The Best Solid Deck Stains of 2024 to Protect and Revitalize, Tested 

A solid stain can give a wooden deck new life by protecting it from water, UV rays, and mildew, ultimately extending its lifespan.

Best Overall

A can of Valspar One-Coat Solid Stain & Sealer on a grey background.

Valspar One-Coat Solid Stain & Sealer

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Best Bang For the Buck

The can of Behr Premium Solid Color Waterproofing Stain & Sealer on a dark background.

Behr Premium Solid Color Waterproofing Stain & Sealer

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Upgrade Pick

A can of Cabot Solid Color Acrylic Stain & Sealer on a brown background.

Cabot Solid Color Acrylic Stain & Sealer

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If your deck looks tired and worn out, a fresh coat of solid deck stain can improve its appearance and protect it from moisture and ultraviolet (UV) rays. A good solid deck stain will also hide some of your deck’s imperfections and wear, and it can even make the deck last longer. We recently tested six of the top solid deck stains in a side-by-side comparison to find out which ones did the best job of covering wood grain, resisting the elements, and holding up to foot traffic. After applying each stain to pine decking, we subjected each one to rain, patio furniture, shoes, and even paws to identify the top-performing solid wood stains. 

Our favorite was the Valspar One-Coat Solid Stain & Sealer. It’s an affordable solid outdoor wood stain that produces a smooth finish and provides exceptional protection from rain and foot traffic. Plus, it’s reasonably priced. 

That being said, Valspar’s deck stain isn’t the only one that impressed us. This guide will give you an overview of our six favorite solid deck stain recommendations as well as general advice on choosing the best solid deck stain for your needs.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Valspar One-Coat Solid Stain & Sealer 
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  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Behr Premium Solid Color Waterproofing Stain & Sealer 
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  3. UPGRADE PICK: Cabot Solid Color Acrylic Stain & Sealer 
    Jump to Review
  4. BEST FADE-RESISTANT: Defy Solid Color Wood Stain
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  5. BEST WATERPROOFING: Thompson’s WaterSeal Solid Color Wood Sealer 
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  6. ALSO CONSIDER: SaverSystems #1 Deck Premium Wood Stain 
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The Best Solid Deck Stain Options
Photo: Tony Carrick for Bob Vila

Before You Buy a Solid Deck Stain

Unlike semisolid and semitransparent stains, solid deck stains cover the wood grain and texture with an opaque layer of color. If you’re keen on protecting your deck but also want to see the wood’s character, a semisolid or semitransparent deck stain might be preferable.

Solid stain for decks is also different from deck paint. Paint forms a film that sits on top of the wood’s surface. Solid deck stains penetrate the wood, creating a stronger bond. This is why deck paint is more likely to peel off, while the best solid deck stains tend to last longer.

An important note: If the decking is structurally compromised, no stain or paint will solve the problem. Fixing that requires replacing the decking boards—and possibly the deck’s framing—before applying a finish.

How We Tested the Best Solid Deck Stains

We rigorously tested each of the six deck stains we selected for this guide to determine the top performers. Our scoring was based on four criteria: application, appearance, durability, and value. We began by assessing the ease of application and drying time. After applying each stain, we considered its appearance, including the smoothness of the finish, the accuracy of the color, and the deck stain’s ability to mask wood grains. 

Since a deck stain’s worth is largely determined by its ability to protect a deck from weather and foot traffic, we made an effort to simulate both. We checked scuff resistance by placing furniture on the finished area and walking on the deck, noting any scratches or scuffs left behind. We also sprayed each area with a hose, evaluating how well each resisted water. Finally, we considered the value of each solid stain by considering its coverage and price. 

Testing Stats

Products tested6
Hours spent testing5
Tests performed4
Price range$34 to $67

Our Top Picks

To help you pick the right solid deck stain for your needs, we rounded up our favorites below, giving each one an award based on its standout qualities.

