July 19, 2021 5 min read

Painting vs. Staining a Deck: What’s the Difference?

A beautiful deck is a great way to make your outdoor living spaces more functional and usable year-round. Decks add value and personality to the exterior of your home while providing ideal spaces for relaxation and fun activities from birthday parties to barbecues with friends to dinner parties with loved ones.

Every homeowner should keep in mind exterior decks require maintenance. A well-finished and adequately maintained home deck guarantees additional protection from moisture and weather-related damage, improved aesthetic, a better quality of life, improved lifespan, and more confidence when entertaining guests. If you are looking to breathe some fresh life into your wooden deck or patio, you are probably wondering whether to paint or stain it.

This blog post will share the critical information you need to know to choose the right type of deck finish.

Five Differences Between Painting and Staining a Deck

Before you settle on the ideal way to treat the deck, it is essential to compare your deck paint vs. deck stain options.

The following are five significant differences between the two options.

Painting Offers More Variety

Ideally, paint is available in more hues than wood stain. Essentially, stains are designed to enhance the native qualities of wood and are typically limited to brown hues. However, if you choose to paint your deck, you won't be limited to a few options. You will enjoy the freedom to choose colors that match the deck to the rest of your home's exteriors.

Stain Is Easier to Apply than Paint

Applying stain and recoating surfaces that need a touch-up is a lot easier than painting. Stains don't require primed surfaces, making them easier to apply than paint. Also, the runny consistency of stains guarantees there are no unsightly lap marks or globs in the finish. Additionally, unlike paint, you only need one coat of stain to achieve stellar results because stains enhance wood surfaces rather than covering them up. Additionally, you won't need an additional clear topcoat when you choose a two-in-one stain and sealer like PU deck coating.

Paint Can Have More Protective Properties

If your deck is old and badly damaged by the elements, you may want to opt for a robust paint product like Liquid Rubber's PU deck sealant that provides more protective properties while masking existing flaws in your wooden deck. Oil-based latex paints typically offer exceptional protection from moisture, lasting up to 10 years. Additionally, robust paints provide the best protection from UV-related fading.

Stain finishes on decks last for a maximum of 8 years before requiring reapplication. When choosing a durable stain, pay close attention to the pigmentation. Generally, the more pigmented the stain, the more resistant it is to UV light and moisture and the longer its lifespan.

Stain Offers a More Natural, Earthy Vibe

Wood stains typically form a thin film over the deck that accentuates its natural grain and markings. Stains maintain wood's natural look by enhancing its texture to give the surface an earthy vibe. When staining, you can use a semi-transparent stain that brings out the grain and texture or an opaque one that hides the grain but enhances the texture.

Paint typically comes with a higher percentage of pigments and resins that completely hide and cover the distinct natural traits of the wood. If you intend to hide the imperfections of your deck, you can use paint that gives you a rustic appearance and smooth surface.

Paint Is More Expensive than Stain

Paint is often more expensive per gallon than stain. With staining, all you need is the stain itself and maybe a sander. However, with paint, you may need a primer, depending on the type of paint and the state of your wooden deck. Additionally, unlike staining, a painting project will also take several days as it requires multiple layers and hours of drying in between.

Important Considerations When Choosing Between Painting Vs. Staining

As shown above, both painting and staining have unique strengths and weaknesses. However, the following considerations can help you make an informed choice.

Determine Whether the Deck Is Roofed or Exposed

If your deck is exposed to the elements year-round, it makes more sense to paint rather than stain it. Painting often provides longer-lasting protection against the weather and more rot resistance that prevents mold and sunlight. Although deck stains block moisture, it doesn't shield the wood against sunlight exposure and you may notice some discoloration of the wood after a staining job. However, if your deck is roofed, you can opt for staining over painting.

Foot Traffic

For a deck that receives a lot of traffic, it's vital to use the right product to help it sustain a lot of wear but continue to look fresh. Since it offers longer-lasting protection, painting a high-trafficked deck is a better option than staining. However, if you must stain, choose a semi-transparent oil-based stain that resists the pressure better than water-based sealants do. Although solid color stains offer exceptional aesthetic value, they wear off quickly under the pressure of heavy foot traffic,

Deck Lifespan

If your deck is newer, a transparent stain may be the best choice. Typically, deck stains seep into the wood grain to provide a natural appearance. Stains, therefore, allow you to enjoy the wood's natural beauty. However, if your deck is old and nearing the end of its life, painting becomes an excellent option to hide some of the imperfections in the wood and add a few more years to the deck's lifespan.

The Overall Goal

Stain typically absorbs into the wood, while paint adds a top layer of film that covers wood. Depending on your decor goals, you should go for the best finish that adds appeal and functionality. If you want to preserve the natural way wood grain shows, you may opt for staining over painting. Staining provides a more rustic look, which many people enjoy. However, if your main goal is to achieve durability, you may opt for paint.

Safety Concerns

Paint can sometimes make the deck surface more slippery than stain. If you are worried about people and pets falling on the deck, staining might be a better solution for you. It's easier to wash off dirt from a smooth, painted surface than a rough, stained surface.

Keeping your deck looking nice is not always an easy job. If you leave your deck untreated, you expose it to rot, rain, UV rays, insects, and mold. With Liquid Rubber's quality and environmentally friendly deck care products, you can reinvent your deck to an outdoor space you can be proud of every day. Contact us today for more information about our products.


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