In Finishing, Shop Blog

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Wood Deck

A stained wood deck.

It’s that time of year and you may be thinking about how to take care of your wood deck. Here’s the easy way to approach it, at least for decks made of rot-resistant woods such as redwood, cedar, pressure-treated, or one of several jungle woods including ipe.

If you’re OK with the wood turning gray within a year or two, don’t put anything on it. These woods resist rotting for many decades, so they will last a very long time with no protection.

If you want the wood to keep its color (or something similar), or to have some color to begin with in the case of pressure-treated wood, apply a deck stain. Then reapply whenever the surface begins to look raw.

Oil-based deck stains work better, in my opinion, than water-based because water-based stains can build and create the problems I described in my June 6 post.

The alternatives of painting or using a water seal are not good choices.

Painting creates a build, which will begin to peel within a few years because you can’t stop water from getting under the paint on a deck.

Water seals are somewhat effective at resisting water penetration for a short time – causing the water to bead. But they are ineffective at maintaining the wood’s color. Cedar and redwood will fade to gray almost as if nothing had been applied.

The rate of fading depends, of course, on how much exposure the deck has to sunlight and rain.

— Bob Flexner


flexner_on_finishing_500Want to learn more about finishing from Bob Flexner?
Check out his book “Flexner on Finishing,” at

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  • tgello

    In my experience with wood treatment for decks (we have just under 1400 sq. ft. of mahogany and Port Orford cedar) I have had the best luck with Olympic water based . We always used Cabots top of the line and Penefin and it would be gone the following year. Also the oil based stains attract black mold. The water based has been on our decks for 3 years and still looks like the day I applied it.
    Thank you.

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