Best Overall

Valspar One-Coat Solid Stain & Sealer

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Our Ratings: Application 4/5; Appearance 5/5; Durability 4.5/5; Value 4.5/5

Product Specs 

  • Uses: Decking, siding, fencing, and furniture 
  • Coverage: 150 to 350 square feet
  • Dry time: 4 hours

Pros

  • Thick consistency makes it easy to apply with a brush or roller
  • Covers well, creating a solid, even coating with no brushstrokes
  • Provides a thick layer that protects deck from water and sun damage 

Cons

  • Requires 2 coats, not 1 as stated on the can, to create good coverage

Valspar’s solid exterior wood stain and sealer ticks all the boxes for what one might want out of a solid stain. Suitable for decks, siding, fences, and even outdoor wood furniture, it’s formulated to create a moisture barrier in just a single layer. It also beautifies the wood, and though the product we’ve highlighted comes in a “Smoke Signal” colorway, there are a variety of other solid deck stain colors offered. It dries quickly and is capable of resisting rain just a few hours after application. 

During testing, we liked how easy this stain was to apply. We tested the aforementioned Smoke Signal, which is a gray color, and we were impressed with its ability to mask wood grain and knots. However, we found it wasn’t quite the one-coat product Valspar bills it as. We needed two coats to get a consistent finish on our piece of test lumber. We did like how easy it was to apply, though. The stain covers well and dries to an attractive semi-gloss finish that leaves a nice sheen without being overly glossy. 

It’s very durable, too. With its thick consistency, this stain created a hard shell over our test piece of lumber that endured shoes and furniture being dragged across it. It’s also weather-ready in just 4 hours and endures wet weather well. Water beaded up and rolled off easily during our spray test. Add to that its reasonable price and this is truly a great all-around deck stain. 

Get Valspar solid deck stain at Lowe’s. 

Best Bang for the Buck

Behr Premium Solid Color Waterproofing Stain & Sealer

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Our Ratings: Application 4.5/5; Appearance 4/5; Durability 4.5/5; Value 4/5

Product Specs 

  • Uses: Decking, fencing, siding, and furniture 
  • Coverage: 200 to 400 square feet
  • Dry time: 4 hours

Pros

  • Thick consistency that covers extremely well with just a couple of coats
  • Creates a durable shell over the wood that protects from scuffs and weather 
  • Dries quickly and is weather ready in just a couple of hours 

Cons

  • Shows brush marks more than other solid stains we tested 

Behr’s Premium waterproofing stain and sealer might be the pick if your budget is tight. One gallon can cover up to 400 square feet with one coat, providing more coverage than many competitors. This stain and sealer has an acrylic base with a penetrating formula that soaks into the wood. It seals against water to prevent fading and prohibit the growth of mold and mildew. Plus, it’s ready for rain in 4 hours, and it can be easily applied with a roller, brush, or sprayer. 

This solid color stain went on thick and covered well during testing. We applied two coats, but it felt like we had applied four. Not surprisingly, it held up very well to our scuff tests and caused water to bead off during our spray test. 

That said, we weren’t as satisfied with the quality of the finish. Of the six solid deck stains we tested, Behr showed the most brush marks. While that doesn’t matter if you’re applying it with a roller or sprayer, it makes it less suitable for projects that demand a brush. This formulation also dried to a glossier finish than the other ones we tested. While this shinier finish is great for unblemished wood, it will show imperfections in older wood more clearly. 

We did love the fact that Behr offers it in 1,600 custom colors, allowing you to coat your deck in virtually any hue you want. Most brands only offer six or seven colors. This color variety, coupled with the stain’s excellent weather resistance and coverage, makes this a quality budget option.

Get the Behr solid deck stain at The Home Depot or Behr.

Upgrade Pick

Cabot Solid Color Acrylic Stain & Sealer

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Our Ratings: Application 4.7/5; Appearance 5/5; Durability 4.5/5; Value 4.5/5

Product Specs 

  • Uses: Decking, fencing, and furniture 
  • Coverage: 200 to 500 square feet
  • Dry time: 6 hours

Pros

  • Creates an opaque finish that covers wood grain and imperfections well
  • Semi-gloss finish settles well with barely any visible brush marks 
  • Effectively defends wood from water and scuffs 

Cons

  • Takes longer to dry than other solid-color wood stains 

This option costs a little more money than some of the other stains and sealers out there, but we think it’s worth the additional cost. During testing, we found it to be an all-around great stain. With its thick consistency, it goes on easily, making application a breeze with a brush or roller. It also covers extremely well, producing an opaque, consistent finish that completely conceals wood grain and any imperfections after just two coats. 

