Choosing the Right Finish for Your Deck and Railings

Shane Chapman / Backyard Building Expert

Shane Chapman

Backyard Building Expert
See Short Bio

When it comes to building and maintaining a stunning deck, choosing the right finish is as crucial as selecting the material itself. Here at The Ultimate Deck Shop, we understand that the finish not only enhances the aesthetic of your deck and railings but also plays a pivotal role in protecting the wood from the elements. This protection helps extend the life of your deck, ensuring it remains a beautiful and safe place for family gatherings, barbecues, and quiet evenings outdoors.

Across the diverse climate zones of Saskatoon and Regina, our decks are subjected to everything from intense UV rays in summer to heavy snowfalls in winter. Therefore, applying the right type of finish is not merely about beauty; it's about creating a substantial barrier against moisture, sun damage, and wear and tear. 

Analyzing Different Types of Finishes for Decks and Railings

When it comes to protecting and enhancing the aesthetic of your deck and railings, the finish you choose can make all the difference. Here at The Ultimate Deck Shop, we want to ensure you understand the variety of finishes available, each with its own unique properties and benefits. There are primarily three types of finishes: transparent, semi-transparent, and solid. Transparent stains penetrate deeply into the wood, offering a natural look that highlights the wood's inherent beauty. Semi-transparent stains provide a middle ground, offering some colour while still allowing the wood grain to show through. Solid stains, on the other hand, offer the most protection against the elements by creating a strong, opaque layer on the surface of the wood, which hides the grain but provides a rich, uniform colour.

Each type of finish has a specific use case depending on the type of wood, the climate, and the desired aesthetic appeal. For instance, if your deck is made from naturally beautiful hardwood, a transparent stain might be the best choice to showcase its patterns and colours. Conversely, if your deck has seen better days or is made from less visually appealing wood, a solid stain might be preferable to provide a fresh, uniform look.

Benefits of Stains, Paints, and Sealers for Outdoor Wood

Choosing the right finish not only enhances the look of your deck but also extends its life by providing protection against environmental factors. Stains, paints, and sealers each play an important role in wood maintenance. Stains penetrate the wood to provide colour and protect against UV rays and moisture. Paints, while similar to stains, form a thicker layer on the surface, which can protect against heavier wear and tear and provide a wider variety of colour choices.

Sealers, particularly water-repellent ones, are clear and do not contain pigment but are excellent for locking out moisture and preventing decay. They are ideal for areas with high exposure to rain and snow. The choice between these options will depend on your specific needs—whether it’s enhancing the wood's natural beauty, adding a pop of colour, or providing a robust shield against the elements. Each option has its merits, and sometimes, it's even beneficial to use a combination of these treatments for optimal protection. For instance, applying a stain for colour followed by a sealer can enhance the aesthetic while fortifying the wood against moisture and rot, ensuring your deck remains both beautiful and durable throughout the seasons.

How to Apply Finish to Decks and Railings Correctly

Applying finish to your deck and railings is essential to ensure that your outdoor living space remains not only visually appealing but also structurally sound. At The Ultimate Deck Shop, we understand that proper application is key to getting the most out of your chosen finish. The first step is to ensure that the wood is clean and free from any dirt, grime, or previous finishes. Use a wood cleaner or pressure washer to thoroughly clean the surface, which helps the new finish adhere better and last longer.

Once the deck is clean and dry, apply the finish using a brush, roller, or sprayer, depending on the type of product you are using. For stains and sealers, a brush works best to ensure that the product penetrates deep into the wood. Be sure to apply the finish in even, thin layers, working along the grain of the wood. Pay special attention to end grains and crevices where moisture tends to accumulate. Allow ample time for the first coat to dry before applying subsequent coats if necessary. Properly applying the finish not only enhances the look of your deck but also forms an effective barrier against moisture and UV damage.

Maintenance Tips to Extend the Life of Your Deck's Finish

Maintaining the finish on your deck is crucial in extending the life of both the finish and the deck itself. Depending on the type of finish and the exposure to elements, the frequency of maintenance can vary. As a general guide, inspect your deck annually for any signs of wear such as chipping, fading, or wear in high-traffic areas. Cleaning your deck at least once a year with a gentle deck cleaner can prevent the buildup of dirt and grime that can wear down the finish over time.

If you notice any damage or wear to the finish, address it promptly. For minor scuffs and fading, a light touch-up with the same finish can be sufficient. However, for more significant deterioration, it may be necessary to reapply a full coat of the finish to ensure continuing protection against moisture and decay. Remember, the key to long-lasting wood protection is not just in the initial application but in consistent maintenance throughout the life of the deck.


At The Ultimate Deck Shop, we are dedicated to helping you protect and enhance your deck. With our range of high-quality supplies and expert advice, we ensure that you have the tools and knowledge to keep your deck in pristine condition year after year. 

The Ultimate Deck Shop provides building supplies in Regina and deck services for DIY and pro deck builders in Saskatoon and Regina. Whether you're updating your old deck or starting fresh, count on us for the best products and guidance. Contact us today, and let us help you make the most of your outdoor space.

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About the Editor...

Shane Chapman // Backyard Building Expert

Shane Chapman, President and Co-Founder of The Ultimate Deck Shop, is a seasoned expert in the deck building industry. A former award winning deck builder (Fresh Decks), he now leads Canada’s top destination for backyard building materials.

Shane is committed to simplifying the shopping experience, providing exceptional customer service, and empowering both DIYers and professionals with his expert advice.

Get in touch with Shane to connect, collaborate or ask questions at LinkedIn.