The Best Deck Stains

In this article, we’re going to talk about the different types of stains – which are the best deck stains and which are the worst deck stains to put on your wood. If you’ve been doing any research on how to stain a deck or patio, you’ve probably noticed that deck stains usually come in one of two categories: water-based deck sealers and oil based deck sealers. There’s some very important differences between the two that you need to be aware of.

Comparison of Deck Stains: Oil vs. Water

Traditionally, oil based deck stains have been the preferred method to stain a deck. They penetrate into the wood very well, they look good when you put them down and they have a decent lifespan. When you do some further investigating, you begin to notice some not-so-desirable characteristics of these stains.

The first problem is that they are made of natural resins, which is basically food for algae and mold. Ever notice the large black regions of mold growing on your deck? You guessed it, the mold is eating your stain right off your deck. And not only that, once it starts, it becomes a breeding ground for more mold and algae, and it begins to grow, eventually taking over your whole deck!

A Toxic Dilemma

To counteract this, manufacturers put a heavy amount of toxic algaecides and mildewcides in these products. Over time, with UV sunlight and rain, these chemicals are brought to the surface of the wood and eventually washed away. This presents a two-fold dilemma…one being the safety of barefoot children absorbing these toxic chemicals into their skin, and the second being that once these chemicals are washed away, it’s open season on your deck for mold and algae attacks.

The other problem with oil based stains has to do with new environmental laws. Oil based products typically are much more dangerous to the environment and are beginning to be outlawed by the EPA. So far, the following states have outlawed almost all oil based stains: New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, Washington DC, Maine, Rhode Island, California, Ohio, and soon Illinois.

Aside from their negative environmental impact, oil based stains are more difficult to work with, only clean up with mineral spirits, and take much longer to cure than waterbase stains.

Up until recently, there hasn’t been a good alternative for oil based stains. Deck owners simply had to deal with the unsightly algae growth, environmental damage, and safety issues. There has recently been vast improvements in water-borne technologies that have allowed water-based stains to penetrate like an oil stain. There’s a newer product out called Epoxy Fortified Wood Stain that has this new water based technology. It resists mold and algae and it’s environmentally friendly.

Natural Resin and Synthetic Resin Deck Sealers

We’ve already talked about how oil based sealers contain “natural resins” that promote algae and mold growth. The alternative option is to use a stain with “synthetic resins”. These are man-made resins that imitate natural resins with one big advantage. They aren’t a food source for algae. That’s right, mold and algae would never think about eating this stuff! It performs just like the natural resins of the oil based stains, but is a synthetic material designed to work the same without the mold growth.

Because synthetic resin sealers aren’t going to be food for algae, it’s not necessary to add a bunch of mildewcides and algaecides to the stains, making them much more family-friendly and environmentally friendly.

Clear, Semi-Transparent or Solid Color Deck Stains

The next thing to consider when choosing a deck stain is whether to use a clear deck stain, a semi-transparent deck stain or a solid color deck stain. All three have their advantages and disadvantages, but the semi-transparent is usually the best choice for staining your deck. I’ll explain why.

Clear Deck Stains

Most clear products are not able to hold up to the UV rays well enough to give you a significant lifespan. Frequently, the clear stains vanish within a few short months of applying them. On top of that, most clear deck stains aren’t totally clear. They have an amber tint added to them to give them extra UV protection. If it weren’t for this amber tint, your deck would turn gray in a matter of weeks rather than months.

Solid Color Deck Stains

The solid color stains are great for vertical siding or posts, areas that don’t get as much direct UV damage from the sun. The problem occurs when you put a solid color stain down on the flat parts of your deck. This is the area that gets the most damage and direct sunlight. Add to that the fact that people and pets are walking on it, contributing to even more wear and tear. As solid color stains weather over time, they tend to peel rather than fade. You end up with a mess. Simply applying a stain stripper is normally not enough to remove these stains. Frequently, the only option becomes using paint stripper, a highly dangerous and toxic substance that can cause burns and kill your surrounding vegetation upon contact.

Semi-transparent Deck Stains

Semi-transparent stains are far and away the best choice when it comes to staining your deck. They have a tint to give them added UV protection which extends their life to a year or more, and sometimes up to several years. The tint still allows you to see through to the wood grain below giving the wood a nice, rich finish without hiding the texture of the wood. Also, they are super easy to maintain. Usually, the maintenance process involves a simple cleaning, and then a re-application of the deck stain once every other year or two. No stripping involved!


