Choosing The Right Deck Stain

Deck with table & umbrella- Arborcoat Semi-Transparent Fairview Taupe
Benjamin Moore Fairview Taupe – Arborcoat Semi-Transparent

Warm weather has finally arrived and as New Englanders we know that we need to enjoy it while it lasts. As a place used for cooking, dining, socializing, and so much more, a deck is the centerpiece of summer entertaining; and one of the most highly coveted features for homeowners. A worn and unattractive deck is unlikely to entice anyone to go out and enjoy it. Luckily, stain is an easy way to quickly make your deck look like new again. However, one trip to the paint store and you quickly learn that choosing a stain is not as easy as it seems. Don’t worry, we will walk you through the basics so you can make sure your deck is just as welcoming as the rest of your home.

Deck With Hammock - Arborcoat Semi-Solid Beige Gray
Benjamin Moore Beige Gray – Arborcoat Semi-Solid


One of the first choices you will need to make when deciding on a stain is how opaque you want it to be, or how much of the wood grain to you want to see once your project is complete. Benjamin Moore’s Arborcoat stain is available in the following levels of opacity:

Transparent – Semi-Transparent – Semi-Solid – Solid

As you make your way from left to right on the list above, more pigment is added to the stain. As more pigment is added, the less amount of natural wood will be shown  This is due to the way the stain bonds with the wood. A transparent, semi-transparent, and semi-solid stain penetrate the wood and bond with the fibers. A solid stain is non-penetrating and lays on top of the wood resulting in a final appearance similar to paint.

Color choices also increase as your stain becomes more opaque, again due to the amount of pigment added. Solid stain is mixed in a way that is very similar to classic interior or exterior paint. Arborcoat solid stain is available in all 3,000 Benjamin Moore colors.

Birdseye Deck - Arborcoat Semi-Solid Spellbound
Benjamin Moore Spellbound – Arborcoat Semi-Solid

Oil Based vs. Water Based

The choice between an oil based stain and a water based stain can be a tricky one. There are many advantages to both options and certain situations in which one is a better choice than the other.

Water based stain is more environmentally friendly and can last about 2-3 years. This type of stain dries very quickly and clean up is easy, with only soap and water required. Also, water based stains usually provide a richer color. However, when maintenance is needed the process is very involved. You will often have to strip the existing layer of stain off of the deck before applying your new coat and touching up will result in an uneven appearance, making it necessary to re-stain the entire deck.

Oil based stain penetrates wood very deeply resulting in a harder and more durable finish. While it does take a longer time to dry, this results in a more even appearance. Maintenance is typically required every year on an oil based stained deck. The re-coating process is simple, just clean off any dirt and re-coat. Additionally, it is easy to just touch up necessary spots, rather than re-staining the entire deck. However, an oil based stain spill is difficult to clean, mineral spirits are necessary. Also, is it is flammable and has a strong odor.

Deck with table -deck Arborcoat Semi-Solid Imperial Gray table Arborcoat solid Ferndale Green
Deck – Benjamin Moore Imperial Gray – Arborcoat Semi-Solid; Table – Benjamin Moore Ferndale Green – Arborcoat Solid

There is a lot of information to know and consider when choosing the right stain for your deck. While we just equipped you with some basic stain knowledge, it is best to speak with one of Babel’s or National Lumber’s Benjamin Moore Experts about the specifics of your deck to ensure you get the best product for your project. With 13 locations across New England, our Experts are specially trained and have the knowledge and experience to make sure you get it right the first time.


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