Today:24 May, 2024

Should you paint or stain your deck?

A beautiful, polished deck is a vital piece of a complete home. It adds life and decor to the home. Simply put, a deck is an extension of your home, and a reflection of your mind. The question is – paint or stain a deck, which is better?

Before diving right into it, you would agree that a deck not only creates an extra living space in your home, it’s a vital extension that adds to the beauty and overall value of your home. Yes, a home with a deck is arguably much more valuable than a home without one.

Back to the question – paint or stain a deck, which should you use in your home? Well, both are excellent choices. They give the deck a fresh, polished, and more refined look. Your choice should be dependent on the kind of look and feel you want for your home.

Here are things you need to know before opting to deck paint or deck stain.

What is the stain?

Depending on the context, the stain could mean a color patch, dirty mark, or discoloration. Yes, these definitions are valid. But when it comes to deck staining, the stain is made of dissolved colorants. It could also be colorants suspended in a solvent or vehicle.

Most times, the stain may be partially dissolved (or suspended) in the vehicle. And the vehicle may be alcohol, water, petroleum distillate, or agents like polyurethane, lacquer, shellac, and varnish.

A beautiful deck makes an ideal home. What’s even more appealing is when the deck is stained. Imagine relaxing outside on a plane wood – that won’t be so soothing. Staining your deck will enhance the aesthetic value of your home as well as add spice to your living space.

5 differences between painting and staining a deck

Paint and stain are good options, but here are some differences between them.

1. The stain gives a natural look

can you stain treated wood


Wood stain forms a thin film over the surface. This way, the natural grain pattern, and the wood cracks will be visible. And the visibility of the grain patterns makes the deck have a natural look.

Since paint is comprised of a high percentage of resins and pigments, it produces an opaque covering when it’s dried. It’s a good choice for people who desire to hide the imperfection of the wood with a more refined, polished look.

2. Paint offers a variety

difference between paint and stain


Deck paints come in various colors. Whether you desire forest green or crimson color, there is something for you. Wood stain is designed to boost the natural wood color, and as such, the colors are limited to shades of brown.

3. Ease of application

painting a deck


Whether you are staining or painting a deck, you will have to prepare the surface. After preparation, you will have to apply the stain directly onto the surface using a brush or roller. The process is simple, and you will be finished in no time.

Applying paints is quite hectic. First, you need to treat the deck with wood preservatives. After painting, the surface has to be sealed with clear polyurethane.

All in all, you will notice that it’s much easier to deck stain than to deck paint.

4. Longevity

how long does stain last

Both deck paint and stain are prone to issues. Paints can easily be chipped and peeled, while the stain can be affected by heat. On a head-to-head comparison, the paint lasts longer than stains.

Paints may last up to ten years before reapplication, while stains do not last that long.

5. Maintenance

old deck paint or stain


Paint can easily be maintained. You can sweep dirt and dust away. On the other hand, the maintenance process that goes into keeping the stained deck clean is quite tedious.

Painting a deck

Before painting the deck, you need to prepare it for painting. The preparation process is quite simple – first, you clean the surface of debris.

Yes, you must clean the surface even if the deck is new. Remove all grates, furniture, and sweep the deck. It would be best if you sweep both sides of the boards – the open surface and the one underneath.

The underside is exposed to external factors such as temperature fluctuations and humidity. And if not painted, the board can shrink and expand. This, in turn, will cause the board to quickly rub off the paint.

To boost the longevity of your deck, you must do a good job of prepping, priming, and painting the board on all six sides. That’s not to say you can’t go on with the deck painting. But if you proceed with the painting, the wood will likely wear out if the board is not fully protected on all sides.

Next, you have to sand out the board. Sanding helps you remove every imperfection – stains, old paints, and other residues. Anything that stands in the way of exposing the bare wood has to be removed.

As a rule of thumb, you have to sand in the direction of the grain – not against it. After sanding, you have to prime the deck. The next step is to dive right into painting.

Apply the paints on the boards. The quantity should be carefully measured – you want to avoid excessive waste. Use a roller to go over the board, and a paintbrush to get to the nooks and crannies. If you want to get the best results, then you’ve got to paint the board on all sides.


  • It extends the lifespan of the deck
  • Darker paint is easier to clean than light-colored stain
  • Resists mold and rot
  • Blocks sun damage
  • Comes in varying colors.


  • Painting a deck takes time
  • It does not produce a natural-looking deck
  • It’s almost impossible to switch to stain once you’ve used paint on your deck
  • With paints, the deck may be slippery when wet.

Staining a deck

Before staining a deck board, the decking should be dry and clean. Therefore, it’s ideal to stain your deck board immediately after its production. Also, you should try not to stain under direct sunlight.

To get the best results, you should apply the stain using a bristle brush. Rollers are good options, but brushes force the stain into pores, giving you a much better result.

Even after staining a deck, you’d have to restain it periodically – ideally every two to three years. Before restaining the deck, you’ve got to keep it thoroughly cleaned.


  • Staining allows the natural beauty of the wood to shine through
  • Stains are not very slippery even when wet
  • Stains come in a variety of shades.


  • It’s not durable, and you would have to reapply every now and then
  • Stains do not cover the wood’s imperfections.

Conclusion: should I paint or stain my deck

As earlier stated, there is no clear-cut answer. It all boils down to what you want for your home. Do you desire a more natural look and feel, or do you prioritize variety over everything else?

If you want to be in tune with nature, and you desire the ease that comes with applying a deck stain, then go for it. Also, if you have kids and want to protect them from the pitfall that comes with a slippery surface, then your best bet is staining your deck.

People who are all in for longevity and color variations should opt for paint.

There is no better choice here – it all depends on what you desire for your home.


  • What kind of paint to use on the wood deck?

Deck paints can be acrylic or oil-based. Acrylic paints clean up easier and have less volatile organic compounds (VOCs), while oil-based paints are slower-drying, which makes them great for outdoor application.

  • Can you paint over a stained deck?

Yes, but you have to carefully do it the right way. Painting over stain can be done in several correct ways. The method to use is directly dependent on the type of stain.

In short, you have to properly prepare and prime the wood before painting.

  • How often should you stain your deck?

Staining your deck is not a one-time event. You should stain it often to keep the natural, polished look. To get the best result, you’ve got to stain your deck every two to three years.

  • Do you have to remove the old stain before restraining deck?

Yes, you need to remove the old stain, clean the wood thoroughly, and allow it to dry. Always remove the old, peeling stain before restaining your wood deck.

  • Can you stain an old deck?

Yes, but it would be best if you use a semitransparent stain. A semitransparent stain allows the grain to show through, and more importantly, it gives the old wood a polished, uniform look.


Joseph is the founder and Chief Editor of "Indoor To Outdoor". He is an entrepreneur with experience in sales of household products. He also travels a lot, takes pictures and loves to ride a bike.

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