Deck Stain Test Results

Released April 14, 2013
Published Online - October 8, 2018

Early Spring 2013

Deck Stain Test Samples


Each year I receive hundreds of emails from frustrated consumers. They’re all looking for the deck sealer / stain that offers the best performance - they’re looking for the Holy Grail of deck sealers.

I decided I’d do a side-by-side test of as many deck stains /sealers that I could get my hands on.

On May 12, 2012, thirty-two pieces of cedar decking and thirty-two pieces of regular treated lumber were stained with off-the-shelf deck stains / sealers.

Sixteen different wood sealers / stains were used to coat the lumber creating two identical sample sets. One set was immediately exposed to the weather and the other set was boxed up and stored indoors away from sunlight and all weather.

The control pieces placed in the box were to be used in a series of photographs to show how the deck stains performed after the other pieces weathered for nearly a year.

Every brand name deck sealer company was contacted to participate in this real-life test. Many companies refused to participate in the test.

The following manufacturers submitted product in April 2012:

TWP, Armstrong’s, Defy, Behr, Benjamin Moore, Wolman’s, Sherwin Williams, Olympic, and Thompson’s.

Some manufacturers submitted different blends and colors for the test.

Photo Legend and Test Conditions:

As you look at each photo, you’ll see the wider cedar decking on the left and the shorter and narrower pieces of treated pine lumber on the right.

The pieces of wood that were exposed to the weather have two screw holes in each one as they were screwed to a flat 2x4 to simulate resting on a floor joist. They’re the left-side samples of each pair (except in sample B where the treated lumber left outdoors is on the far right).

The pieces of wood exposed to the weather were set out on my dock on Lake Winnisquam in central New Hampshire. The shore line faces east, so the boards experienced brutal sunlight from dawn until mid-late afternoon.

Deck Stain Test Lake Overview

The pieces of wood were set side-by-side on the dock separated by maybe 3 inches. In other words, the cedar and treated lumber each received identical amounts of sun, rain and shade.

The Winner, in my opinion, was the Behr Premium Semi Transparent Stain - Sample H.

The Loser was Wolman's Oil-Based Clear Sample L.

Sample P (Benjamin Moore Semi-Transparent) came in a close second to the Winner Sample H.

Treated lumber contains copper which leaches out and kills mildew and mold if it gets enough sunlight.

Photos & The Product

TWP 1500 Clear – Oil Based Semi-Transparent

TWP 1520 Pecan – Oil Based Semi-Transparent

Armstrong’s Amber Semi-Transparent Oil Based

Armstrong’s Natural Tone Semi-Transparent Oil Based

Armstrong’s Cedar Tone Semi-Transparent Oil Based

Defy Extreme Natural Pine – Water Based

Defy Extreme Crystal Clear – Water Based

Behr Premium Weatherproofing Wood Stain Semi-Transparent

Behr Premium Transparent Natural Tone

Thompson’s WaterSeal Clear

Wolman’s Clear Water Based

Wolman’s Clear Oil Based

Wolman’s Natural Cedar Semi-Transparent Oil Based

Olympic Semi-Transparent

Sherwin Williams Deckscapes Semi-Transparent

Benjamin Moore Semi-Transparent Oil Based