A new wooden deck is a wonderful thing to behold. It’s the perfect place to entertain friends and family, or just sit back and enjoy the fresh air.
The key to keeping it looking its best for years is to make sure you maintain it. And to do so, you’ll need to use the right sealer. In essence, one of the best deck sealers will protect your wood from moisture, UV rays, dirt, and even traffic from pets or kids. It will also help lock in the natural beauty of your wood so you can enjoy it for years down the road.
When selecting a sealer, look for one with a good reputation that specifically states it’s been formulated for outdoor decks. A good quality sealant will last longer than an inferior product, so pay attention to warranties when shopping around. Do not forget to read our FAQ below.
How to choose the Best Deck Sealer?
Choosing the best deck sealer or best deck stain is not easy as there are hundreds of products on the market and the right sealer for your deck depends on a slew of factors. These factors include but are not limited to the location of your deck, the type of wood, and the amount of exposure to the sun. Generally speaking, the more color a deck stain has, the more protection your deck has against UV light.
The trade-off is colored deck stains require more careful application as uneven spots and lap marks can easily form. Also, deck stains can either be water or oil-based. Water-based sealers dry quicker, are easier to clean up, and are easier to apply in damp conditions. Oil-based sealers last longer and offer more deck protection by penetrating deeper.
If you apply the best wood stain to your deck or fence, you will notice that water beads up on your wood instead of soaking through. A properly sealed deck protects your wood by applying a layer of protection to cover it and prevent damaging substances from seeping through.
Below we have summarised 5 of the best deck sealer and stain reviews. You’ll also find one of the finest and best semi-transparent deck stains for pressure-treated wood.
#1. Ready Seal 110 1-Gallon Can Golden Pine Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer
Best Deck Stain and Sealer Reviews
- #1. Ready Seal 110 1-Gallon Can Golden Pine Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer
- #2. Thompson’s Water Seal Advanced Natural Wood Protector Sealer
- #3. Cabot Australian Timber Oil Stain, Quart, Jarrah Brown
- #4. Ready Seal Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer
- #5. Defy Extreme 1 Gallon Exterior Wood Stain
#1. Ready Seal 110 1-Gallon Can Golden Pine Exterior Wood – Best Deck Stain and Sealer
The Ready Seal best clear deck stain or best clear deck sealer is an oil-based Wood Protector and it also happens to be our all-time favorite. It claims to have more than 2 years of wood protection (that’s what people say).
While most deck sealers only promise a two-year protection plan, the Ready Seal seems to go the extra mile. After testing this sealer against the others, we can attest that the sealer lasts longer than the usual 1 to 2 years. And you can look at a stain boat paint too.
We tried pouring all types of harmful substances and exposing them to UV light. The sealer did its job and beaded up the water well and did not become deformed. While we have not tested the claim that it holds for 7 years, we can say for the brief one-month period we did test this product against others, we found it to be more durable and more effective at blocking out UV light.
Also keep in mind that this is a deck stain, which means it has color and pigmentation. We did not see any discoloration during the time we tested it out, which is a good sign of long-term durability. Ready Seal also makes their best deck sealer clear (colorless) solution for those who prefer that. The one advantage of a pigmented deck stain is that it offers superior UV protection. We highly recommend you get a colored deck stain if your deck is exposed to the sun for long periods of time.
In terms of application, Ready Seal is not difficult to apply. You have to be very careful in the application and clean-up process. Otherwise, your deck will be unevenly coated and have lap spots. If you have the time and energy, we really think this product is the way to go. It will smell quite harsh and the application will be tough, but the payoff is down the road.
We polled many long-term users of this product to whether the seven-year rule is actually true and the average time between re-application is about 5 years, which is a lot longer than any other deck sealer we have reviewed. Because you won’t have to worry about your decks for a long time, we think this is the best sealer for redwood, cedar, or mahogany decks if you put in the initial work.
#2. Thompson’s Water Seal Advanced Natural Wood Protector – Best deck sealer for pressure treated wood
Here is the best semi-transparent deck stain for pressure-treated wood. Now, if you are looking for a convenient and durable sealer, Thompsons Water Seal is definitely the best deck sealer for pressure-treated wood. Thompson’s special formula is built to protect heavily against UV damage and mildew growth, which are some of the top reasons why decks go bad in the first place.
Thompson’s deck sealer is a water-based formula, which means the sealer dries very quickly, is easy to clean up, and is extremely forgiving on your wood surfaces. It can seal nail holes in one goer.
While it does not offer as much protection as oil-based sealers, we really like the fact that the application process is much easier. It takes only a day to apply this to your deck, and it doesn’t matter whether you have damp or dry wood. You simply dump this on your deck with a paintbrush and clean it up with water and soap. This can all be done on the same day. Afterward, you need to let it dry for two days. The product lasts 1.5 to 2 years but really you should re-stain every 1 – 1.5 years.