When it comes to deck stains, these are the main issues that you need to be concerned with:

  • Water based stains are the way to go, ditch the oils – easier to clean up, more green friendly
  • Synthetic resins, not natural resins – no mold, and no toxic chemicals
  • Semi-transparent deck stains rather than clear or solid color deck stains – easier to maintain

Keeping in mind these points when buying a deck stain will save you a lot of time, money and labor. Remember that with deck stains, you get what you pay for. Cheap deck stains are made with cheap resins and inexpensive fillers that won’t last. Buy a more expensive deck stain with higher quality resins that will last and keep your wood beautiful over time while protecting it from the elements. One of the newer, more impressive stains on the market right now is the DEFY Epoxy Fortified Wood Stain. It’s a water-based, synthetic resin, semi-transparent stain made with high quality resins that bond firmly to the wood. Check out this deck stain to save your self some time and effort. It’s a little more money, but worth it in the long run.


Staining & Sealing Interior Decorative Concrete Floors

This step by step guide will walk you through the steps needed to properly stain and seal interior decorative concrete floors. Be sure to follow each of these steps for optimum results.


Step 1: Allow the Concrete to Cure

Freshly poured concrete needs to cure for a period of 4 – 6 weeks prior to being stained and sealed. Failure to let the concrete adequately cure will result in failure of any applied sealing system.

Step 2: Wash the Surface

Concrete surfaces need to be clean and free of grease, dirt, paints, waxes and other surface contaminants prior to staining. To clean the surface, use a neutral cleaner, such as MasonrySaver Cleaner & Degreaser.

Step 3: Apply a Concrete Stain for Color

Select a proper concrete stain for your project such as Smith’s color floor ( Smith’s Color Floor is a water-based dye stain and is best applied by airless sprayers, HVLP sprayers or garden sprayers. To achieve the desired color, multiple colors of stain may need to be applied to the surface. Follow all of the manufacturer’s directions when applying a stain.

Step 4: Wash the Surface (when using Smith’s color floor omit step 4)

After the stain has dried completely, the surface will again need to be washed to remove any residue left over from the staining process. Clean the surface using a neutral cleaner, such as the Kemiko Neutra Clean that was used previously in step #2. Cleaning can be accomplished using a stiff bristle brush or a floor scrubber with a scrub brush attachment. If using a floor scrubber, cleaning should be accomplished on low speed. Remove all water by squeegee or wet vac. Adequate cleaning has been achieved when no stain residue is released after wiping the cleaned surface with a white towel.

Step 5: Allow the surface to dry

After applying the color dye the surface must be allowed to dry completely. Application of a sealer on a damp surface can result in a “blushing” effect, where the sealer takes on a cloudy appearance as moisture becomes trapped inside of it.

Step 6: Apply Two Coats of Concrete Sealer

Seal the patio by applying two coats of MasonrySaver Decorative Concrete Sealer per label directions. The sealer can be applied using a brush and roller or by spraying using a garden variety pump-up type sprayer. Avoid puddling or “ponding” of the product. Allow adequate time between coats (1-2 hours) for the sealer to completely dry before applying the 2nd coat. The sealer needs to be reapplied within 4 hours. After 4 hours of cure time the sealer is too hard to bond to. Allow a minimum of 4 hours before subjecting the surface to foot traffic. Full cure of the sealer is achieved within 3-4 days.

Step 7: Wax the Surface (interior surfaces only)

It is always best to apply a protective floor finish on interior surfaces. The floor finish will help protect the sealer from being eroded by the abrasion of foot traffic. Apply 2 coats of MasonrySaver #25 Floor Finish to all non-traffic areas and apply 6 coats to all traffic areas. This product has a gloss finish when applied. If a high gloss finish is desired it can be buffed using a high speed floor buffer equipped with a polishing pad.

Step 8: Maintain the Finish

As the surface is subjected to wear, the finish will slowly deteriorate. It will be time to re-apply a coat of the finish when the floor begins to exhibit an uneven sheen. To apply a maintenance coat, simply wash the floor with a mild detergent and water, allow it dry, and re-apply one coat of the floor finish in all non-traffic areas and 3 coats in all traffic areas. Again, buff the finish to a high gloss using a high speed buffer equipped with a buffing pad.

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Masonry Efflorescence or discolored chimney


Efflorescence is a crystalline deposit of water-soluble salts (usually white) on the surface of masonry. All masonry materials are susceptible to efflorescence. Water-soluble salts that appear in chemical analysis in only a few tenths of one percent are sufficient to cause efflorescence on a masonry surface. The amount of salts and character of the deposits can vary widely, according to the nature of the soluble materials present and atmospheric conditions.

Temperature, humidity, and wind affect efflorescence. In the summer, even after long rainy periods, moisture evaporates quickly and small amounts of salt or efflorescence are brought to the surface. Usually efflorescence is more common in the winter, when the slow rate of evaporation allows the migration of salts to the surface.

