Deck decision time: To stain, or not to stain?

For the third consecutive year, I’m embarking on my annual dive-into-wintertime-preparedness training which, for the most part, consists of me weatherproofing the deck, pergolas, and front porch which will inevitably be coated with over a foot of snow at least sometime in the next six months. If you’re bracing yourself for a similar operation, you might find DIY Network’s tutorial on cleaning and staining decks helpful. I did, but it really got my brain working:

More and more, I’m starting to think about staining our deck.

To stain, or not to stain an au natural deck?

Help a girl out, and chime in with your experiences in taking a deck from au natural to a stained finish.

For the most part, the natural weathering of pressure-treated deck boards is pleasant to me. That’s why I never stained the deck right from the start; the wood has faded over the last 3 summers, gradually shifting from a rich yellow pine to a blonde and gray finish. Maintenance was limited to the annual weatherproofing that I wrote about above, and I haven’t had to give much consideration to how stain will wear or need to be repaired over time.

The unstained deck, two years of wear.

These days though, I’ve started to give consideration to other options, because a consistent, translucent brown finish might be really nice against the soft gray of our home’s siding. My main concerns are, by beginning to stain now, am I opening up a whole can of worms? Does the deck look unfinished without stain to you? Or would it be dramatically improved with a fresh finish? Will I need to plan on re-staining it every year, and how much would I have to worry about heavier trafficked areas wearing differently than less-trafficked corners?

I waver around on this topic, and that’s why I’m turning to you, other DIY-fanatics, contractors, designers, and homebodies. Help a girl out.

Everyone will have different opinions about what color the deck should be stained, that’s to be expected, but tell me: what are your thoughts on the topic? Has anyone out there stained your deck only to regret it, and wish you had just left it au natural?

Catching the home improvement bug at an early age, Emily Winters is a now a devoted DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects she covers on her blog Merrypad range from painting a wall to building a deck, so it’s only natural she landed at DIYNetwork.com. You can follow Emily on twitter at @merrypad and like her on facebook at facebook.com/merrypad.

21 Responses

  1. Edward says:

    I just built a big deck around an above ground pool. I stained it with red wood color using a roller…did not work well. I went the second time with a 4" x 1" brush and it turned around better but a little too dark for what I wanted. Learned that next time I shouldn't use a roller.
    Also noticed that the wood started to warp after the stain application. (I waited for the wood to "dry" for six weeks before the stain application).
    Is the wood not able to breath properly as it was stained on the top and sides, but no on the bottom, producing this deformity?
    I have stained 40% of the deck. Is it worth it to continue staining it? Should a water proofing treatment recommended after the staining is finished?
    I have heard that waterproofing it alone will keep the good looks of natural wood while protecting it against the elements and UV.
    The wood I'm using is treated yellow pine and the stain is water based.
    Do you have any suggestions to save this deck…or at list the 60% remaining?

  2. ROBBILYNN says:

    SAW THIS THREAD ND HAD TO JUMP IN. YEARS AGO WE BUILT A NEW FRONT PORCH AND FOR POST WE HAULED SOME POPLAR OFF THE MOUNTAIN AND MY SON DEBARKED IT ALL. IN THE SUMMER (THIS WAS FALL) I WANTED TO STAIN THE TREATED WOOD WITH SOMETHING TO HELP PROTECT IT. WE HAD HUGE AMOUNTS OF OLD MOTOR OIL FORM THE GARAGE SOOOO, I HELPED MYSEL. THE FRONT CAME OUT LOOKING REALLY FINE. I HAD TO CLOSE IT OFF FOR ABPOUT A WEEK BUT AFTER THAT IT WAS READY FOR USE. I HAVE TO ADMIT I DID THIS WITH SOME CONCERNS..~SMILES~ HONEY, IS IT GONNA STICK TO OUR FEET OR SHOES?? WILL IT RUB OFF QUICK?? IT SOAKED IN REALLY WELL AND LEFT A FINE OLE TIMEY LOOKING PORCH THAT HAS BEEN ENJOYED FOR YEARS!

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  5. Gary C says:

    I recently built a deck at the front of our home, and after the pressure treated lumber weathered we stained it redwood (a deep dark redwood) to match another existing deck and our current shutters. It looks awesome. We now can enjoy the deck more before the snow comes…can't wait for spring. We are Vermonters!

  6. LeAnn says:

    I will be doing this same project of staining and waterproofing this coming week! I chose a lighter semi-transparent color to try to keep close to the current look of the wood. The brand we bought says it is guaranteed to last 3 years on decking! Just waiting for some nice weather here in chilly Indiana!

  7. Moodyvega says:

    Golden Peacan Stain for natural wood color and please post your photos of completed job…

  8. pepper says:

    yes stain it

  9. Pam S says:

    I have had contractors tell me about using used motor oil (not from diesel engines)….from what they have told me, inexpensive but looks good and protects. Doesn't get dark like one would expect. Sounded strange to me, Must wait on pressure treated wood to completely dry before doing. Guess one could do a test board and see. Definitely do NOT use oil from diesel engines tho.

  10. Courtney says:

    Stain it a nice cherry oak color will make everything pop!

  11. Beth Gray says:

    We have a huge cedar wrap around deck in the state of Maine. We always liked the natural gray look but became concerned about the damage from being untreated. We did not want to deal with maintaining a stained deck. We decided this year to apply penofin oil which gave it a nice light brown finish color and was very easy to apply. We love how it looks and def sheds water well…check it out!

  12. TC2 says:

    get a sprayer

  13. jack-wardlaw says:

    i like the looks of staining

  14. jack-wardlaw says:

    it will help the wood to last longer

  15. yasra roubi says:

    Yes if u stain it it look good and protected from the weather

  16. [...] via: Deck decision time: To stain, or not to stain? Category: Home Tags: Decision, Deck, Stain, [...]

  17. Biddy says:

    I like Australian Timber Oil by Cabot. It provides weatherproofing, extends the life of the wood, & between the oil and the translucent tint it really brings out its natural beauty of the wood. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, it’s a very different appearance than weathered gray wood — less rustic and more “finished” while still looking natural and not painted or polished.

  18. CARLOS VILLAGRANA says:

    Yes, stain makes it look nice clean

  19. [...] a lot of questions, and I need a lot of advice so I hope you can help a girl out. Head on over to today’s post on DIY Network and share your opinions on the matter! To stain, or not to stain? If you like it, share [...]

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About Emily Fazio 

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I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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