Painting vs. Staining a Deck: Choose the Right Choice for Your Deck

When it comes time to protect your new wood deck-or an older one, for that matter, due for a fresh finish-the age-old question arises: Should I stain or paint? Each method has its pros and cons, with several factors needing consideration before you make a decision.

The Pros & Cons of Staining a Deck

Behr-deck-stain-applicationWith stain, you control whether or not-or how much of-the wood’s color, grain and texture are visible by choosing a level of opacity, from clear to solid-colored stain. If the wood in your deck deserves highlighting, such as with redwood, cedar and cypress, stain may be the way to go.

Staining requires stripping and reapplication every one to three years, though, with the opacity of the stain, weather and frequency of use dictating how long the finish lasts; a more opaque stain will last longer. Stain also does not offer the best UV ray resistance, unless you opt for a solid color.

The Pros & Cons of Painting a Deck

powerwash-deckA paint job on your wood deck will last longer than staining, up to 10 years if you prep correctly and use a high-quality paint made for wood decks. The additional protection paint provides from UV rays and moisture also can extend the life of the wood itself. And the number of paint colors you have to choose from will be far greater than that of stain, allowing you to more easily match or complement exterior paint colors.
The prep required is extensive, though, and a professional painter provides the best results in terms of lifetime and appearance.
No matter which product you pick, a few best practices will ensure the best results:

  • Do not take short cuts when it comes to prep: Thoroughly clean, and strip if necessary, all surfaces to get proper adhesion; apply a preservative either separately or within the product; and prime
  • Fill any nail or screw holes to keep moisture from seeping into the wood, which will defeat the purpose of protecting the surface of your wood deck
  • Stain or paint all surfaces even if they do not get exposure to UV rays or other elements

Switching From Paint to Stain

If you are refinishing an older deck that has been stained before, you are not limited only to that product going forward. How much work must be done to make the switch depends on a few factors. A paint job in decent shape can be stained over with a high-opacity stain. One that is flaking will require stripping and sanding as part of the prep. Also, if using an oil-based stain, you will need to remove the paint to get the new finish to properly adhere. To learn more about this particular process, read our Stain Over Paint | Can You Stain Over Painted Wood? post.

Choosing the Right Stain for Your Wood Deck

deck-staining-sealingIf you do decide stain best suits your deck, be sure to buy the right one. There are water-based stains and oil-based stains. We recommended oil-based stains, in particular, for decks. This type of product offers better penetration and lasts longer. You also can get a mildew-resistant oil-based stain. To learn more about the differences between the two types, check out our Wood Stain | Buying the Right Stain for your Deck or Home post.

Finishing your wood deck will give it the most protection against the elements and create the best appearance for an outdoor living space. Consider it an investment in your home, one that will pay for itself in enjoyment and even resale value if you plan on selling in the near future.

Specializing in exterior and interior painting, on residential and commercial projects, ProTect Painters provides local businesses and homeowners across the country with highly-skilled, trustworthy, and fully insured and licensed painting professionals who provide superior craftsmanship. Utilizing a myriad of paint options and finishes, combined with flawless customer service, ProTect Painters guarantees a stress-free home improvement experience for its customers.


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