Does Staining a Deck Protect It?

Staining your deck is a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to protect the wood from damage. It can prevent mold, mildew, and rot from damaging the surface of your deck and causing it to sag or collapse over time.

It is important to choose the right stain for your deck. There are several options available, including clear stains that allow the natural beauty of the wood to show through.

Is Your Deck Stain Moisture Resistant?

Stains that penetrate the wood rather than creating a film offer better moisture resistance, but the most important factor is how clean the deck is before you stain. Sweep the entire surface to remove leaves, twigs, needles and branches, plus any debris lodged between boards. Wash it thoroughly with a deck detergent that’s recommended for your type of deck (available at home centers and hardware stores). A stiff bristle broom can help you eliminate mildew stains and stubborn dirt that may not come off with regular cleaning.

If rain is forecast during the time you’re staining, wait to finish the job. Rain will wash wet stain off the wood and cause it to dry with a blotchy appearance. Similarly, a wind gust can blow your stain onto plants or furniture that you don’t want covered. Read the stain can label for specific instructions on what temperature is ideal to apply it. It’s best to work in the shade so the sun doesn’t heat up the stain and dry it too quickly.

UV Resistant

Solid stains that cover wood with a thick surface film offer the best color and protective durability. They also hide imperfections like cracks and splinters. They are sometimes referred to as deck paint and provide the most protection against UV light fading. However, they are prone to peeling and blistering in direct sunlight or wet conditions. They may need to be stripped, sanded and recoated periodically.

A clear stain or sealant only repels water and does not protect against sun damage. However, it can be less slippery than a solid stain and it doesn’t have to be reapplied as often.

Defy UV-Resistant Clear Wood Finish is available in several natural shades and is low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds) so it’s environmentally friendly. It can be used on all natural wood surfaces including decks, log homes and shake shingles. Follow preparation and application instructions on the package. Regularly sweep your deck and reposition outdoor furniture to prevent sunlight from bleaching mismatched areas of wood color.

Protection from Insects

In addition to sun damage, a deck can also be damaged by insects. Some pests can cause serious structural problems for wood and composite decking, including powderpost beetles that burrow into the deck boards and leave small holes the size of a pencil tip. Termites can also be a problem, chewing through the wood and other materials on a deck until it collapses. These pests can be prevented by staining the deck with a quality, durable product.

Staining a deck requires sanding the surface of the wood to prepare it for the stain. This is a time-consuming task, and you’ll want to do it in the shade when the temperature is cooler, to prevent heat from drying the stain too quickly.

When you’re ready to begin staining, make sure your deck is clean and dry and that all surrounding structures are protected with painter’s tape and drop cloths. It’s a good idea to read the stain can label and consider the weather forecast, as rain can wash wet stain away or cause it to dry with an unsightly blotchy appearance.


Most high-quality stain products combine pigment with a sealant to offer both protection against moisture and UV damage. A good stain can dramatically improve the appearance of a deck. Stains tend to have a more natural look than paint, and they usually allow the wood’s color to show through.

Before applying a stain to a deck, a light sanding can help revive the surface. It can also raise the grain, allowing for better absorption of the stain. It’s important to wait for a period of time after sanding to ensure that the wood is completely dry.

If you’re staining a new deck, it’s best to work during the coolest part of the day. This will make it easier to avoid squeezing too much stain onto any areas that are difficult to reach. Start with the railings and any other features above the deck, then move down to the boards. Use a large brush or pad applicator to apply the stain in long, even strokes.