Wood stain and wood sealant are two different products, each designed to add different characteristics to your deck. You don’t necessarily have to choose between staining and sealing. Some products can combine both properties, or you can add both to your deck. However, other homeowners choose to either stain or seal their deck. Which is right for you? We’ll discuss that below.
When You Should Stain Your Deck
A deck stain is a product you apply to your deck that changes the wood’s color. You can get stains that only mildly darken or brighten the wood. Or, you can choose a stain that applies a very dramatic color. Stains don’t sit on top of the wood like paint does. Instead, they are meant to absorb into the wood and therefore preserve the natural texture and look of the wood grain. Staining is a great option when you want to adjust the color of the wood you choose.
However, staining does not typically offer the wood any protection from sun, moisture or other sources of wear. Staining is purely aesthetic unless you have a combination stain-sealant product.
When You Should Seal Your Deck
A deck sealer is a product you apply to the deck to seal the wood from moisture. Sealant is designed to soak into wood, but as it does it proofs the wood against moisture, leaving no room for water to work into the wood. While sealant is not typically designed to change the deck’s color, many will add lustre or and enhance the natural look of the wood. Some also leave more visible hard finishes on the wood, reducing the natural texture but not the natural look of the grain. Wood stain will not adjust the shade of your deck unless they are a combination stain-sealant.
Which One Is Better?
Which product is better depends on your needs for your wood. If you want to change the color of your wood than a stain is your best choice. If you like the color of your wood now and simply want to keep it around longer and protect it from the elements then a stain is a better choice.
While opinion is split on whether staining or sealing is more important, we think it makes sense to choose a wood with a color you’re already happy with and then seal it in order to protect it and get the most life out of the wood as possible. You will need to restain the deck once every other year or so.
You Don’t Have to Choose
Many people choose to both stain and seal their deck and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can buy a product that will stain and seal the deck in one coat. Or, you can stain first and seal second.
Some woods can go without staining and sealing. Cedar, for example, can be left as it is. It naturally repels water and it will also change color, in time, to a classic grey that many homeowners love.