Efflorescence that occurs on new construction after the masonry dries is referred to as “new building bloom”. New building bloom is generally an unsightly nuisance and no cause for concern, as it will normally weather off within a few months to a year. Efflorescence that persists in masonry walls and chimneys generally means that excess moisture is entering the system and (if not remedied) is a precursor to more serious damage.

Efflorescence producing salts are usually sulfates of sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and occasionally iron and/or carbonates of sodium, potassium, and calcium. There have been over twenty different compounds identified as crystalline deposits on masonry walls. In mortar and concrete, the hydrated cement contains some calcium hydroxide (soluble) as an inevitable product of the reaction between cement and water. When this calcium hydroxide is brought to the surface by water and combined with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere it forms calcium carbonate, which appears as a whitish deposit. Some minerals such as vanadium, molybdenum and magnesium compounds, present in some ceramic units, may produce a greenish deposit, commonly referred to as “green stain”. Occasionally, ” brown stain” may occur, resulting from the deposits of manganese compounds.

Cause and Conditions

Three conditions must exist before efflorescence will occur. First, there must be water-soluble salts present somewhere in the wall. Secondly, there must be sufficient moisture in the masonry to render the salts into a soluble solution. Thirdly, there must be a path for the soluble salts to migrate through the surface where the moisture can evaporate, deposit the salts and then crystallize. If any of these conditions is not present, efflorescence cannot occur.


Little can be done about the mineral make up or the path soluble salts may travel through an existing masonry wall. Solutions to solving efflorescence problems should focus on eliminating the source of moisture into the structure. In chimneys there are three major sources of moisture. Rainwater is the primary source of moisture that causes efflorescence in masonry chimneys; the problem is often compounded by cracks in the crown, mortar joints or masonry units. Poorly bonded or improperly filled mortar joints and faulty flashing are common sources of rainwater penetration as well. Another source of moisture that commonly occurs in masonry chimneys is condensation.

Water vapor, a natural byproduct of the combustion process, can often migrate through a system and condense within the wall. This is especially true in improperly vented high-efficiency gas furnaces in masonry chimneys and masonry chimneys with large chase areas. A third and often-overlooked source of moisture that can occur in masonry chimneys is groundwater. During heavy rains the water table may coincide with the ground surface. If the fireplace or chimney foundation does not have an adequate moisture barrier, moisture can be wicked up through the masonry by way of capillary suction. The cause of the moisture must be determined and corrective measures taken to keep water out of the chimney.

Removal Techniques

Because moisture causes efflorescence it is generally best to remove efflorescence by dry methods such as brushing, vacuuming or light sand blasting. If dry removal methods are unsatisfactory, it may be necessary to wash the surface with a diluted muriatic acid solution: generally 12 parts water to 1 part commercially available muriatic acid. (Caution: acid resistant gloves, splash goggles and other protective clothing should be worn when using any chemical solution. Precautions on label should be observed because many chemicals can affect the eyes, skin and breathing). For integrally colored concrete masonry units or mortar, a more dilute solution (15:1) may be necessary to prevent surface etching that may reveal the aggregate and change colors and textures.

Before using any chemical to clean masonry, it should be tested in a small, inconspicuous area to be certain that there will be no adverse effect. When using any chemical cleaning compounds flood the surface with clean water to prevent the chemical from being absorbed deeply in the masonry work causing damage. Application should be to a small area, not more than three or four square feet at a time. Wait about five minutes before scouring off the salt with a stiff non-metallic brush. Immediately and thoroughly flush with clean water to remove all acid. Since an acid treatment may slightly change the appearance of treated areas, it is generally best to wash the entire chimney to avoid discoloration or mottling. Green stains, which more commonly occur on buff or gray brick from vanadium or molybdenum compounds or brown salts from magnesium, should never be treated with an acid. Acids will react with these compounds and produce an insoluble brown stain or salt that is extremely difficult to remove.

To remove “green stain” dampen masonry with clean water, then wash in same manner as above with a solution of 1 part, by volume, sodium hydroxide crystals (lye) and 10 parts water and thoroughly rinse with water. If chemical and water washing must be used it is best to do this in the summer when the water will evaporate quickly and not cause additional efflorescence formations.

Efflorescence that is not the result of “new building bloom” is often a visible sign of excessive moisture in a chimney system. Chimney professionals should examine the chimney system closely and offer the appropriate corrective measures. Early detection and prevention of moisture sources that cause efflorescence can save homeowners hundreds or even thousands of dollars in future repairs.


Repairing Chimney Crowns


If you are like most home owners, you’ve probably never paid much attention to your chimney crown. A chimney crown serves as a protective covering for the chimney against harsh weather. The crown serves an important role in protecting the chimney, but most people don’t realize that the crown also needs to be protected. When left unprotected, a chimney crown will eventually crack and deteriorate.


