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Should You Use a Solid or Water Based Deck Stain? Questions to Ask When Choosing Deck Staining Services

calander Aug 5 , 2020 user-icon Nash Painting

On its surface, deck staining seems like a fairly simple and straightforward endeavor. But as is the case with many renovations, deck staining contains hidden depths understood by experts but often missed by others. So, while virtually anyone can learn how to stain their deck on their own, achieving the best-looking, longest-lasting results requires deeper, nuanced knowledge. This is why it’s always wise to hire deck staining professionals before committing to this project. And even if you decide to do it yourself, you can learn a lot from asking professionals the right questions.

For instance, should you purchase a solid or water based stain for your deck? This is just one of many questions to ask when choosing deck staining services. Let’s give some insight into this question and other common questions you should ask in order to achieve the best results for your deck update.

Solid or Water Based Stain?

In a sense, this initial inquiry is a trick question, which reiterates the importance of seeking expert help before jumping into a deck staining project. The key distinction between stain types is not whether they’re water based or solid (solid stains can be water based), but rather whether they’re water based or oil based. Additionally, there is a spectrum of stain finishes ranging from transparent to solid. In other words, the correct question would be whether you should choose a water based deck stain or oil based deck stain and whether your stain should be transparent, solid or somewhere in between.

Now that that is cleared up, what type of stain is best? As you might have guessed, it depends on several factors, such as your deck’s wood type, your maintenance concerns, personal preferences, and more. Generally speaking, water based stains are easy to clean, non-flammable, maintain their color longer, don’t release harmful fumes or obnoxious odors, and naturally resistant to mold and mildew. Oil based stains, on the other hand, take longer to dry but provide a more even finish, penetrate deeper into the wood, are highly durable, and require minimal long-term maintenance.

As for transparency, solid stains are naturally thicker, darker, and, as a result, offer stronger protection against UV radiation from the sun. Those who wish to mask the imperfections of their wood deck and provide some color may also prefer a solid deck stain. Conversely, transparent stains, while thinner and less protective, maintain and enhance the wood’s natural appearance while still providing defense against moisture, UV rays, pests, and more.

Deck Stain or Deck Paint?

To make matters more complicated, you also have the choice between the various types of deck stains outlined above and deck paint. Once again, the choice you make should depend on your specific situation, which your decking professionals can help you grasp. Simply put, the main difference between deck stain and deck paint is that the former permeates the wood while the latter merely adheres to the wood’s surface.

In other words, deck paint only provides surface level protection. That said, paints are thicker than stains, easier to maintain than even solid oil based stains, and go even further to mask imperfections. However, as temperatures change and moisture creeps its way into your deck, your paint job can begin to peel and chip away because it doesn’t move with the wood itself, nor does it block its pores from entry.

Sand Before Staining?

Another question you might ask your deck staining services is whether or not it’s necessary to sand your deck prior to staining. They’ll probably tell you that as a general rule it’s never a bad idea to perform some sanding in preparation for a deck stain application. That said, sanding is not inherently necessary, as both water based and oil based stains are designed to seal the deck regardless of its texture. If you want your deck to feel smooth, then you certainly will want to sand it down, of course. Additionally, if you plan on painting as opposed to staining, sanding will help the paint adhere more evenly and strongly to the wood’s surface.

What about Weathering?

“Weathering” is another term you might pick up on as you look into deck staining best practices. This term (sometimes called “seasoning”) refers to the process by which a deck is left bare to withstand the elements in order to allow the wood’s pores to open up and become more receptive to stain. For the most part, though, you should only consider weathering your deck if it is brand new, especially if the wood is pressure-treated (weathering helps the chemicals and moisture exit the wood). An older, previously-stained deck should not require weathering unless you are told otherwise by your deck staining experts.

Cleaning Questions

What about cleaning your deck before staining or painting it? This time, the answer is unequivocal -- always, always, always wash your deck thoroughly prior to coating it. Doing so will remove any dirt, dust, debris, and mold or mildew spores while providing a smooth, receptive surface for stain or paint. The most efficient cleaning method is pressure washing your deck, but, once again, this process is best left to the professionals. If you’re not careful, you may end up damaging your deck’s wood when pressure washing it, especially if you use the wrong power settings or detergent or aim the stream improperly.

How Many Coats?

The number of coats you’ll need to achieve the best staining or painting results largely depends on stain/paint type itself. By their nature, transparent stains require one coat (more coats would make things less transparent, after all). Solid stains typically require two coats. As for deck paint, one coat is usually plenty, especially if it lays on top of a coat or primer or a previous coat of stain or paint.

Application Methods?

Lastly, you might wonder about the best way to apply your wood deck stain or paint. For the most part, professionals use some combination of brushes and rollers to get the job done. That said, stains can be sprayed as well. An airless sprayer can be used in conjunction with brushing methods to speed up the entire process, ensure full coverage and strong bonding, and cover harder to reach areas and crevices.

As you can see, deck staining comes with numerous considerations, and we’ve only scratched the surface. If you want to end up with the best results that suit your deck for years to come, it pays to ask these questions, especially if you wish to tackle the project on your own. But if you would rather hire a contractor to stain your deck, these questions also serve as useful screeners to locate the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic decking specialists near you.

Looking for reliable, quality deck staining providers in Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, TN, and surrounding areas? Look no further than Nash Painting. To learn more about us, our services, and our values, call us at 615-829-6858 today!