7 Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stains- Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

Image of a floor painted with the best semi transparent deck stain

There are several varieties of stains for decks and other wooden equipment; These stains contain different elements, which makes it essential that you choose a stain that works best when it comes to protecting the wood. Semi-transparent deck stain, for example, does not entirely cover the wood grain hence exposing its natural beauty.

You could be a handyperson; however, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you know the stains to use for your particular deck. One thing for a fact is that all high-end stains will penetrate the wood and offer it several decades of protection. 

When it comes to settling for a stain, taste, and preferences always play a crucial role. Semi transparent deck stain, however, has benefits that many deck owners find hard to ignore.

A good semi-transparent deck stain lets the original beauty and color of your deck show. You can, therefore, see through the protective layer.

Besides, this kind of stain is easy to maintain, using a suitable pressure cleaner, you can wash off the dirt without using sandpaper.   

We have discussed below some of the best semi-transparent deck stains you should consider for your wooden structure:

Comparison Table for the Best Semi Transparent Deck Stain

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Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stains Buyer’s Guide

 We have seen that semi-transparent deck stains play a crucial role in deck appearance. They provide an excellent finish while maintaining the wood’s natural beauty. With these products, you rest assured of durability on any wood surface. The problem arises when you need to choose the outstanding deck stain. It would help if you didn’t worry since I have provided this detailed guide to help you through. The section has things to consider before buying, among other tips of using the best semi-transparent deck stains.

Why You Need the Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stains

  • Easy to apply. The application methods are straightforward. You can either spray, use a brush, or roller.
  • Preserves beauty. If you use these products for your decks, you rest assured of seeing your wood’s natural beauty.
  • Offers protection. These products allow you to see all the wood grain and provide your deck the protection needed to survive elemental damage.
  • Drys quickly. Even though the drying period varies, all the above products have a short drying time.
  • After application, you will enjoy long-lasting beauty on your decks. It would be great to consider using the deck stains with synthetic resins since they are resistant to molding.
  • Low odor and VOC. The stains have a low VOC and odor that allows you to work effectively without endangering your respiratory system. However, it’s still recommended to follow the safety precautions when applying.
  • You can use most of the above products for either interior or exterior wood projects.
  • Various color choices. These stains do not limit you to a specific color of choice since you can choose from many colors.
  • Large area coverage. With these products, you can complete your work on extensive area coverage.
  • Easy to clean. After drying, cleaning is as easy as using a piece of cloth and water.
  • You can apply some of these products directly on damped surfaces.
  • They give a little more protection than toners.
  • The stains are ideal for decks less than ten years old.
  • These stains never chip or peel off.

Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stains

  • Color

Suppose you’re thinking about the color for your deck. It’s good to consider the one that will match your home’s trim shade. If you use this technique, you will enjoy a clear stand-out against the main field of your house. Even more, the final finish will be a unified look that highlights your deck’s architecture.

But if you prefer a more monochromatic look, it would be nice to use a similar shade as your house’s primary color. It’s a perfect choice, especially if you prefer features such as your dining area or fire pit as your deck’s focal point.

  • Wood type

For the longest time, wood remains the most common choice for decks. Semi-transparent stains work best with more expensive hardwoods such as mahogany or ipe. When you use them on such woods, the result is a gorgeous grain and texture highlighting the wood’s natural beauty. However, you can also use the semi-transparent stains on other hardwood and softwood wood types.

  • Weather

The weather is another factor of consideration. You should ensure the weather forecast of your area indicates a 48-hour rain-free during the period of application.

  • The age of the wood

Newer decks will work best with semi-transparent wood stains. However, if you have an old deck, it’s recommended to use the darker ones. The reason is that they can easily hide the imperfections caused by damage and staining.

  • The wood’s coloring

Before staining, it’s always right to look at the wood’s natural hue. Such undertones will change the stain’s look after application. For instance, pine has natural green undertones. Thus, you need to pick a color that will enhance the green hue or cancel them.

You will also have to consider the amount of grain in the wood since some woods have grain patterns that enhance after staining. Thus, you must consider the wood’s coloring as the overall look of your deck and wood will change after staining.

  • The area coverage

The average size of a deck is approximately between 300 and 400 square feet. Therefore, you should also consider the area coverage of the specific stain. Always check on the printed label for more information on the coverage area.

  • Odor and VOC level

You don’t want to suffer from respiratory diseases due to the odor and VOC level. It would be best if you considered a semi-transparent stain with low odor and VOC level.

