How Long Does Deck & Other Wood Stains Last
You can expect 1-2 years from exterior deck stain and uncovered stained wood. Exterior stained wood covered from the elements lasts 2-7 years, depending on the stain, wood type, and surface.
Exterior wood substrates require maintenance, and there are no practical ways to prevent it other than replacing natural wood with composite. Keeping exterior stained wood cleaned and coated is costly over time, and there are only slight advantages over which stains to use.
Deck Stain Durability
Decks are among the most common when it comes to exterior stained wood. There are several deck stains, and decks are built with a wide range of lumber. However, most decks are constructed from treated lumber, mainly Pine and Spruce.
Wood front porch floors can be made of Brazilian hardwoods or IPE. The process of oiling and maintaining IPE is vastly different from treated lumber.
Contrary to most homeowners’ expectations, decking staining must be done yearly. You can expect no more than 1-2 years of protection even when using the best exterior deck stains, like TWP. Once the deck stain begins to fade and no longer repels water, you have waited too long and should be re-stained by professionals.
Tip: When staining a deck, brushed applications promote better stain penetration, offering the best protection over time.
Stained Wood Siding
Soffits and overhangs cover most home siding; therefore, siding stains last longer than other surfaces. Depending on the brand and type, you can expect 5-7 years from siding stains.
Moisture and sunlight are the most significant factors determining how long a siding stain lasts. Wet and dark areas attract mold and mildew growth quicker than drier areas. Also, siding in constant UV exposure will fade faster.
Tip: The best method to apply stain to large areas such as siding is spraying and back brushing.
Stained Exterior Wood Doors Longevity
Wood exterior entry doors provide outstanding curb appeal and a warm, welcoming feeling to a home. However, maintaining wood doors such as Mahogany and other common woods ranges from 2-4 years and is costly.
Refinishing wooden front doors is very time-consuming. Not every house painter understands and will follow the proper steps to ensure the stain and polyurethane last as long as possible. Professional wood door refinishing requires sanding the door down to the wood, re-staining, and applying exterior-grade polyurethane. However, the secret to longevity uses at least 3 coats of polyurethane for added UV and moisture protection.
Marine-grade polyurethanes such as Epifanes also offer additional protection and will extend needed maintenance for a year or so. Fiberglass doors today have come a long way, offering authentic wood-like finishes without maintenance.
Tip: Dark-colored stains will fade faster and draw more heat, causing the door to weather quickly.
Stained Exterior Porch Ceilings
Stained wood ceilings last the longest of any exterior stained wood. Paneled wood ceilings provide a flat surface that’s easy to sand. Other profiles, such as beadboard, can only be lightly buffed to prevent degrading the shape and profile of the panel.
While most exterior wood ceilings combine a coat of stain and polyurethane, applying a stain and sealer is easier to maintain over time. As mildew grows, removing it from stained and polyurethaned surfaces is often challenging, requiring additional sanding to expose the wood enough to clean and remove the growth.
Tip: Painted ceilings or ceilings with solid color stains are easier to clean and recoat as often as needed, requiring less preparation.
How Long Solid Color Stain Lasts
A solid color stain, often called a semi-solid, opaque, or solid base, is the best stain to unify inconsistent wood. If your deck has been repaired or is weathering inconsistently, solid color stain provides a consistent coat similar to paint.
Solid color stain does not show wood grain and provides the best immediate protection. Depending on the color choice, solid color stain looks like paint and eliminates the need for priming.
The only negative is like paint, solid color stains will blister and peel over time. However, recoating is relatively straightforward, requiring light scraping and washing.
Tip: The best exterior solid color stain is Sikkens. You can expect roughly 2-3 years of protection when applying two coats of Sikkens solid color stain.
How Long Semi-Transparent Stain Holds Up
Semi-transparent stains, known as translucent and toners, enhance the natural beauty of wood. Transparent stains penetrate deep within the wood, adding light or dark pigmentation mimicking wood colors such as oak, redwood, and Mahogany.
If you want the best protection, you should know that not all stains are identical. Deck stains combine the stain and sealer in one. In comparison, door and interior stains do not contain a sealer.
While staining exterior wood substrates is subjectively stark and most natural, the reveal of semi-transparent stain is hard to maintain. Homes in the southern parts of the US experience mold and mildew growth in less than one year, even from industry-leading semi-transparent stains.
Tip: If you want to maintain a semi-transparent stain look, it’s best to coat it every year. Otherwise, the preparations of achieving the same color and reveal become more involved, often leading to costly restoration.
Stained Horizontal Surfaces vs. Vertical Surfaces Longterm Wear
Horizontal surfaces subjected to standing water always wear faster than vertical surfaces that shed water quickly. Areas such as handrails need added protection. Handrail tops or caps should be made from quality lumber, composite materials, or metal.
Deck flooring is another horizontal surface that takes a beating from traffic and water. Composite decking doesn’t require staining, and we recommend Timber Tech for our composite deck builds.
Tips for Maintaining Exterior Wood
Tip 1: Stained pressure-treated lumber needs pressure washing and recoating every 12-18 months here in Raleigh, NC. Treated lumber that has not been adequately maintained may require higher-pressure cleaning. Otherwise, avoid blasting using high-pressure water when cleaning, as it will fray and degrade the wood.
Tip 2: All semi-transparent stains require frequent maintenance and are subject to degradation due to moisture and UV exposure. However, multiple coats of stain will provide additional UV protection and durability.
Tip 3: Do not use large amounts of water on doors and delicate surfaces. Often, doors and ceilings are best cleaned by hand.
Tip 4: Washing stained wood should always include recoating, and IPE wood should never be cleaned with bleach.
There will always be an element of maintenance as it pertains to exterior wood substrates, and most exterior stains don’t provide the protection that’s claimed.
So, if you want to keep the carpenter bees and mildew away, routine cleaning and recoating are required for all exposed exterior stained wood, though some areas require more frequent attention than others.