Deck paint vs stain: finding the best coating for wood, siding and concrete

Deck paint vs stainWhen your deck, siding or floor are exposed to wind, water and especially salty air, they should be protected. In this article we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of deck stain vs paint, their durability, preparation processes and some tips and tricks to help you achieve the best results.

Solid color deck stain vs paint

When choosing a wood finish, you should consider that nothing lasts forever on it. You may expect two or three years of wearability on horizontal and five or more on verticals. Paint and solid deck stain are more tough but tend peel under foot/pet traffic.

Solid color deck stain

Although I’ve seen reviews about solid stain peeling, in my practice it sometimes fades, but never peels! If you’ve tried to remove all of the old paint, you can see why this is extremely valuable. The stain is also easy to spray, brush or clean-up.

Like anything else, the result depends on preparation work. Taking into account harsh seasonal changes it’s unreasonable to think a finish will last five years on the deck, but it will last for a long time if the surface is pressure washed first and sanded as needed. I recommend Cabot solid stains and can’t see them failing unless used on a deck without cleaning.

Oil based deck stain

painting a deck vs staining a deck
Flood CWF-UV – the best answer to the painting a deck vs staining a deck contest

Oil based wood finishes are good for dried out and weather beaten exterior wood. They protect against moisture, mildew and ultraviolet rays damage. Flood series CWF-UV stains are one of the products I have used successfully. It can be easily re-coated without doing much preparation. All you need is to clean and apply another coat.

I prefer cedar or mahogany tones mainly because of the greater, in my opinion, UV protection. Using a little bit of cleaner will help, but usually I simply do a light (about 2200 psi) pressure wash of the surface.

white deck stain vs paint
TWP-1501 Cedar tone VOC Stain

TWP 1501 stain is also one of the best and highest quality wood finish on the market. I used it on my deck and I am 100% satisfied after 2 years. It is a low oil based stain and it’s the only deck stain recognized by the EPA as a wood preservative. It is wear-resistant and blocks UV damage well, especially darker colors. The stain penetrates very well and can be easily applied with a deck brush. I had a good results after preparation cleaning with oxiclean and pressure washing.

Paint

A light coat of brown paint on the deck looks great and naturally. You can  also easily mask some dents and choose any tone to meet your designer ideas, get it made up to match any color of wall paint that you want.

Good paint is pretty wearable but you should be ready that your perfect deck will become less attractive in a few years when the paint will partitionally chip away. And once you’ve applied the paint, staining becomes more labor intensive because of the need to remove all the paint. You’ll need to power wash it and use a hand sander or oscillating tool with sander attachment to to remove the remaining paint. Be sure to wear a mask when sanding treated wood. Nasty stuff in that dust. You may also use a products made especially for peeling paint

White deck stain vs paint

Solid and oil based white stain holds up on both wood and pressure treated wood much better than paint which tends to peel up from the surface. The solid deck stain may peel, but it is less noticeable and you need less prep when applying finish and when it comes time to recoat.

water based white wood stain
Water based white wood stain – General Finishes

The difference between white deck stain vs paint lies in the work principle. The stain penetrates into the wood and the paint lays on the surface. In this way you will achieve good results if use a primer. So, if the wood or PT are dry and well weathered, applying a coat of oil-base external wood primer and two coats of oil paint should give good results. A latex house paint with 1 prime coat and two finish coats will last even longer both functionally and aesthetically.

latex satin white deck paint
Valspar 1500 latex satin white deck paint

Staining exterior wood is fine, priming and painting is also good,  it’s all a matter of the look you prefer. The paint gives off a sheen from high gloss to satin and stain is gonna give you a flat look.

Concrete Pool Deck Stain vs Paint

concrete pool deck stain vs paint
INSL-X Acrylic Concrete Stain Paint

The stain is a penetrating finish and it retains most of the surface roughness. It is questionable, what lasts longer in the concrete pool deck, nevertheless  the stain seems to be better to the touch, but retains more dirt. The paint forms a layer which is better to clean up from dirt, but if the preparation isn’t perfect, it will peel.

Concrete, wood, anything that is steel porous will accept the stain. But it won’t work over something that was already painted.

In my opinion, unless you have good concrete, applying both paint and stain might not be effective. Old concrete will not stop cracking or chipping being treated with a thin layer of stain or paint. Soon enough you will end up with paint and concrete chips. I think, in such cases only rubber tiles  or deck repair will help, but they are much more expensive than a coating of stain or paint.

Tips and tricks

  • There is no need to regularly use a power washer on a deck. A lot of people do it, but as a result they just tear up the wood. Use a washer only as a preparation before using stain or paint and let the chemicals do the work.
  • A roller and brush is the way to apply finish. The roller really pushes the stain into the wood pores and it is what you need. Just be careful with the tool and avoid rolling partial boards to minimize the chance of lap marks.
  • If you your deck boards have fuzzy feel after cleaning, sand them, it wouldn’t hurt. After sanding wash off the dust and wait until drying. Take your time, two or even three days of dry weather will be fine. A couple of dry days after finishing is enough for the coating to gain strength.

Conclusions

Both stain and paint will last long if you prepare the deck well and in accordance with the instructions. I would prefer the stain because it is easier to prepare and reapply. But if the deck is already painted, I would probably repaint it, unless the paint is too loose and easy to remove onto bare wood.

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