o home looks quite as inviting as one that entices you out onto a well-maintained wooden deck. Think of long lazy summer evenings spent barbecuing and enjoying time with family and friends. Unfortunately, regular use and daily exposure to UV rays, rain, and temperature fluctuations mean increased wear and tear for your wooden deck. This creates all sorts of problems, so just how do you keep your wooden deck in tip-top shape all-year-round? Which deck sealant to buy when there is so much choice? In this article, we will explore some of the best deck sealers and wood stains to keep your prized deck looking like the day it was first installed.
Table of Content
- 1 What is Wood Deck Sealer?
- 2 Benefits of a Deck Sealant
- 3 Deck Stain vs Deck Sealer
- 4 Oil-Based vs Water-Based Sealants
- 5 Top Deck Sealer Reviews – The Best Deck Sealers
- 6 Things to Consider for the Best Wood Decking Sealer
- 7 How to Apply a Wood Deck Sealer
- 8 Frequently Asked Questions
What is Wood Deck Sealer?
Deck sealant is designed to coat the outside of the wood with a clear, waterproof finish in order to protect it and maintain the wood in its natural state. Wood that is too dry or too wet will warp over time and will need to be replaced. This can be costly. It can take as little as a few hours for untreated wood to warp in both dry and wet weather, so a good quality deck sealant really is the first step in maintenance. A quality sealant will not only enhance the natural grain of the wood but, depending on environmental conditions, will last for 1 to 5 years before it needs to be reapplied. This means more time spent enjoying your deck.
Choosing the best wood deck sealer depends on what type of wood you are using and whether that wood is going to be used indoors or outdoors. Deck sealants are clear, so there is no choice of color. We will discuss wood stains below where coloring is an option. It is important to choose the correct type of deck sealant for the wood you are using and the climate in your local area.
Benefits of a Deck Sealant
Your deck is constantly exposed to the elements which will cause the wood to age prematurely if it is not properly taken care of. Common signs of wood stress and aging include cracking, swelling, warping, and rotting. All of these can be prevented with the regular use of a quality sealant. Some benefits to using a deck sealant are:
- An additional protective coating against regular wear and tear
- To protect the wood from water, mildew, and mold which leads to wood rot
- Protection from UV rays and cracking
- Protection from insect infestation
- The best deck sealant will enhance the natural appearance of the wood
Deck Stain vs Deck Sealer
Deck stain and deck sealer are not the same things. Deck sealer, as discussed above, is a clear deck product, providing a protective outer coat that seals and stops anything penetrating into the wood. Deck stain is applied to the wood in the same way as a sealer but it is designed to soak into the wood. The application of wood stain is also different – you need to know how to stain your deck.
While deck stain has water-repellent properties, it is not designed to form a protective outer barrier against the elements. Unlike deck sealer, deck stain is available in a variety of pigments depending on the result you are looking for. Light wood like pine can be easily darkened with an ebony wood stain. It’s important to note that it is not possible to lighten dark woods with a light-colored stain.
Oil-Based vs Water-Based Sealants
Whether to use an oil-based deck sealant or a water-based one depends on a number of factors. Choosing the correct one for your wooden deck is important because the sealants will yield very different results and require different maintenance routines.
The biggest benefit of these is that they are generally more durable than water-based ones and require fewer coats. However, the drying time is longer. A longer drying time is not necessarily bad as this gives you more time to get a nice even coat across the wood. Oil-based sealants will give wood a deeper, richer color than water-based sealants. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are commonly found in oil-based sealants which makes them less environmentally friendly. Finally, oil-based sealants are more difficult to clean from brushes or any other surface and will require a high-alcohol liquid spirit to get the job done.
These sealants are less toxic and harmful to the environment than oil-based ones and are usually not flammable, but always check the fine print on the tin. Water-based sealants will require a few more coats as they are generally thinner than oil-based ones but this is somewhat offset by the fact that they dry much faster. They are also not oil-based which makes equipment cleaning faster once the job is completed. This means more time spent enjoying your wooden deck!
Top Deck Sealer Reviews – The Best Deck Sealers
With so much choice today, how do you know which is the best deck sealer for your requirements? There are so many different types of wood and each type of wood requires a certain type of sealer. Below we have listed the best deck sealers for every wood type, environment, and budget.
Best Deck Sealer and Stain: READY SEAL Exterior Stain and Sealer
This top-quality wood sealer by Ready Seal has been designed to appeal to DIY enthusiasts and professionals alike. It is suitable for a wide range of applications, comes in over a dozen colors, and in a choice of a 1-gallon or a larger 5-gallon drum. Just because it is an exterior sealant does not mean it cannot be used for those indoor projects.
Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer is both a sealer and a wood stain in one. It does not require a primer, goes on easily with a variety of applicators such as a roller, brushes, or a sprayer and when it comes to re-applying, there is no sanding or stripping needed. Just re-apply straight over the old coat. What could be easier? This sealer can be applied at any temperature too without drips or running.
