Spring Refresh: Should You Paint or Stain Your Deck?

What to Consider About Staining a Deck


The first thing many bay-area individuals consider when planning to finish their decks (or perform really any home exterior painting) is the cost. If you opt to stain your deck, you’re looking at roughly $20-$35 per gallon of wood stain. If you decide on painting your deck, exterior paint that is suitable for use on a deck will range from $30-$60 per gallon. Additionally, if painting, you will need to purchase primer; Stain does not require a primer as most commercial wood stains contain a preservative, negating the need for primer. So far as cost goes, wood stain is certainly the cheaper option.

Ease of Application

Both finishing options require the deck be prepared with a thorough cleaning. This means sweeping it clear, scrubbing the deck with a deck cleaning solution, and repairing or replacing any damaged boards. Finally, any surface ridges need to be lightly sanded. If staining the deck, the nexts step is to apply the stain directly to the deck in a single coat, via brush or roller. The consistency of stain is such that it is rather runny, which prevents the stain from pooling or globbing.

Applying paint to the deck is somewhat more complicated. Before the painting but after the cleaning process, the deck needs to be treated with a preservative and coated with primer. Unlike staining a deck, where you only need the one coat, painting your deck will require at least two coats. Additionally, the consistency of paint does mean that pooling and globbing can occur, and will be noticeable once finished. Finally, the painted surface must be sealed with a clear, polyurethane sealer. Obviously paint requires quite a bit more work on the application front, whether you do it yourself or hire an exterior painting contractor.


Time will take its toll on both painted and stained decks. There’s no way around it. Paint can chip or peel, whereas stain is prone to heat-related discoloration. For stain, the pigmentation can determine the resistance to environmental damage. Transparent stains offer very little in the way of protection from moisture or UV exposure, while solid stains offer high moisture and UV protection. For paint, resistance depends on the makeup of the paint. Oil-based paints offer better protection from moisture, while latex paints offer better protection from UV exposure. As far as lifespan goes, with stained wooden decks you’re looking at one to three years between applications, and with paint you should expect ten years or more from a good coat.

If you need help painting or applying stain to your deck, or you simply want more information, contact us today!

*Note: Endure Painting offers professional deck top coats, but we do not offer waterproof coating/membranes. 

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