Why Your Deck Stain is Peeling Off

A great porch or deck not only adds space to your home, it also gives you a home space that’s out in the natural world. It’s the perfect place to relax alone with a book or have a great conversation with a friend or family member in a deck chair or porch swing.

But you may find yourself avoiding your deck once you discover your beautiful, glossy porch planks have faded, flaked, and peeled off, leaving what used to be your place to relax, a place where you now feel anxious about having to repair and re-stain.

The question remains: why does deck stain peel off and how can we avoid this to get more years of enjoyment out of a deck before having to tackle another big staining project?

Choose the Right Deck Stain

There are many types of deck stains, including water-based and oil-based, but the best deck stains can essentially be divided into two categories: filming deck stains, and penetrating deck stains. The most likely reason that a deck stain would peel is that your deck was stained with a filming deck stain.

Filming decks stain—or solid stains—are thicker than penetrating stains and are made to sit on top of the wood. The main advantages of a filming deck stain is that it is very similar to paint. It’s highly pigmented and not transparent, and there are many colors to choose from. If you want your deck to be a particular color to match, contrast, or complement your home, you would probably choose a filming deck stain. Filming deck stains are often chosen to cover up a previous color on a stained deck.

Filming deck stains may also be chosen for an older deck with imperfections. Thick, solid deck stains can cover or mask small imperfections in older wood and gives it a smoother appearance. They are moisture-resistant, easy to clean, and resist fading.

Some disadvantages of filming, or solid deck stains, are the fact that it’s very difficult to ever go back to a natural-wood finish once you’ve used any filming deck stain product on your deck or porch. Filming decks stains will eventually crack, blister and peel, and while they can last up to ten years in a shady, protected area, they are much more likely to last only a few years before your deck will need to be re-stained.

Penetrating or transparent deck stains are thinner and much less pigmented than filming deck stains. Instead of sitting on top of the wood, they sink well below the surface and penetrate into the pores of the wood grain. They are typically transparent, or semi-transparent and allow the natural grain of the wood to show through.

Penetrating deck stains only peel or flake if improperly applied. Ideally, they simply fade away over time. Penetrating deck stains protect from UV rays, are moisture-resistant, and less slippery than filming deck stains.

Another advantage of penetrating deck stains is the fact that while you can’t use a penetrating stain after a filming stain, you can use a filming stain after a penetrating stain if you later decide to add some color.

How to Prevent Peeling on Your Porch or Deck

There are several reasons that your deck or porch might be peeling, cracking or blistering. Sometimes your deck stain peels because it wasn’t properly applied, or your deck wasn’t adequately prepared for staining before it was stained.

Prep Before You Paint: Allow new wood to weather before applying stain. Weathering allows time to draw more moisture out of new wood, making it more readily absorbent. It also softens the surface fibers of the wood to allow the pores to be more open to absorbing your stain product.

Any old paint or stain should be removed with a deck stain stripper, and the wood should be cleaned with a pressure cleaner. Never use bleach or chlorine products to clean before staining as it compromises the quality of the wood’s top layer and leads to poor product absorption.

Be sure to make any deck repairs necessary before you stain, such as replacing rotting boards and rails. Use a good cordless drill  with wood screws to secure any loose rails. Making repairs after staining can damage your new stain job.

If you are staining over the remnants of an older stain, try to use the same brand of stain. Avoid applying a water-based stain over an oil-based one or vice versa. Oil and water don’t mix, and neither will your deck stains.

Be sure you are using a good brush that’s recommended for applying stain in order to get the best results, and carefully read and follow the instructions and directions that come with your stain.

Avoid the Over-Apply: One of the most common causes of peeling deck stain is its excessive application. More isn’t always better, especially when it comes to deck stain. Only a single layer of filming stains should be applied so that the wood can still breathe. Wood planks absorb moisture from rain and snow and then the moisture needs to be able to evaporate when the sun shines. An excessively thick layer of stain won’t properly allow evaporation and the paint may peel.

With penetrating stains, only apply as much stain as the wood can absorb easily and resist re-coating it. Many people make the mistake of thinking that extra coats will make the stain last longer, but the opposite is true.

Shun the Sun: Avoid bright sunlight and the full heat of day when applying stain. If it’s too hot and sunny, the stain will dry before it has time to be fully absorbed into the wood grain and pores. This leaves stain sitting on the surface and it can’t expand and contract with the wood during weather changes, causing cracking and peeling.

Don’t Skimp on Your Stain: While it’s fine to be frugal, you are much better off using a really good deck stain than you are if you’re using a cheap product. Expensive stain products are expensive because they use higher-quality components to give the stain the characteristics that make it long-lasting. These ingredients include UV ray protection, moisture and mildew

resistance, adhesive qualities, and durability. The more of these components that make up your deck stain, the better the results and the longer it will last without peeling or flaking.

However, these ingredients can be costly, raising the price of great deck stains higher than cheaper ones that skimp on quality ingredients.

Now that you have some deck stain know-how, it’s time to take care of your deck and get back to enjoying your favorite outdoor space!

Resources— DEFYWoodstain.com, OPWdeck.com, deckstainhelp.com,