Take a trip through your local hardware or paint store and you might be taken back by the wide variety of deck treating products on the market. What’s the difference between stain and a sealer? How do you know which product is right for your deck? This primer attempts to answer those questions. Let’s start at the biggest decision you’ll have in the deck treatment isle: “Do I seal or stain?” This choice is up to your preference, but they each have their own benefits and drawbacks.
To Seal or Stain?
Sealers are any transparent treatment that protects from the damaging effects of the weather. Sealing is typically done every 1-2 years depending on the product, and reading the label can give you the exact length of time the product will last. A quick way to tell if your deck needs treatment is to sprinkle some water on the surface and watch what happens. If the water beads up your wood is safe, if the water looks like it is absorbing into the wood its time to get to work. Sealing your deck allows the natural color of your wood to shine through while providing excellent weather protection.
Deck stains are any semi-transparent or solid color treatment. Stain provides not only great weather protection but protection against damaging UV rays from the Sun. Solid stains can last upwards of 4 years per application; again, the label on the product will provide specific details as to its suggested lifespan. While stains provide great protection they are considered a more permanent choice in deck treatment. Deck stains will permanently change the color of your wood (semi-transparent stains will still allow the wood grain to show through). Because of this once you use a stain you can’t decide to go back to a natural looking wood without rebuilding the entire deck!
From here your choices break down even further between latex or oil based, different active chemicals, colors, and so on. What you need depends greatly on the type of materials your deck is made of, and your desired look. There are many articles and reviews online and a trip to your local hardware or paint store to speak with a sales associate can point you in the right direction.
A Quick Word on Applicators
We’ve done a lot of research and experimentation with the application of deck stains and sealers and we believe that pad style applicators, like our Woodmates stain applicators, are by far the best way to apply either type of material to your deck’s surface. They hold more stain for faster finish times, and apply material more evenly for a better looking final product. Woodmates stain applicators are also tear-resistant, very useful when working with the rough wood you may encounter while treating your deck.
What about you? What experiences have you had trying to pick out the right deck treatment? Do you have any tips or tricks for this type of project? Do you have any questions that you can’t seem to find answers for? Let us know in the comments below!