Best Deck Stain Applicators: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

By MWB-Team •  Updated: 10/11/23 • 

Staining a deck requires proper prior preparation to get the best results. When applying a deck stain, the right stain and choosing the best time to apply it are the most important things to consider. However, often overlooked is the applicator used to apply the stain.

When staining a deck, you have a variety of applicators to choose from that work fairly well. You can choose a brush, roller, stain pad, or sprayer. Choosing the right stain applicator will determine how the job will look and how fast you’ll stain the deck.

If you’re looking for the best deck stain applicator, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ll guide you through choosing different applicators to pick the best that fits the job.

Our Top Deck Stain Applicators

Choosing a Deck Stain Applicator

Deck Stain Brushes

Different brushes for applying a deck stain include hand brushes, flooring brushes, truck brushes, and groove tools.

The hand brush is the most popular and affordable way of applying stain to a deck. Hand brushes give you more control when applying a stain, and the friction of the brush when applying a stain helps it to be absorbed deeper into the wood.

Hand brushing a stain on a deck also means you’ll waste less stain. Older decks with a lot of wear and tear will also benefit from using a brush. This is because it can reach the cracks and harder-to-reach areas that other applicators, like rollers, cannot. If you’re looking for the best brush for staining a deck, we pick this Wooster Brush 4-Inch Stain Brush.

Best Handheld Deck Stain Brush

Wooster 4-Inch Stain Brush

The brush is excellent for water- and oil-based stains and does a very good job. It holds a lot of stain with minimal dripping, is easy to control, spreads evenly, and is durable when properly maintained.

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Although hand-style brushes have a lot of advantages, they are very slow to use. A handheld stain brush works great if you’re staining a small deck. However, a brush will be slower if you’re staining a bigger deck.

If you want to stain a deck quickly, a larger brush with an extension brush gets the job done. Our go-to brush for getting the job done quicker is the Precision Large 7-Inch Deck Brush. The brush is big, which means it soaks up a lot of stains. With this brush, you can easily make quick work of staining even a large deck.

Best Large Deck Stain Brush

Precision Defined Deck Stain Brush

This 7-inch precision deck stain brush is great if you want to stain a deck quickly. It holds a lot of stains, and the bristles are long enough to get into the nooks and crannies in the wood. Despite the size, it is also easier to clean and holds up well for a long time. The great thing about the brush is that you can add an extension handle, which means easier effort and faster stain application.

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Deck Stain Rollers

Roll-on deck stain with a roller can also help cover a larger area in less time, like using a large deck brush. However, for the best results, use the proper roller nap. Rollers are not designed to hold deck stain, so you’ll dip the roller frequently in your stain bucket rather than rolling out the stain.

If you want to use a roller for stain application, ensure the deck is smooth, or choose a good-sized nap to get the stain into rougher surfaces. Roller naps come in different lengths. A 3/16- to 1/4-inch roller nap is good to go if the deck is smooth with no imperfections. For a lightly textured deck, a 3/8- to 1/2-inch is good. For rough (weathered) and older decks, the roller nap should be more than 3/4 inches for the best results.

Roller Nap Sizes for rolling deck stain

Apart from the nap size, different types of stains will determine the type of roller you’ll use. For oil-based stains, go with a natural fiber roller, like lambswool. For water-based stains, go with a polyester or foam roller.

You can also use rollers together with brushes for applying a stain. One person rolls the stain on the deck while a second person back brushes it to work it into the cracks and crevices of the deck.

If you’re looking for a good roller for rolling on the stain, check out the Wooster R242 1-inch Nap Roller.

Best Roller for Staining a Deck

Wooster Brush R242-9 Roller

This roller is perfect for rolling stains on decks from smooth to rough surfaces. The roller is also great for use on the deck’s flat horizontal and vertical surfaces. The roller holds a lot of stain compared to other small nap rollers, which means you’ll cover a bigger area in less time.

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Deck Stain Pads and Mops

Deck staining pads and mops are other good choices for staining larger areas. They are absorbent and can hold a lot of stains giving you more coverage. Longer and easier-to-use handles allow you to apply a stain neatly with little effort.

Like brushes, deck pads, and mops also offer good friction with the deck, which helps work the stain deeper into the wood’s pores. Unlike brushes or rollers, you can also get replacement stain pads should you need them.

The disadvantage of using deck pads for staining is that they work great for the horizontal surfaces of your deck. They are also easily torn when they come up against nails, screws, and other protruding elements on the deck’s surface. This is why you get replacements when you get deck staining pads.

If you’re looking for a good deck stain pad, check out the Mr. Long Arm 0350 Woodmates 12-Inch Premier Stain Applicator.

Best Deck Stain Pad

Mr. Long Arm 0350 Woodmates Stain Applicator

The applicator pad is large at 12 inches, which makes it easier to stain a larger deck easily. It holds a lot of stains, which gives it more coverage when applying a stain. The stain pads are replaceable and easily attachable via a hook and loop system.

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Deck Stain Sprayers

Deck stain sprayers are another way of staining a deck quickly over large surfaces. Spraying a stain also means you get a uniform finish. However, spraying stains on a deck has its fair share of challenges.

One of the problems you’ll have to deal with is mess overspray. You’ll also use more stain than planned when spraying because you lose stain in the air as mist or overspray. The stain might also just settle on the surface because there is no physical applicator to help push it deeper into the wood. This can cause the stain to start peeling after some time. To avoid this, you can back brush stain to work it into the wood.

There are two types of sprayers you can use on your deck. These are a pump-up or garden-type sprayer and an airless sprayer.

A pump or garden-type sprayer is a good option for spraying thinner or less viscous/dense stains. Pump sprayers are also designed to only work properly with stains with a little pigment. They work well with transparent or translucent stains. If you’re looking for a good stain sprayer, check out the Wagner Spraytech HVLP Stain Sprayer.

Best Deck Stain Sprayer

Wagner Spraytech HVLP Stain Sprayer

The Wagner spray tech stain sprayer is a great entry-level sprayer on your deck. The sprayer diameter does not cover a large area, but it gets the job done and is easier to use. The nozzle sprays well and does not get clogged up when spraying. It is also easier to clean because you can take it apart completely in 15 seconds.

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An airless sprayer is a better option for larger projects where the Wagner spray tech stain sprayer might struggle to keep up. With an airless sprayer, you can also work with high-viscosity or thicker stains without a problem. Solid deck stains can easily be applied with an airless sprayer without the risk of clogging up the spray tip. The Graco Magnum X5 Stand Airless Sprayer is a good and budget-friendly airless sprayer.

Best Airless Deck Sprayer

Graco Magnum 262800 X5 Airless Sprayer

If you're looking for a reliable paint sprayer to work on your furniture, cabinets, and other medium-sized wood projects, the Graco Magnum X5 is your best pick. This is a good entry-level airless sprayer that will give you the results of a higher-end paint sprayer.

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The Wagner Spraytech HVLP and Graco Magnum X5 Stand Airless Sprayer are good to check out. Remember, like all sprayers, these two are only as good when you care for them and keep them clean.

Before choosing a sprayer for your deck stain, check manufacturer recommendations on the tip size and pressure.


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