The Difference Between Deck Stain vs Paint

Should I Stain or Paint My Deck?

A good deck is essential for maintaining your lifestyle and spending quality time with your loved ones. When a deck is designed with the flow of your home, it creates an expanded living space where you can host meals and enjoy time in the fresh air. But you need to be sure that the deck is comfortable and clean, giving you a place to enjoy throughout the year. 

Is it time to refresh the appearance of your deck? It’s expected that wood decks need to be repainted or stained every few years. Not only does this upkeep maintain the overall look of the deck, but it also protects the wood from the elements. 

Before you jump to conclusions about the best way to retreat the wood, it’s important to compare your options for deck stain vs deck paint. Learning about these maintenance projects will help you determine the right way to protect your deck so it lasts for years.

What is Deck Stain?

As you are deciding whether to paint or stain deck materials, it can be helpful to talk to an experienced contractor for recommendations applicable to your local area. In many cases, staining your deck is a great choice because you can protect the wood while avoiding common issues that can occur with paint. 

A deck stain product is applied to the surface of the wood, helping to protect and preserve your deck. If your deck is made of wood, then you will need to use a deck stain to refinish the surface, based on the unique recommendations for the type of wood used. Other surfaces that need to be re-stained might include fences, wood siding, and any other landscaping features built with wood.

These transparent stains penetrate the wood, creating a clear film on top. The main benefit is that you can preserve the natural beauty of the wood, keeping the overall appearance that includes the grain and texture of the materials.

Deck stain blocks moisture, but it doesn’t protect the wood against sunlight exposure. Over time, you might notice that the wood becomes sun-damaged and discolored. So, it’s beneficial to use a tinted deck stain that restores the opacity of the deck with a solid or semi-transparent stain. In addition to improving the appearance of the wood, tinted color stains can also help by creating more sun protection to minimize future damage.

What is Deck Paint?

If you are going for a complete covering of the wood, then you need to consider the differences between a solid stain vs paint for a deck. Painting can be a great option because you have a variety of color options, making it easy to match the deck color with the rest of your home exterior. 

Painting a deck can provide the immediate benefits you need, but it isn’t always the best option. The main difference between deck stain vs deck paint is the thickness of the covering. Deck paint creates a thick layer over the wood surface. As a result, there is a higher risk of the paint peeling since it is common for wood to swell and expand due to weather conditions. Additionally, paint can be a problem if the water puddles on the wood. The areas where the puddles form are often the points where the paint begins peeling first. 

If you prefer the appearance of deck paint over a stain, then be sure to choose a quality exterior paint product. Outdoor paint is designed to be durable, helping to minimize the common issues listed above.

Deck Stain vs Deck Paint: The Best Choice

As you learn about your options to paint or stain deck materials, you will see that there are pros and cons to both products:

  • Wood Texture: The thickness of deck paint can hide wood texture, which might be a good option if you want to hide imperfections because the deck is old and worn. Deck stain seeps into the wood grain to maintain the natural appearance. 
  • Quality of the Wood: If your deck is old and nearing the end of its life, then a good coat of paint might buy you a few more years. Painting can restore the overall appearance of the deck and slow down the wear and tear. Eventually, the deck might need to be replaced, but painting offers an immediate solution to maintain your outdoor living space. 
  • Future Renovations: Choosing paint right now means that you could be facing a lot of work in the future when the deck needs to be treated again. A lot more sanding and scraping is required for paint vs stain. If you decide to change to stain later, then you will need to put in the time and effort to remove the paint completely. In most situations, you can go from stain to paint… but it’s too difficult and expensive to go from paint to stain. Once you decide to paint a deck, know that you will likely continue painting it in the future.
  • Wood Rot: If paint is used, you need to be careful to avoid trapping moisture inside the wood. A thick layer of paint can seal in the moisture, causing the wood to rot.
  • Peeling: Since wood tends to expand and swell in different weather conditions, consider how the stain or paint will hold up over time. These changes in the wood usually result in the paint peeling because cracks develop on the surface. On the other hand, stain allows for expansion without the risk of serious peeling issues in the future.

As a general rule of thumb, a deck stain needs to be redone every few years. But it tends to be an easier project compared to the work required for paint. On the other hand, a painted deck can provide durability for many years without maintenance, as long as the deck was prepped appropriately and proper methods were used to protect against moisture, climate, and sun exposure.

One option to consider is using a solid stain vs. paint for deck materials. This product has a thicker consistency compared to traditional stain, but it doesn’t peel as bad as paint. Often, a solid stain is longer lasting than other types of stain finishes. You can apply a thick layer of protection to block UV damage, without the risk of trapping moisture in the wood.

Types of Wood Decks You CAN & CAN’T Stain

Before you make the decision to paint or stain deck boards, it’s important to know what kind of wood you are working with. Wood decks can be designed using various materials, which respond differently to stain or paint. If you choose to stain the deck, you might consider an oil-based product because it’s easier to use and maintenance is simple. 

Generally, most types of wood can be stained or painted, but the appearance and overall results will vary depending on the type of wood and the refinishing products selected. The best solution is to talk to an experienced contractor about the type of wood, as well as your overall goals for the project. Then, recommendations can be provided to help you select paint or a stain that is built to last. 

Keep in mind that most types of non-wood deck materials cannot be stained or painted. For example, if you have vinyl or plastic deck planks, then the paint or stain won’t be effective since the surface doesn’t hold onto the covering. 

Types of Wood Decks You CAN & CAN’T Paint

Redwood and cedar are common materials commonly used for outdoor projects. These wood materials paint well, but you need to consider the cost of the wood as well as the paint materials when maintenance is needed. Other types of wood that can be painted include white wood and pine.

If you want a deck with a painted finish, then treated lumber is often the best option. These decks need to age between six weeks and three months so the wood can dry completely before painting. 

When you are painting a wooden deck, it’s smart to choose paint that is formulated for floors. Heavy traffic moving in and out of the house can take a toll over time. Select a paint that is rated for outdoor use, with the proper UV protection that helps to prevent fading. Often, it is best to use an oil-based paint, which can last up to three times longer compared to water-based paint.

Our Deck Professionals’ Recommendations

Before you jump into a deck maintenance project, take the time to talk to a local contractor for recommendations. Professional deck refinishing services can last for years before your deck needs to be treated again. Choosing an expert team means that you can ensure the project is done right – helping you minimize time and expense in the future.At Tandem Contracting, we offer full-service solutions for deck installation, repair, and maintenance. Whether you are getting ready to build a new deck, or your current deck needs a bit of upkeep, our team is here to assist. Call today to schedule a consultation.

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