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Decking Stain vs Oil: The Key Differences

Decking stains and decking oils are two types of products that are designed to help preserve your wooden deck. Both can be used to treat wood, but they do have some differences. These differences play a role in how they perform overall.

In general, decking stain is useful for preserving decking while maintaining colour whereas decking oil is great for maintaining the natural appearance of wood.

Below, we will dive into each wood protection product so you can make an informed decision regarding the type of product you want to use on your wooden deck.

What Is Decking Stain?

Decking stain is designed to alter the appearance of the deck. It coats the wood and provides it with a fresh look. Many colours are available, including clear, and can be applied with a paintbrush.

It serves as a natural protective barrier between the wood and damaging debris as well as harsh weather elements and is a much better option than using alternative methods such as fence paint on your decking.

What Is Decking Oil?

Available in water- or solvent-based, decking oil is designed to bring out the natural beauty and character of the wood. Although it will not completely change the appearance like a stain, decking oil may darken the surface of the wood. It protects the decking from splitting, warping, etc.

Decking oil is available in clear and coloured options. It will help protect your decking from water and UV damage. It will also add additional traction to the decking boards.

Pros and Cons of Decking Stain


  • Change Color – Deck stains are available in a wide assortment of colours, allowing them to transform the appearance of the deck.
  • Wood Preservation – Since stain will cover the deck completely, it will be protected from harsh weather elements, rotting, cracking, and mould growth.
  • Waterproof – Deck stain will protect the surface of the deck from moisture, helping to also prevent rotting, freezing, and splitting.


  • Hide Natural Charm – A stain will provide a thin film over the decking board, and as a result, it could diminish the natural wood grain. Depending on how deep of a stain is chosen, the wood may be completely hidden.
  • Lack of Full Protection – It is possible for deck stain to crack or peel after being exposed to severe weather elements. In turn, this can lead to cracking and rotting of the wooden boards.
  • Difficult Re-Application – If you plan to add another coat of stain to your currently stained deck at some point, the previous stain will need to be removed first. Only then can you safely and properly apply a new coat of stain to your wooden deck surface.

Pros and Cons of Decking Oil


  • Waterproof – Decking oil will penetrate the wood, protecting it from moisture damage. It is designed with an element that helps it resist water. If water gets on your deck, it will slide right off.
  • Increased Traction – Rather than being slippery, decking oil offers additional traction when applied to the deck.
  • UV Protection – The rays from the sun can damage decking boards and speed up deterioration. For instance, the sun can cause cracking, warping, and cupping of wooden boards. Generally, decking oil contains elements that protect the deck from UV rays, helping to preserve your deck.
  • Easy Application – Applying decking oil to the deck is easy. It doesn’t take long to penetrate the wood. After just a few hours, it may be able to handle light foot traffic.
  • Algae Protection – Since the oil penetrates all parts of the wood, it will prevent the growth of mildew, mould, and algae on the wood’s surface.


  • Type of Wood – All decking oils are not created equally, and decks can be constructed from different types of wood. When it comes to decking oils, some are simply not designed to go on certain decking boards, especially exotic and hardwood. These tend to require a special oil.
  • Lack of Flexibility – When your deck has been coated with decking oil, it is difficult to use any other form of preservative on the wood decking boards. In the event you want to apply stain or paint to your deck after it has been coated in decking oil, the oil will need to weather off entirely or be removed ahead of time.
  • Wood Color – It is possible for some oils to alter the colour of the boards, especially a darker hue. Further, water- and solvent-based oils can’t be used on the exact same surface.

When to Use Decking Stain

If you are looking to preserve your deck while also changing its appearance, then a decking stain may be best.

When to Use Decking Oil

If your primary goal is to maintain the natural appearance of your wooden deck, then decking oil is recommended for you. It will provide a natural finish to your deck, allowing the wood grain to be naturally and easily seen.

What Is the Best Decking Treatment?

Although decking stains and decking oils are similar in ways, they are relatively different. Decking oils tend to penetrate the wood, whereas decking stains create a thin film on top of the deck.

Both options are effective at preserving a wooden deck, but they both cannot be applied on the same exact surface. You will need to choose one and apply it.

If you’re still unsure whether you should use decking stain or decking oil for your wooden deck then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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