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Staining vs Painting Your Deck: Which is Better?

Painting deck vs staining deck

Painting deck vs staining deck

No matter what you do, your deck is going to age and eventually, it will need to be refinished. When the time comes, you may be wondering if it’s better to stain or paint your deck. These are two very different processes with distinct outcomes. Neither is necessarily better, but each has its benefits and drawbacks. Aside from the obvious differences in finish, they don’t wear the same, cost the same, or protect the same either. If you are trying to determine which is going to be the better choice to make, then read on for a more in-depth breakdown of each.

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Painter staining deck_Pi-lens_shutterstock
Image Credit: Pi-Lens, Shutterstock

Stain preserves and enhances the natural look of your wood. It gets absorbed into the finish of your wood and can offer great moisture protection. It doesn’t chip like paint, but it also doesn’t last quite as long overall. When it comes to price, staining is the more cost-effective option since you can pick up a gallon for about two-thirds the cost of a gallon of paint.

Many people consider staining the easiest of the two options since it doesn’t drip or run the same way as paint. That said, an uneven coating will still become an uneven finish. Staining offers a more rustic and natural look, and therefore, is not available in as large of a color selection. It also won’t hide imperfections like paint will since it’s absorbed into the wood instead of coating it.

  • Easier to apply
  • More cost-effective than paint
  • Preserves wood grain for a natural look
  • Not as much color selection
  • Doesn’t protect as well as paint
  • Not as long-lasting


Painting a terrace board_Dagmara_K_shutterstock
Image Credit: Dagmara_K, Shuttterstock

Paint coats the top of your deck instead of being absorbed into the wood like stain. Because of this, it can hide imperfections very well. However, paint is more difficult to apply, being prone to drips and runs that can ruin the finish. It must be applied very evenly. Paint also costs more per gallon, so your project may be more expensive if planning to paint.

If you’re looking for the biggest selection of colors to choose from, paint is the way to go. You’ll be able to pick from a variety of colors and finishes. That said, you’ll lose the natural wood look. This is why many people paint in the first place, to get a more modern feel from their deck. Paint should also last longer than stain, and it’s able to stand up to harder abuse as well.

  • Lasts longer than stain
  • Protects against contact
  • Hides imperfections in the wood
  • More expensive than stain
  • Covers up the natural wood grain

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Both of these methods are applied essentially the same way. You can choose to brush, roll, or spray either paint or stain. When it comes to protecting your wood, both of these products are adequate performers, though stain can also act as a moisture barrier while most paint does not. That said, paint can protect from scratches and contact much better than stains.


Despite being applied the same way, both of these products have some very noticeable differences. The most obvious is the way they look. Stain has a natural look that works with the wood and enhances the grain instead of hiding it. It’s absorbed into the wood instead of being coated on it. Because of this, it’s only available in natural shades and not as large of a color selection. On the other hand, paint is available in a large variety of colors. It covers the top of the wood but isn’t absorbed like stain. Paint also protects a bit better and lasts a little longer.

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Paint and stain will both make excellent finishes for your deck. The real choice comes down to whether you want to preserve the natural look or change to something else entirely. Stain enhances the grain while paint hides it. Both of these materials will be applied the same way though, so feel free to get your tools ready while you decide.

Featured Image Credit: Efetova Anna, Shutterstock


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