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Best Deck Stains for Pressure-Treated Wood of 2022

Updated
Got pressure-treated wood? Try one of these 5 amazing deck stains.

Pressure-treated wood is ideal for making garden decks because it is already treated to withstand the elements. However, even pressure-treated wood suffers from the effects of the sun and rain. Sometimes, it needs a helping hand.

We rate the best deck stains for pressure-treated wood, considering their type, ease of application, and value for money.

Our Top Picks

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Image
Model
Product Comparison Table
Features

Product Image of the Ready Seal 512 5-Gallon Pail Natural Cedar Exterior Stain and Sealer for Wood
Best for Old Wood
Ready Seal Exterior Wood Stain
  • No wet-line application & self-blending
  • Requires no primer, saving time
  • Can be recoated in just 45 minutes
Product Image of the Seal-Once Marine Premium Wood Sealer - Waterproof Sealant - Wood Stain and Sealer in One - 1 Gallon & Clear
Best Marine-Grade
Seal-Once Marine Penetrating Sealer and Stain
  • Penetrates & seals against UV and moisture
  • Safe for people, pets, and the environment
  • Repels saltwater and extreme weather
Product Image of the Cabot 140.0003460.005 Australian Timber Oil Stain, One Quart, Jarrah Brown
Best Oil-Based
Cabot Australian Timber Oil
  • Great for enhancing exotic woods
  • Covers 250 – 600 sqft per gal.
  • Deflects UV & absorbs heat through iron-oxide pigments
Product Image of the #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain for Decks, Fences, & Siding - 1 Gallon (Dark Walnut)
Best Water-Based
#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain
  • Suitable for most wood types
  • Comes in 5 vibrant colors
  • Ultra-low VOCs at 50 grams per liter
Product Image of the Storm Stain Protector - Sienna, 1 Gallon, Protects Outdoor Wood from Water & UV Rays, Siding, Fence & Deck Stain and Sealer, Outdoor Wood Stain and Sealer
Best Semi-Transparent
Storm System Semi-Transparent
  • UV protection and lap-free application
  • Various color options to choose from
  • Works on most wood


Product Reviews

With so many deck stains to choose from, we conducted hours of research, rating each product on coverage, value for money, and ease of application.

1. Ready Seal 5-Gallon Natural Cedar Exterior Wood Stain

Best Deck Stain for Old Pressure Treated Wood

If you have an extensive deck, this 5-gallon tub of wood stain will last the distance. It requires no primer and can be painted straight onto a bare deck. You can apply it with a brush, roller, or sprayer, and for re-application, you don’t need to sand or strip the old wood.

This is a cedar-colored wood stain, but you need to wait 14 days for the color to emerge fully, and it requires no back brushing. It will also never run, streak, or lap, and you get between 125 and 185 square feet of coverage per gallon.

This product has no wet-line application, and it self-blends to leave zero lines. It comes in 9 color choices, so you can match it to your color scheme. The only downside with this stain is you cannot apply it to previously painted decks or newly treated wood, so make sure you allow the deck to dry.

Once down, it takes 45 minutes to dry to the touch and for recoats, but you should wait 48 to 72 hours for the stain to cure before using the deck. Also, because this is an oil-based product, it is damaging to the environment, so its use needs to be controlled, and you cannot buy this stain in California.

Pros

  • No wet-line application and self-blending.
  • Requires no primer, saving time.
  • Can be recoated in just 45 minutes.
  • Comes in 5-gallon containers for extensive decks.

Cons

  • Cannot be applied to painted or newly treated wood.
  • Oil-based, so damaging to the environment.
  • Not available in California.

Product Specs

Quantity 5 gallons
Coverage 125 to 185 square feet per gallon
Drying time 48 to 72 hours
Type Oil
Price $$$

2. Seal-Once Marine Penetrating Sealer and Stain

Best Marine-Grade Stain for Pressure Treated Wood

When you need superior water protection, you can’t get much better than this marine-grade deck stain. If it repels saltwater and everything the ocean can throw at it, it will protect your deck from the elements.

This is a water-based formula, so it is kind to the environment and washes clean with soap and water. It produces low odors and virtually no VOCs. In addition, it is safe for pets, people, plants, and marine life.

This water-based stain uses nanotechnology to penetrate deep into the wood to give superior protection. At the same time, the topcoat dries to form a hard barrier against the damaging UV rays and moisture.

The only cloud in the sky is the price. This is almost half the price of the previous stain, but that was a 5-gallon container. This one is just 1-gallon! However, you get 250 to 350 square feet of coverage per gallon, depending on the porosity of the surface. It also dries in 24 hours.

