needs, don’t stint on the prep.

Wash the wood first and sand it if necessary.

Apply a wood cleaner and brightener so you can encourage the pores of the wood to open up. This allows the stain to better penetrate and the wood will absorb more of it. In turn, this leads to a prolonged lifespan.

Using a pressure washer can help blast the decking so it’s spotless and ready to receive your stain.

Applying Wood Stain

Luckily, this is the easy part.

Make sure you wear rubber gloves to protect your hands as you work.

  • Stir the stain thoroughly
  • Use a brush, sponge or rag to apply a generous coat of stain across the entire decking
  • Work in continuous movements to ensure even coverage and minimize the chance of any streakiness or blotches ruining the effect
  • Allow the stain to dry as directed above (2 hours for water-based stains and 48 hours for oil-based stains)
  • Clean your brush and you’re good to go!


Final Word

We hope you’ve learned a thing or two about staining your wood deck today. As you can see, the bulk of your time will be spend choosing the right stain but we’ve made that easy for you.

Have the patience to properly prepare your decking, get the pigment right and you’ll protect your outside space from the vagaries of the climate without spending too much time or money.

Come back next week as we’re moving back into the shop to bring you a collection of the best metal cutting saws so see you soon!

5 thoughts on “How to Stain Your Wood Decking

  1. How can I prevent hairs from the brush, lint from the rug, or tiny pieces from the sponge from mixing with the stain and ending glued to my decking?

  2. Is there some kind of stain that will make the grain stand out, like that will accent it, make it look darker than it is?

  3. Should I mix two or three stains to get the stain color that I want or is that not the way you should do decking staining?

  4. Couldn’t help but stare at that Siera Redwood on the picture up there… it’s just so pretty. Is that only the opacity of the stain or is there any other products that I should use before I stain the decking so to get the redish look?


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