The Different Ways to Improve the Appearance of Your Deck

Now that the weather is more conducive to going outdoors, it’s time to look over your wooden deck. The age old question comes up: do I stain vs. paint vs. seal? The short answer: it’s up to you. Here is the breakdown of when and why to consider each option.

Deck Staining, Painting and Sealing

First, it’s important to know that all three will protect your deck. Prolonging the life of the current deck saves time and money in replacements. You should test the color on a hidden board that is out of sight. It’s always important to read and follow manufacturer’s directions on any product.


Stains are best used if you’re looking for a natural look. Wood grain will show through the stain giving you a protected wooden outdoor living area. If you choose this option, there will be required maintenance every so often. The length of life of the stain will depend on use, wear and tear and weather. Normally a mid-grade stain and moderate use deck will last several years.

Stains stand out because they absorb into the wood while also enhancing the color. The stain you choose is one you will need to commit to for the life of your deck. There is no way to remove or change the stain once it’s on. You may be able to alter it slightly, but complete coverage won’t be possible.


Paint provides a high quality protective coating. Any discolorations or imperfections in the wood are completely covered with opaque color. A painted deck has the potential to show chipping and scuffs quicker than a stain since the color is typically different than that of naturally occurring wood.

Paints allow you more color options, choosing from natural wood to matching your house and trim. The paint sits on top of the wood and can be sanded off and changed throughout the life of the deck.


Sealants are good to highlight natural grain in wood. It is normally a clean protective coating on top of the wood. This is a good choice if you are happy with the wood and want to just protect it; not change the color. Because it’s a clear coating, flaking and chipping won’t show up against the grain.

Testing the Deck

Always keep track of what kind of stain has been used in the past on wood. Water-based stains can be used overtop of any previous stain. Decks that have been built with wood that has oil products in it.

To find out what kind of work your deck needs, try a sprinkle test. Sprinkle some drops of water onto the deck. If they bead up, wait a few days and do it again. If it now absorbs into the wood, it’s time to stain, paint or seal.

If you’re not comfortable with testing on your own, get a free in home evaluation and estimate by getting in touch with us.