Wood Deck Staining & Sealing Tips

Making the process of cleaning and staining a wood deck easier.

It took some time, but earlier this summer I did finish staining all the wood around the exterior of my house, which included – the lake gazebo, dock and then the two decks on the house.

I finally took the photos to show how the decks on the lake side of the house look now that they have all been freshly stained. You can also see the products that I used to get the big job done without too much effort… in time to enjoy all for the summer.

Lake Dock before staining

I started the project back in the spring on the dock using a semi-transparent stain. It was pretty easy to apply and a million times better than the failed deck stain that I used at my previous home 6 years ago.

Standing on freshly stained deck looking down into yard and lake.

After the dock was done, I moved to the upper deck on the house.

Wood deck after being stained using Behr Semi-Transparent stain in the color Chocolate. View from upper deck to lower deck.

I finished the project by staining the main deck that wraps around the main floor of the house.

Deck Surface BEFORE

Wandering Jew planted in planter

We use this deck on a daily basis 9 months a year. It is worth the time and effort to keep it looking its best.

When we first moved into the house, the deck had been recently stained. So it has been about 5 years. Doing deck stain research, I learned that most deck stains last about this long on decks, longer on upright wood, like railings. It was time to get it cleaned and re-stained.

The hardest part of the whole project seriously was picking out the stain color. I thought I had it figured out, but when I applied the color – it was way too red/orange. Back to the color charts I went, not just once, but a few times.

Deck Staining & Sealing AFTER

Standing on freshly stained deck looking down into yard and lake.

The problem was that since the deck is so large, the previous finishes had faded to many colors of brown-rust on the deck flooring and railings. One area still looks dark brown, while another looked rust and other sections were totally worn. Plus, I wanted the deck, gazebo and dock to all look the same color.

When I tried a sample pot of a stain color on one part of the deck, it would look fine, but too dark or light on another.

If only the previous owner had left a can of the stain they used in the garage when we bought the house, the color selection would have been super easy. :-)

Standing on freshly stained deck looking down into yard and lake.

What I ended up doing was mixing two colors of stain to get the best overall color.

Two black outdoor rockers on deck over looking a lake.

I took the photos for this post during the “Golden Hour” that happens around an hour before sunset. I love it at this time of day, even on hot, humid days like we have been having.

Looking down from second floor to round white outdoor table and chairs on stained wood deck.

We like to sit outside to eat, read and just gaze out at the lake.

View of deck staircase from upper deck.

The yard around my house is dappled in sunlight and shade that casts interesting shadows and light.

View from the water of lake house

Deck railing flower boxes

It is one of the features I love about the house. So many homes around us have no trees and are in full sun all day.

What Is the Best Stain To Use on a Wood Deck?

The best stain to use on a wood deck comes down to a few things. Most major brands of stain sold at home improvement stores work well.

Photo of a Gallon-of-Behr-Semi-Transparent-Stain-and-Sealer

Behr Semi-Transparent Stain in Chocolate.

For me, it came down to color. After looking at stain colors at Lowes and Ace Hardware, I found the best color matches for my deck in the Behr line sold at Home Depot.

This formula of stain & sealer comes in a few ready-made colors and also a large variety of custom colors.

The color I ended up using on the deck, dock and gazebo was a 50/50 mix of ready-mixed Chocolate with a custom color – Chestnut.

The stain & sealer comes in 3 formulas – Transparent, Semi-Transparent and Solid. I like semi-transparent because it has some color to hide imperfections in the wood, but you can still see the wood grain. This is different from a solid stain, which is opaque like paint.

All the formulas are water-based and clean up with soap and water. Always read the application instructions on the can label for important details about temperatures and drying times.

How to Apply Stain to a Wood Deck

Upper deck on house getting stained.

supplies needed:

Should I Use a Brush or Roller To Stain My Deck?

6" deck staining brush.

This inexpensive 6″ wide brush that I screwed onto a paint roller extension pole made the staining process easy.

You can use a roller to stain a deck, but I have found that when you use a brush you can push the stain down into the wood more while following the pattern in the grain. With a roller, it can sit on the top depending on the roller and pressure used.

My Deck Staining Process

Looking down on deck staircase stained in the color Behr Chocolate.

Since we have a lot of wood to stain, I sectioned the deck and did one section at a time so it would not feel overwhelming.

Wait for the deck surface to be in the shade and the temperature to be around 80 degrees – not too hot or humid. Make sure there is no rain in the forecast.

I applied two coats of stain, allowing at least a day for the first coat to dry before applying the second coat. It took a week to do the main deck, but only 1 – 2 hours of work each day as most of the time was to allow for the first coat of stain to dry.

  • Ed cleaned each section of the decking first with a power washer and cleaning solution. After power washing, he rinsed the deck well with clean water and then let it dry. Cleaner used is linked in the supplies list above.
  • When the wood was completely dry, I stained the section.
  • I applied a second coat 2 days after doing the first coat to make sure the first coat was dry.
  • When one section was done, I moved onto the next section to repeat the process.
  • After you complete one section, clean the brush well with hot soapy water and then hang it upside down so excess water drains from it. It will be dry and ready for the next staining session.
Water repelling on Behr Semi-Transparent Stain

We are very happy with the results. As you can see the sealer is working well by pooling water that allows it to dry faster and not get into the wood.

View of lake and yard.

Since the deck is now stained and sealed, it should hold up for another 6 years. We are enjoying being able to sit out on it and enjoy the view.

More Staining Projects Around the House

Two black outdoor rockers on lakeside deck. Text overlay says Deck Staining and Sealing Tips

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  1. Gorgeous transformation! What are your thoughts on staining vs. painting a deck? I personally love the stained look like being able to see the wood grain pattern underneath. I know painting is a way to fill in chips and holes, but would the layers of stain and sealer somewhat fill out the wood, just to a lesser extent?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Debbie – With your deck website, you would be better at knowing the answer to your question better than I would. :-) I prefer stain as it wears away over time. Paint could crack, peel and chip. Deck restore products that go on like thick paint look great when first applied, but if not applied exactly in the right conditions will fail over time creating a bigger deck problem.

  2. Futura Interiors says:

    Awesome blog.Was much helpful and try to implement.
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  3. Mine is clean – but needs to be stained and sealed. I love the color of yours!

  4. I Love the color stain you mixed up, it looks beautiful!!

  5. Cate Cooper says:

    Diane, it looks FANTASTIC! Wow! Good job.

  6. Kimberly Carnegie Bruhn says:

    We don’t live on the water but definitely need to do our deck and balconies that run around our house…they are all connected so need to look the same. I was wondering if you could tell us what your husband used to clean the deck and did he do it before power washing? Thanks in advance!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Kimberly – We used Mold Armor Deck and Fence Cleaner. For the size of our decks, we needed two containers of it. He used the cleaner in the power washer. The power washer has a place to pour the cleaner into. It mixes with the water when it is sprayed out. If using a water jet only power washer, hose the deck off with water to get it wet, then clean with the cleaner using a scrub brush on a pole to make it easy. Rinse it off with water and then let dry.

      There are many deck cleaners sold at home improvement stores. Any of the brands sold will do the job. Just make sure to rinse the deck well with water after cleaning and read the label for any specific instructions.

  7. So charming and inviting! Absolutely beautiful “after” photos. Enjoy ……

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Erin :-)