Decking Oil vs. Stain: Differences, Which is Better?

By MWB-Team •  Updated: 06/21/23 • 

Your deck faces a lot of abuse from foot traffic and elements such as rain, harsh UV rays, and much more. To protect your deck, you can choose to oil, stain, or paint it. In this article, we’ll look at the difference between oiling vs. staining to help you decide which is better for your deck.

What is a Decking Oil?

Decking oil is applied to a deck to enhance its natural beauty while adding protection. Decking oil can help protect your deck from cracking, warping, or splitting. It can also restore the natural wood oils lost through the years for a better-looking deck.

Applying Decking Oil To a Deck

Applying Decking Oil To a Deck

Most exterior decking oils also add additives and stabilizers to help your deck handle harsh UV rays and water. Oils are absorbed deeper into the wood fibers, thus nourishing your deck.

Difference After Application of Decking Oil

Difference After Application of Decking Oil

Decking oils are very easy to apply, and reapplication should be done every six to eight months, depending on the usage of the deck. Oils also have greater coverage, and a little decking oil can go a long way.

What is a Deck Stain?

Deck stains are usually solvent-based or water-based, and they help protect your deck while imparting some color to it. They are available in different opacities, from transparent, semi-transparent, and opaque deck stains.

Deck Stained With A Transparent Cedar Stain & Sealer

Deck Stained With A Transparent Cedar Stain & Sealer

Unlike deck oils, deck stains can be great for enhancing a deck’s natural beauty and sealing it for better protection against different elements. Most deck stains include a sealant that forms a barrier to protect the wood against damage.

Depending on the type of deck stain you choose, you can slightly change the color of your deck or completely do a makeover.

Staining a Deck With A Solid Deck Stain

Staining a Deck With A Solid Deck Stain

For new decks, a transparent or semi-transparent deck stain is the best option to enhance and protect its beauty. For old and weathered decks, an opaque deck stain is better to hide surface imperfections for a great appearance. Check out a guide on the best stain for old decks.

Choosing Between Decking Oil and Deck Stain

Appearance

If you want to enhance your deck’s appearance, both deck oil and stain can be used. Oils are not meant to change the appearance of your deck, but they do this by enhancing the look of the wood grain and texture. Your deck will look richer and more beautiful, especially if the wood has a good grain pattern and texture.

Before and After Applying Decking Oil

Before and After Applying Decking Oil

Decking stains impart color to your deck, which can enhance the grain and texture of the deck. However, solid-colored deck stains will hide your deck’s natural appearance for a more uniform colored appearance and better protection. Check out the difference between staining and painting a deck.

Maintenance & Durability

Decking can easily be applied and reapplied to a deck without much preparation. You don’t need to strip it in order to reapply another coat of oil, which may be the case if you neglect your deck stain for longer periods. Although they are easier to apply and reapply, they last less time than deck stains.

Deck stains can last up to five years when properly applied and maintained. However, before reapplying a deck stain, you’ll need to strip down the previous coats so they can better penetrate the wood.

Stripping a Deck And After Applying a Deck Stain

Stripping a Deck And After Applying a Deck Stain

Soapy water is all you need to strip it down for water-based deck stains. However, for oil-based deck stains, you might need chemical strippers to effectively get them off before reapplication. You can also use a pressure washer as shown above to strip peeling stain from a deck.

Protecting Your Deck

A solid deck stain is the best option if you’re looking for the best protection for your deck. However, it will hide your deck’s beauty from showing through. Solid deck stains are best for older decks to hide imperfections and a weathered appearance. Semi-transparent deck stains offer the best balance in protecting your deck while allowing its beauty to shine through.

Decking oils also protect your deck and nourish it. However, they do not offer better protection compared to deck stains. Deck stains are far superior and help protect your deck better. However, oils also protect your deck from harsh UV rays and keep it looking good for longer.

MWB-Team

Hello there! This is the Make Wood Better Team. Here, we share informative how-tos and guides focused on making wood better. Whether it's finishing wood, maintenance, or restoration, there's something on this website for you to learn and improve your skills.