September 9, 2021

Which One Should You Choose: Water vs Oil Based Deck Stains

Harmony Van Kuyl

Harmony Van Kuyl


So, you are planning to choose the best stain, then you must have come across this question to choose between the water and oil-based deck stain. You should consider the long hours & hard work involved in the…

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So, you are planning to choose the best stain, then you must have come across this question to choose between the water and oil-based deck stain.

Image of a deck with water based deck stain

You should consider the long hours & hard work involved in the application, durability and ongoing maintenance requirements.

Again, the question pops up: How do you choose between a decking oil and a water based stain?

You can refer to this blog as a guide to choosing the best stain for your deck. It will help you in making the right decision!

Both the water and oil-based stains have their own pros and cons. In general, water-based stains are more durable compared to oil-based stains. You need to reconsider your requirements and maintenance to keep the stains in the best of health.

We are going to cover both of these stains one by one and explain to make sure that you make the right decision. You can refer to the following section as a guide to choose the best option for you between the oil & water stains / paint. 

Oil-Based Deck Stains

These are easy to apply and maintenance coat applications are relatively simple. Over time, the oil-based stain fades away, and it has to be reapplied every year. 

Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Oil-based stains deliver a uniform finish and do not leave any lap marks behind. The drying time is longer and gives an even finish throughout.
  • These are easy to apply, and they penetrate and get absorbed into the wood easily.
  • The application time is less, as the wood absorbs the oil-based stains and takes fewer efforts to apply.
  • Once oil-based stains penetrate through the wood, then it sticks to the wood and resists peeling than the water-based stains. It fades away, other than the traditional peeling.
  • The maintenance is easier compared to the water-based stains.

Here are some of the drawbacks of Oil-based stains:

  • Oil-based stains do not last as long as water-based stains.
  • These are not eco-friendly, as they have volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Oil-based stains have a long drying time (takes about 48 hours). It is not suitable for anyone living in wet and humid climatic conditions.
  • There are more chances of getting mould, mildew and algae, as it contains materials that act as their food, which makes the deck go black. It looks bad!

Water-Based Stains

Water-based stains add more benefits compared to oil based decking oil. These are expensive but eco-friendly and easy to apply with less drying time.

Here are some advantages of Water-based stains:

  • Premium quality water stains have easy maintenance, and whenever you know that the finish is fading then you can clean the deck with soap water, reapply maintenance coats without any standing/stripping.
  • Water stains last longer than oil-based stains, as these come with high UV resistance and colour retention.
  • Water stains do not contain any ingredient acting as a food source to mould, mildew, and algae; this decreases their chances of developing. Also, there are mildew resistant water-based stains available in the market. 
  • Cleaning the water-based stains is easy and you do not need any special solutions.
  • Application is very easy, and the stain dries up within 1-2 hours of application.
  • Water-based stains are non-flammable and emit a low odour.
  • It doesn’t allow moisture to be trapped inside the wood.

Here are some disadvantages of water based decking stains:

  • Water stains require proper care & time for application, and you need to provide them within the due time limit.
  • You need to make sure that the water stain is brushed. Water-based stains have trouble while penetrating through the wood. Keep in mind that these stains can peel off if they are over-applied. Therefore, you should apply as much as the wood can absorb.

The oil stains take more work & time than the water stains, but they are not as durable as water-based stains. Also, oil-based stains are more prone to algae, mildew, and mould problems. They require more maintenance in the long term. Therefore, you should consult with a professional before choosing a stain to make the right choice for your deck.

When it comes to decking, you need to put in the time to identify your needs and make the best decision depending on your environmental conditions.

Give a brief thought out the maintenance and colour, and consider the advantages and disadvantages of both oil & water-based stains. No stain solution is perfect, and you need to select the one suitable for your needs.

One more thing that you need to consider is the quality and type of wood. If the wood is oily such as cedar/redwood. Then you should consider going for an oil-based stain because it goes well with that type of wood. Also, the wood from pressure-treated pine goes well with water deck stains.

Keep in mind that if your deck has been stained before, then you should go for a similar treatment again. For example, if you already have an oil-based stain, then you can go for the oil-based strain again. But, if you want to switch over water-based strain, then you should remove the existing stain via stain stripper. After this, your deck is ready for a switch to water-based stain.

You can refer to our complete guide to hiring a custom deck contractor.

Staining Tips For Different Weather Conditions

When it comes to choosing the right type of deck stain, you must consider the weather conditions. Water-based stains offer great waterproofing and protection against UV rays while oil-based stains are better suited for resisting mildew buildup and repelling water. However, depending on where your deck is located and what kind of climate you have, one or the other might be more beneficial.

Before applying any deck stain, preparation is key! Whether using a water or oil based product, sanding back to bare timber should always be done first. This ensures that the substrate will accept the coating properly; if not, there’s no point in applying anything at all.

Additionally, before staining make sure to read over the label instructions for detailed steps and precautions to take when painting during different weather conditions:

  • If the existing coating is still in good condition then start by cleaning off dirt with warm soapy water or a coatings stripper
  • Allow the timber to dry completely prior to application – this could take up to a few days depending on local humidity levels
  • Remove any old paint layers from surface prior to painting

By following these tips you can ensure that your deck looks brand new for many years regardless of temperature changes and rain showers. With proper maintenance and care, you can keep your outdoor living space looking its best even under extreme weather conditions.

Looking to build your dream Deck? Contact JVK & Sons Today!

As leading deck builders in Brisbane, we look forward to helping our clients. We care and value your time and investment. We serve across the suburbs of Brisbane, chapel hill, Fairfield, Wavell heights, Carindale, and the neighbourhoods of Donnybrook Moggill.

 Our decking experts are ready to work, and we provide services for:

  • Exterior Timber Decking
  • Composite Decking
  • Merbau Decking

In case if you have any inquiries then you can contact us directly and get a free assessment today.

Start building your dream deck today!

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With incomparable precision and perfection their primary aim, JVK & Sons believe their work should be done efficiently and purposefully, the first time. Their friendly, respectful team of tradespeople are a reflection of their own empirical values and each tradesperson operates as an extension of Jason and Harmony’s values and in turn, their reputation. Within an industry high on waste, Jason and Harmony are continually monitoring and forecasting their working practices to move toward minimal waste, more circular building economies and the use of the most sustainable materials.


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