How to Stain a Deck

In most cases, decks are exposed to harsh environmental conditions such as sunlight and rain. Therefore, you need to stain and periodically refinish your deck. The good part is that you can stain synthetic materials. However, you must first check on the manufacturer’s recommendation.

The first step before staining deck boards is to ensure the decking is clean and dry. Therefore, you should do the staining immediately after cleaning to prevent dust and dirt from accumulating on your deck’s surface. The best time to make the application is when temperatures are between 50 and 90 degrees. If possible, do not stain in direct sunlight.

Sun quickly dries out the stain and results in uneven colors or brush marks. The best way is to check the weather forecast to ensure you have several days ahead.

If there are sides that need protection, you should consider applying the painter’s tape. When applying the deck stain, use a natural bristle brush. You can also use a roller since it gets the job done faster. However, brushing remains the best option since it forces the stain into the open pores and wood grain.

You will also find it essential to work the stain into butt joints. If you want to avoid splotches, work on several boards simultaneously while avoiding spilling over onto the adjacent ones.

Even if you use the best semi-transparent deck stains, you will still have to refinish periodically. Mostly, you will do this every two or three years. But if you want to maintain your deck’s beauty, consider refinishing at the earliest signs of wear. While refinishing your deck, you will experience the most challenges in cleaning.

You have to sweep the deck thoroughly. It’s ideal to use a screwdriver when removing debris between butt joints and decking boards. For obvious grease spills, consider using a TSP solution.

When doing a thorough cleaning on your deck, you’ll want to use a quality deck cleaner. However, ensure to follow the manufacturer’s directions. It would be best to use a garden hose with a high-pressure nozzle attachment to rinse the surface thoroughly. You should also note that it’s not recommended to use a pressure washer when cleaning the decks.

Additionally, you should not linger too long on one spot or use high-pressure settings since you’ll likely damage the board. After cleaning and allowing the deck to dry, it’s now time to slowly sand with 80 grit sandpaper, then sweep up the residual dust.

Once done, apply the stain evenly using either a brush or a roller. You can change the colors by adding more layers or going darker.

Simple Tips That You Should not forget When Applying the Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stains

  • Ensure the wood is adequately cleaned and prepared.
  • Protect the surrounding areas.
  • Test a small area.
  • Intermix containers.
  • Stir thoroughly and often.
  • Properly apply one thin coat.
  • Use a brush, roller, or spray.
  • Apply on few boards to avoid lap marks.
  • Always back brush.
  • Treat all areas of the wood.
  • Avoid staining on hot surfaces or in direct sunlight.
  • Use recommended cleaning equipment.
  • Where protectives clothes, shoes, gloves, and masks.
  • Check on the weather forecast.
  • Consider the coverage area.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it a must to sand the deck before staining?

It depends. Mainly, you will first consider the decking and its conditions. Even though sanding won’t hurt anything, you should ask questions like do you want to take extra time and complete the process? Do you want the wood to have a smooth and silky texture? Do you want it rough? Are the borders warped, making it difficult to sand it flat?

The recommended way is to apply a light wood stripper and then pressure washing. However, if you find it rough, you can sand it after it has completely dried.

  • How long should I let my wood “weather” before staining it?

It’s not wrong to allow your wood to “weather” for at least a few months. However, this is no longer necessary with today’s product, especially if you follow the correct process.

  • How do I know it’s time to restrain my deck?

You can use the water test. Pour a small amount on some areas of your deck and wait. After some minutes, check if the water is still being repelled by just laying on the surface or it’s soaking into the wood. If the water soaks, it’s clear that it’s time to restrain your deck.

  • How many coats of semi-transparent deck stain should I apply?

These number depends on the type of stain. The semi-transparent stain for decks requires only one coat.

  • What is one tip to ensure my project turns out to my expectations?

The one tip that you’ll want to try for your project to turn out the way you like is to try a test area.

Best Semi Transparent Deck Stains Products Review

In this section, I’m going to look at the very best deck stains that you can in the market today. These products do great when it comes to sealing and protecting wooden structures. The protects against water damage, UV lights, and what’s special about these formulas is that they bring the best of wood’s natural beauty by exposing the wood grains. Keep reading for more:

1. Ready Seal 512 Semi-Transparent Wood Stain And Sealer 

Ready Seal 512 belongs to the top of the class. It is an oil-based, semi-transparent wood stain and sealer containing certified ingredients that protect and preserve all external wooden structures.

