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How Much Does It Cost To Stain A Deck?

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There are many factors for homeowners to consider when staining a deck. This includes if a homeowner is going to do the work himself or if he or she is going to hire a deck contractor to do it. Homeowners also have to consider what kind of stain they are going to use. Higher quality stains, while providing better protection, will cost more per square foot. You should be aware there’s a significant difference between staining, sealing and waterproofing your deck. Your space might require one over the other, which can cause a significant difference in total cost.

On This Page:

  1. Deck Staining Costs
  2. Labor Costs
  3. Advantages & Disadvantages of Deck Staining
  4. Staining vs. Sealing vs. Waterproofing
  5. Pressure or Power Washing the Deck
  6. Hiring a Deck Contractor
  7. DIY Deck Staining Tips & Cost

Cost to Stain a Deck

The average cost to stain a deck is between $540 and $1,050, depending on the size of your deck and what type you use. Most stains come in 1-gallon containers and provide around 200 to 300 square feet of coverage depending on the thickness of the stain. On average, it is good to estimate around 250 square feet of coverage. This means that 2 gallons of stain is needed to cover a 500-square-foot deck.

The price of stain varies depending on its quality. On average, look at spending around $20 per gallon for low-grade stain. High-grade stain can cost upwards of $120 per gallon. Other materials that may be needed include tape and paintbrushes. These supplies are usually fairly inexpensive and can be purchased at any home improvement store. Both can be purchased for around $10 to $20.

Some professional services may offer different types of treatments that vary in cost depending on the condition of your deck, its age, and what kind of maintenance it has seen. Here are some basic ways a professional might restore your deck:

  • Power sanding, stain and seal – This is a very aggressive procedure normally used on decks that have not been well kept or are changing color. The average cost is $2 to $4 per square foot.
  • Light sanding, stain and seal – This is a general annual treatment for a deck. Some services may charge a flat rate while others charge depending on the size of the deck. It typically costs between $1 and $1.50 per square foot.
  • Power washing, stain and seal – This is used for light maintenance, such as cleaning and sealing. Depending on the deck size and surface condition, it can cost between $0.50 and $1.50 per square foot.
  • Rails and spindles – This is often an extra charge and should be based on the total length of the rails. If a service wants to include the length of each spindle, find another service! The price is usually for rails of average height (3’- 3.5’). Power washing with stain and seal should cost about $4 per linear foot. Power sanding with stain and seal depends on the railing style, paint, or color change and can cost between $6.50 and $12.50.
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Deck Staining Labor Costs

The most expensive thing to consider when adding up the cost of staining a deck is the price of labor. If the homeowner is willing to stain the deck himself, then this considerably brings down the cost. The homeowner only has to worry about the cost of materials and personal time. However, if he chooses to hire a contractor, then the cost of labor comes into play.

The average time it takes to stain a deck is between 3-5 hours and 20 hours per 500 square feet. So if the homeowner is going to use a professional contractor, he has to assume that he will need to pay for close to 20 hours of labor. The cost of hiring a contractor differs depending on:

  • The cost of living in a certain area
  • Overall quality
  • General rate set by the contractor

On average, the cost of low-end labor to stain a deck will cost around $540 per 500 square feet. High-end labor could cost as much as $1,050 per 500 square feet. Prices will be on the higher end if the contractor is insured, bonded and licensed, but this additional cost provides greater protection to the homeowner.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Deck Staining

It is also important to know the advantages and disadvantages. With this information, homeowners can make knowledgeable decisions on whether staining their deck is something they would like to do.


  • Staining protects against mold, aging and insects
  • Can add a decorative look to your deck
  • Adds protection against sun damage
  • Adds value to a deck


  • Can be costly for large decks
  • Very time-consuming as a DIY project
  • Stains contain chemicals that can be harmful to humans and animals.
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The Difference Between Staining, Sealing & Waterproofing

Some sealers are sold as waterproofing sealers. Some stains are sold as sealing stains. There are even stains that are sold as waterproofing sealing stains. Some sealers have stain in them. So what’s the difference, and which one should you use?

There’s an old adage that says “Do one job and do it well.” A product that tries to do two jobs has to sacrifice a little of each to do them both equally well. Some of these combination products do one or the other as a primary job and perform less adequately on the other. Before we discuss combination products, let’s look at the three steps and what they’re all about:

Staining a Deck

Stain works best on new wood. It brings out the beauty of the grain and can darken the wood a bit depending on if you use a clear or tinted stain. Weathered decks often need to be cleaned and have a brightener applied, followed by a stain. They can, however, be brought back to life. Most professionals recommend painting a weathered deck.

Wood stain is made up of pigment (the color medium) in a carrier with a binder (alkyd, oil, or resin) that binds the pigment to the wood. The binder makes it possible for the pigment to penetrate the small openings left as the wood dries. The result is a transparent tint that leaves the features of the surface, such as the wood grain, visible.

