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deck staining vs deck sealing

Deck and fence professionals such as ourselves often talk about wood stains and wood sealers. For the majority of people who don’t have experience working with wood, these are unfamiliar terms that need defining. So, in order to help you give your wood deck/fence the best care possible, we’ve put together this quick guide so that you can confidently answer the question: Do I stain or do I seal?

Before we dive into the difference between stains and sealers, it is important to mention what they have in common. Both are products that are designed to protect your wood, so either choice is better than nothing at all. Without the use of these maintenance products, you’ll end up paying a lot more money in the end, when you have to prematurely replace your entire deck or fence. That said, certain products will be a lot more effective than others.


Deck or fence sealers are usually a clear/transparent finish that coats the outside surface of the wood. The primary function of a sealer is to repel moisture. It is very beneficial to have water-proof wood,  as unwanted moisture can lead to fungal growth and wood rot. However, water is not the only threat to your wood. The sun’s UV rays can cause the colors to fade and turn gray, as well as cause cracking and splitting in the wood. Unfortunately, wood sealers contain very limited UV protection. Depending on the amount of sunlight your wood receives, your deck’s color may only last for 3-6 months with the use of a sealer, and usually needs to be reapplied on a yearly basis. Sealers are generally easy to apply and don’t require much expertise.


Unlike sealers, stains penetrate into the wood. Like the name suggests, a wood stain contains pigments that physically change the wood’s color. This gives the wood protection against harmful UV rays. Stains also have the same beneficial water-repelling qualities. There are many different types of stains, ranging from transparent stains, to semi-transparent stains, to solid stains. The right level of opacity depends on the type of surface and your personal preference. Applying a stain is a bit trickier than sealers, and is best left to professionals. Although a wood stain is more expensive than a sealer, it can last up to 5 times longer and looks more professional. So you certainly get your money’s worth.

deck staining
deck sealing

Here at DeckMaster™, we recommend using wood stains for your deck and fence maintenance. Our trained and certified technicians will use an airless sprayer to give you a professional, uniform finish. Whether you choose a stain or a sealer, you can trust the deck masters to do the job right.

Have more questions? Looking for professional deck maintenance in Maryland & Virginia? Contact DeckMaster!