It does take longer to dry than other stains we tested, which could be an issue if wet weather unexpectedly hits. But it’s also more versatile than most solid stains, as you can use it on concrete and composite decking along with wood. 

This stain from Cabot was one of the most durable wood stains we tested. It had no problem shedding water during our spray test, and it resisted marking and scuffing well. Despite its thicker consistency, it settles well, producing a smooth, even finish with deep, rich colors and virtually no visible brushstrokes. Once dry, it leaves a semi-gloss finish that’s attractive while still masking any imperfections in the wood. It also contains additives to provide mildew resistance and UV protection. If you’re after an excellent finish and great durability and don’t mind paying a little more, Cabot is a great choice. 

Get the Cabot solid deck stain at Lowe’s.

Best Fade-Resistant

Defy Solid Color Wood Stain Sealer

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Our Ratings: Application 5/5; Appearance 4.5/5; Durability 5/5; Value 4/5

Product Specs 

  • Uses: Decking, fencing, siding, and wood furniture 
  • Coverage: 200 to 300 square feet
  • Dry time: 24 hours

Pros

  • Does an excellent job of masking imperfections and wood grain 
  • Formula uses an additive that resists fading by protecting it from UV rays
  • Produces a smooth coat and consistent finish without visible brushstrokes 

Cons

  • 1 gallon only covers up to 300 square feet per coat 
  • Color didn’t quite match the color chip on the bottle 

This stain from Defy stands out from the pack due to its durability. Out of the bottle, it’s clear that this product is more than capable of protecting your deck from the elements. While all the solid wood stain sealers we tested have a thick consistency, Defy’s was the thickest. It covered well, completely masking wood grain and any imperfections in two coats. Not surprisingly, it held up well to feet and furniture while also causing water to dance off it. 

Unfortunately, that thicker consistency means you’ll need more of it to cover a deck than other stains, as its coverage maxes out at 300 square feet per coat. Given that it’s the most expensive solid deck stain we tested, covering an entire deck could get pricey. 

Along with this durable performance, we also loved the fact that Defy uses zinc nanoparticles in its formula. This additive resists UV rays, which means you can expect this stain to provide better-than-average fade resistance. That said, we did feel like the color we chose, light walnut, was a tick off of the color shown in its online product description and on the bottle. While it wasn’t enough to bother us, it may rankle those trying to coordinate the color with their home’s siding. Color gripes aside, Defy is a great choice if you want a solid deck stain that will endure and don’t mind paying a premium price to get it. 

Get the Defy solid deck stain at Amazon or Defy.

Best Waterproofing

Thompson’s WaterSeal Solid Color Wood Sealer

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Our Ratings: Application 3.4/5; Appearance 4/5; Durability 4/5; Value 3/5

Product Specs 

  • Uses: Decking, fencing, siding, and wood furniture 
  • Coverage: 150 to 400 square feet
  • Dry time: 4 hours

Pros

  • Water beaded up and danced off the wood surface during our testing 
  • Leaves a smooth finish with very few visible brushstrokes
  • Much more affordable per gallon than other solid deck stains

Cons

  • Cedar shade that we tested was a bit too orange hued
  • Thinner formulation; doesn’t mask as well as other solid stains we tested

Thompson’s WaterSeal is well regarded for its ability to protect wood from water, and this solid stain is no exception. Water beaded up and danced off the deck surface during our garden hose spray test, demonstrating that water resistance is clearly the strength of this product. 

The quality of the finish was mixed. It went on well with a brush and left a very smooth finish with no visible brushstrokes once dry, but it didn’t cover quite as well as some of the other solid deck stains we tested. We ended up having to apply three coats to get good coverage over the wood grain. Luckily, Thompson’s is one of the most affordable solid wood stains you can buy. So, while adding a third coat means more work, it doesn’t equate to a noticeably higher cost. 

