Deck Stains: That’s an “Invest the Money” Issue, Not a “Buy Cheap” One

Ah, the continuing saga of my new deck continues. Now I’m onto the issue of how to stain, what to use, where to get it, etc. I’ve spent about 10 hours researching this before I finally decided what to buy.

Yes, I’m kind of cheap. Lots of things can be bought at the Dollar Stores and they’re perfectly fine. I’m also good with the Walmart cookies (I love cookies) for $1.50 versus the brand names at five bucks a pop. (Did I mention I love cookies…)

There are other times when it pays to spend the money on quality. The times quality matters and price is secondary is up to you. For my deck stain, quality mattered to me. Not just for the nice look, but I really didn’t want to have to re-do it every year. That likely involves days of stripping the old stain, sanding and stripping off the old stain (or the new one won’t take), cleaning, re-sanding some more, re-cleaning, and hoping that the next stain is a better quality, and lasts a little longer.

I also spent a lot of money on my deck and wanted quality, UV protection, the original look of my deck (I love nothing more than the colour after it has rained) and protection from water and our winters. If I was in doubt about that, my go-to Rona store has two people whose opinions I’d trust. One of them said to me: “Do you really want to cheap out on this?” He was (and is) right: This is one product where you get what you pay for. And “get” the extra work in a year or two if you don’t…

One of my best friends helped me immediately narrow it down to semi-transparent and water based versus oils due to the winds and dust in a new subdivision. That helped immensely. Then it should have been easy to just do a web search for “best semi-transparent deck stain.”

Well, no. But quickly found two great websites: The first one was Consumer Reports. As I don’t have a subscription (and didn’t go to the library to pull the article) I was only able to get the first few basics. The other one was Deck Stain Help. It had very detailed reviews and was easy to navigate. With those two, and a bunch of others, I was able to get a pretty good list of the quality ones and the ones to avoid.

With reading hundreds of reviews (from both the US and Canada) my personal list (and it’s only that) was: Avoid Thompson’s, avoid a lot of Behr with the exception of Behr Premium (about $10 more than basic – look for the 5077 code that has a longer life and warranty), which Consumer Reports rated really well. But I found that people loved or hated Behr, which had me really confused…

It appeared the really quality products (that I narrowed it down to) are only sold in the US. That means US dollars and a lot of shipping. No, they weren’t on Amazon Canada – and most aren’t on Amazon US either.

Then came a problem we’ve talked about before with respect to rating sites. Careful that they are not paid sites where ratings aren’t independent. They’re based on the company PAYING to be highly rated! And that’s when I found that the great review site of Deck Stain Help is actually a website owned and/or operated by the two or three brands they rated highest and reviewed extensively! It’s something I should have caught earlier since the review of the Behr Premium” is listed as the worst deck stain. That doesn’t make sense when Consumer Report shows them as one of the top rated! (See their section on: “Top 6 Deck Stain Reviews”

Darn! It was the “Restore A Deck” product I wanted. It can be applied wet, one coat for new wood only, and easy to apply. So I had to go back to find “real” reviews. Fortunately there were lots on Amazon that are always from “verified purchasers” so you know you’re getting the real scoop!

That was enough to get the feedback to still order the Restore A Deck products. Restore-a-deck.com – ordered two gallons ($40 each of the semi-transparent natural colour stain (other colours are available) and the $50 small combo pack 300 of cleaner and brightener to prep the deck – add UPS ground charges of $58 plus taxes, and the total was just under US$200.

After 10 hours of research, it’ll now be two weeks of waiting for UPS. I’ll post an update when I’ve applied it in the spring.

One more heads up: Whatever stain you buy, you need to assure you follow the instructions to the letter. In 10 plus hours of reading reviews, I didn’t find a single person with a problem or nightmare who even had the manufacture acknowledge the problem. I’m quite sure it’s an industry with zero refunds! Every single problem posts’ response was the they must have done it wrong and/or not followed the instructions!

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