What’s the Best Way to Finish Your Deck?

Recently we discussed the tools and equipment you would need for building your new home deck.  But, even once the deck is built there is still more work to be done.  While finishing a wooden deck isn’t a requirement, it’s certainly highly recommended.  The goal is that finishing wood will add years to the life of your deck.  You generally have 3 main options to consider when choosing a finishing product – Paints, Stains, or Sealant.  The first step you should take is to visit your local specialty paint or stain shop and discuss with the experts whether to use an oil, polyurethane, or water based product.  They will have more insight about your geographic area and then weather conditions that will have the greater impact on your decision.  From there, let’s talk about a few pros and cons of each product in order to help you determine which will be best for you.

Nick Swanson

Nick Swanson
Building Specialist


The biggest advantage that paints offer is that they are a thicker product.  This means that when they’re applied, they are better able to fill any cracks already in the boards.  So, paints are beneficial from repair jobs and when you are looking for a more durable product.  Depending on your taste, you also get the luxury of picking from a variety of colors and if you ever change your mind you can always paint a new color right over top of the old one – suddenly it will feel like a brand new deck all over again!  On the other hand, when maintenance is required, it’s much more challenging because you’ll have to scrape off the old layer before proceeding.

Stains & Sealant

Stains and sealant are by far the most commonly used finishing products.  They compliment the natural look of a wooden deck by best retaining the appearance. They are also the easiest to maintain because you simply need to apply a new coat.  At the same though, since they are thinner products they will need regular upkeep in order to preserve their ability to actually protect the deck.  If you’re unsure whether to go with paint or a stain, it’s best to start with a stain.  The reason for this is that it’s significantly easier to go from a stain to paint than it is to go from paint to a stain if you ever decide to switch products.

Deck Cleaning
Deck Stain
Deck Sealant

More Considerations

When you’ve made your decision, something else to consider is the color or shade of your paint or stain.  Though it may be marginal, more often than not lighter colors tend to hold up better because they don’t hold as much heat and you won’t notice fading quite as soon.  Before you choose to finish your wood deck, be sure to check with the lumber company you got the boards from as to whether the boards need time to acclimate. They may have been previously treated and therefore have some residual moisture that needs to air out.  Lastly, don’t forget to do tests from time to time to check for any water absorption, which will hint at whether it’s time to refinish your deck again.