Pros

  • Penetrates and seals against UV and moisture.
  • Safe for people, pets, and the environment.
  • Repels saltwater and extreme weather.
  • Covers 250 to 350 square feet.

Cons

  • Cost per gallon is expensive.

Product Specs

Quantity 1-gallon
Coverage 250 to 350 square feet per gallon
Drying time 24 hours
Type Water
Price $$$$$

3. Cabot Australian Timber Oil

Best Oil-Based Stain for Pressure-Treated Wood

This Australian oil-based deck stain is ideal for exotic woods, as well as teak and mahogany. It’s also great for coverage, spreading 400 to 600 square feet for smooth surfaces and 250 to 350 square feet for porous surfaces.

It contains iron-oxide pigments to enhance the color and deflect the heat from the sun’s rays to reduce fading, splitting, and drying of the wood. This stain penetrates deep into the wood to enhance the color and the grain.

This product comes in 1-quart tins and 10 different colors to match your garden scheme. It takes approximately 24 to 48 hours to cure, and when dry, forms a flat, translucent finish.

This is an oil-based stain, so it releases VOCs as it dries, which are dangerous if inhaled. Plus, oil products are damaging to the environment. It is also highly flammable, so you should discard any rags and sponges in a metal container to reduce the risk of fire.

Pros

  • Great for enhancing exotic woods.
  • Covers 250 to 600 square feet per gallon.
  • Deflects UV and absorbs heat through iron-oxide pigments.
  • Penetrates deep into the wood.

Cons

  • Bad for the environment and high VOCs.
  • Highly flammable, so take care discarding rags and sponges.

Product Specs

Quantity 1-quart
Coverage 250 to 600 square feet per gallon
Drying time 24 to 48 hours
Type Oil
Price $$$

4. #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

Best Water-Based Stain for Pressure Treated Wood

This stain can be used on pressure-treated pine, cedar, fir, redwood, and most other wood types. This is a stain and deck sealer in one, and the company claims you can complete your deck in a single day.

It comes in 5 vibrant colors and is ultra-low VOC, at just 50 grams per liter, and because it’s water-based, it is kind to the environment and washes clean with water and soap.

You can even use this stain on damp wood, so if you are coating newly treated decking, you don’t have to wait for it to dry. It is ready for recoats in about an hour, and it protects against fading and graying.

The coverage is not as impressive as other products. This 1-gallon can spreads over 100 square feet, which is way down on similar stains.

Pros

  • Suitable for most wood types.
  • Comes in 5 vibrant colors.
  • Ultra-low VOCs at 50 grams per liter.
  • Adheres to damp and newly treated wood.

Cons

  • Only gives 100 square feet of coverage.

Product Specs

Quantity 1-gallon
Coverage 100 square feet per gallon
Drying time 1 hour
Type Water
Price $$

5. Storm System Semi-Transparent Wood Sealer & Stain

Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stain for Pressure-Treated Wood

This Storm System wood stain is an oil-based product. What’s more, this stain protects your deck from UV. It also makes an easy, lap-free application ensuring a great outcome from painting.

An entire gallon covers up to 175 square feet for smooth surfaces while 150 square feet for porous surfaces. For the best results, you should sand the deck, wash it down and then wait 24 hours before you apply the stain.

Pros

  • UV protection and lap-free application.
  • Works in most woods.
  • Oil-based stain.
  • 2-in-1 product.
  • Various color options to choose from.

Cons

  • Not great for old and faded wood.

Product Specs

Quantity 1-gallon
Coverage 150 to 175 square feet per gallon
Drying time 36 hours
Type Oil
Price $$

Product Comparison Chart

Product Best Quantity Coverage Drying time Type Price
Ready Seal 5-Gallon Natural Cedar Exterior Wood Stain Best for Old Pressure Treated Wood 5 gal. 125 – 185 sqft per gal. 48 – 72 hours Oil $$$
Seal-Once Marine Penetrating Sealer and Stain Best Marine-Grade 1-gal. 250 – 350 sqft per gal. 24 hours Water $$$$$
Cabot Australian Timber Oil Best Oil-Based 1-quart 250 – 600 sqft per gal. 24 – 48 hours Oil $$$
#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain Best Water-Based 1-gal. 100 sqft per gal. 1 hour Water $$
Storm System Semi-Transparent Best Semi-Transparent 1-gal. 150 – 175 sqft per gal. 36 hours Oil $$

Water-Based vs Oil-Based Deck Stains

While water or oil-based stains essentially do the same thing, they are both very different in their application, preserving qualities, and overall finish. Let’s take a look.

Water-Based

Water-based stains are easier to apply because they are thinner. It means you can brush, roll and spray them onto the surface of your deck. This type of stain works to protect the wood by drying to form a hard seal on the surface of the lumber.

