Should You Paint or Stain Your Deck?

August 15, 2023

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A beautiful deck is a great American tradition. Decks add life and personality to the exterior of your home. They can be anything from inviting, classic meeting spaces to elegant spots to spend time alone or entertain guests. Your deck is an extension of the rest of your home — it should add curb appeal, value and living space. The size and popularity of outdoor decks in the upscale market are increasing, even in areas with colder climates.

Decks are rising in popularity because of what’s happening inside many American homes. As walls come down to make room for open floor plans, homeowners are doing away with formal living spaces. The deck has become a revered outdoor space of the modern American home.

It’s worth noting that exterior decks require maintenance. Unprotected wood quickly degrades, as it absorbs moisture. It will crack, warp and twist without the right level of protection. The sun’s ultraviolet rays will discolor the deck, whether it’s unprotected, painted or stained. The sun will also break down the wood’s lignin — the natural glue that holds its fibers together.

An older painted deck will eventually need a new paint job or you might consider stripping and staining it. Stain on a deck only lasts a few years. As a homeowner, you’ll have to decide how to keep your deck looking its best. Proper maintenance is an unavoidable cost that comes with enjoying a gorgeous deck.



Is It Better to Paint or Stain a Deck?

A common question you face is whether you should paint or stain your deck when it’s in need of attention — and ultimately, the correct answer depends on your preferences. It’s important to take into consideration the maintenance, color and feel. Neither option will last forever, but deck painting contractors that are fully bonded, licensed and insured will bring you the best results and guide you in the right direction.

Let’s examine the pros and cons that come with painting and staining a deck, so you can make the best decision.


Painting Your Deck

There are plenty of reasons to paint your deck, but understand this process masks the detailed elements that make wooden surfaces unique. Paint lasts longer, comes in multiple color options and provides a uniform look. Over time, the uniform paint will peel and crack, but it might be a good option if your deck is particularly old and weathered.

Pros of Painting Your Deck

The pros of painting your deck include:

  • Easy to maintain: With paint, you can forget about refinishing it anytime soon. A quality paint job, finished by a trusted professional, can last for 10 years before repainting is necessary. Conversely, stains need to be reapplied every few years because they are not as strong against outdoor elements.
  • Paint color options: There are few limitations for color options. You can easily match the deck to the rest of your home’s exterior or use your deck to complement the color of your house. You might paint the exterior of your home and deck together, which provides an excellent opportunity to unify your space. Combining the two projects gives you the opportunity to make a striking impression that will last for years.
  • Hide flaws: If your deck is old and weathered, you may not want to display its every detail. Painting will mask the flaws in your wooden deck, making it a great option if your deck is near the end of its life.


Cons of Painting Your Deck

The cons of painting your deck include:

  • Traps moisture: Decks sit horizontally, which leads to water pooling in certain areas. Over time, this traps moisture. As the deck expands and contracts with the outdoor elements, the paint starts to chip and peel.
  • Conceals beauty: When you paint your wooden deck, you cover the beautiful elements that make it one-of-a-kind. If you love the look and feel of your wooden deck, you may regret covering up its natural beauty.
  • It’s permanent: Once you decide to paint your deck, it’s almost a given that you’ll always paint it. You can easily go from stain to paint, but going from paint to stain is difficult, time-consuming and expensive.



What to Expect When You Hire a Professional to Paint Your Deck

If you decide to paint your exterior deck, hire a professional for optimal results that will last for years. An experienced professional will listen to your vision, provide you with options and give you a quote.

A professional will assist with your painting project by:

  • Preparing to paint: Your professional should spray the surface with a mold deterrent and then clean, rinse and dry. Rotten boards should be replaced, nails and screws should be set below the surface and holes filled to repel moisture. If necessary, your expert will strip the wood of existing finishes.
  • Preserving wood: Experts will apply a paintable, water-repellant preservative before moving on.
  • Priming surfaces: A good primer will improve adhesion, increase protection from moisture and add up to two years of life to your new paint job.
  • Explaining paint options: You can use oil or latex paints for exterior decks. Oil-based paints typically last longer and provide better protection against moisture, but they’re shiny and have trouble withstanding intense heat. Latex paints are less tough, but they hold up better in locations with high temperatures. They also come in a variety of sheens, so you can go with something different than a high-gloss finish.
  • Painting surfaces: Your exterior painter will address every surface, including those not directly exposed to sunlight and outdoor elements, such as the end grain. It’s important to use at least two coats.

If you’re looking for a different approach to revitalizing an outdoor deck, consider your stain options.


