10 Best Deck Stain Consumer Reports 2019

Staining a deck or fence is a perfectly doable DIY project. That doesn’t mean you want to do it any more often than necessary. If you want to avoid repeating the chore every year, you’re going to want a long-lasting stain.

Consumer Reports tested 28 solid, semitransparent, and clear wood stains to find which ones last the longest. Overall Scores range from 5 to 80 (out of 100), which means there are big differences in quality among wood stains.

“The worst stains won’t hold up a year,” says Rico de Paz, the chemist who oversees CR’s tests of paints and stains. “The best remain close to new after three years, without fading, cracking, or mildew buildup. Some also fend off dirt.”

The best stains should last three to five years on a deck, and even longer if applied to side or fences, which do not get as much abuse. “The sun and water beat down on a deck, snow can pile up, and even dirt and mildew spores can settle on the flat surface,” says de Paz. “All those issues are minimized on a vertical surface.”

Top 10 Deck Stain

Bestseller No. 1
Ready Seal 512 5-Gallon Pail Natural Cedar Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer
303 Reviews
Ready Seal 512 5-Gallon Pail Natural Cedar Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer
  • Requires no primer. Ready Seal is darkest when first applied. It reaches its true color in approximately 14...
  • May be applied using sprayer, roller or brush.Can be applied wet-on-wet OR wet-on-dry with no lapping
Bestseller No. 2
Ready Seal 112 1-Gallon Can Natural Cedar Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer
211 Reviews
Bestseller No. 3
DEFY Extreme 1 Gallon Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood Stain, Cedar Tone
170 Reviews
DEFY Extreme 1 Gallon Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood Stain, Cedar Tone
  • WATER-BASED SEMI-TRANSPARENT WOOD STAIN - This environmentally friendly, water based deck stain allows the...
  • FORTIFIED WITH ZINC NANO-PARTICLE TECHNOLOGY- It's like sunscreen for your wood. Tiny zinc particles dispersed...
Bestseller No. 4
#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain for Decks, Fences, Siding - 1 Gallon (Dark Walnut)
28 Reviews
#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain for Decks, Fences, Siding - 1 Gallon (Dark Walnut)
  • Protects wood from damaging UV rays
  • Acts as both a stain and sealer for your wood
Bestseller No. 5
Perdura DECK BOSS Deck Stain Brush Fence Floor Applicator - HUGE 7 inch Deck Paint Brush - Stain...
55 Reviews
Perdura DECK BOSS Deck Stain Brush Fence Floor Applicator - HUGE 7 inch Deck Paint Brush - Stain...
  • FINISH YOUR DECK STAINING IN HALF THE TIME!! - Much faster than other deck brushes and applicator tools on the...
  • PROFESSIONALS CHOICE - OUTPERFORMS and OUTLASTS many rollers, paint pads, brushes, gadgets and other coating...
Bestseller No. 6
Timber Oil Deep Penetrating Stain for Wood Decks, Wood Fences, Wood Siding, and Log Cabins - 5...
19 Reviews
Timber Oil Deep Penetrating Stain for Wood Decks, Wood Fences, Wood Siding, and Log Cabins - 5...
  • EXTREMELY EASY TO APPLY & MAINTAIN - You will achieve a flawless finish with no risk of overlaps or runs that...
  • IDEAL FOR USE ON NEW WOOD - Can be applied to new wood with no need to let the wood "weather out".
Bestseller No. 7
Olympic Stain 79552 Maximum Wood Stain and Sealer, 1 Gallon, Semi-Transparent Stain, Redwood
16 Reviews
Olympic Stain 79552 Maximum Wood Stain and Sealer, 1 Gallon, Semi-Transparent Stain, Redwood
  • Enhanced waterproofing protection to help make sure your wood is protected from cracking due to water
  • Advanced sunblock uv defense helps protects your wood from dangerous uv rays that can wear d the coating
Bestseller No. 8
KILZ L832211 Exterior Waterproofing Wood Stain, Semi-Transparent, Redwood, 1-Gallon, 1 Gallon 4 l
37 Reviews
KILZ L832211 Exterior Waterproofing Wood Stain, Semi-Transparent, Redwood, 1-Gallon, 1 Gallon 4 l
  • A good exterior wood stain offers long-lasting protection, waterproofing and a mildew-resistant finish that...
  • Our 100% Acrylic formula protects wood from rain, snow and sun damage. This stain is warrantied up to 3 years...
Bestseller No. 9
Olympic Stain 80110-1 Elite Woodland Oil Stain, 1 Gallon, Natural
19 Reviews
Olympic Stain 80110-1 Elite Woodland Oil Stain, 1 Gallon, Natural
  • One Coat Protection Wood Stain - Complete one coat protection allows you to cover the surface in just one...
  • Protects Decks, Fences, and Wood From The Elements - Lasting protection against the elements makes sure your...
Bestseller No. 10
CABOT SAMUEL 25200-07 INC Deck Correct GAL Stain 1 gal
2 Reviews
CABOT SAMUEL 25200-07 INC Deck Correct GAL Stain 1 gal
  • This product is a household wood stains
  • This product is highly durable

Types of Stains

Solid. They hide the grain of the wood the way paint does, and the best should last three to five years on a deck—the longest of the three types of stains. But solid stains’ paint-like qualities have their drawbacks: They might build up a film, especially after several coats, which can peel, chip, and crack, just like paint. The 11 stains in this category earn Overall scores of 12 to 80 (out of a possible 100).

Semitransparent. These color the wood’s grain but let it peek through the color, making them a good choice for wood that you want to show off—western red cedar, for instance. But the best semitransparent stain in our tests isn’t as tough as the top solid stains, and our data suggest this type of stain will probably only last two to three years on a deck. The 11 stains in this category also vary widely in performance, garnering Overall Scores of 12 to 65. So compare before you shop.

Clear Sealer. These may contain little or no pigment, along with water repellents. Clear sealers are ideal for accentuating the beauty of the natural grain of the wood, although, without anything to turn back UV rays, the wood will turn gray over time—picture a weathered cedar-shingled house on Cape Cod. And you’ll probably have to re-stain annually. As a group, the six clear sealers tested scored the lowest, with Overall Scores ranging from 5 to 28 (out of 100).

Shopping for a Stain?

See our wood stain ratings, and check the Features & Specs info to find out if the stain is good at resisting cracking, fading, dirt, and mildew. That makes a difference depending on the climate you live in. For example, look for a stain that resists mildew if you live in a humid area, or one that resists dirt if you live in a desert.

CR members can read on for ratings and reviews of the only three wood stains to make our recommended list.

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