This product is UV-blocking, mildew-resistant and will protect and waterproof your wood all in two easy light applications. Ready Seal Exterior Stain and Sealer is highly recommended as our number one choice of all-purpose wood sealer.
Best Water-Based Clear Deck Sealer: DEFY Crystal Clear Sealer
For the more environmentally conscious DIY enthusiasts out there we have a great option for you with this clear deck sealer. The sealer has a low VOC content and low odor. This long-lasting deck waterproofing sealer will not change the natural finish of your wood. It can be applied to dry and damp wood and offers maximum protection in a one-coat application.
This water-based deck treatment is very durable. It includes high-quality resins that ensure maximum protection against everyday wear and tear and zinc nano-particles that effectively protect against the sun’s harmful rays. Being water-based, it’s easy to clean and kinder to you and the environment.
Best Value for Money Wood Deck Sealer: ECO ADVANCE Wood Siloxane Waterproofer
This truly environmentally friendly pre-dilute commercial-grade deck water sealer is non-toxic, non-flammable, and is ready for use with a standard garden pump sprayer. Its Siloxane formula allows the treated wood to breathe which prevents moisture from being trapped within the substrate. Moisture inside the substrate can cause it to age prematurely.
This high-performing Eco-friendly wood decking sealer is safe for use around your pets and garden. It is odorless and dries to a clear, waterproof finish that will show off the natural grain of your wood. All Eco Advance products are VOC compliant and contain low to no VOCs.
Things to Consider for the Best Wood Decking Sealer
A few important considerations when choosing the best deck water sealer come down to some decisions such as indoor or outdoor use, the look and finish of the product, and the time available to you to spend on the project.
Indoor or Outdoor Use
Perhaps the most important consideration when purchasing a wood sealer is its intended use. Using the correct sealer for the environment is important so that it will have maximum durability throughout its life. Think of things like wind, rain, and sun damage for outdoor use or general wear and tear for indoor use. A sealer intended for indoor use probably won’t need to be as durable as an outdoor sealer and therefore will require less maintenance.
Natural vs Colored Finish
Your choice of a wood stain vs a 2-in-1 sealer and stainer will likely depend on whether you want to retain the natural look of your deck or opt to slightly color the existing wood. Clear sealers allow the natural grain of the wood to show through which can be great for any product. Just bear in mind that a clear sealer generally offers less UV protection due to the lack of pigment in the product.
A 2-in-1 sealer and stainer is a great option for any product but being pigmented, it will alter the color of your wood if not matched carefully. Your local DIY store will help you match up the color correctly. Despite close matching, it is not possible to use a wood stain without slightly altering the finish of the wood.
Ease of Application
Water-based and oil-based sealers can typically be applied using the same methods but water-based sealers are recommended for beginners as they typically go on easier and do not bubble. Oil-based sealers tend to form small bubbles when applying so they need slower and more careful application.
Wood sealers are found in many different thicknesses and the drying time will depend on the thickness of the product. If you are planning to use a sprayer to apply your sealer then just make sure it is thin enough to be sprayed, this will be stated on the product itself.
Caring for the Environment
Nowadays people are becoming more and more environmentally conscious and are looking for the most Eco-friendly wood sealers that are kind to humans, animals, and the environment. Oil-based deck sealers are by far the worst offenders when it comes to the amount of VOCs in them. That’s not to say that water-based sealers are free of VOCs but they contain far less than their oil-based counterparts. It is possible to find water-based wood sealers with no VOCs if you shop around. VOCs play a big part in the odor given off by the sealer so if this is a concern for you then look for a water-based wood sealer.
Drying and Cure Time
Drying time is how long you need to wait between applying each coat of sealer while cure time is how long a sealer takes to become ready for daily use. There are many factors that influence the drying time of your sealer such as indoor vs outdoor use, an oil vs a water-based sealer, the type of wood being used, and the ambient temperature when applying the sealer to name a few. Oil-based sealers typically require a full 24-48 hours to dry whereas water-based sealers can dry in as little as 2-4 hours.
As with drying times, the cure time of a sealer also depends on the type of wood used as well as environmental factors. Oil-based sealers will typically require a cure time of 30 days while water-based sealers should be cured after 20 days. Both can be subjected to light use after a week but always check the applied sealer first before use.
After Project Cleaning
Once finished with your project comes the task of cleaning up. If you have minimal time to spend on a project then consider a water-based sealer. It requires no solvent to clean those brushes and trays, just warm water and a little regular house-hold soap. You should have the job done in minutes.
Oil-based sealer requires a little more time spent in post-project cleaning. You’ll need to get hold of a good amount of high-alcohol spirit or paint thinner to cut through that oily residue leftover on your brushes and other equipment. You may find your brushes will need more than one soak and rinse with a paint solvent to remove all the sealer.
Probably the most important consideration before sealing your wooden deck is whether or not it needs to be sanded and/or completely stripped of the existing sealer. If you are sealing a brand new wooden deck then obviously this step is not a consideration initially as the wood will be bare. Bear in mind that after the first sealer application has completely cured you will need to give thought to the above preparation when it comes to regular maintenance of your deck.
