Best Deck Stain for Weathered Wood Exposed to Elements

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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There is something about weathered wood and how it makes an area feel homely, warm, and classy. Thus, when you have a deck that sports weathered wood and want to restore it, you will need to maintain the look by only using the best deck stain for weathered wood.

What is a deck stain?

It is a strong formula designed to protect your wood from external elements while also giving it a richer color. Generally, it comes in various gallon capacities and is easy to apply to wood for a longer lifespan.

When treating weathered wood, some new factors come into play. Firstly, you need your stain to maintain the rugged look while also offering protection to your artificially weathered wood or naturally aged wood. Either way, let's explore some of the main reasons it's good to stain your deck.

A good stain for weathered wood needs to offer protection from elements like sunlight, water, snow, and dirt; meaning it will need to penetrate the wood and form a durable film before fully curing. Additionally, you need the stain to prevent mildew, algae, mold, and other forms of fungi that will deteriorate your wood.

That said, you still need to find the best deck stains for different types of wood while also considering ease of application, durability, appearance, and volatility. These are factors that make buying confusing, which is why we have compiled a list of the best deck stains you can get today. Read on to learn which has the best features for your deck, and later, the steps to follow when applying any wood stain.

1. DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood Stain

DEFY Extreme 1 Gallon Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood...
  • EASY TO MAINTAIN – When it’s time to do a maintenance coat,...
  • 100 VOC COMPLIANT - Ships to all states including California

Marketed by DEFY, this is your best deck stain for weathered wood that comes in different colors and two different capacities; one-gallon or five-gallon cans. As a semi-transparent stain, it will give your deck a sophisticated look that won't alter its natural color.

This high-quality stain is water-based and features zinc-nanoparticles that reflect sunlight, thus preventing UV damage. In addition, it is a VOC-compliant stain and will ship to all states except California.

It is easy to apply and also gives you various application options; for example, you can use a brush or spray it all around your wood deck. To apply this stain, you will only need to clean your deck, brighten it, and then stain it.

When buying this semi-transparent stain, durability is on your mind. It may not last very long as a water-based stain, but it will still outlive most competitors. In addition, you will not need to sand the surface when it begins to wear off; use a DEFY brightener to clear, then apply a coat of the stain to restore the wood deck.


  • Affordable.
  • Easy to apply.
  • Available in different colors.
  • VOC and CARB-compliant.
  • Offers adequate protection from UV rays.
  • Does not need stripping or sanding when you have to reapply.


  • Does not ship to California.

2. General Finishes Oil-Based Gel Stain for Porous Wood

General Finishes Oil Base Gel Stain, 1 Gallon, Antique...
  • Plastic Gallon Jug - due to an metal can shortage, product may...
  • Woodworkers love the lustrous finish that shows up
  • Heavy-bodied, and so does not penetrate as deeply into the wood...
  • Can help you get a more even appearance on difficult woods such...
  • Easy-to-use stains simply wipe on with a cloth or applied with a...

This is your best wood stain for surfaces made with pine or aspen, among other porous woods. Curing is an important feature to look for when buying a wood stain, and porous wood needs even more attention. If your deck is made of pine or aspen, going for a water-based stain will require so many coats as it will be fast-absorbed by the wood grain.

Therefore, an oil-based stain stands a better chance of curing before the wood absorbs it. This General Finishes stain is heavily bodied, thus will not travel deep into the wood, a feature that allows it to dry easily to restore the integrity of your old deck.

This gel stain is also quite easy to apply; you may use a foam brush or a cloth to give a lustrous finish. It is available in different sizes and colors and also comes at an affordable price and is VOC-compliant.


  • Thicker than most weathered wood stains.
  • Easy to apply by using a cloth or foam brush.
  • Available in different sizes and colors.
  • VOC-compliant.
  • Oil-based, thus ideal for most porous woods like pine and aspen.
  • Affordable.
  • Ideal for indoor use on cabinets and furniture.


  • You can not spray-paint it.