While we liked the smooth finish, we weren’t particularly thrilled with the color. We purchased “natural cedar,” but it ended up looking too orange for our liking. It is also available in five other colors, none of which we tested.

If you’re looking for maximum protection from water and don’t mind a little variation in color, Thompson’s WaterSeal is an ideal solid stain. 

Get the Thompson’s WaterSeal solid deck stain at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Ace Hardware.

Also Consider

SaverSystems #1 Deck Premium Wood Stain

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Our Ratings: Application 4.3/5; Appearance 4/5; Durability 4/5; Value 4/5

Product Specs 

  • Uses: Decking, fencing, siding, and outdoor wood furniture 
  • Coverage: 100 to 150 square feet
  • Dry time: 2 hours

Pros

  • Thick formula does a great job of masking wood grain and imperfections 
  • Comes in lighter color options, including light gray and white 
  • Dries in 1 to 2 hours, speeding up the application time 

Cons

  • Has a matte finish that may not appeal to everyone 
  • Brush marks are more noticeable than with most other solid stains we tested

Of all the products we tested, this solid deck stain was one of the best at masking. With its thick consistency, it had no problem concealing wood grain, knots, and other imperfections with just two coats. This feat was particularly impressive considering we were using white, a color that usually doesn’t cover well. 

SaverSystems does dry to a flatter finish than other stains we tested. While we liked this more understated look, it may not appeal to others who like a glossier sheen on their deck. That matte finish also may not hold up as long as harder, glossier finishes. The solid stain went on easily, and we appreciated its low-volatile organic compound (VOC) formula. While SaverSystems was one of the quickest drying formulas we tested (its second coat dried in only an hour), it did leave more noticeable brush marks than the other solid stains we tested. 

In terms of durability, this stain did an exceptional job of resisting scuffs, and water beaded off of it nicely during our spray test. Unlike some solid wood stains, this wood stain also works with a broader range of wood species, including redwood, cedar, mahogany, and various hardwoods. SaverSystems is also one of a few solid deck stains that includes white and a lighter shade of gray deck stain, making it an excellent pick if you’re after a lighter color on your deck. 

Get the SaverSystems solid deck stain at Amazon or Walmart.

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What to Consider When Choosing a Solid Deck Stain 

Below are the most important considerations to keep in mind while shopping for the best solid deck stain. 

Base

Stains come in two varieties: water/acrylic-based and oil-based. These designations refer to the liquid in which the manufacturer mixes the pigments and treatment chemicals.

Acrylic-based stains use water as the solvent. These stains are easy to apply, and they clean up with soap and water. They’re also less noxious, thanks to the low-VOC content. But they don’t penetrate the wood much, so they aren’t as long lasting as oil-based deck stains.

Oil-based stains are all about longevity because the oil soaks into the wood and protects it from within. However, cleanup is more difficult, requiring mineral spirits, and the fumes can be potent, so wearing a respirator while working with the stain may be necessary.

Wood Type, Wood Condition, and Final Appearance 

Different types of deck stains will provide very different results. When using a clear, semitransparent, or semisolid deck stain, the wood species and color will affect the color and finish of the stain. Red hues from redwood and cedar will shine through the stain, while the yellows from pressure-treated pine boards will brighten the stain.

That’s not the case with solid deck stains. The species and color of the wood will have no bearing on the end result. The stain will cover everything with a uniform finish that hides knots, discolorations, and wood hues.

Existing Coating 

Be sure to keep in mind the stain or paint that’s already on the deck when choosing a stain for the new coat. If the deck has an existing coat of oil-based stain, putting an acrylic-based solid stain on top of it will probably result in blistering and peeling. The oil in the existing stain will prevent the new layer from adhering to the surface. It’s likely to separate in the sun or after heavy rain. 

An existing layer of acrylic-based stain will block the wood pores and keep oil-based stains from penetrating it. This can cause the new stain to peel off. To prevent this, strip, clean, and sand the wood surface to remove the acrylic paint before applying the oil-based stain.

