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Best Deck Stain

By: Angela Stringfellow on April 04, 2018

In this report

Exterior House Paint Deck Stain Our Sources
Best Reviewed

Best solid deck stain

Behr Deck Plus Solid Color Waterproofing Wood Stain

Deck stains are best when you want the wood's grain to show

Like paints, wood stains come in either oil-based (alkyd) or water-based latex (acrylic) formulations, although there's not a clear advantage of one type over the other when it comes to performance and durability. Similar to paint finishes, wood stains come in three different treatments. Solid stains, sometimes called opaque stains, hide the wood grain the most but are the most durable and last the longest. Clear stains are ideal when you want the most wood grain to show; however, they don't hold up as long and experts say you can expect to have to refinish frequently (and annually in the case of decks). Semi-transparent stains typically provide the middle ground between those two options.

Among popular solid deck stains on the market, we spotted two that stand out. Behr Deck Plus Solid Color Waterproofing Wood Stain (Est. $30 per gallon) lands in second place in Consumer Reports' testing, earning a Recommendation and a Best Buy rating. It maintains a score of Very Good in appearance after the equivalent of nine years' of outdoor exposure (simulated in a lab environment) on a house (or any vertical surface) and three years on a deck. It also resists color change, cracking, dirt and mildew, offering the best protection among all solid deck stains tested. Editors note that it contains 100 grams per liter of VOCs, meeting federal guidelines as well as California's stricter limits for stains.

Behr Deck Plus Solid Color Waterproofing Wood Stain earns good feedback from dozens of user reviewers, although there are a few detractors who note that areas of their decks started peeling less than a year after application. Editors at Consumer Reports address similar complaints they've received about Behr Deck Plus. However, they say they've not experienced these same issues in testing and warn that this issue may arise if the stain has been applied too thickly, causing the excess stain to dry loosely on the surface. Likewise, some consumers stress the importance of proper prep work, including pressure-washing and sanding, before applying a new wood stain.

Reviewers who have had positive experiences with Behr Deck Plus Solid Color Waterproofing Wood Stain say it applies easily, adheres to the surface readily and dries quickly. Some users say this stain has held up for well over 10 years.

Olympic Maximum Solid Stain & Sealant in One (Est. $40 per gallon) earns slightly lower scores in Consumer Reports' testing, but still maintains a Very Good in appearance after the equivalent of three years' outdoor deck exposure. Like Behr Deck Plus, it offers good resistance to cracking, color change and mildew, although it doesn't resist dirt as well as some other solid deck stains. Like Behr Deck Plus, it has less than 100 grams per liter of VOCs, meeting the strictest regulatory limits in California.

Hundreds of users are mostly pleased with Olympic Maximum's performance. Reviewers say it's easy to apply, although two coats may be required to offer complete coverage, especially for weathered wood. A few users say it fills cracks, holes and other minor imperfections in the wood, while still allowing the texture of the wood to show through. While some users say it offers great durability in a variety of weather conditions, others complain that it doesn't last as long as it should, citing peeling within two years of application.

If you are looking for a semi-transparent stain, Behr Premium Waterproofing Wood Stain & Sealer (Est. $40 per gallon) lands at the top of the pack among semi-transparent exterior stains in Consumer Reports' testing, maintaining a Very Good appearance after two years of simulated outdoor exposure. Editors say it offered the most protection of all semi-transparent deck stains tested, resisting mildew, cracking, color change and even dirt in tests. Like the solid Behr Deck Plus and Olympic Maximum deck stains, Behr Premium contains less than 100 grams per liter of VOCs.

The various colors and opacities of Behr Premium stain draw ample feedback at Home Depot, the primary distributor of the brand. Most reviewers say it offers excellent coverage. One caveat: A handful of user reviews say the stain is prone to peeling, primarily when this deck stain is used in areas subject to direct sunlight with little protection from the weather. In response, experts recommend applying thin coats, which makes it easier for the stain to penetrate fully into the wood. Another common complaint comes from reviewers who take issue with the manufacturer's claim that this deck stain will last for six to 10 years, depending on the opacity. Like most deck stains, Behr generally lasts for two to, perhaps, three years, at best.

Like the solid formulation, the semi-transparent version of Olympic Maximum (Est. $40 per gallon) fares well among hundreds of reviewers. Reviewers say it applies easily and dries quickly while offering good coverage in one or two coats while still leaving the wood grain visible.

Olympic Maximum's semi-transparent deck stain lands near the middle of the pack in Consumer Reports' testing, earning a Fair rating for its appearance after two years of simulated outdoor exposure. Editors also say it offers poor resistance to dirt, mildew, cracking and color change in their tests.

Like all exterior paints and stains, Olympic Maximum's semi-transparent deck receives a fair share of criticism from reviewers on retail sites. Some users report peeling and fading, as well as a reduction in water-repelling power, after about one or two years, despite the manufacturer's claim that it will last six years. There are also a number of complaints about the color being less transparent than claimed, and some users say the color of the stain was not what they expected based on the sample swatch in the store with a more yellow, red or orange tone than expected. However, there are a significant number of reviewers who are pleased with Olympic Maximum's performance, particularly on vertical surfaces such as wood-stained siding and fences.

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