3. Varathane Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain

Rust-Oleum 313835 Varathane Weathered Wood Accelerator,...
  • For interior use on bare or untreated wood to create a weathered...
  • Water-based, low odor formula with easy soap and water clean up
  • Dries to the touch in 1 hour and covers up to 275 sq ft depending...
  • Replicates and creates a natural, Aged look in minutes
  • Final look will vary depending on the Type of wood used

This wood stain is another water-based option you can use on all your deck or also when you want to treat wood; it is ideal for any type of old wood or treated wood to redesign your structure into a weathered deck.

Curing a wood stain is as important as getting the right stain, and you will make no mistake with this product. It cures to the touch in one hour to highlight your natural wood's beauty. Like other water-based wood stains, a single coat is usually enough to restore a deck.

The application process is also straightforward; you will only need to sand and clean your wood before applying a coat of this stain. In addition, it comes with a low odor that won't affect you when using it indoors. A quart capacity is enough for a coverage of 275 square feet, but it also depends on how porous your deck wood is.


  • Easy to apply.
  • Dries to the touch in one hour.
  • 275 square feet coverage per one-quart capacity can.
  • Ideal for treated and untreated wood.
  • Water-based for fast absorption.
  • Comes with a low odor so that you can use it indoors.


  • It may not be ideal for porous wood.

4. Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer for Weathered Wood

Ready Seal 545 Exterior Stain and Sealer for Wood,...
  • Requires no primer. Ready Seal is darkest when first applied. It...
  • May be applied using sprayer, roller or brush onto the woods...
  • Requires no back brushing and will nerver leave runs, laps, or...
  • Requires no wet-line application, the product will blend itself...
  • Requires no diluting or thinning prior to spray applications.

One constant worry among many DIYers is that oil-based wood stains cause pollution, and rightly so, most come with higher amounts of volatile compounds. But, this stain from Royal Seal, despite being oil-based, is 100% biodegradable once you apply it. So you don't need to worry about it polluting your soil or water.

It is also easy to apply, and you can use a brush, roller, or sprayer. It is a ready-to-use stain that will not need diluting or thinning. Additionally, the stain does not need a primer, so you won't need to apply the first coat of paint to cover pores. Instead, you can apply two coats of this stain and enjoy UV protection and mold and mildew prevention.

However, there's one aspect of this product that requires immense patience; you need to give it at least two weeks before you can start noticing the color you chose. Initially, after application, this stain darkens and then starts to fade as it cures.

It is an affordable stain that comes in 1-gallon and 5-gallon pails. According to the manufacturer, a gallon offers 175 sq. ft coverage, but this also depends on your wood surface or timber.


  • Oil-based, thus ideal for porous wood.
  • Biodegradable so that it won't affect your water or plants.
  • Available in different colors.
  • Does not need a primer.
  • Ready-to-use out of the pail.


  • Cures in two weeks for the real color to start showing.
  • Not available in California.

5. #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Stain for Decks

#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain for Decks,...
  • BOTH A DECK STAIN & DECK SEALANT IN ONE - #1 Deck Stain Is a...
  • ALLOWS THE WOOD GRAIN TO SHOW THROUGH - Available in 5 Beautiful,...

Is your deck made with pressure-treated wood? Is it also fading? If the answer to both questions is yes, you need this best semi-transparent stain to restore your deck to the best glory. It is a stain and sealer and comes as an eco-friendly formula you can also use on other structures such as fences, furniture, and floors.

It is suitable for most softwoods and pressure-treated lumber. When applying, you don't have to worry about waiting for your wood to dry after cleaning; you can apply it to damp wood, and it will get absorbed perfectly. It is easy to apply as well and leaves the natural color of your wood showing.

The stain comes in either one-gallon or 2.5-gallon sizes and has five color options for your best weathered decks.


  • VOC-compliant, semi-transparent stain.
  • Affordable.
  • Available in five colors.
  • It can be applied to damp wood.
  • Best stain for pressure-treated wood.
  • Stains and seals your deck from all elements.
  • Made in the USA.


