What kind of stain should I use on my wood deck — water-based or oil-based?

Wood deck renovation treatment, the person applying protective wood stain with a brush, overhead view of ipe hardwood decking restoration process

What kind of stain should I use on my wood deck — water-based or oil-based?

If you are researching how to stain your deck yourself, you may be drawn to stains that advertise “easy application” and “quick drying time.” That may sound appealing, but those low-cost options are water-based, often have some drawbacks and may end up costing you more over time.

Water-Based Stains: Best for areas where you need stain to dry quickly and you want low odor. Preferable in environmentally sensitive areas because of their lower VOC content. May be a good choice if you are worried about pets or children at your home and need a quick-drying finish.

Oil-Based Stains: Best for decks that require deep penetration. Excellent for older, more weathered wood. Provide maximum protection against harsh weather conditions. Leave a rich finish that highlights the wood grain.

Oil-based stains are often considered better for decks compared to water-based stains. Here’s why …

Deep Penetration

  • Oil-based stains penetrate deeply into the wood. This deep penetration provides thorough protection from within, helps to strengthen and preserve the wood fibers, and makes the deck more resilient to weather conditions.


  • Because they penetrate deeper into the wood, oil-based stains are generally more durable and longer-lasting and offer superior protection against moisture. This moisture protection is crucial for preventing rot, warping, and cracking.

Enhanced Wood Grain Beauty

  • If you want to enhance the natural beauty of the wood, oil-based stain is a great choice. It brings out the grain and texture and leaves a rich, warm finish.

Better Adhesion

  • Oil-based stains tend to adhere better to the wood. This better adhesion may reduce peeling, cracking, or chipping over time, so oil-based stain is particularly suitable for high-traffic areas like decks.

Mold and Mildew Resistance

  • Oil-based stains are more resistant to mold and mildew growth compared to water-based stain — especially important in humid environments (like Missouri summers) where mold and mildew can be a problem.

UV Protection

  • Wood can fade after repeated sun exposure. To counter the effects of the sun’s UV rays, many oil-based stains offer excellent protection against the sun’s UV rays. This helps to prevent the wood from fading and degrading over time, maintaining its appearance and structural integrity.

Longer Reapplication Intervals

  • Due to their durability, oil-based stains typically need to be reapplied less frequently than water-based stains. This can save time and effort in the long run, making maintenance easier.

With great penetration, durability, and protection against the elements, oil-based stains are a reliable choice to preserve and enhance the beauty of your outdoor wood deck.

Need help with staining your deck? Contact us for a free estimate today.