To Stain or Not to Stain

Hickory Dickory Decks 

Written by Tom Jacques, CEO and Founder, Hickory Dickory Decks

Hickory Dickory Decks opened for business in 1987 and our first few decks were pressure treated.  It was first marketed as no maintenance, and within a few years we started to market and sell cleaners, protectors and stains.  A few customers in our first year asked for B.C. Western red cedar.  The main reason was to get away from the chemicals of pressure treated wood and the beautiful look of western cedar.  With over 20 years experience, seeing thousands of wood decks and listening to our customers, I strongly suggest not to stain most cedar decks.  Our experience has shown that there is not a stain that consistently lasts for more than 1 year.  That means yearly cleaning, staining and if necessary sanding of your deck.  This is not a fun job for 99.9 percent of our customers and becomes a chore they would rather not have.  To hire someone to do this job is usually expensive and will continue to get worse.  For most decks, the staining is not done on all six sides and ends of the boards so it will not prolong the life of the deck.  A higher deck that you can stain from the top and bottom is an exception.  For best results, we suggest kiln dried material and pre stain all the material on all sides and edges.  This is a very time consuming job but will lead to the best results.  If you decide to stain your deck, make sure you research the products well and follow the manufacturer's installation exactly.  We have used a product called Superdeck for over 10 years and never had a deck peel.  It does get darker each year and will be a brown colour eventually.  If you decide that you want low maintenance, we recommend you let your cedar deck grey naturally.  It will last almost as long and in some cases longer than a stained deck, and will be a lot less work each year.  The first year, you will enjoy the beautiful natural colour and within 6 months your deck will be light grey in colour.  The flooring will grey evenly if in full sun.  The railings and skirt will take a few years to be completely grey.  To keep your deck from a dark grey or black colour, a yearly cleaning with soap and water will do.  This is a lot easier than sanding and restaining.  We have found that with the best B.C. western cedar available (architect knotty grade or clear) with stainless steel hardware from under the deck, you will get 10-15 years use before replacement.  As soon as it is 6-8 years old, you may begin replacing a few boards every year.  This will not change very much whether you stain or not, therefore if you can live with the colour grey, let it go naturally and enjoy your deck rather than work on it.  If you need colours other than grey, I strongly recommend low maintenance decking.  Good luck.