Studies have shown that real wood products can have a calming, soothing effect. This is just one of the many reasons why wood decking remains the number-one choice for most American homeowners. The luster, robust color palettes, durability, longevity and wide diversity of exotic species combined with the great outdoors often provide the perfect ambiance for escaping busy, hectic lives.

And there’s more. If treated properly, high-end hardwoods used for anything from furniture to rainscreen siding can last for decades and possibly even centuries. This is even true for the hardwood decks that are constantly bombarded by extreme temperatures and even the most severe weather conditions. 

The truth is that the proper treatment, care and maintenance will not only protect the structural integrity of high-quality hardwood decks, but also ensure the same lustrous look and feel year after year. And for the best results, the final step of any wood-based installation should always surround its finish.

As a simple first note, kiln-dried wood products are typically ready to finish immediately upon receipt, while air-dried woods must reach a moisture content of 15 percent or under to properly absorb the finish. However, in most cases this usually only applies to Ipe hardwood, since most other hardwood decking products are sold kiln dried. 

Also important is the need to either pressure wash or belt sand the boards to rid the presence of underlying stains before the deck is refinished. Then again, there’s always the option of allowing the decking to age naturally on its own. In most environments, many exotic hardwoods will hold up structurally without finishing, although their appearance will change over time. In fact, the ultraviolet rays of the sun can lighten the wood’s natural coloring over time. This includes turning the deck boards gray and silver, and even possibly causing unwanted conditions like surface checking or raised or rough grains. 

That’s why it’s so important to apply at least one initial coat of an oil-based stain before or immediately after the deck’s installation. The problem is that not all oil-based stains are the same, and are often purchased at the best available price and with little forethought. 


Check the Ingredients: Quality Matters

Throughout the years, homeowners have become increasingly frustrated with the quality and longevity of off-the-shelf stain products that last little more than three months due to their watered-down, solvent-filled content. Conversely, some people assume that semitransparent or solid body stains will work on tropical hardwoods like they do on softwoods. While those stains may be composed of penetrating oils, that doesn’t mean they will actually penetrate high-density hardwood. More frequently, these solid body stains will simply form a surface layer or film that will flake or peel off over time. For instance, as a general rule solid stains typically hide the natural color in deck boards, while the transparent pigments allow the natural color to show through.

Subsequently, the best stains use high-quality oils, while avoiding low-cost alternatives like linseed oil, a vegetable oil that typically weathers within a few months and is heavily susceptible to mold and mildew. Other considerations surround the amount and quality of the UV blockers used in the mixture as well as the polymerization of the oil itself. 


Tung Oil Supplies a Solid Base for Long-Lasting Results

In today’s marketplace, the best and most advanced oil-based finishes use pure tung oil with a proprietary blend of ingredients that also often includes natural trans-oxide pigments, UV protectants and fungicides. A preferred alternative to linseed oil, tung oil is made from the nuts of the tung tree grown primarily in China to produce deep, penetrating qualities that absorb into the wood and then harden to prevent checking and cracking. Another benefit is its ability to remain flexible enough to help the wood naturally expand and contract throughout the seasons, while protecting the deck boards from moisture and severe weather conditions. 

As to the costs, the best high-quality stains are competitively priced on a sq. ft. basis since they can cover twice as much when compared to lower quality wood finishes that are often diluted with solvents to bring down the price. For instance, it is not uncommon to cover 600 to 800 sq. ft. of hardwood decking and 250 to 300 sq. ft. of softwood boards with a single gallon of the highest-quality oil-based stains. 

Another advantage is the ability to refresh the finish every year or two with a single coat as long as there aren’t significant signs of discoloration or graying. All that’s needed in such cases is the general cleaning of the decking surface and then reapplication of the stain according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Deep cleaning by pressure washing and or sanding can often be avoided because the wood itself has not had a chance to gray out. If maintenance is done more infrequently than every year or two, deep cleaning is usually required. 


A Wealth of Beautiful Color Options

To further enhance the outdoor living experience, most high-quality stain products are available in a variety of colors designed to highlight the wood decking’s colors. In addition to the natural, mahogany and walnut colors that are currently popular in decking stains, some select manufacturers offer both gray stains and black stains that can be mixed with the standard colors to provide a truly unique look. For instance, users have found that a mix from one-quarter up to one-half black walnut added to a standard walnut produces a dark and deep brown color with red undertones. Another great mix is black walnut and mahogany in similar proportions, which have been combined to create a beautiful dark mahogany tone. The gray colors can be used to help give the wood a pre-aged look and to help mute the natural reds and yellows of both hardwood and softwood.

So, never underestimate the value of quality care when looking to preserve the long-term beauty of hardwood decks. The proper choice will not only save time and money, but also provide the results everyone will admire and enjoy for years to come. 

For more information, visit or call 503-419-6407.