If you have never used a water-based sealer, you should know that they are very easy to apply. We think many people underestimate this fact and just go with an oil-based sealer that penetrates deeper and lasts longer. Then when they start applying the oil-based sealer themselves, they find it to be a lot of work and results in many uneven spots. It may even start raining, which would completely ruin the project.
So for those who don’t want to do too much initial work, go with a water-based deck sealer. Thompson’s sealer is enough to cover 200 square feet of wood and we recommend it to anyone who isn’t a home improvement professional and wants a quick and easy solution. Because it is a clear solution, it is also the best deck sealer if you want a transparent deck that lets the natural beauty of your wood show. Though it is a clear sealer, a lot of my friends are also using this sealer as their best semi-transparent deck stain for pressure-treated wood.
#3. Cabot Australian Timber Oil Stain, Quart, Jarrah Brown – Best clear translucent deck sealant
If you want an oil-based deck sealer that will weather any storm, Cabot Australian Timber Oil Stain, Quart, Jarrah Brown is the best deck sealer for you. Many professionals will agree that Cabot is hands down the best deck sealer that is oil-based.
Also, the Cabot sealer forms a protective layer of old-based wax over your wood. This prevents water and other harmful substances from seeping through. After application, you will notice that water will bead up on your deck.
This means that none is getting into your wood. Having damp wood is the start of the deterioration process for wood. It leads to wood cracking and deforming as well as expedited mildew growth. Furthermore, the UV protection from this product is the best we have ever seen. We have found practically no damage with UV light after application.
Application of the Cabot sealer is a lot trickier than water-based deck sealers and deck stains. You need to be extremely careful to get an even layer or you risk creating lap spots and sometimes even foot footprints. This oil-based sealer needs to be dried longer and has quite a strong odor. This is because toxins need to be in it to kill mildew since oil is a natural mildew magnet.
The good part about getting this sealer is that you will require less upkeep and maintenance, as you can afford to re-coating every 2-3 years instead of 1-2 with water-based sealers. This five-gallon jug of sealer covers up to 1000 square feet of deck space and is VOC compliant. You should get this if you have the time and patience to apply it and if your deck is constantly exposed to harsh weather conditions and UV light.
#4. Ready Seal Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer
Ready Seal Wood Stain and Deck Sealer are made of quality ingredients. It is great for all sorts of wood sealing and coating around your house. You can use it on your fence, deck, siding, patios, and gazebos. Also, it is an oil-based semi-transparent stain.
We think the best part about the ready-seal deck sealer is that it is very easy to apply. It requires no primer which definitely saves you from a lot of unnecessary prep work. It also requires no diluting or thinning before your applications and works right out of the box.
Additionally, it will never really run or streak, so you don’t have to worry about uneven spots or bad aesthetics. The Ready Seal Deck Sealer doesn’t need a wet-line application, as the product pretty much blends itself. You can even spray this product on instead of rolling or brushing it on. We also like how there is not really a fixed range of temperatures to properly apply this product, so you don’t necessarily have to wait for a sunny day.
With the Ready Seal Wood Stain and Deck Sealer, you really do enhance the natural beauty of the wood and let your wood pop through. Keep in mind that this is not deck paint. It will not form a thick layer that changes the color of your wood. It is semi-transparent, so you can still choose one of the varieties of colors offered. We recommend a color that closely resembles the natural color of your wood deck.
Finally, the Ready Seal Wood Sealer offers a good deal of protection for your wood deck. It will protect it from harmful UV rays and mold, mildew, and water. Since it is a deck sealer, it will not provide the same level of protection as a deck paint, but it still does a great job. We really like the semi-transparent colors, which are something in between a clear deck sealer and deck paint. Instead of hiding the natural color of your wood deck, these semi-transparent colors accentuate the natural colors.
#5. Defy Extreme 1 Gallon Exterior Wood Stain
The Defy Extreme exterior wood stain and deck sealer is a wise choice if you want to protect your wood deck. It also lets the natural beauty seep through. This is a water-based clear deck stain that is environmentally friendly. It works great to stain and seal anything wood, from your fences to decks, to sidings. Defy Extreme also offers one of the best levels of protection for a deck sealer compared to its competitors.
What we like the most about this wood sealer is that it has zinc nano-particle technology. This is simply a fancy way of saying it prevents premature graying and color loss. These particles evenly disperse throughout your wood to also prevent damage from UV rays.
We know that most competitors have some sort of UV-ray protection built-in. However, very few have zinc non-particle technology, which offers superior protection from color loss and damage. These nan-particles are also preventing mold and mildew from collecting on your wood deck.
