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Best Deck Stain – 2021

When choosing a stain for your deck, you don’t want to go cheap.

Eric Barstow
Published Date: 10/18/2021

Decks need to be restained every couple of years. They take a heavy beating from the weather and deal with heavy foot traffic. When choosing a stain for your deck, you don’t want to go cheap.

To find out the best deck stains, we surveyed our entire network of painting contractors. For more information on the best interior paint or exterior paint, then contact us for more resources like this.

What’s in This Article

Click any of these links to go directly to that section.

The Semi-Transparent Best Deck Stain

While many sites have mixed reviews on any product you can find, we place a great deal of trust in the painting contractors and business owners in our network. They stand behind their service, and their businesses hinge on the quality of the products they use.

At first, we expected the votes to come in heavy for Sherwin Williams products (if you’ve read some of our other review articles, you’d know why). However, the highest voted semi transparent deck stain was the PPG Proluxe series!

PPG Proluxe is a fantastic product. Proluxe is consistently praised for its ease of application in addition to the opulent finish it leaves behind on properly prepared surfaces.

Be warned, Proluxe can set you back a pretty penny, as it’s normally priced anywhere from $40-$70/gallon – varying with source & promos. Most reviewers of the product, however, said they’d much rather have paid premium prices for a premium product, rather than risking a lower-priced product of inferior quality.

Product Specifications:

Average Price: $40-$70

Solid(s) Content by Volume: 55.1%

Practical Coverage/gallon: 400-500 sq ft

Drying time @ 50% Relative Humidity (Touch): 6 Hours

Drying time @ 50% Relative Humidity (Hard Cure): 24-48 Hours (at or above 77 degrees Fahrenheit)

Specifications/Product Details Sheet

Best Semi-Transparent Stain Runner Up

Normally speaking, when we run these kinds of product surveys, we end up with a fairly large gap between 1st and 2nd place. However, this time, that wasn’t the case.

Our runner up as the best semi-transparent deck stain lost the title by only one vote. Yup, that’s right, only one vote.

But let’s not get hung up on the process here. After surveying our network, the runner-up by a single vote was:

That’s right, Sherwin Williams makes an appearance with it’s line of SuperDeck semi-transparent deck stains.

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of SuperDeck.


  • Durability – Sherwin Williams is synonymous with quality, and that doesn’t change when it comes to deck stains. Eventually, the material will “lift”, but mostly in high traffic areas. You can extend the life of any stain, however with powerwashing & sanding prior to application.
  • Coverage – Unlike paints, a good deck staining (with a good deck stain) could require multiple coats before you get the desired result. SuperDeck is pretty reliable in that you’ll achieve your desired color in 2 coats.
  • Mildew Resistance – SuperDeck is water based and doesn’t promote mildew growth – a must for those operating in humid climates.
  • Application – Given that it’s water-based, SuperDeck walks in on the lower end of the scale with respect to viscosity. As a result, it can be applied using airless sprayers with little to no issues.


  • Cleaning – The smooth sheen fades, relatively, quickly – making it more difficult to clean off accumulated dirt. Recommend monthly  “light” cleanings to prevent excessive buildup.
  • Prep – Sherwin Williams recommends using their proprietary blend of “Stain and Sealer Remover” as part of their deck care/prep system. Allegedly, the product doesn’t work very well.
  • Protection – Because it is water based, the stain won’t repel water. This COULD affect the life and finish of the stain – as well as the deck it’s used on.

Best Solid Deck Stain

Following the semi-transparent “upset,” it seemed even more surprises were in store for us when it came to the results for solid deck stains. Against all odds, we ended up with a 2-way tie between Sherwin Williams SuperDeck and Benjamin Moore’s Arborcoat product series.

Given that we’ve already reviewed the SuperDeck product line, let’s discuss Arborcoat.


  • Protection – Particularly strong against UV “graying”, Arborcoat creates a thick barrier that exhibits extreme protection against Ultraviolet rays.
  • Cost – The average cost per square foot is $.39, putting it in the mid-range as far as cost is concerned.
  • Mildew Resistance – Users reported little to no mildew buildup. Allegedly, Arborcoat is formulated with zinc oxide specifically for this reason.
  • Color Shift  – Users report consistent color for years after initial application.


  • Durability – Many reports online suggest that Arborcoat is a low lifetime product, and should be expected to strip within the first few years – this problem is particularly bad in areas that experience extreme cold.
  • Application -Dries fast and shows overlap marks. To even out the appearance, a clear top coat is suggested.
  • Appearance – Consumers stated that the dried appearance of Arborcoat is likened to “plastic.” The final cured product seemed film-like.


Product Specifications (SuperDeck):

Average Price: $40-$54

Solid(s) Content by Volume: 31-33%

Practical Coverage/gallon: 200-400 sq ft

Drying time @ 50% Relative Humidity (Touch): 1 Hour

Drying time @ 50% Relative Humidity (Recoat): 2 Hours (at or above 77 degrees Fahrenheit)

Specifications/Product Details Sheet


Product Specifications (Arborcoat):

Average Price: $40-$48

Solid(s) Content by Volume: 38%

Practical Coverage/gallon: 300-400 sq ft

Drying time @ 50% Relative Humidity (Touch): 1 Hour

Drying time @ 50% Relative Humidity (Recoat): 3-4 Hours (at or above 77 degrees Fahrenheit)

Specifications/Product Details Sheet


Top Contenders for Best Solid Stain

Common Stain FAQ

Q) What’s the Difference Between Solid & Semi-Transparent Stain

The most notable difference between a solid & semi-transparent stain is the opacity. Semi-trans stains allow some of the wood grain to show through the light pigment. Solid stains contain a great deal of pigment that completely covers the wood grain. Additionally, solid stains form a film on top of the wood, while semi-trans stains penetrate the wood grain.

Q) Do I need to prime a deck before staining?

This one is up for debate. Several referenced sources recommended using primer if you’ll be applying a solid stain. However, most top-of-the-line products these days are self priming. Some contractors recommend staining with a solid stain, then following up with a waterproof sealer.

Q) What kind of prep do I need to do before staining a deck?

It’s generally recommended that you remove any old/peeling stain from the surface you’re working on. This typically involves a chemical stripper, powerwash, and good sanding.

Q) My client just built a deck and they want to stain it – can I do this?

This depends on a couple of things. Is the wood they used pressure treated? If it is, then you’ll need to wait several (6)  months before that wood can “receive” a stain. If you’re using a solid stain, you may have a bit of wiggle room here, as it doesn’t need to penetrate the wood.

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