HomeDIY CraftWhich Is the Right Finish?

Which Is the Right Finish?

Choosing between deck paint vs. stain can be challenging because both finishes are attractive and durable. The finish protects the wood deck from moisture damage, snow, UV rays and other outdoor elements. This article covers the key differences between paint and stain to help you choose the best finish for your deck.

Deck painting vs. staining

Painting your deck

Painting your old deck can give it a new look and hide any wood imperfections. Deck paint expands and contracts with temperature changes, resisting fading, cracking, scuffing and peeling. When choosing deck paint, it’s important to consider quality, color, finish and maintenance.

Painting your deck

Types of paints for decks

1. Acrylic-based paint

Acrylic deck paint is made from acrylic resin. It is a quick-drying water-based paint with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This type of deck paint is perfect for homeowners looking for environmentally friendly paint. While not as durable as oil-based paint, acrylic paint is cheaper.

2. Oil-based paint

Oil-based deck paint is popular for its durability and protection against weather elements. It is UV, moisture and mildew resistant, making it perfect for outdoor decks. Oil-based paints hold their color for many years, so you won’t need to repaint your deck as often.

But, oil-based paints take longer to dry and have a strong odor that lingers for days. They release more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than water-based alternatives.

3. Latex paint

Latex paint is water-based, low-VOC, and quick drying. It protects against UV rays and prevents cracking and chipping in hot climates. If you want non-toxic and DIY-friendly paint, choose latex paint. Its main drawback is poor color retention, so you may need to repaint it often.

Advantages and disadvantages of deck painting


  • lasts longer: A good quality paint job lasts up to 10 years without re-application. Latex paints are most durable in hot climates, while oil-based paints offer the best protection against moisture.
  • More color choices: Deck paint is available in various colors and finishes. From dark to neutral shades, you can choose a deck color that complements your home’s exterior.
  • Smooth, uniform appearance: A fresh coat of paint can seal any cracks and imperfections in the deck. Deck painting is more suited to a modern, clean aesthetic.
  • UV protection: Paint creates a protective barrier on the surface of the deck, protecting it from the sun’s rays. This protection helps prevent wood discoloration and deck surface discoloration.


  • slippery surface: Glossy deck paints create a smooth surface that can become slippery when wet. Choose other finishes for rain areas and nearby swimming pools.
  • Labor intensive: Painting a wood deck involves surface preparation, treatment with a wood preservative, and priming. You will also need to add two coats of paint and seal with clear polyurethane.
  • Expensive installation: High quality deck paints are more expensive than stains. Also, the need for touch-ups and repainting increases the long-term cost of deck painting.
  • Prone to cracking and staining: Peeling and chipping caused by harsh weather and poor application of deck paint. High foot traffic and accidental spills can cause discoloration, ruining the look of the deck.

Staining your deck

Deck staining is applying a finish to the surface of a wood deck to protect it from moisture damage, UV rays, and other elements. Unlike deck painting, which creates a solid color barrier on the surface, deck stains enhance the natural beauty of the wood.

Different types of deck stains include oil-based stains, water-based stains, epoxy-fortified and transparent stains. The choice of stain type and color depends on the desired level of transparency or opacity.

Staining your deck

Types of spots for decks

1. Translucent spots

Clear stains provide minimal color variation, so wood grain and texture can be seen clearly. Wood stain is perfect for new or well-maintained decks with minor surface damage.

2. Semi-transparent stain

These stains offer more color than clear but allow the grain of the wood to show through. Semi-transparent stains provide better UV protection and water resistance, which protects the deck from mold and mildew. They are suitable for decks with some imperfections and aging but still want to preserve the natural look of the wood.

3. Solid-color stains

Solid-color or opaque stains contain a lot of pigment, which hides the wood’s natural grain and texture. They are available in a variety of colors that effectively hide deck imperfections. If you want a fresh, bold look for your home’s exterior, choose this type of deck or porch stain.

4. Epoxy stain

Epoxy stain has a deep sheen similar to traditional oil-based finishes. They are very durable, so perfect for decks exposed to heavy foot traffic or harsh weather.

Advantages and disadvantages of deck staining


  1. Enhances the natural beauty of wood: Deck staining is an excellent way to maintain the natural look of wood while protecting it from damage.
  2. Good protection from moisture: The stain penetrates the wood and forms a protective film, which prevents water from soaking into the deck.
  3. Requires less frequent applications than paint: Decks are less prone to peeling and cracking than stain paint. Deck staining is generally more cost-effective than other deck finishing options.


  1. Less effective at hiding imperfections: Unlike paint, stain does not hide cracks or holes in wood decks.
  2. Limited color options: Most stains match the natural color of the wood. Typical wood stain colors are cherry, mahogany, walnut, ebony, and cedar.

Painting vs Staining: Key Differences to Consider

Deck finishing is usually the last step in building a deck. It is recommended to wait 30 days after installation for the deck to soak up the paint or stain. Comparing different wood finishes is essential when selecting a finish for your deck.

Natural beauty

Staining brings out the natural beauty of the wood grain and provides a rustic look. Painting, on the other hand, gives a smooth and uniform finish that can help hide wood inconsistencies.


Deck staining is cheaper than painting, costing between most stain brands $20 and $90 per gallon. You can estimate how much stain you’ll need with the deck stain calculator. Pre-stain treatment is simple and inexpensive, depending on the condition of your deck.

Expect payment within $30 to $60 a gallon $15-$30 per gallon of deck paint and primer. You must also consider other costs such as labor, deck repairs and replacements, and wood preservatives.

Availability of color choices

While deck paints are available in dark red, green, yellow, and blue shades, most stain brands come in natural wood tones. Nevertheless, modern decks have gray, white, black, green and blue wood stains. Custom color matching with colors is more common.

Ease of application

Deck stain’s thinner consistency and less surface preparation make it easier to apply than paint. Unlike paint, staining does not require a primer; Most transparent types provide ample coverage with one coat. Solid-color stain also dries faster than paint, allowing you to apply multiple coats in the same day.


The deck offers great durability and protection from paint and stain elements. But, if you’re comparing deck paint vs. stain, paint comes out as more durable and a colorful finish. Good quality deck paint lasts ten years or more. Stains fade over time and may require reapplication every 1-3 years.

Maintenance is easy

The paint forms a uniform layer that is easy to clean with dust or a broom. But stained decks require more effort to clean and can be damaged by heavy scrubbing. Touch-ups are usually more straightforward for stained decks that show signs of wear or minor damage. Unlike paint, you can reapply stain to damaged areas without extensive preparation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

Can I stain over existing paint or vice versa?

You can apply paint to stained wood if you sand the surface. Surface priming is also required for good adhesion. To stain a previously painted deck, you must completely remove the paint by sanding or stripping.

What is the best time to paint or stain my deck?

Summer and late spring are the best seasons to apply paint or stain to a deck. Warm, dry conditions allow paint and deck stains to dry quickly, giving a uniform finish. Choose a time when rain or snow is not expected for the next 24 hours

How do I prepare my deck for painting or staining?

Use a deck cleaner and scrubbing brush to remove dirt, mold, and existing paint or stains from the deck surface. Sand the surface and wash down dust and debris for better adhesion. For deck paint, you need to apply a primer before painting.

How can I protect my painted or stained deck from weather damage?

The best way to protect a painted or stained deck from damage is to seal it. A clear polyurethane finish protects the wood from scratches and prevents fading. A two-in-one stain/sealant is also effective in waterproofing the deck.


Leave a Reply

Most Popular

Recent Comments