If your older wood deck has become gray and stained by leaves or marked by weathering, a thorough cleaning can remove these problems. However, exposure to rain and sun will cause the graying to quickly return. Clear epoxy-based sealers help preserve the color of the lumber without pigments that change it, notes Ask the Builder. These products contain special ultraviolet-radiation reflecting or absorbing chemicals that prevent the rays from damaging the underlying wood and changing its color. Clear sealers without these chemicals will protect the wood but allow it to fade and turn gray below the coat of sealer. The epoxy base eliminates the use of natural oils that make decks turn green or black as well.
Clear Oil-Based Sealer
For maximum penetration into the wood of your deck without changing the color of the timber, clear oil-based sealers are the best choice, according to Deck Plan Info. Translucent or clear sealers add a glow or luster to the wood and many formulations help protect the wood from algae growth or UV radiation. Like all liquid sealers, they also keep moisture from soaking into the wood and rotting it. Oil-based sealers are harder to clean up, requiring paint thinner or other caustic materials instead of water and soap. Natural-oil sealers without chemicals added for algae protection can also lead to unwanted algae growth that turns a deck green.
Opaque or partially colored sealers and stains can make a pine deck the color of expensive hardwoods, but they have their own special challenges. Completely opaque colored sealers act like paint, notes the Home Addition Plus website, but they also peel and chip quickly and require annual re-applications. Semi-translucent stains are a more popular choice for coloring exterior wood. These show the natural grain of the wood through the color and will last years without re-application. Some stains have sealer added to the mixture already for a one-step application process, while others require a top coat of a clear sealer.
Oil-based sealers require chemicals to clean brushes and spills, while clear epoxy-based sealers require only water. Latex-based sealers are water-based and require only water for cleanup. They are offered in solid and translucent colors like oil-based sealers. If easy cleanup is a primary concern for you, and you would like to stain or color your deck, latex-based products make the best choice.