About Wood Deck Treatments

Wood deck treatments are finishes applied to to preserve the life of the deck and to improve the condition and appearance of the deck. Before beginning any wood deck treatment it is important to clean your deck. If you have an older deck, use a deck cleaning product and follow the directions given by the manufacturer. If your deck is brand-new, then you will need to use a new wood treatment cleaner. Follow the directions provided by the manufacturer for the product you purchase. If your deck is very stained or grayed, then you may also need to power wash the deck to fully clean it. While you are at it, resink any screws that have backed out, tighten bolts and reseat or replace nails that are sticking up. If your decking has warped, you may also need to sand the surface to prepare it for a deck treatment. This is also a good time to replace any damaged or rotting wood.

Clear Sealant

Wood deck treatments come in four basic types. Clear water-repellent sealers are popular because they allow the natural grain and color of the wood to shine through. However, the transparency of the sealer doesn't do the best job of protecting the wood from UV radiation. This type of water repellent sealer may last only six months before the deck begins to weather again. UV radiation penetrates the top 1/64th surface of the wood, breaking down the composition of the wood.

Tinted Sealant

The second type of wood deck treatment is also in the water repellent sealer category. However, this type of sealer will have some tinting. This tinting will often assist in restoring the wood to more of its natural color, and the addition of the tinting and toner increases the UV protection, which will extend the length of time the sealer remains viable. "Consumer Reports" says that clear and semi-clear water-repellent sealers are the least effective treatment products for wood deck preservation.

Tinted Stain

The third type of treatment is also semi-transparent, but these are often identified as stains. They will have more color than the basic water sealer. This is particularly good if you are re-staining a deck. In this case, choose a stain that is similar to the earlier stain but somewhat darker in tone. For a stain to penetrate the wood surface, any preexisting finish must be removed or worn off. This finish will often last up to three years before it needs to be redone.

Opaque Treatment

The fourth and best type of wood treatment is an alkyd finish stain, which cleans up with solvent. This finish is opaque, and most of the wood grain will be covered in much the same way that paint covers wood. "Consumer Reports" placed the Cabot Decking Stain 1480 as the top-rated wood deck treatment for overall performance.


All wood deck treatments will improve and extend the life of your deck. Changes in environmental laws have removed certain wood decking products from the market, so it is important to examine older decks to see what materials were used to build it. If you are uncertain if you should replace your deck, ask your local building inspector or an expert from a lumber store to examine your deck and make recommendations.

About the Author

F.R.R. Mallory has been published since 1996, writing books, short stories, articles and essays. She has worked as an architect, restored cars, designed clothing, renovated homes and makes crafts. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with bachelor's degrees in psychology and English. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.