The Defy Extreme wood stain and deck sealer also have high-quality resins. This is great if you want to extend the natural color of your wood deck. It is better resistant than most of its competitors to fading and darkening. This results in a wood deck sealer and stain that will last a few years longer than its competitors.
Finally, the Defy Extreme Deck Sealer is easy to maintain and re-apply. If you find the need for a touch-up, you don’t have to go through the hard work of stripping the surface. You just need to brighten the wood with a wood brightener. After that re-apply the Defy Extreme Deck Sealer in one single maintenance layer.
All in all, we like how easy it is to apply this product as well as the easy maintenance. We asked some long-term users of Defy Extreme their opinions on Defy Extreme. Most people cited durability as the number one feature. It is one of the most durable deck stains and deck sealers out there and will last longer than most of its competitors. Also, people stated that it is easy to reapply without having to strip and sand. The only real complaint is that it is a bit costly on a per-gallon basis. But you pay for what you get.
Frequently asked questions on deck treatments
What to consider before buying a wood sealer to protect your deck?
The below points need your consideration before you buy a deck sealant.
- Oil-Based vs. Water-Based – Which of these do you need?
- VOCs – Try to buy a product with the lowest VOC.
- Water and Mildew Resistance – Ensure your sealant is water resistant.
- UV Protection – Check that you get a deck sealant with UV protection.
- Coats – How many coats do you need to apply?
- Drying Time – How many hours do you need to wait before you can apply a second coat (if you need a second one)?
Should I choose an oil-based or water-based sealer?
When deciding between an oil- or water-based sealer, you should first consider what type of wood your deck is made from.
Different woods will require different types of sealants to protect them from the elements.
For example, softwoods like pressure treated pine will benefit from an oil-based sealant as it penetrates deeper into the wood’s grain. It also helps to protect it against swelling and shrinking due to moisture changes in the environment.
Hardwoods such as cedar or redwood may not need such intense protection, so a water-based clear deck stain may be adequate.
How often should I seal my deck?
When it comes to composite decks, sealing is a key process that should be done regularly to keep the deck looking its best and protect the wood. The frequency of when you should seal your deck depends on the material of your deck and its age.
For new composite decks, they should be sealed at least once a year after being installed. Sealing a new composite deck helps protect any exposed wood from moisture that can cause warping or fading over time.
If you have an older composite deck, it may need more frequent sealing depending on how much sun or rain exposure it has gotten since it was last sealed. But as a rule of thumb, you should perform this every year, though you can extend this to three years. Note that you need to ensure that the stain or sealant penetrates the wood properly.
Can you use semi-transparent stain on pressure-treated wood deck?
A definite yes. If you use stain or going to use deck paint for any type of old pressure-treated wood, then this will provide a nice solution. Your pressure-treated wood will look younger with very little work. Your neighbors and friends will only be able to say “WOW what a nice job”. What we found out during our tests is that if you use an oil-based or semi-transparent deck stain on the wood, then you’ll get the best results. The reason is that you’ll keep the wood’s natural look, but with a shiny and good finish sensation.
Is oil or water-based stain better for pressure-treated wood?
As I mentioned above, oil is always best. The oil stains have been used for a long time because they can deal with harsh weather environments with extremes (snow in winter and high-temperature summers. The oil works wonders with any type of wood that doesn’t have some natural rot protective qualities. What is good is that the oil is easily cleaned up with a bit of mineral spirits.
Below I provide the best deck sealer for pressure-treated wood named the Thompson’s WaterSealer. It is our number two on the list.
Can wood be permanently sealed?
Yes, wood can be permanently sealed. Sealing the entire deck is a great way to protect it from the elements and allow the wood to last for years. It also enhances its natural beauty, as well as prevents any kind of staining or discoloration due to sun exposure or water damage.
When sealing the wood, you want to make sure that the sealant is able to penetrate deep into the wood in order to create a long-term solution. This means that you should use a product that will allow the sealer to soak into the wood fibers and create a hard coating once it dries.
The products used for sealing decks are typically made up of special oils and waxes formulated specifically for outdoor use. These ensure maximum protection against water damage, UV rays, and other environmental factors that could cause deterioration over time.
Can you just seal a deck and not stain it?
Yes, you can seal a deck and not stain it. This is beneficial for those who want to keep their deck wood looking natural and maintain its original beauty. After the wood has been properly cleaned and prepped, a clear sealer can be applied without adding any color or pigment.
The application of a clear sealer will help protect the wood on your deck boards from water damage, UV rays, and other elements that could cause deterioration over time. On top of that, it also helps to enhance the natural wood grain while preserving its original look. With regular maintenance such as annual cleaning and resealing every 2-3 years (or yearly for best results), your deck will remain in tip-top shape for years to come!