Decking stains are all-in-one decking treatments that colour and protect wooden decking in one easy process. Perfect for use on most softwood and hardwood decking boards, decking stain helps to protect decking timbers against weathering, foot traffic, water penetration, mould, algae, and UV damage. In addition to colouring and restoring the appearance of new and old garden decking, these wood stains can also significantly extend the life of wooden decks.
The Different Types of Stain for Decking
Decking stains come in two distinct types which colour and protect the wood in different ways. The first type of stain coats the surface of the deck with a tough, durable, usually semi-translucient plastic like coating, that seals the surface of the wood. The second type of decking stains are the oil-based decking stains, or colour decking oils. These are also often referred to as ‘decking stains’. This can cause confusion as decking oils and stains work differently and require a different approach in terms of preparation, maintenance, and care. Always check when buying decking treatments to ensure that it is the right one for your decking project and type of decking.
Which is the best decking stain?
Choosing the right decking stain largely comes down to individual colour choice and opacity. Some decking stains simply provide a highly translucent tint to decking boards whilst others provide a deeper, darker, and a range of more striking colour. Some decking stains are more opaque than others with popular colours such as Charcoal, Stone Grey or White Wash.
Decking stain technology has moved on considerably over the years with modern formulas being tougher and more durable than those of the past. Our recommendation is to stick with the big-name brands such as Cuprinol, Ronseal, and Sadolin, and to avoid cheaper decking stain products from unrecognised brands. These tend to be cheap for a reason and rarely perform as well as decking products from well known, established brands.
3 of the Best Decking Stains
These are the types of decking stain that coat the surface of the wood with a tough, durable, film or coating.
- Ronseal Ultimate Protection Decking Stain: A water-based, acrylic decking stain and protective treatment for garden decking which offers unrivalled protection against foot traffic and weathering to Provide a long lasting, slip resistant finish. Available in a wide range of attractive colours including slate, and charcoal, as well as other traditional wood colour shades including Teak, Walnut, Medium Oak, and many more.
- Cuprinol Anti-Slip Decking Stain: A water-based, anti-slip decking stain for all softwood and hardwood decking. Contains anti-slip microbeads to improve grip making decked areas safer whilst provides long lasting wear and weather protection
- Sadolin Wet Wood Decking Stain: A water-based decking stain for bare, pressure treated or preservative impregnated decking. Perfect for smooth and grooved, softwood and hardwood decking boards. Can be applied to wet wood meaning that it can be applied in early spring or late autumn. Protects against mould and algae growth and provides a durable, hard-wearing, slip resistant finish that is also resistant to peeling and flaking.
Oil based decking stains or colour decking oils
As an alternative to the coating type decking stains, coloured or pigmented decking oils offer a great alternative. To find out if this alternative is a better option for your decking, see our decking oil guide here which explains all about coloured and pigmented decking oils.
What are the benefits of decking stains?
- Decking stains can offer a stronger darker colour as the coats build on the surface of the decking boards rather than absorbing into the wood
- Decking that is cleaned and maintained on a regular basis with a suitable decking cleaner is less prone to moss, mould and algae. This is because the biological spores cannot bond with the wood fibers of the decking boards.
- Most decking stains offer UV resistance to the woods natural colour. As a tip, the darker the deck stain the better the UV resistance offered to the timbers it protects.
In terms of life and duration, this can be dependent on many factors such as the decking location and usage. Care should be taken to protect decking stains from anything that is sharp and heavy. If the seal of the coating is compromised, water may start to work its way under the stain. This will eventually result in the stain starting to lift, crack or peel from the surface of the wood.
Some types of hardwood decking may require a period of weathering, usually a couple of months before applying a decking stain. Decking made from exotic hard woods such as Teak and Iroko, can contain a lot of natural oils. These can be problematic as they may affect the adhesion of the stain to the wood. In many cases, new hardwood decking is better treated with a thinner decking oil that is more suited to dense, exotic, hard woods.
It is recommended that before applying a decking stain to exotic hardwood decking, you check with the decking manufacturer or supplier to get advice on how long the decking should be left to weather prior to treating. It is also imperative that decking boards are completely dry and have been for several weeks prior to applying a decking stain. Exotic hardwood decking boards may also need to be degreased immediately prior to staining with methylated spirit, to remove any natural oils from the surface of the wood, that may affect the adhesion of the stain to the surface of the deck. It is recommended that White Spirit is not used as this can leave an oily residue that may affect the adhesion of the decking stain.
If treating softwood decking with a wood preservative prior to staining, ensure that any preservative used is wax and silicon free. Many wood preservatives contain a small amount of wax to provide some weather protection. This can prevent coating type stains from bonding with the surface of the wood and may lead to delamination, peeling or flaking of the stain. Find out about suitable decking preservers here.
Alternatives to decking stain treatments
An alternative to a coating-type decking stain is to use a decking oil with colour. Pigmented or coloured decking oils are sometimes labelled as ‘decking stains’ but it is important to know the difference between the two types of decking treatment. Oil-based decking stains or oils penetrate into the surface of the wood grain and dry whereas coating type decking stains form a film or seal over the surface of the decking.
Decking Paints are another option for colouring decking. Decking paints produce a tough, durable, opaque finish for a more modern appearance. Especially useful for old and worn decking, they offer a quick and easy alternative to a more traditional looking wooden decking. Decking paints are available in a wide range of attractive colour tones and shades. Find out more about decking paint colours & benefits here.
Garden Decking FAQ’s
Can’t find the answer to your garden decking care or maintenance project above? See our frequently asked wood decking questions and answers page, where we try to answer some of the more commonly asked questions relating to garden decking care, maintenance, and decking treatments.