Painting vs. Staining a Deck: Side-by-Side Comparison

By MWB-Team •  Updated: 05/28/23 • 

If you’re looking to finish your new wooden deck or refinish an old one, painting and staining are two popular choices. Although both serve as extra protection and improve your wooden deck’s overall look, each has pros and cons.

Understanding the differences and the pros and cons of painting or staining a deck will help you decide which one is better for your deck. In this article, we’ll discuss these two methods of finishing a deck and their differences to help you make an informed decision. Enjoy. You can also check out our best deck stains.

Deck Painting

Painting a deck is a good option if you’re looking for a uniform finish on your deck. While painting covers the natural beauty of wood, it also masks imperfections, giving your deck a better look. Painting is a popular choice for older decks because it will cover imperfections revitalizing their look.

Green Color Painted Deck

Green Color Painted Deck

Paint is also versatile, and you can use a wide range of color options on your deck. Whether you opt for a solid or natural option that will mimic the color of wood, there’s something for you. You can also customize the paint of your deck to match or compliment the color scheme of your home.

There are three kinds of paint you can use on a wooden deck: oil-based paint, latex paint, and acrylic paint.

Deck Staining

Staining a deck is popular for homeowners who prefer to keep the natural look of the wood. A stain protects the deck but also highlights or enhances the natural beauty of the wood.

Staining a deck in rainy regions is more beneficial because the deck is less slippery than a painted deck. Staining is also a popular go-to option for pressure-treated decks where paint adheres poorly and might peel easily.

Recently Stained Deck

Recently Stained Deck

There are water- and oil-based stains, each with pros and cons. Water-based stains sit on the deck’s surface, are easier to apply, and last longer. Oil-based stains penetrate the wood fibers but can fade faster and require more drying time.

Deck stains can also be categorized into different opacities, such as solid/opaque, semi-transparent, and clear/transparent stains.

Is It Better to Paint or Stain a Deck?

Both stains and paints are excellent choices for your deck. However, you should focus on what’s important to you before making your final decision. Below is a breakdown of different factors comparing these two deck finishing options.

Appearance

Wood stains help enhance the grain and beauty of your deck, creating a natural or rustic appearance. Stains are good on a deck with little imperfections and in good condition. Deck paints, on the other hand, create a sleek and modern appearance. Paints are suitable for older decks or for concealing flaws, like cracks and wear on your deck.

Stained Cedar Deck When Raining

Stained Cedar Deck When Raining

Application

Both deck paints and stains require you to prepare the deck surface, which might include cleaning and sanding it down. Once done, you can apply your wood stain on the deck. However, you will have to prime the deck’s surface before you can paint it over. Once painted with at least two coats, you can then proceed to apply a sealer.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-apply finish, a deck stain is better and easier to apply. There are different applicators you choose from, and each has its pros and cons. Check out our guide on the best deck stain applicators to help you choose.

Color Choices

If you’re looking for variety, paint is your go-to deck finish. Deck paints come in different hues and a much wider palette for you to choose from. Whether you want a neutral color, rustic, or contemporary vibe, there’s something for you.

Custom Hand Painted Deck by Alisa Burke

Custom Hand Painted Deck by Alisa Burke

Deck stains come in different opacities, from transparent to opaque. Though they also come in different colors, most are made to enhance the aesthetic qualities of wood; thus, they have limited varieties.

Longevity & Maintenance

Both paints and stains come with a fair share of their own problems. Paint will start peeling and chipping over time, while deck stains can get discolored by UV over time. However, comparing the durability of the two, the paint is superior and can last over 10 years without being refinished. Paint also provides better protection against elements such as UV rays. Stains usually last 2-5 years before requiring re-application.

When it comes to maintenance, paint is easier to clean and maintain. This is because washing off a smooth painted surface is easier than a rough stained deck surface.

Differences in Cost

If you’re looking to save money, stains are a better option and cheaper compared to painting a deck. Not only are deck paints more expensive than deck stains, but you’ll also need a primer, preservative, and sealer. Deck stains are much cheaper and already contain a preservative and sealer. They also do not need a primer to adhere to the wood.

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.