This protective layer prevents rain and UV rays from penetrating the wood beneath, keeping it from drying out, cracking, and fading. However, pressure-treated wood is impregnated with preserving agents, so you might find that the water-based solutions fail to bond properly.

In addition, water-based stains chip, scuff, and flake more easily than oil versions. For this reason, you might find yourself recoating your deck every other year. Plus, garden decks are high-traffic areas with furniture and footfall, so that new topcoat will soon wear away.

However, water-based stains are better for the environment, thanks to their formula, so it doesn’t pollute the environment when it washes away. And if you are in a hurry, this type of stain is ideal because it dries in super-quick time.

Oil-Based

Oil-based stains are better for penetrating deep into the wood, which is better if you want to preserve the natural grain of the deck. They work differently from water-based options because they protect from within the wood, forming a protective layer deep inside the deck.

For this reason, they offer long-lasting qualities repelling the sun’s rays and extreme weather. However, most oil-based stains are thicker in viscosity, which means applying them is more challenging.

You can brush and roll it on, but if your preferred option is to spray, you may need a thinning agent to dilute the formula. And oil stains have a slightly golden hue, so when it dries, you are left with a richer color rather than the natural shade of the wood grain.

There’s also the question of the environment. Oil is a pollutant, so as it washes away, it drains into the ecosystem, polluting streams and rivers. A well-applied oil stain should give you 2 or 3 years of protection.

Water-based Oil-based
Pros
  • Easier to apply.
  • Safer for the environment.
  • Quick-drying.
  • Easy to cleanup.
  • Penetrates deeper.
  • Preserves the wood grain.
  • Better for pressure-treated wood.
  • Lasts longer.
Cons
  • Chips and peels easily.
  • Needs frequent recoats.
  • Not great in high-traffic areas.
  • Pollutes the environment.
  • Discolors the wood.
  • Harder to apply.

How to Choose (Buying Guide)

Deciding which deck stain is best for you is one thing, but how do you choose, and what factors should you keep an eye out for?

Here are some pointers to help you decide.

Coverage

Most stains come in 1-gallon cans, although you can buy 5-gallon containers if you have extensive decking to cover. You should expect somewhere between 200 and 500 square feet per gallon, depending on the type of stain and the porosity of the surface.

Number of Coats

Water-based stains are generally thinner, so you will need more coats to get the full protection required. Some manufacturers recommend at least 4 to 6 layers, which means you would need to purchase more cans of stain, plus it would greatly extend the time taken to finish the job.

Oil-based stains are thicker, and because they penetrate deep into the wood, you don’t need as many coats. Some manufacturers suggest just one coat, while others recommend a couple of layers.

Ease of Application

How your stain goes down onto the wood matters. Water-based products are thinner and can be sprayed, brushed, and rolled. Oil versions are okay for brushing and rolling, but if you want to spray, you may need a thinning agent to dilute the formula.

How easy your chosen stain applies to the deck is also about the number of coats needed to achieve full protection.

Durability

Decks get a lot of punishment, especially from scraping chair and table legs, footfall, and the elements, so you want your chosen stain to last the distance. The good news is that oil stains penetrate the wood, so while the surface may suffer from high use, the stain keeps working from within the deck.

Environmentally Friendly

Oil-based products are damaging to the environment because they wash away with the rain and pollute the ecosystem. Plus, when you need to clean up, you need to use thinner or mineral spirits, which are also bad for the planet.

Water-based stains are kinder to the environment because it doesn’t pollute like oil. It also washes away with soap and water. Plus, you don’t get VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which occur when the stain dries, and the particulates vaporize.

These VOCs are dangerous if you inhale them, causing eye and throat irritation as well as nausea and headaches.


FAQs

Can You Apply Solid Stain on Pressure-Treated Wood?

You can apply solid stain on pressure-treated wood, but you must let it dry before attempting it. Freshly treated wood is wet, and so the stain won’t adhere. If you try to apply solid paint onto treated timber while it’s still damp, it will lift and streak.

What Happens If You Stain Pressure-Treated Wood Too Soon?

Essentially, pressure-treated wood is wet because it is impregnated with preserving agents. So, when you treat the wood too soon, all that happens is it swells because the wood is too damp to absorb the moisture from the paint.

You should wait a few weeks for it to dry out. The best way to be sure the wood is dry and ready for staining is to use a moisture meter, and if you get a reading between 6 and 25 percent, it’s dry enough to be stained.

What Is the Best Temperature for Applying Deck Stain?

The ideal temperature for staining a deck is between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Above or below that, and you will have difficulty getting the paint to bond.


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Headshot of Mark Weir

About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.