All stains are not created equal. There are several types and each one has its own pros and cons:

  • Water-based – These have been increasing in the marketplace as VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) laws change across the country. (VOCs are the solids that are left behind after everything else evaporates and are usually simple mineral spirits or turpentine.) So far, popular opinion is that they do not work as well as other stains, resembling “thin paint” more than wood stain.
    • Pros: Environmentally friendly, easy water clean up, less chance for mold or mildew.
    • Cons: Doesn’t penetrate as well as oil-based stains, harder to apply (they dry quicker), prone to peeling and wearing.
  • Oil-based – These typically use natural and synthetic oils. They’ve been around for about 30 years and are what most stain manufacturers produce.
    • Pros: Excellent penetration, easy to apply, more of a natural look.
    • Cons: Longer dry and cure time, stronger odor, some can promote mildew, some can darken in color over time.
  • Solid – Available in both water-based and oil-based, these look more like paints. You won’t be able to see the wood grain and if you strip it off, you might never truly remove the color.
    • Pros: Excellent protection against UV rays, works well on older, damaged, or permanently stained wood.
    • Cons: Does not penetrate well, tends to peel, looks like paint, harder to apply, might not ever be effectively removed.
  • Semi-solid – These contain a lot of pigment and will show a small amount of wood grain. They are available in both water-based and oil-based, but not every manufacturer produces them.
    • Pros: Very good UV protection.
    • Cons: Doesn’t let much of the grain show through, oil-based performs much better than the water-based version.
  • Semi-transparent – The pigments in these stains highlight the wood grain while providing a sealer for the surface. Both water-based and oil-based are available.
    • Pros: Average to above-average UV protection, good penetration, easy to clean and re-coat, easily removable with stripper.
    • Cons: Water-based versions tend to perform poorly, may be of limited availability in your state due to VOC laws.
  • Transparent – This is not the same as “clear” (below). It contains a minimal amount of pigment, and is generally only available in oil-based.
    • Pros: Very easy to apply and reapply, lets natural wood show through.
    • Cons: Generally only lasts a year.
  • Clear: Clear stain contains no pigment and is sometimes used as a sealer.
    • Pros: Extremely easy to apply, it doesn’t change the look of the wood at all.
    • Cons: Little to no UV protection, oxidizes and turns grey within a matter of months.

You might see stains referred to as “Drying” or “Non-drying.” Drying stains are also called curing stains. They go onto the top of the wood or just below the surface and dry there. This can help with sealing the deck. Non-drying stains penetrate deep into the wood and condition the wood cells. One of the most common is paraffin oil (not paraffin wax, but oil). All stains provide some degree of help with sealing, but for maximum protection they should not be used in place of a sealer.

Sealing a Deck

Sealers work by penetrating the wood to protect it from rot-causing moisture. Molds and algae can prevent a sealer from getting to the wood, so your deck has to be thoroughly cleaned before applying or reapplying sealer. Sealers are permeable; they allow the wood to “breathe,” allowing normal humidity to enter and leave over the course of the day. They prevent excessive moisture, like rain droplets, from getting into the wood and staying there. The more pigment a sealer has, the less permeable it is.

Waterproofing a Deck

Waterproofing and sealing are not the same thing. Though some sealers provide some waterproofing, a separate coat of waterproofing is your best bet against problems caused by moisture. The best way to find out if your deck needs waterproofing is to sprinkle some water onto it. If it beads up, you’re fine. If it soaks in, you need to waterproof your deck.

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Pressure or Power Washing a Deck

If the deck is dirty, it might be necessary to power wash it before staining. The cost of using a pressure washer depends on whether you rent/buy one or hire a professional. Renting a pressure washer can cost around $50 to $65 a day or between $150 for a low-end model to over $1,500 for a top-end model. If you hire a professional to power wash your deck ahead of time, the cost is around $300. Note that using a pressure washer is cold pressurized water. A power washer makes use of hot water and get at really crusted debris.

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Hiring a Deck Pro

Some homeowners hire general contractors to supervise or organize certain projects. The cost of hiring a contractor to supervise a project differs depending on project time. As a general rule of thumb, it is usually a good idea to add around 10 to 20 percent onto the total cost.

Before hiring a contractor to supervise a project like staining a deck, homeowners need to find out from the contractor what his “supervising” entails. This makes it easier to understand just what will happen and what the homeowners are getting for their money. Sometimes, the price of hiring a contractor to supervise is worth it just for the piece of mind that a trained professional is overseeing the entire project. You can also hire a deck contractor to do the entire project and save you some time.

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DIY Deck Staining Tips

If you decide to stain your deck as a DIY project, here are few things to keep in mind:

  • Materials can cost between $20 and $250, depending on stain and size of deck.
  • You will have to strip the deck beforehand, which means the whole process will take several days.
  • You will need to remove all accessories ahead of time and cover any plants with plastic sheeting.   
  • Sand the wood thoroughly and then clean the wood deck with a power or pressure washer. You might need to hire a professional power washer because of personal injury risks involved with using this equipment. Allow it to sit for 1-2 days.
  • Never apply a stain when it’s above 80 degrees outside, because it will dry too quickly and crack or peel.

Understand there are some risks involved with staining a deck, like ending up with an uneven coat on the deck. Also make sure and keep pets or children off of the deck during the staining process, or else you could end up with pawprints and footprints in the stain. Choose your stain carefully, because you want it to last a long time. If you want to take the time and put in the elbow grease to stain a deck though, it could save you the money on professional deck staining.

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