The ingredients available in this stain include grounded algaecide, trans-oxide pigments, paraffin oil, and quality resins. All these combine to form an extraordinary blend that works wonders in keeping wooden structures all-natural and ever fresh.

Talking about the wood’s natural look, the oil-based nature of this stain gives the perfect tone to the exteriors of the wood, which allows for the visibility of the grain and maintaining the original texture. This stain penetrates deep into the wood, Ready Seal 512 is tough on mildew, algae, mold, and further protects the wood against the damaging UltraViolet rays of the sun.

The application of Ready Seal is a one-off process and doesn’t call for a complex application process like other models. All you need to do is to check and ensure that the target surface is dust-free, has no mildew or paints and stains.

This stain takes about two to three days to dry, depending on the weather conditions. The porosity of the wood surface is another factor that determines how fast this stain dries up. Initially, when applied, the stain coating looks dark; however, it slowly acquires its actual look and gains its exact color after about two weeks.

Advantages of Ready Seal 512 Semi-Transparent Wood Stain 

  • This wood stain is suitable for exterior wood projects, thanks to its ability to resist water, UV rays, and mildew.
  • It enhances the natural beauty of the wood with
  • It’s available in many different colors
  • It requires no specific temperature range during application

Disadvantages of Ready Seal 512 Semi Transparent Wood Stain

  • Cannot be applied on painted or stained surfaces
  • It takes up to two weeks for the final color to show


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2. DEFY Extreme Wood Stain

This translucent wood stain is a product of advanced nano-technology to provide durability that has not existed in wood stain finish before.

Extreme Wood Stain is the latest member of the vast DEFY line of wood products and represents the most innovative, high-performance product you can find. 

Ultraviolet rays from the sun turn the wood gray; this makes it susceptible to soaking and rotting. The state of the art technology used in making DEFY Extreme Wood Stain offers adequate protection to the wood against the harmful effects of these rays.

Extreme Wood Stain has particles of zinc oxide, which reflect the dangerous ultraviolet rays. The nanotechnology in this stain has reduced the size of zinc particles down a level that is invisible to the naked eye. The nano-particles spread all over at a rate above 30 trillion in every square inch of the surface area, offering much-needed protection.

These nano-particles help to prevent graying; besides, they are very resistant to mold and mildew; this enables the wood to retain its original color.

DEFY Extreme Wood Stain Colors

It’s a volatile organic compound that adds a semi-transparent tint to your wood. This wood stain is available in six colors, namely: 

  • Butternut
  • Redwood 
  • Driftwood Gray 
  • Natural Pine 
  • Cedartone
  • Light Walnut
Note: It is also available in a clear finish.


Uses of DEFY Extreme Wood Stain

This wood stain is perfect for both interior or exterior wood surfaces, including:

  • Outdoor wood furniture
  • Pressure treated wood
  • Wood siding
  • Log homes
  • Fences
  • Shake shingles
  • Decks
  • Used in all other natural wood surfaces

Advantages of DEFY Extreme Wood Stain

  • It’s durable – It lasts a season or two longer than the competition
  • Has a strong resistance for fading and darkening
  • It’s easy to maintain
  • It withstands damp conditions
  • It’s water-based and environmentally friendly
  • The sunscreen technology in it helps resist the fading of the color
  • Has a strong resistance for mildew

Disadvantages of DEFY Extreme Wood Stain

  • Some users claim that it is a lot more transparent than semi-transparent.
  • Other users have complained about its “muddy” appearance following its application.

It’s easy to apply Extreme Wood Stain! A treatment on your wood using DEFY Wood Cleaner cleans and restores the treated surface to its original appearance. 

Application of DEFY wood brightener right after cleaning will brighten the wood and restore its natural beauty. DEFY Extreme wood stain provides long term protection to your wood. Observe maintenance practice by doing annual recoating or as soon as the timber starts turning gray.

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 3.#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Deck Stain

This stain is a cutting edge semi-transparent stain conception that penetrates so deep into wood vesicle for utmost protection against external factors and longevity.

This wood stain is available in two sets: the one- or two-and-a-half-gallon containers. The #1 Premium Deck stain, which is a product of Saver Systems, is both a stain and a sealant for wooden structures like decks and fencing products. It offers wood protection against damaging UltraViolet rays. Besides, this stain dries to a flat, and natural-looking finish all the time. 

