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Should I Use Sealer or Stain to Protect My Deck?

Apr 21, 2012

Many homeowners here in Central Valley have beautiful outdoor decks. Understandably, with the heat of summer months approaching, homeowners want to protect their decks. While the natural aging of wood products from UV rays and heat cannot be completely prevented, the aging process can be significantly slowed with proper care and attention to all exterior woodwork. There are two categories of deck preservatives used by house painters and homeowners: sealers and stains.
  • Sealers are typically translucent and come in completely clear and tinted varieties.
Clear sealers have no colorant, but they absorb deeply into wood and work as a waterproofing agent. While clear sealers are useful in preventing cracking, they do not block UV rays, so your wood deck will still fade over time. For effective protection, professional painters recommend reapplying this product once each year.  This type of protection will also build up over time with multiple applications. Tinted sealers work similarly to clear sealers, but have more protective characteristics. Because tinted sealers have some colorant added, they are more resistant to UV rays and do not fade as quickly as clear sealers. This is the most common product used on most decks, since it provides good protection against graying and cracking while allowing the natural grain of the wood to show through.  The darker the color of the tint, the more protection against graying the product provides.  Tinted sealers usually last 2 years on decks, and up to 4 years on vertical surfaces such as fences or railings.
  • Stains are closer to paint than sealers in the way they function. While they do slightly absorb into wood, stains remain closer to the surface and create a film barrier. All stains have water-repelling properties built in, but they also provide more coloration to outdoor woodwork. Stains range from semi-transparent (clear enough to see the wood grain) to dark solids; they can come in nearly any color, and typically last 3-5 years.
    photo credit: chesapeakepainting.net
Semi-solid stains are much like semi-transparent stains, except that they have a deeper color and show less of the natural wood grain. They provide longer protection and can also be tinted in nearly any color. Solid stains are practically indistinguishable from paint; the primary difference is that solid stain doesn’t have a sheen or reflect light. Providing a thick, colored film, solid stains can be made to match or coordinate with the colors of your home siding. Just like paint, they must be applied in two coats, and they typically retain their strength and color for 4-5 years. One final consideration in choosing a deck preservative is whether to use oil or latex/water-based products. We recommend using latex products since they are better for the environment, are easier to apply and clean, and are less likely to grow mildew. Lancaster Painting offers professional painting services throughout Central Valley. As an experienced painting contractor, we have the knowledge and skills to protect your deck and home exterior. We gladly service the Turlock, Modesto and the surrounding regions of Central Valley.

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