Skip to Content

Painting vs. Staining Wooden Decks (Illustrated DIY Guide)

How to paint or stain your wooden deck!


Welcome to our guide on caring for your wooden deck!

There’s just something about traditional wooden decks that captures our hearts. The solid wood is warm on a sunny day, and the even spacing of the planks is pleasing to the eye.

The rows of perfectly placed screws or nails, the places of wear exactly where you use it most, there’s just something about them.

Whether you paint, stain, or leave your deck a lovely natural color, you’ll love the style it adds to your backyard.

Wooden decks tend to age over time, creating a timeless and classic patina, character earned from years of use and outdoor gatherings.

Yes, wooden decks look fantastic, but they do require more care and maintenance than synthetic alternatives, concrete, or brick pavers.

If you choose a wooden deck, it will require a little bit of extra love now and then.

Your first important maintenance choice is whether to apply a finish coat, and if so, what to use. Do you paint it? Stain it? Leave it natural?

The choice is really up to you, but we’ll outline the pros and cons of each to help you make your decision.

Let’s get started!

Based on Tim Layton’s article (used with permission).

Preparing your deck to paint or stain.


Leaving the Wood Unfinished

Depending on the wood your deck is made from and the geographic location in which you live, having an unfinished deck may be an option. However, for most people, the elements will wreak havoc on the wood; even the toughest wooden decks will eventually succumb.

With the exception of a few, very hard tropical hardwoods, you should apply a finish to your deck. Unless, of course, you plan to rebuild the deck frequently.

Skipping the finish coat leads to cracking, splitting, warping, and rotting boards. In short, your deck won’t be sturdy and safe. Decks without a finish coat need frequent, costly, and time consuming repairs.

Tips for painting your desk.


Painting Your Deck

Painting is always a great choice, with a ton of benefits over other options like stain and sealer. However, if you want a natural deck, painting probably isn’t the right option for you.

The pros:

  1. Painting allows you to use any color you could possibly want, and because it’s solid, you can always paint over an old color when you tire of your current color.
  2. Paint fills cracks and gaps. The thicker finish means that you can cover up blemishes and damage caused by the elements.
  3. Paint can be easier to clean. This depends, of course, on the color you choose (white will never be easy to keep clean). If you choose high quality paint and allow it to cure properly, it will be easy to simply rinse off your deck.
  4. Paint protects the wood. For the most part, paint will resist rot, mold, and sun damage better than other finishes.

The cons:

  1. There’s no going back. Once you paint your deck, you always need to paint it. You won’t be able to switch back to stain or sealer.
  2. Paint is available in any color. This is both a pro and a con. Sometimes having too many choices makes you your own worst enemy. What looks good on a small bit of trim or on a wall may not look great on a large expanse of flooring.
  3. Paint can be slippery. Depending on which paint you use, (gloss, semi-gloss, etc.) painted decks can be a little slick when they get wet.
  4. Paint covers up the wood grain. The natural beauty of solid wood is in the wood grain, which gets covered up when you paint.

If you’d prefer not to use paint, you may use an alternative like stain or sealer.

Find the best roller for your needs!


Staining Your Deck

If paint isn’t for you, your other options are semi-transparent stains or a clear sealer. There are a ton of different options to choose from, including a ton of different types of finish material, but there are still some general pros and cons to stain.

The pros:

  1. Your deck will retain its natural beauty. The transparent nature of of stains mean your wood grain will show through.
  2. Most stains aren’t slippery. Stains tend not to be glossy, and protect the wood without creating a slippery surface.
  3. Stain is simple to apply. If you miss a spot here or there, it won’t be as obvious as if you were using paint.
  4. You get a variety of colors. Even if the variety isn’t as wide as paint, you still have options. Remember, you should always test out your stain on a section of wood first, because the original color of the wood does effect the finished color of the stain.

The cons:

  1. Stain needs to be reapplied more often than paint.
  2. Stain won’t fill any cracks or cover damage. Any cracks, voids, or splinters will be visible.
  3. Stain looks more rustic, which is a con if you don’t like the natural look or any variation in color. Darker stains, however, can be fairly uniform in appearance.

Tips for using stain or sealer.


Protection with Paint or Stain

Both offer protection for a wooden deck, resulting in a structure that lasts years longer than it would have if left untreated. They make the wood less water absorbent, so it stays dry and intact.

They also protect from harmful UV rays, meaning you won’t have to deal with as much sun damage.

How to know when it's time for maintenance.


It doesn’t really matter what you end up picking; the little bit of effort it requires to maintain your wooden deck is definitely worth it. Wood is a natural and renewable resource, and should you choose a fast growing species like Southern Yellow Pine, you can be assured that your deck is much more environmentally friendly than if it had been built with synthetic materials.

Wood is beautiful, simple to work with, and less expensive than many synthetic options, if you know how to take care of it correctly. We hope this guide has been informative.

Enjoy your outdoor living areas!

Images and Content used with Permission by

Related Galleries & Rooms You May Like:

41 Backyard Sun Deck Design Ideas (Pictures) | 68 Wooden Deck Design Ideas (Photos of Many Designs, Shapes & Sizes) | Joe’s Deck Plans Review – Is it Any Good? | 52 Decks and Patios Perfect for Entertaining from Top Designers Worldwide

(c) 2015