Home>Discussions>EXTERIORS>Painting vs. Staining My Deck
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Mark Brush
Painting vs. Staining My Deck

After falling through my deck steps (only my pride was truly injured), I've replace much to the wood with fresh pressure-treated wood. I still have a bit of additional wood to replace.

The deck was in fairly good shape when I bought the house ten years ago. I treaded it with semi-transparent stain/sealer. It only lasted a couple of years. I was disappointed in the stain lasting such a short period of time.

Would painting the deck (with a high quality exterior primer and paint) offer any advantages over staining it again? I'm thinking that paint would look better.

Thanks in advance,


Re: Painting vs. Staining My Deck

We moved into our home and the previous owners had painted the deck. While it looked nice the paint was very slippery in the rain and snow. We had to replace all the boards (we tried to flip them over but the were in rough shape). We are going to stain our new deck almost a natural color but we stained our swing set with tinted stain. If you want the look of color try a tinted stain instead of a paint you will be suprised at all the colors you can get.

Re: Painting vs. Staining My Deck

Sealers need to be reapplied every year or two to be effective.
A painted deck exposed to the weather will also need repainting in probably 4 or 5 years I would guess. Except that first you'll need to scrape & sand.
I find it easier to clean & then reseal, than having to deal with paint.

Re: Painting vs. Staining My Deck

My paint on the west side of the house, which gets the most weather, lasted two years. The paint on the deck on the east side a little longer, 4 years. When taking the paint off the deck to repaint you have to power wash and manage to not tear up the wood or to sand it which is a pain. Try the tinted stain on a spot you wouldn't see or even a different piece of deck wood and see how you like it. We used a coloniel blue tinted stain and loved it.

Re: Painting vs. Staining My Deck

Once you paint you will always be painting. Horizontal painted surfaces don't hold up well to the weather... neither does stain. If you don't mind the extra maintenace go ahead and paint or stain it, but most people after 2-3 years let it go and it ends up looking worst then if they had done nothing in the first place.... which is your 3rd choice; do nothing. A wood deck last about 8-10 years, whether it's painted, stained, or left naked.

Re: Painting vs. Staining My Deck

My business is staining decks- if at all possible, keep away from painting your deck...more specifically, don't unless it has already been painted. Stain/sealers are designed to allow the penetration of moisture and water to pass through whereas paint creates a permanent seal (until it peels off) and the wood will rot from the inside. Obviously this creates a safety hazard which is made worse because most of the time you can't see the rotting wood. If the wood has already been painted, the only way to rectify the situation is to remove (strip) the paint with a stripper or paint over it.( only because it is very difficult to remove.)

Re: Painting vs. Staining My Deck

I would have to agree with libcarp, you might be just as well off to not apply any type of finish at all.

Most decks are covered with cedar or redwood, both relatively rot resistant woods. If they are kept clean and the mildew and algae not left to take over, the decking will last just about as long as when all the staining or painting had been done.

Staining is largely for aesthtics. The deck does look great right after a fresh coat of stain, However, freshly cleaned cedar also looks nice. Periodic use of a deck cleaner containing oxalic acid will repeatedly bring back the natural wood tone and fight off the graying.

Granted, oiling the deck will somewhat slow down the cracks which will appear in the grain, but they will eventually appear regardless of what is done. A freshly oil deck will also repell that red wine that gets spill during that deck party.

Wood that can rapidly dry out does not readily rot. Painting of decking can actually accelerate rotting by holding excess moisture in the wood.

The structural parts of decks are almost always made of pressure treated lumber. These parts will last decades if even nothing is done to them.

I fortunately do not have a deck. By choice I went with decorative concrete since I am in Portland, Oregon, an area that rarely deep freezes. Portland's climate is actually very hard on wood decks. The winters are long, wet and too warm, staying mostly above freezing. It allows decks to absorb water all winter long followed by hot, dry summers. That moisture will out!If a deck finish is not really bonded, it will peel.

Re: Painting vs. Staining My Deck

Don't paint treated wood. It will peel off. It seems that no matter what primer you use and allowing the proper amount of time for the treated wood to dry paint just does not work. We have a deck on our Florida home and we have kept it looking good and weathering well with a solid colored stain.

Consumer Reports has done several studies and concludes that a solid color stain is the best protection for decks. Our treated wood deck in Florida looks brand new after ten years. Our century home in Ohio has wood front steps to keep it authentic looking and the only coating that worked was a solid stain.

Key maintenance tips;

Restain before it really needs it

Sand any grey weathered wood. Coatings do not stick to grey weathered wood.

Spray or roll on the stain. Brushes do not apply enough material.

Re: Painting vs. Staining My Deck

I agree, wood decks love stain more than paint.

Unfortunately, redwood decks will not resist rot or termites forever. In such cases, termite treatments will be necessary.

Re: Painting vs. Staining My Deck

In my experience, painted surfaces can be slippery but sometimes last longer, it depends on the surface preparation and the quality and type of paint. I've seen plenty that haven't lasted as long as stained/sealed ones.

Stained surfaces need to be maintained with new coats of sealer periodically.
Generally, an oil based coating will penetrate the wood giving good protection but will need to be re-applied more frequently.
A sealer (eg. polyurethane) based coating lasts a bit longer but can flake off, making the re-apply process a bit more involved if not done before it gets really worn.

Ultimately, the stains and sealers will need maintenance, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions and stick to a good quality brand. Don't try to re-apply oil based over polyurthene and vice-versa, or they won't bond.

Good luck with your deck.

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