It is water-based and a low-Volatile Organic Compound stain, which makes cleanup easy. 

The #1 Deck premium stain is usable on almost if not all types of softwood from fir, redwood, cedar, fir, and pressure treated pine. It doesn’t matter if your deck is too old or has stayed so long without staining.

This stain is excellent and will ensure that the wood is extraordinarily beautiful at the end of the job. It does an excellent job on the old and faded deck by giving it a brand-new look.

#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain Colors

This wood Stain is available in four different beautiful colors, namely:

  1. Natural
  2. Dark Walnut
  3. Cedar
  4. Light Walnut




Uses of #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

It’s suitable for use on:

  • Fences
  • Decks
  • Old and new outdoor furniture
  • Vegetable garden frames
  • Siding
  • Softwood surfaces
  • Gazebos
  • Playsets

Advantages of #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

  • Serves as both a stain and sealer for your wooden structures
  • Offers protection against Ultraviolet rays from the sun
  • Exists in 4 beautiful semi-transparent finishes – Cedar, Natural, Dark Walnut, & White Walnut
  • Applied in all softwood types
  • This stain is water-based which makes it easy to clean
  • Has low volatile organic compound
  • Dries flat with a natural-looking finish

Disadvantages of #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

  •  Some users complain that the wood still gets saturated each time it rains even despite having more than one coat.
  • Other users think that its water-resistant capabilities are not reliable. 
  • Users have gone on record for complaining over the warranty offered- terming it as not being good enough.
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4.Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

It’s arguably the best semi transparent product of the BEHR paint company. It is water resistant stain and sealer that is easy to apply, it dries so fast and has a touch of magic! It results in a beautiful appearance, making it one of the best products you can find in the market today.

With the leading-edge 100% acrylic formula, this stain penetrates deep into the wood, offering your deck protection from adverse external factors for up to 6 years. For fences and sidings, the protection can last eight years. 

With its silicone-manned formula, it provides excellent protection against the dangerous UV rays from the sun. Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain exists in 60 custom colors that are easy on wood allowing the wood grain to show through- enhancing the natural beauty. 

Uses of Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

This wood stain works best with a properly prepared new or moderately weathered exterior and unsealed surfaces of the wood: These includes:

  • Decks
  • Wood Patio Furniture
  • Shakes 
  • Shingles
  • Railings
  • Siding
  • Roofs
  • Fences.

Advantages of Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

  • Using this wood stain guarantees you a very high-quality and reliability.
  • It’s a waterproof wood stain.
  • It can resist a variety of environmental conditions.

Disadvantages of Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

  • There are complaints here and there over flaking and molding of the wood.
  • Some users have claimed that the paint didn’t penetrate the wood entirely.
  • Some users claimed that the effects didn’t last as long as they had initially expected.
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5. Kilz Exterior Waterproofing Deck Stain

Kilz Exterior Waterproof Deck Stain is one of the best semi transparent exterior wood stains available in the market today. It offers long-lasting protection, water resistance, and a mildew-resistant finish that enhances the integrity and beauty of wood regardless of the prevailing outdoor conditions. It has a 100% Acrylic formula that protects the wood against rain, snow, and sun damages. 

This stain has a warranty of three years on decks and five years on fences as well as siding. It gives the best results on well prepared new to moderately weathered and unsealed exterior wood surfaces such as decks, shingles, railings, wood patio furniture, shakes, siding, and fences. 

It’s definitely amongst the best options for you if you are looking for a semi-transparent stain that provides a mildew-resistant finish as well as UV protection. A single gallon of this wood stain can give you a coverage of up to 250 square feet for the first coat. The second coat you get up to 500 square feet for the same amount of wood stain. 

If you want to remove loose wood fibers, consider the use of a product such as KILZ Wood Stain & Finish Stripper, afterward, use KILZ Wood Cleaner & Brightener for the neutralization of the wood. For the realization of the best results, let the area dry for at least 24 hours before you do the coating. 

Uses of Kilz Exterior Waterproofing Deck Stain

Kilz Exterior Waterproofing Deck Stain is appropriate for new and moderately weathered wood substrates, a time range of 0-10 years is okay. Use it with a well prepared unsealed exterior surface like railings, fences, shingles, decks, sidings, wood patio furniture.

