What I recommend is to apply your stain or water sealer a week after your deck is completed. Some deck stains
are formulated to stain the deck right away. You should check with the stain manufacture. A quick way to
check if it is dry enough is to put a black plastic bag around the deck board. Leave it on for two hours. Check it
to see if any moisture has formed on the deck. If moisture is seen then wait another week. If there is no
moisture then the deck is dry enough. If you do not have a black plastic bag use a flat screwdriver and press the
head of it into the decking in an inconspicuous place. If any moisture appears, the wood is still too wet to stain.
Or you could use a moisture meter that tests the moisture content (MC) of wood. The wood can feel dry to the
touch but still be too wet to absorb the stain properly.
There are four main options for deck sealers: clear, wood-toned, semitransparent and solid/opaque. As a general
rule, wood that is older and more weathered requires a more opaque stain to cover imperfections. Think about
these other considerations:
The best sealers penetrate the wood the most to provide the most protection. Look for an oil-based product that
is mixed with latex for easy clean up. Or a Clear treatments allow the wood to fade to a natural weathered,
silver gray, while still providing protection from UV and water damage.
The other types will retain a constant color. It’s tricky to work backwards on the spectrum. For example, if your
deck is currently covered in an opaque stain, it will take a great deal of stripping and surface preparation to
ready it for a clear or wood-toned stain. It’s usually easiest to continue with solid/opaque coverage.
The more opaque a stain, the quicker it will show wearing and weathering. A solid stain might need re-
application every year, while a clear or wood-toned treatment probably will last longer. Solid/opaque stains are
better suited for vertical surfaces (railings, pillars, caps) than for horizontal (decking, stairs). The wearing from
foot traffic is particularly noticeable with an opaque stain, and it's possible to track the residue inside the house.
Solid/opaque stains do not show the grain of the wood. All others do.
Darker colors, particularly solid/opaque and semitransparent stains, will absorb heat more easily. They could
make the deck uncomfortable for barefoot walking. For a decorative look, select two or more colors that work
together for decking and rails, post caps, stencil work, etc.
If you have a brand new deck made of treated lumber (as opposed to cedar or redwood), you should wait at least
a few weeks before sealing it for the first time. This allows the wood to dry so the stain can be absorbed. To find
out if the wood is dry enough to stain, use a moisture meter that tests the moisture content (MC) of wood.
If you don't have a moisture meter, press the head of a flat screwdriver into the decking in an inconspicuous
place. If any moisture appears, the wood is still too wet to stain. In the pictures below you will see my deck in its
stages of being stained. First I used Oxygenated Bleach to remover all dirt and brighten the faded wood.