Decks are on the rise with a quarter of new homes having a deck. That’s about 184,860 homes!

The average size of those decks is roughly between 300 and 400 square feet. This is a lot of wood surface that needs protecting.

The best way to protect your deck and enhance its look is to choose the right stain color. But how do you know you’re picking the right color for your deck?

Don’t stress out, we’ve got your back. Read on for a guide that will walk you through the process of choosing the right stain color for your deck.

What Stain Color Should I Choose?

The short answer is you need to pick a stain that will compliment the wood’s look. The purpose of stain is to protect and enhance your deck wood.

Deck stain color choice examples

Test Colors

The best way to pick a stain color is to test the stain on the wood. If you don’t have a spare piece of wood then try out the different colors on a hidden spot on your deck.

Don’t immediately rule out a color before you try it. You also need to wait until the stain completely dries before you make a decision. A dried color can be far different from the color when wet. You may find that you’re surprised by which one is your favorite.

Consider the Wood’s Coloring

First, look at the wood’s natural hue. These undertones will change the look of the stain when it gets applied. For example, pine has green undertones. This means you either need to pick a color that will cancel out the green tones or enhance them.

The other element you need to consider is the amount of grain in the wood. In certain woods, the grain pattern becomes enhanced when stain gets applied. This is something to consider as the overall look of the wood and your deck will change.

The type of wood will also make a difference. For example, you might choose a certain type of stain and color for a redwood or cedar deck. But it might not be the best deck stain for pressure treated wood. Make sure to sample the color you choose on the same kind of wood that you will be applying it to.

Perform rotten wood repair before applying new stain color

Consider the Age of the Wood and Deck

If your deck is newer then you can opt for a lighter and more transparent stain. It is easier to go darker and more opaque later if you decide that you want a change.

As your deck ages, it will experience damage and staining. This is inevitable if you actually use your deck. With older decks, you’ll find going darker and more opaque can hide these imperfections. This is also the time to perform any necessary deck repairs such as replacing rotten deck boards and supports.

Consider the Deck and Home Design

Choose a color that makes sense for your home and deck’s design. You’ll also want a color that looks good with the surrounding vegetation or landscaping.

Example of solid deck stain color

Stain Opacity

Not only do you need to pick a color, but you need to choose the opacity of that color. You have four different levels to choose from:


If you love the natural look of the wood then you’ll want to go with a clear or “natural” stain. This is the best option for new or expensive wood. You can expect this treatment to last about a year or two.


This is going to affect the final look of the color, so keep this in mind and do a test patch. A semi-transparent stain will last a bit longer than clear at 2 to 3 years.If you want protection with only a hint of color then semi-transparent is a good choice. The color of the wood and grain will show through.


If you want a heavier application of color, but still want to see the wood underneath, then semi-solidis a great option. This is a good opacity to transition to as your deck ages.

Consider going with this type of stain if you’re starting to see some minor staining. It will also help make your deck uniform if you’ve had to replace a couple of boards.


This level of stain is going to completely hide the wood grain. This is a great choice for older decks and decks with lots of imperfections.

The more solid stain will hide stains or imperfections. It will also have a higher level of UV resistance. The lifespan of this stain is the longest at about 5 years.

Powerwash the deck before testing the new stain color

Is It Already Stained?

If your deck isn’t brand new then it probably already has a stain applied to it. If this is the case, you need to think about the condition and look of the current stain when deciding what to apply over it.

Consider this: A solid stain is going to completely cover the look of the wood. You can’t now apply a tinted stain and expect it to look the same as if it were applied over fresh wood. A deck would have to be new or completely sanded to the bare wood to get a semi-transparent finish.

Even if the older stain is simply a tint, that color will change the new stain applied. This is where color theory becomes important. A red-tinted stain will change the look of a blue-tinted stain that you apply over it.

Older decks will need to be pressure-washed before the new stain is applied. Since this typically lightens the deck color, make sure to test any color samples after the deck is cleaned. This will give you the best idea of what the final finish will look like. This is something that is included in every deck staining quote, but can also be done separately.

Time to Get Staining!

Whatever stain color you choose, you will want it to improve the look of your deck. You’ll need to think about the type of wood, the design of the deck, and the age of the wood.

If your deck is new or made of expensive wood then go with a stain that highlights the beauty of the wood. As your deck ages, opt for a stain that will hide the signs of age.

When picking a color, consider one that will complement the color and design of your home and surrounding landscaping. Before you apply the color, make sure that it will dry the color you intend.

Need help deciding on a color? We’ve got you covered, schedule an estimate today.