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Deck Stain Colors: Solid and Transparent

Is your deck looking a little dull? A fresh coat of stain can do wonders to brighten it up.

Toying with the idea of staining your deck but confused about what color to choose? Finding the right deck stain colors can be challenging, especially since trends change from one season to another.

To get the best deck stain ideas for your exterior, you must keep a few rules in mind. Everything you need to know is coming up next in this article.

Key Takeaways

  • Test different stain colors on wood to find the perfect shade.
  • Consider the age and damage of your deck when choosing a color.
  • Match the stain with the surrounding environment for a cohesive look.
  • Popular deck stain colors include Butternut, Woodland Cedar, Dark Walnut, Redwood, Carbon Gray, and Clear.

What to Consider When Picking a Color

Choosing the right exterior wood stain colors is easier said than done. If you’re not sure what colors to opt for, here are some suggestions on where to start looking.

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Test Different Colors

The best method for selecting a stain color is to perform a stain test on the wood. Don’t have an extra or scrap piece of wood? Experiment with the various colors on a hidden area of your deck.

Don’t automatically dismiss a hue before giving it a try. Also, you must wait until the stain has completely dried before deciding. You should be able to tell after a few hours.

A dried hue can be somewhat different from its moist counterpart. You may be shocked to discover which one is your favorite.

Consider Deck Age and Damage

If your deck is newer, you can choose a lighter and more clear stain. It’s much easier to get darker and opaquer afterward if you change your mind.

Damage and staining will occur as your deck ages. This is an unavoidable consequence of actually using your deck.

When working with older decks, you’ll find that going darker and opaquer can help conceal these flaws. This is the time to complete any essential deck repairs, such as replacing bad deck supports and boards.

Match the Stain with the Surrounding

Remember your elementary school’s color chart. Determine the most dominating, stable color in your backyard (this is likely to be the exterior of your home) and choose a stain to compliment it. For instance, brown siding cries out for a smoky blue complement.

Popular Deck Stain Colors

Even if trends keep changing, some colors seem to be immortal. Here are some deck color ideas and what scenario they’re best suited for.


When using a hue like Defy Extreme Exterior Wood Stain in Butternut, you can easily create a simple, understated look with minimal effort. It’s dark and brooding, ideal for a yard plan incorporating evergreen trees, shade, and lush ground cover.

To evoke an aesthetic that’s inspired by natural grass and teak, use a Butternut stain. It pairs so well with whimsical outdoor furniture and plants.

Woodland Cedar

Thompson’s Woodland Cedar Waterseal Waterproofing Stain provides vibrant colors with weather protection. This single stain revitalizes dull wood if you have a tiny backyard, luring you outside for year-round enjoyment.

Break up the look’s intensity with planters loaded with lush foliage for larger areas.

Exterior stain colors like this one are ideal for those who spend their summers outdoors. The Woodland Cedar shade is ideal for sunning, playing by the pool, and family barbecuing. By incorporating this brilliant color into your yard, you may create a central point for activities.

Dark Walnut

You will fall in love with Varathane’s 262025 Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain in Dark Walnut understated luxury. The gentle hues compliment both bold and neutral exterior house colors.

It’s perfect for a family barbecue or a garden party with cocktails to showcase your home’s landscape. It brings sophistication to the outdoors and is brimming with possibilities for accessorizing the deck. That makes this stain and sealer a great option for a deck.


With Ready Seal 520 Exterior Stain and Sealer in Redwood, you can catch the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Using genuine redwood for decks can get expensive as you move further away from the Pacific coast.

But, you can use a less expensive wood species like spruce or pine and use redwood stains to create a rich wood tone.

Use outdoor area rugs in bright or beige colors to complement the deep red color. Redwood is a rich color, so it’s easy to create a luxury outdoor living area for a lot less.

Redwood Naturaltone is another great deck stain choice, especially when paired with a black fence for an elegant and sexy contrast.

Carbon Gray

Similar to the quality of big names like Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore, Varathane is one you can trust. This Varathane 307416 Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain in Carbon Gray is a brave option in a world dominated by brown stains.

Hues that match this particular gray set the stage for creating a high-design setting complete with the modern exterior furniture you can’t wait to relax into.

High-end outdoor furniture is a worthy investment for creating a comfortable outdoor space. But it does require additional care, particularly when you’re not using it for extended periods.


Seal-Once Marine Penetrating Wood Sealer in Clear is a trouble-free wood stain and sealer available in a classic clear sheen. It works well to bring out the natural beauty of the wood. It also pairs with furniture that comes in rich hues, including turquoise or deep red.

Solid vs. Semi-Transparent Stain

When choosing between a solid and semi-transparent deck stain, it’s important to know what to expect from each.

Solid Stains


  • It’s a great way to apply a wood finish.
  • They prevent your decks from becoming flaked and chipped.
  • They are usually highly decorative.


  • Solid stains aren’t very efficient in protecting wooden surfaces against water damage.
  • They are better at being decorative than functional.

Semi-Transparent Stains


  • They preserve the wood grain effect of your deck.
  • They are good for decks and outdoor furniture that’s meant to stay outside permanently.
  • They are anti-fungal and help protect against mold.


  • People consider them to be less UV-resistant compared to opaque stains.
  • You might need multiple applications to get a darker color.

How to Maintain Your Deck Stain

Now that you know what deck stain colors to choose, you’re most likely interested in how to preserve the deck for as long as possible. I’ve put together some suggestions to help you out.

Sand the Deck

Horizontal photo of mature man kneeling while sanding outdoor wooden deck

If you intend to stain the deck, sand the surface before application to allow the coating to penetrate the wood more readily.

Bonus Tip

Sanding creates a smoother, more pleasant surface that is less likely to develop splinters. So, it’s not just about creating a smooth area to apply the stain.

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Clean and Stain It Regularly

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Cleaning and staining a deck regularly helps extend the stain’s life for a beautiful deck year-round. Preventative deck care and maintenance will also prevent the complete failure of a deck stain, eventually leading to a complete deck restoration.


There’s a lot to understand about staining wood before you jump in. Here’s a bit more info to help you out.

Is Oil or Water-Based Deck Stain Better?

Water-based stains need slightly more time and work than oil-based ones, but the extra effort is compensated by much better permanence. While oil-based stains are more convenient and require less effort, they do not stay nearly as long as water-based stains.

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Is It Better to Stain or Paint a Deck?

While staining takes less time than painting, painting frequently does a better job of filling in cracks, concealing defects, and providing a longer-lasting seal. Additionally, deck paint is more resistant to rust and does a better job of avoiding mold and UV damage.

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Do I Need to Seal My Deck After Staining?

It is not recommended to apply a sealant over a stain. The role of the stain is to protect the wooden deck, much like the sealant does.

Can I Use a Roller to Stain a Deck?

Utilizing a roller to apply stain might assist in covering a larger area in less time. When using a roller, just slide it onto the roller cage and then attach it to a pole.

As with brushes, selecting the best stain rollers will depend on applying the type of stain.

The Bottom Line

When picking the optimal deck stain colors, the surroundings are very important. Deck stain isn’t just about functionality but also about creating an aesthetically pleasing outdoor setup.

Hopefully, the deck stain ideas and tips you’ve read today will bring you closer to making the right choice for you.

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About the Author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond is a USA TODAY Bestselling Author and Award-Winning Interior Designer. Using her years of hands-on experience, she now writes about design and DIY. She currently resides on the rocky East Coast of Canada with her family and slobbery bulldog.