The preparation needed before you can apply a sealer will always be stated on the product. If you opt for a water-based sealer then you will need to completely strip any existing sealer from the wood as the existing sealer will likely contain oils that will repel the new water-based sealer. Oil-based sealers are usually more forgiving here and can be applied over an old but clean existing coat of sealer.
How to Apply a Wood Deck Sealer
Armed with all this useful information on how to choose the best deck sealer for your needs, we are going to look at exactly how to apply your chosen sealer. With a little forethought and planning, it is a relatively simple process and shouldn’t require calling in a handyman.
The Right Weather
While many deck sealers (like our top-recommended READY SEAL Exterior Stain and Sealer) can be applied in most temperatures, there are obviously limitations. Always plan ahead and make sure that you have a period of at least 48-72 hours of mild, rain-free weather in order to complete your project. It is also always good to make sure that there will be no strong winds within the period you plan to complete your project. Strong winds will leave all sorts of foreign objects stuck in your sealers like leaves and insects.
Prepare your Equipment
Once you have decided on a time-slot to complete your project, take some time to make sure you have all the necessary items for the job. There’s nothing worse than starting a project only to find out you are missing a vital piece of equipment and once you have started sealing your deck it should ideally be done in one go to ensure a professional uniform look.
Prepare the Surface
The most important step, and necessary for achieving long-lasting results is to properly prepare your deck to receive the new sealer. This means cleaning the entire surface of the deck from any residue that may compromise the application of the new sealer. Thoroughly cleaning your deck is usually sufficient if you plan to use an oil-based sealer but always check the instructions that come with your product for the best results. You can of course completely strip off the old sealer if you wish, this will expose the original bare wood and leave your deck with that new look once your project is completed.
If you plan to use a water-based sealer then you will need to take more time to ensure that the surface of your deck is completely sanded down to the bare wood. This will ensure that the water-based sealer can properly bond to the surface.
Applying the Sealer
There are three common methods used to apply a wood sealer. This is with a brush, a roller, or a paint sprayer. Depending on what size your deck is, it may be most time-effective to go for the sprayer option. This method of application will also leave a nice even streak-free finish.
The most obvious first step is to work out where you are going to finish applying your sealer and start from the opposite end. The last thing you want to do is to paint yourself into a corner! Whether the sealer requires one, two, or more coats will be detailed on the product’s instructions. The application process will be the same whether you have a wood sealer, a wood stain, or the best all-in-one deck sealer and stain. Once applied, check the product’s instructions for the recommended drying and cure time.
Repeat if Necessary
There are many best deck sealers and wood stains that will require more than one coat for long-lasting results. Typically, water-based sealers and stains will require more coats as these tend to be thinner, but they do have a faster drying time. As always, check the product’s instructions for the best application procedure.
Check your Work
Once you have applied the required number of coats to your wooden deck, it is highly recommended to go around and check the edges, as well as any natural gaps and cracks in the wood to make sure the sealer has properly penetrated these areas. Because your sealer only sits on the top layer of the wood, a single spot of bare wood will draw in moisture and this can lead to wood rot over time. Over time this rot will spread below the level of the sealer and can potentially lead to part, or all of the deck needing to be replaced.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Deck Sealer for My Type of Wood?
The wood sealer you choose does depend on the type of wood that your deck is made from. You can ask your local DIY store for this information. The best deck sealer for pressure-treated wood will need to be a penetrating sealer. Usually, exterior deck sealers should work with most types of wood.
How Long Does a Wood Decking Sealer Take to Dry?
This depends on certain factors like the consistency of the sealer used, the ambient temperature in which the sealer is applied, and whether the sealer is for indoor or outdoor use. A thicker sealer will require more dry-time than a thin one and both types of sealers will need more time to dry in colder weather. A sealer that is used indoors will also typically need more drying time as there is less moving air inside. Opening windows if possible will speed up this drying time.
How Often Does Deck Sealer Need to be Applied?
This also depends on several factors just like the drying time but in general, deck sealers need to be applied anywhere from 1-3 years. As a rule of thumb, every year is recommended for scheduling maintenance.
Which Method of Application is Best for My Deck?
The best way to apply your deck sealer depends largely on the size of your project. Smaller decks can be sealed with a brush or a roller. Larger decks may call for the use of a roller too or even a sprayer to get the job done in a reasonable amount of time. Regardless of the size of your deck, a brush can come in very handy when finishing off the edges and fine gaps in the wood.
Deck Sealer vs Deck Stain. Which One to Use?
Deck sealers provide great protection against the elements and are the obvious choice when protection against the elements is most important. Because sealers alone dry to a clear finish, they lack the UV protection of a wood stain. This is where a 2-in-1 sealer and stain can be handy.
With a little forethought and planning, choosing the best all-purpose deck sealer or the best deck sealer for pressure-treated wood should be a relatively simple and pain-free process. Our deck sealer reviews in this article should give you all the knowledge you need to successfully tackle any DIY deck treatment project with outstanding results.