Deck Sealing Vs. Staining

Whenever we talk about deck protection or preservation, there is always a question of should I use a sealer or a stain. The truth is deck sealing and staining are good ways to protect your deck for those who want to enjoy and not replace their deck, but here we want to compare both methods to know which one is better.

A deck sealer protects your deck by forming a clear thin film on the wood or penetrating it to protect it from moisture, insects, rot, mold, and precipitation. It lays clear or transparent on the wood, showing off the wood grain.

Deck staining also provides the same protective features of deck sealing but this time with an added pigment that gives the wood some color.

The major difference between deck sealing and staining is the extra color that comes with staining. This color pigment protects the wood from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. However, they are both good deck protectors. 

Comparison of deck sealing vs deck staining

FeaturesDeck sealingDeck staining
Maintains wood colorYesNo, adds color to the wood
Moisture preventionBetterGood
Protection against UV raysGoodBetter
Protection against insectsYesYes
Compatibility with all kinds of woodsYesNot all kinds
Protection from future damageYesNo
Cost$551 to $1,292$540 to $1050


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Differences between deck sealing and deck staining 

Though deck sealing and staining serve the same purpose, there are still a few differences and some tweaks which you must understand before choosing which one to use. Some of these differences are seen in their preservation of deck color, moisture prevention, compatibility with woods, types, and cost.

Preservation of deck color 

One of the challenges people face is the thought of applying any of these deck protectors without altering the physical look of their deck. You can’t blame them for this because no one wants to pay heavily for an exotic deck only to have it robbed of its beauty.

If this is your challenge, it will interest you to know that deck sealing will not add or change the color of your deck. When you seal your deck, its natural aesthetic appeal remains intact, from the color down to the wood grain and pattern.

On the contrary, deck staining will alter the appearance of your deck. As a matter of fact, the primary aim of staining is to add color to the wood. Using an oil-based stain will preserve the wood grain, but the deck will still appear darker.

Moisture prevention 

Moisture rapidly decreases the lifespan of your deck. This is because decay-causing fungus thrives in a moist environment, so if you allow your deck to stay moist, it will rot sooner than you think. In addition to color, deck staining will close the pores of the wood and help to lock out moisture, but it cannot be compared to deck sealing which concentrates more on sealing the deck completely. Also, woods with small pores do not stain well. This means pores will not be entirely sealed, leaving the wood open to moisture. Overall, deck sealing provides better protection against moisture. 


Deck sealing and staining are of different types, so let’s look at some of them. 

The types of deck sealing we have are:

  1. Water-based sealing: Here, water-based sealers are used to seal the wood. The sealer does not go into the wood; instead, it is absorbed by the wood grain and forms a film that seals the wood pores completely to lock out moisture. 
  2. Oil-based: oil-based sealants are used in this case. They have more penetrating power, so they go into the wood to prevent moisture, mildew, and decay.
  3. Acrylic products: this type of sealer is absorbed into the wood and bonds with the wood fibers

The types of deck stains we have are:

  1. Deck resurface products: this stain product can be likened to very thick paints specially made to mask the wood and fill up cracks. They do not show any wood grains and cannot be removed with a deck stain stripper. 
  2. Solid color deck stains (Opaque): this stain also looks like paint and completely covers the wood grains. It does not penetrate the wood and, once it is applied, cannot be restored to a transparent stain. However, it provides excellent Uv protection.
  3. Semi-solid deck stains: despite containing a high amount of pigment, this deck stain will still show a small amount of wood grain, and they come as either water-based or oil-based stains.
  4. Semi-transparent deck stains: semi-transparent deck stains will clearly show the wood grains and still seal the surface properly. They penetrate well into the wood and can be cleaned or recoated or removed with a deck stain stripper easily.
  5. Transparent decking stains: the transparent deck stain look the most natural because they contain very little pigment. They are easy to apply, with a have lifespan of about 1 year, and they are mostly oil-based 

Compatibility with woods

Before deciding between deck sealing and staining, you need to know the kind of wood used for your deck. Virtually all kinds of wood can be sealed; you just need to know the right sealant to use. But this cannot be said for staining. Staining works better on woods with large pores examples are Cedar, Chestnut, and Ash. Woods like maple and birch have small pores, making them hard to stain.  


There is just a slight difference in the cost of deck sealing and deck staining. Sealing your deck will cost around $551 to $1,292, with an average of $906. This means it costs about $0.75 to $4 per square foot for labor and materials. While deck staining will cost from $540 to $1,050 with an average of about $700, leaving the cost of a square foot at $2 to $4 for both materials and labor.


Hopefully, you find the information above helpful in deciding whether to seal or stain your deck. As earlier mentioned, deck sealing will protect your deck from cracking, moisture, splitting, mildew, and decay without compromising the natural wood-look of the deck. While deck staining will also protect the wood but will add color to it.

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