Decks extend your home into the outdoors and offer tremendous options for enjoyment. From afternoon barbecues to relaxing in the warm sun, you want to make sure you maintain your investment. After all, decks are expensive to install and you want to know which finish will provide the best protection for your deck – painting or staining? 

Whether you’re refinishing an older deck or protecting a brand new one, you want to make sure it will be protected from weather and the elements in order to extend its lifespan. Paint and stain both will go a long way in protecting your deck, but they are different in terms of how they look, how long lasting they are, what they cost, and how they’re maintained. Great Guys Painting compares the pros and cons of both options so you can make an informed decision.

What to Expect if You Paint Your Deck

Wide Range of Hues

From a huge range of hues and tints, paint offers the most variety in terms of color. 

You can enhance the look of your deck by coordinating the color with your surroundings. For example, if you live on or near water, shades of blue can be beautiful. If you live among trees, painting your deck a rich forest green can provide a calming transition into nature. Bright paint colors can impart a contemporary look or tranquil neutrals can provide an attractive backdrop to your deck furniture, accessories, and plants.

Paint Lasts Longer Than Stain

On average, if the deck surface is properly prepared before painting, the paint finish can last up to ten years or longer. Oil-based exterior paints provide the highest level of protection from the elements. Latex-based exterior paints offer the best protection from UV rays and don’t fade as quickly as oil-based paint. Paint lasts longer than stain because both the primer and the paint fill cracks, imperfections, and provide better protection against mold, mildew, and rot.

Paint is Prone to Peeling and Chipping

Careful and patient prep work is the key to a long lasting deck paint job. Still, because paint tends to sit on the surface of the wood, it can be prone to peeling and chipping.  

Paint is Easier to Maintain Than Stain

Even a low-sheen paint finish makes it easier to remove and clean dirt and debris than stain. Paint does a better job of filling the wood’s pores and grain than stain, again making it easier to keep clean.

Painting is a More Intensive Process

After prepping but before painting, the wood should be treated with a wood preservative. When the wood preservative is dry, a high quality primer is applied. After the primer is completely dry, at least two coats of oil-based or latex paint are typically needed. When the paint is dry, the deck should be sealed with a clear polyurethane.

A Painted Finish Can be Slippery

If you choose to go with paint, just be aware that the finish can be slippery, especially when it’s wet. Those who choose a painted finish on their decks often will use an outdoor rug or textured strips, especially on deck stairs.

Paint is a Long-Term Commitment

Once you go with paint, you’ll probably want to continue with paint for the lifespan of your deck.

It requires intensive effort to restore a deck to stain after it’s been painted. The old primer and paint will need to be thoroughly stripped off the wood. Then the wood will need to be sanded, cleaned with a deck cleaner, and the stain applied.

What to Expect if You Stain Your Deck

Stain Allows the Natural Beauty of Wood to Show Through

Stain is often preferred because homeowners enjoy how the wood grain shows through. Stain can provide a more natural and rustic look and is available in transparent to semi-solid finishes.

Stain Costs Less Than Paint

A gallon of stain will cost from $10 to $30 less than paint. With stain, you won’t need to buy or apply primer like you would with paint. Additionally, most stains are formulated with a wood preservative which makes the stain adhere well.

Stain is Easier and Faster to Apply Than Paint

While both paint and stain require prep work such as sweeping, cleaning with a deck cleaner, repairing cracks or damaged boards, and light sanding, stain is easier to apply once the prep is complete. After prep, stain can be applied directly to the deck with either a roller or a brush. Usually, only one coat of stain is required, and stain doesn’t pool like paint so it’s easier to work with. Because it’s transparent, you won’t see overlapping marks like you can with paint, therefore stain is more forgiving than paint. Some stains are available in a two-in-one stain and sealer so you won’t have to apply a clear top sealing coat.

Stain is Less Durable Than Paint

Depending on the stain you choose, its lifespan will last from one to eight years before you’ll need to refinish your deck. Stains with more pigment (opacity) are more resistant to the elements and UV damage. Transparent stains don’t provide much moisture protection and hardly any UV protection. Do note, that stain is prone to heat-related discoloration

It’s Easier to Go From Stain to Paint Than Vice-Versa

It’s easier to go from a stained deck to a painted deck if you change your mind. If your deck is stained and you decide to paint, you simply have to rough up the wood with sandpaper, wash down the deck, then prime and paint with your favored color.

Stain and Paint Finishing Tips

Weather Forecast

Before you start your deck paint or stain project, be sure to check the long-range weather forecast. 

  • Don’t try to start the project when rain is forecast. 
  • Work in temperatures between 50-70 degrees F for latex paint. 
  • Work in 45 – 90 degrees F for oil-based paint. 
  • Work in temperatures between 50 – 90 degrees F for stains.

Pressure-Treated Wood

  • Pressure treated wood is manufactured to resist fire, insects, and moisture. 
  • Still, pressure treated wood will benefit from the protection that paint or stain provides.

Whether you choose to go with paint or stain, either way you’re investing effort, time, and money into the project. It’s wise to understand the pros and cons of both finishes so that your deck will remain in great condition. 

Are you ready for a DIY deck painting or staining project? If so, be sure to prep the wood carefully before you apply paint or stain. If you prefer to get help with deck cleaning and power washing, repairs, staining or painting, Great Guys Painting is ready to help. We quickly connect you with expert deck finishing contractors near you who are licensed and insured. Take the worry and stress out of refinishing your deck and let a pro complete the job in far less time that it would take you to do it.


You can enjoy a beautiful newly stained or painted deck all that much sooner when you get a free quote from Great Guys Painting. We connect with expert deck finishers you can trust to complete a quality job. Request a free quote today!