Staining Your Deck

Staining your deck protects it from the outdoor elements while maintaining — often enhancing — its original, natural beauty. If your deck is made from a gorgeous wood, you can highlight its unique characteristics and beautiful grain. You’ll likely decide on a semi-transparent stain or a clear sealer for your deck, but stains also offer quite a few choices:

  • Solid stains: Solid stains create a darker, uniform look and cover most of the wood’s natural elements.
  • Semi-transparent stains: Offering a touch of color but allowing the wood’s unique characteristics and patterns to shine through, semi-transparent stains provide weatherproofing and UV protection.
  • Clear wood preserves: This type of stain is best for luxurious wood decks, such as rich cedar and redwood, where you want to preserve the natural color of the wood and showcase its beauty. Some clear wood preserves contain UV protection to keep the wood and stain from looking washed out. Most also contain fungicides, to protect the wood from mold and mildew. They also feature less wax than a clear water sealer.


Unfortunately, staining provides a shorter life span compared to painting. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of staining your deck, so you can decide if it’s right for you.

Pros of Staining Your Deck

The pros of staining your deck include:

  • Wood color, grain and texture visibility: When you stain, you choose how much or how little the natural wood shows through. You decide the level of opacity — from clear to solid-colored.
  • Wood grain penetration: A quality stain will seal the wood grain, so it prevents moisture from penetrating your deck and causing it to rot. A good stain provides better moisture retention than paint.
  • Highlight surfaces: If your deck is made of beautiful wood, the right stain and finish will enhance it. Unlike paint, which completely masks the wood’s beauty, a stain allows you to highlight its natural qualities.
  • Less slippery: Some stains are slick, but for the most part, they’re flatter and create a less slippery surface than paint. If safety and slippage are concerns for your deck, understand staining is a better option.


Cons of Staining Your Deck

The cons of staining your deck include:

  • Shorter life span: On average, decks need to be stained every other year. A quality, professional paint job will last longer than a quality, professional deck staining. However, an oil-based semi-transparent stain can last for three to five years, which makes this option worth exploring for peace of mind.
  • Not a filler: You can use paint to cover flaws and fill in small holes and grooves in a wooden deck. You can’t rely on stain as a repair method, as it’s thinner than paint and is unable to fill small cracks.
  • Friendly with select woods: Tropical hardwoods make for stunningly gorgeous decks, but they’re very dense and have difficulty holding stains. If you’re determined to apply a stain, opt for an oil-based penetrating stain. If you decide not to apply a stain, apply a clear wood preservative every three years.
  • Less capable of hiding imperfections: If your deck is old and weathered, understand a stain is far from a miracle worker. Paint may be a better choice if you’re looking for an option to hide flaws in the material.



What to Expect When You Hire a Professional to Stain Your Deck

Staining your deck comes with many different choices and a trusted professional will explain your options and help you make your vision a reality. Stain is available in several colors, so it’s important to test an area of your deck with the stain you want to use. The resulting color largely depends on the color of the wood itself.

If you decide to stain your deck, you can expect that a professional will:

  • Explain choices: There are many considerations to make when staining a deck. Your professional will discuss options and give you specialized advice.
  • Prepare: A professional will clean your deck for staining, whether it’s an older, weathered deck or a brand-new one. Older decks may need stripping. New decks need cleaning to remove any mill scale, which is a crushing of the grain that takes place during the milling process. A professional also knows the importance of adding a wood brightener to restore the appearance of weathered wood.
  • Properly rinse: Professionals also understand the importance of thoroughly rinsing the deck after cleaning, stripping, brightening and otherwise preparing the deck for staining. If any chemicals remain on the wood prior to treatment, they can break down the stain in the future.
  • Apply stain: A trusted professional will use a high-quality premium stain. Better stains are more expensive, and optimal results require a premium product.

Both paint and stain can increase the life of your wooden exterior deck. Paint and stain each come with benefits that increase the longevity and quality of your deck space, but one option is likely best for your situation. A trustworthy expert will help you decide which option is right for you if you’re still unsure.


Address Your Home’s Exterior

Refinishing your deck is the perfect time to repaint your home’s exterior to match. When you upgrade the look of your deck, consider complementing it with another fresh upgrade. Your home’s exterior is a focal point for curb appeal and you don’t have to go bold to make a dramatic change.

Keep your color palate simple, as consistency and simplicity will highlight your home’s charm and elegance.


Contact Shoreline Painting & Drywall to Begin an Exterior Paint Job on Your Property

When it’s time to upgrade your exterior, select Shoreline Painting & Drywall for the work. We’ve been exceeding expectations for nearly 40 years and we will do the same for you. We are passionate about transforming your house into a world-class home.

We offer much more than paint or stain jobs. We believe in listening to your vision and presenting you with options until you discover what best suits your dream. Shoreline Painting & Drywall hires the industry’s top talent — our team members possess the skills needed to satisfy your request for a magnificent home exterior.

Whether you want an Old-Italian finish, a classic stain and clear system or anything in between, we set the standard for service in parts of New York and Connecticut. Visit our testimonials page to hear from our many satisfied clients, request a quote online or contact us today at (203) 302–1086.

Choose to work with professionals who stand for quality, expertise and integrity.

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