Advantages of Kilz Exterior Waterproofing Deck Stain

  • Dries nicely to form a water resistant layer.
  • Result in a finish that resists mildew.
  • A gallon of this stain covers up to 250-500 square feet of the area.
  • It has a 100% Acrylic formula.
  • This stain can last 3 years on foot deck, and 5 years or more on fences and siding

Disadvantages of Kilz Exterior Waterproofing Deck Stain

  • External factors can affect the area coverage
  • It requires the use of a high-quality paint pad, which cost extra to buy.
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6.Cabot Australian Timber Oil

If you are looking for what all the woodworkers need, maximum protection, and preservation of wood projects, then Cabot Australian Timber Oil is the answer as it has several different oils that perform different roles in the blend. This oil stain is easily one of the best semi transparent deck stain oil treatments for exotic wood surfaces like those of teak and mahogany.

Originally, Cabot Heritage created this product for use on extreme Australian breeds such as the Cambara, Merbau, and Tallowwood. However, in recent years, this stain has shown just how useful it is for all the other hardwood products all over the world.

Buying this stain guarantees you a combination of long-oil alkyds which enhance longevity, top quality linseed oil for maximum penetration, and pure South American tung oil that is responsible for water repellency and rich depth of color. 

On top of the exemplary and extraordinary oil blend, the Cabot Australian Timber Oil further comes with sophisticated translucent iron oxide colorations that absorb the UltraViolet rays. This property is reverse but perfect alternative to zinc oxide that, instead of absorbing, reflects the UltraViolet rays away. Zinc oxide or iron oxide, both protect the wood grain from the harmful rays of the sun, and that’s the most important thing.

It is also essential to know that applying this timber oil is not a walk in the park compared to other oil stains. However, it’s a lot easier applying it if you compare it with other water-based stains. Like in the case of any stains, you must clean the surface that needs staining of mildew, molds, dirt, and other foreign materials before applying Cabot Australian Timber Oil. If you follow this procedure well, your wood shall have maximum penetration.

Linseed oil, which is one of the components of Cabot Australian Timber Oil, leaves hard stains on both your hands and clothes when applying. Furthermore, this oil stain is poor on a plank of damp wood. For best results, ensure that the moisture content of the wood is less than 15%. You can achieve this by having your wood in direct contact with the sunlight for 3-5 days for maximum results.

The rate of the coverage area of Cabot Australian Timber Oil is much bigger than the other paints. A gallon of this timber oil can entirely cover up to 400-600 square feet area of smooth wood and about 250-350 square feet area of a rough surface of the wood.

Uses of Cabot Australian Timber Oil

This wood stain is best for:

  • Decks
  • Siding
  • Railings
  • Outdoor furniture

Advantages of Cabot Australian Timber Oil

  • Has a high ability to penetrate deep into the wood grain.
  • It’s quite easy to apply or reapply.
  • A single gallon has a high coverage area compared to other stains.
  • High water resistance

Disadvantages of Cabot Australian Timber Oil

  • Its use is limited to hardwoods.
  • Linseed oil can stain your hands and clothes when applying.
  • Its color starts to turn dark when molds start attacking.
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7. Thompson’s Waterseal Waterproofing Stain

Thompson’s Waterseal remains among the best wood stains available in the market today. This stain has a reputation with the users, which makes it feature on our list. 

Thompson’s Waterseal offers your deck protection against moisture long after the other stains on the market today are failing. Using this stain guarantees your deck protection that lasts for at least four years; this stain lasts much longer on siding and fences. Another aspect of Thompson’s waterseal is that it uses advanced polymers whose role is to maintain the color of the stain during the entire period of protection.

Advantages of Thompson’s Waterseal Waterproofing Stain

  • Offers a protection that lasts between 4-6 years, depending on where the stain is applied.
  • The stain gives your deck protection against almost all corrosive elements such as rain, wind, UltraViolet rays as well as mildew.
  • Just one coat can offer your deck much needed protection.
  • Its waterproofing ability lasts way long after the original water beading is no more

Disadvantages of Thompson’s Waterseal Waterproofing Stain

  • It works best only on freshly dried and cleaned wood
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A semi-transparent deck stain has a lot to offer when it comes to maintaining your deck. With the information we have provided in this guide, it should be much easier for you to settle on the right type and brand that your heart desires.

It’s a great move to have a deck; however, it’s even better if you can take good care of your deck. The options we have provided will be helpful when it comes to the stain type that you shall choose. If you are looking to have that natural beauty of the wood to show through, the variety of semi-transparent deck stains above will help you get the best for your money.

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Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.