  • Will need frequent maintenance on hardwood decks.

Factors to Consider When Buying Your Best Deck Stain for Weathered Wood

If your deck is made with weathered wood or you'd like to treat it to look weathered, you will need to understand how to maintain it, and this requires using products that complement the style and quality of your wood. Let us explore some features you need from your deck stains for old wood.

a) Type of stain

You can find two types of deck stains in the market now; oil-based stains and water-based stains. While both are good for your deck, some scenarios make each better than the other.

For instance, if your deck is made with porous wood and is, therefore, easier to rot, you will find an oil-based stain better. It will keep elements away and penetrate the grain of the wood to also act as a sealer. It also provides a rich color and lasts longer with less maintenance.

On the other hand, a water-based stain will be ideal for most hardwood decks that don't absorb too much liquid. In addition, water-based stains are more eco-friendly, easier to clean, and help maintain the natural color of your wood.

b) Coverage

Coverage is determined by the size of your deck and the type of wood you need to stain. Before buying your best wood stains, it'd be best to check the labels to see if there is a recommendation for the wood and how big a deck, in square feet, your product can stain. It is also vital to know how many coats you need when applying the stain.

c) VOC-compliance

Stains are made with chemicals that contain various volatile organic compounds. Unlike naturally occurring compounds, these VOCs can pose various risks to your health and to that of your plants and animals.

Before you buy any stain, read the labels to understand which VOCs, if any, are present in the product. Consequently, refer to your state or country's regulations to understand which compounds are illegal.

d) Durability

You need to understand how durable your stain is; after all, you need it to prolong your deck's lifespan. All stains wear out with time, and the difference between many models is how fast they do. To guarantee the longest durability, consider foot traffic, type of wood, type of stain, and elements that can affect its integrity.

e) Climate

One of the main reasons you need a stain is to mitigate deterioration caused by elements like water, snow, direct sunlight, and more. As such, you will need to understand the climate you live in to determine which stain is best for your deck.

For instance, consider how long a stain can last if you experience a lot of rain in your area. Even when your deck is treated, it will remain prone to damage when exposed to some elements.

Benefits of Using the Best Deck Stain for Weathered Wood

An old, weathered deck is a site to love and a place to go and relax in with your loved ones. However, it needs constant care and protection from external elements such as water, direct sunlight, snow, mold, mildew, and more. Here are a few benefits of getting the best wood stains for your old deck.

  1. You will restore your old deck to look like new
  2. A coat of stain helps in waterproofing wood
  3. You will keep mold, mildew, and other fungi away
  4. A stain keeps bugs like termites away
  5. Staining your weathered wood is cheaper than replacing the wood
  6. Stained wood is safer for the whole family

How to Stain your Weathered Deck?

Staining wood is a fairly easy task, as you will see here. But first, let us explore some of the things you will need to get going;

  1. Sandpaper
  2. A brush, roller, or sprayer
  3. A stripper
  4. A masker or drop cloth
  5. A pressure washer

These are the steps you need to follow to stain your deck properly.

Step 1: Cover everything you don’t want to stain

Look around your deck and cover everything you don't want to stain. These are things like furniture or electronics that could otherwise get damaged by the stain.

Step 2: Clean the deck

Use a pressure washer at low pressure to clear elements like leaves or dirt stuck on your deck. Alternatively, if you had painted your deck before, you will notice some flaking, in which case you can use the stripper, which will expose all previous finishes.

Once everything is on the surface, you can sand or brush it off to leave the wooden surfaces clean and smooth. Then, let it dry, or proceed to the next step if you can apply your stain on a damp surface.

Step 3: Wear your protective gear and start staining

Depending on the type of stain you have, you may need to cover your eyes and nose, so have the gear ready.

On most occasions, you'll only need to apply a single coat of stain. You may decide to use a brush, sprayer, roller, or lint-free cloth. However, make sure to maintain the same consistency throughout the deck for the best results.

Once done, your deck is ready to cure and to look good for months or years to come.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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