What is Freeze-Thaw Damage?

When you light a fire in your fireplace or wood stove in the winter, it causes the chimney to heat up and cool down. As temperatures drop below freezing, any water that is absorbed into your chimney crown from rainfall will freeze and thaw, creating a process of expansion and contraction. This process eventually causes your crown to crack and deteriorate. With this in mind, it is important to prevent water from absorbing into the chimney crown in the first place.

Depending on the severity of damage to your crown, it will either need to be totally replaced or repaired. Replacement costs often run in the thousands of dollars and should be performed by a qualified chimney sweep (visit for a qualified chimney sweep in your area). If the cracks aren’t too severe to warrant total replacement, the best way to to perform a chimney crown repair it is to use an elastomeric product that will remain flexible over time.


Use an Elastomeric Coating

ChimneyRx Brushable Crown Repair is a product that can be brushed on over the entire crown surface. It protects it from the elements as well as fills in the cracks, preventing further cracking and also waterproofing the crown. The benefit to using an elastomeric product like this one is that it remains flexible over time, preventing further cracks from occurring.

The first step is to take a wire brush to the entire surface of the crown. This will remove any loose particles, mold or debris that may interfere with the adhesion of the product. Next, take some duct tape and apply it around the perimeter of the flue tile about 1″ above the crown. Apply another line of duct tape around the perimeter of the crown base. This will give you a clean edge after you are finished.

If there are any cracks on the crown, use a high quality, exterior silicone or acrylic caulk to fill in any cracks. Allow this to set for 10 or 15 minutes. Don’t worry if it’s not totally cured before moving on to the next step as the caulk will cure beneath the surface.

Take a paint brush (a cheap throw-away brush like the one pictured on the left works well) and apply a thin, first coat of ChimneyRx Brushable Crown Repair to the entire surface of the crown. Allow it to set for about 5 minutes so that it becomes tacky. Next, apply a second heavier coat. If you’re making this chimney crown repair in hot weather, it may start setting up too fast and become difficult to smooth out. If this happens, you can mist the surface lightly with water using a spray bottle. This will make the product easier to spread and a little more workable.

After you’ve covered the crown with 2 coats and have smoothed everything out evenly, remove the duct tape. Clean up your tools with soap and water and your crown is now protected from further deterioration.

Further Reading

One important point to keep in mind is when dealing with chimney leaks and water penetration, there are 3 potential problem areas. The chimney crown is one potential source and it’s important to protect it. The 2 other sources of water penetration are the brick and mortar joints and the flashing. Read more about how to prevent chimney leaks and repairing chimney flashings to find out how to provide total protection for your chimney.


The Best Way to Re-seal a Garage Floor


Have a garage floor that needs re-sealed where a previous garage floor sealer has broken down? Many things cause a garage floor sealant to wear such as: traffic from vehicles and feet, spills, scratches and scuffs.


Step 1: Clean the Surface

It will be time to apply a single maintenance coat of sealer when the surface of the garage begins to exhibit a dull or uneven appearance. When applying a maintenance coat, clean the surface using a mild detergent and water. If there are oil stains present, embedded in the concrete, they should first be removed using an oil stain remover such as Pour-N-Restore (

Step 2: Allow the surface to dry

Application of a sealer on a damp surface can result in a “blushing” effect, where the sealer takes on a cloudy appearance as moisture becomes trapped inside of it.

Step 3: Touch-up Worn Areas

If there are areas where the previous sealer has broken down completely, touch those areas with a coat of sealer prior to sealing the entire floor. This will help to create an even sheen across the entire surface of the floor and provide adequate protection against wear in those areas that have broken down.

Step 4: Apply a Single Coat of Concrete Sealer

Seal the garage by applying one coat of MasonrySaver® Decorative Concrete Sealer per label directions. The sealer can be applied using a brush and roller or by spraying using a garden variety pump-up type sprayer or airless sprayer.

Avoid puddling or “ponding” of the product. Allow a minimum of 1-2 hours dry time prior to applying 2nd coat of sealer. The 2nd coat must be applied within 4 hours dry time before subjecting the surface to foot traffic. Full cure of the sealer is achieved within 5 days. To avoid “hot tire” release of the sealer, avoid parking vehicles on the floor until full cure is achieved. Use caution as sealed surfaces will become slippery when wet.

Step 5: Maintain the sealer

It will again be time to apply a single maintenance coat of sealer when the surface of the garage begins to exhibit a dull or uneven appearance. When time, simply follow the steps again, as listed above, to keep your garage floor protected and looking new.


Home Improvement Tips for your Do It Yourself Projects