Skip to content

Are you installing a new wooden deck or renovating an old one? If so, you must be struggling to choose the best finish for your exterior floor. An excellent finish will prolong the lifespan of your deck, and protect it from weather and moisture-related damages.  

Stain and exterior paint can offer you an excellent finish; however, both products differ in applications, appearance, maintenance, durability, and cost. While there is a wide range of the best paint for timber decks, contractors recommend stains due to its excellent finish. 

The article will compare the painting and staining finishes and tell you which offers the best protection for your deck.

Timber wood deck painting we completed in Bendigo with paint and stain finishes

Stained Versus Painted Wood Decks  


A good quality stain ranges between $20 and $35 per gallon while the best paint for timber decks is sold at $30-&60 per gallon. You will also be required to buy wood preservative and primer when painting. Most stains have preservatives and don’t need a primer. Thus, stains are budget-friendly when compared to paints. 

On the other hand, paints, although more costly than stains, have more advantages such as there are more shades, it forms a UV and water-resistant layer on the wood deck surface, it fills small cracks and gaps. Thus, it offers more protection on the wood deck, which helps them hold the colour longer than the stain. The additional benefits make it worthwhile in the long run. 

Natural Appearance  

Wood stain is the best option when seeking a natural look. They range from transparent to semi-solid and can be used to fill the pores on the wood. The thin film on the wood surface allows the superficial cracks and natural grain pattern to be seen. 

On the other hand, paints have a high percentage of resins and pigments, filling the pores on the wood entirely. Once dry, the paint covers the cracks and hides the distinct wood grain, giving you a more refined and manufactured look. Therefore, the use of the best paint for timber decks to disguise imperfections, retain rustic appearance is the right choice. Alternatively, you can opt for a solid wood stain, which is virtually opaque and highly pigmented.  

Colour Choices  

There is a host of hues in painting which ranges from neutrals to forest green to chocolate brown to eye-popping crimson or royal blue. Wood stain is typically limited to a brown shade or clear varieties. The primary role of staining the wooden deck is to accentuate the natural qualities of wood. 


Staining or painting the deck requires adequate surface preparation such as sweeping, scrubbing with a homemade or commercial deck cleaner, sanding any surface ridges, and replacing or repairing any damaged boards. 

A roller or brush applies a single coat of stain. The runny consistency of stain and its transparency reduces the appearance of lap marks at the end of the application. Some stains have sealers; thus, there is no need to apply another clear topcoat. 

In the case of painting, you have to prepare the surface as well, treat the wood deck with preservatives, and apply a coat of quality primer. Further, you need to apply at least two coats of oil-based or latex paint. The thick consistency can leave lap marks in the finish. You should apply a polyurethane sealer on the painted surface.  

Therefore, you have to back the best paint for timber decks with suitable surface preparation and seal it to make it durable. 


The two wood deck finishes have unique challenges. For instance, even the best paint for timber decks can peel or chip, while stain is prone to discolouration related to heat. Paint is more durable to stain, and thus it can last ten years or more before receiving another fresh coat. Oil-based paints provide better protection against moisture and latex paints against UV-related fading.   

On the other hand, stain finishes are short-lived. Thus, you have to reapply a fresh coat anytime between one year and eight years. Applying more pigmented stain will offer a higher opacity, therefore more significant resistance to UV and moisture damages. Further, stains hold up to traffic, and when it starts wearing off, it doesn’t have more work like worn-out paint. 


It’s easier to maintain a painted wooden deck because it gives you a slick surface when the coat dries, making it a cinch to sweep dirt, dust, and debris. On the other hand, a stained wooden deck has a matte finish that requires more effort to keep it sparkling clean. 

It would help if you didn’t use a high-pressure washer on a stained deck because it will gouge the wood. However, both the painted and stained surfaces should be cleaned every year to remove mould and bacteria. You can apply deck cleaner using a roller or sprayer and then scrub dingy spots using a scrub brush with soft-bristle. Further, you should rinse your wooden deck with a garden hose. 

Easy to Paint Stained Surface
House deck painting job done by our painter in Bendigo with natural wood finish paint

It’s easy to transform a stained surface using the best paint for timber decks. You can also use sandpaper to dull an old finish and give the deck a new shade of stain. 

However, changing a painted deck into a stained one is an effort-intensive process. You will need to start to strip off the old paint first, primer with sandpaper or commercial paint stripper, clean it, and then apply the stain. 

Since stain doesn’t hide flaws on the wood, you have to sand the decks’ imperfections first before cleaning and applying stain. However, when painting a stained deck, you only need to dull the surface, wipe with de-glosser, primer, and then paint it. 

Thus, if the deck was previously painted, it’s better to apply a new coat than to strip off the old paint to switch to stain. 

The Takeaway  

There is no magic product that can last half to forever and still look perfect as you might wish. Thus, even the best paint for timber decks or stains have their downsides. When choosing between painting and staining your deck, you will need to consider the seven differences provided on this article. Additionally, you can contact Bendigo Painting Services for more suggestions.

Need professional help with your project? Contact us at 0490 295 067 or email us at [email protected]

Leave a Comment