Whatever type of stain is on the deck beforehand, it’s essential to do some prep work. Remove any loose or peeling finish, then use a deck cleaner to wash the surface. Allow the deck to dry for at least 48 hours after cleaning.

Added Protection 

High-quality solid deck stains protect decking from the elements, thus extending its life. They repel water, preventing rain and snow from soaking into the decking and causing the wood to swell and buckle. Water-soaked wood decking also corrodes the metal fasteners that hold the structure together. Good-quality stains also provide protection against the sun’s UV rays that bake the wood and cause drying and cracking. 

The best solid deck stains contain mildewcides that prevent powdery mildew and mold from growing on the wood surface. Not only do mildewcides help extend your deck’s longevity, but they also make it safer by keeping the surface from getting slippery underfoot.

Application 

Here are the basics on solid staining a deck made of wood:

  • Prepare the surface. Remove any loose or flaking paint. Wash the decking with a deck cleaner and scrub brush. Let the deck dry. Sand off any standing fibers.
  • Apply the stain. Apply the stain with a roller, and then smooth it with a paint brush. Work in small sections to avoid missing spots and to prevent the stain from drying during the application process.
  • Keep a wet edge. Avoid unsightly lap marks and streaks by maintaining a wet edge, using the brush to flatten any ridges in the stain.
  • Apply a second coat, if necessary. Wait for the stain to dry before determining if it needs a second coat.

Drying Time 

Oil-based stains often take up to 48 hours before they’re dry enough to walk on, while water-based acrylics can dry within a few hours. While a fast-drying stain means being able to use the deck sooner, there’s value in stains with a slower drying time. Slower-drying stains are less likely to develop lap marks from brushes in the finish, for example. 

The Advantages of Using a Solid Deck Stain 

Solid deck stains create a uniform, rejuvenated look without needing to replace battered deck boards. They’re a good option for older decks with repaired boards and rougher grain. The solid stain creates a clean, uniform-color appearance, blending rough areas seamlessly. The user gets a rejuvenated look for the deck without needing to replace unattractive deck boards.

They protect better against water, UV damage, mold, and mildew than clear treatments. Solid deck stains offer more protection against the elements than clear or transparent stains. They shield the deck from UV rays and prevent water penetration as well as mildew and mold growth.

Solid deck stains can last up to 10 years after application. Many of the best solid deck stains can last for a decade, while some clear treatments need annual reapplication. Needing to stain less often saves money in the long run.

FAQs 

If you have additional questions about choosing the best solid deck stain, here are some answers to common queries to help make the decision easier.

Q. Do I need to remove an oil-based stain before restaining a deck?

If you’re applying an acrylic-based stain on top of an existing oil-based stain, yes, be sure to remove the oil-based stain first. However, there’s no need to remove it when adding another oil-based stain.

Q. How do I apply solid deck stain?

You can use a paint roller for most of the deck and a brush for detailed work around edges. Depending on your deck’s size and dimensions, a sprayer or flat paint pad can also be useful.

Q. How long will solid deck stain last?

High-quality solid deck stains can last up to 10 years, which is about 10 times longer than a clear sealer that requires annual treatment.

Q. Do solid deck stains require a sealer?

Solid deck stains also function as a sealer, so there’s no need to add a separate sealer to the stain once after application. Depending on the climate, you’ll need to reapply most solid deck stains about once every 5 years. 

Meet the Tester

Tony Carrick is a freelance writer specializing in home improvement, landscaping, technology, home security, and design. His articles have been featured on such sites as Angi, Popular Science, Futurism, 360 Reviews by U.S. News & World Report, Domino, and more. Carrick has conducted rigorous product testing on everything from power tools to home security systems to backyard grills. With each review, his goal is to help readers determine whether a product meets their needs and if it is or isn’t worth its price tag. 

Additional research provided by Tom Scalisi.

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Tony Carrick

Contributing Writer

Tony Carrick is a freelance writer who has contributed to BobVila.com since 2020. He writes how-to articles and product reviews in the areas of lawn and garden, home maintenance, home improvement, auto maintenance, housewares, and technology.

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