7 Best Semi-Transparent Deck Stains Review

To make your house into your home, you want to make it your own. And staining your wooden decks and surfaces adds to the beauty of your home. There are several kinds of stains you can apply for beautification and protection.

One of the modern choices is a semi-transparent stain for wood. They penetrate the wood for protection and give it a pleasing look by keeping the grain visible. And a high-end product will give you a timeless finish for years to come.

For your convenience, this is our best semi-transparent deck stains review. You can find the best available options here, along with information about their features and quirks.

Ready Seal 512  Pail Natural Cedar Exterior Stain and Sealer for Wood

If you’re staining outdoor surfaces like a deck or fences, you’ll want to make sure it’s immune to mildew, algae, and UV rays. This oil-based item is great for such scenarios. It works as a sealer as well as a stain, minimizing wood damage.

There is no need to apply a bonding primer before staining, as long as the surface is clean and does not have a layer of sealer. You can use a brush, roller, or sprayer for application. It leaves no streaks or laps, leaving a consistent finish.

As the name suggests, this semi-permanent stain leaves the original grain of the wood visible. The finish looks true to the nature of the wood you’ve used and yet appealing. You don’t need to sand the surface again for the stain.

This stain’s ingredients include paraffin oil, trans-oxide pigments, algaecide, and binding resins that protect the wood for years. It can withstand outdoor wear decently, making it usable as an outdoor wood sealer. However, since it also works as a sealer, you have to sand it off for a fresh stain later on. 

If you’re using the same stain, though, you can easily recoat over the existing finish. One great feature of this thing is that you can apply it at any temperature without a hiccup. You don’t even need to dilute the liquid before application, making for easier usage.

Moreover, the stain dries within three days, but the actual color takes two weeks to set in. The dry-time also depends on the wood’s porosity, but you will get great results if you’re patient.


  • Resists water, UV rays, and mildew
  • Available in many colors
  • No primer needed
  • Can handle any temperature
  • No streaks or laps


  • Takes two weeks
  • Cannot be applied over paint

2. DEFY Extreme 1 Gallon Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood Stain

DEFY Extreme 1 Gallon Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood Stain

Even some of the best stains can turn gray over time. Defy Extreme drastically tackles this issue with their zinc nano-technology. Over 30 trillion nanoparticles spread out over one square inch to provide weather protection that lasts longer than other stains.

This water-based liquid provides a translucent, matte finish that looks classy. You can see the grain of the wooden surface through the coating too. This outdoor wood stain actively reflects UV rays and protects against moisture and mildew.

Consumer reviews have shown that this product lasts one or two seasons longer than most stains, preventing graying over time. It works amazingly both outdoors and indoors, good for pressure treated wood as well. Thus, if you were looking for a solution that can perform indoors as well, you can use this as a wood stain for indoor furniture.

Due to its water-based composition, clean-up is easy. You don’t have to worry about spills; wipe with water to quickly remove them – yes, you don't have to employ any stain remover for wood here.

The company also sells its proprietary brightener for upkeep over the years. There is no need to sand the wood before a recoat.

Application with this stain is not too complicated either. You can use a brush, an airless sprayer, or a pump spray over the surface you want to cover. There is no need to mix it with any other preparation solution; it’s ready for use instantly.

While deciding what color you want to apply, you have a decent range of options. You have the freedom to choose the perfect stain tint. The semi-transparent finish blends well with the exact shade of the surface. For expensive woods, there is also a clear finish available.


  • Superior durability
  • Easy to maintain
  • Dampness-resistant
  • Environment friendly
  • Does not gray easily


  • More transparent than semi-transparent
  • Can look muddy at first

3. #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain for Decks

#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain for Decks

In the world of sealant stains, not every commodity does both perfectly. There are exceptions, however. This item penetrates the wood to its core to seal it all-through and makes sure it looks great. You don’t have to worry about trapped moisture rotting the insides.

Unlike other options, you need to make sure the wood is dry and clean before staining it. The result is remarkable with its semi-transparent finish. And the wood’s natural grain remains visible through the coating, leaving it secured for a long time.

The product is one that can last years of weathering indoors and outdoors. It resists moisture well, which is great for decks, fences, sidings, and playsets. Don’t worry; a little rain is no big thing for this sealing agent that’s also a stain.

You have no reason to concern yourself with graying over time, either. This thing can resist UV rays pretty well, leaving the finish unharmed. It’s a water-based liquid and is very easy to clean up. Just regular soap and water works fine.

Depending on the wood, your choices of tint will vary. There are several options to choose from, luckily. This stain is particularly well-suited to softwoods like fir, cedar, or redwood. Hardwoods will require a more generous application, though.

While stronger formulas do a quicker job, ones with a low VOC are useful too. They can be light, but they are more subtle in effect and are friendlier to the environment. Besides, not all states allow high-VOC stains; California is one of them.


  • Both stain and sealer
  • Protects against UV rays
  • Suitable with all softwoods
  • Cleaning is easy
  • Low VOC


  • Gets saturated over time
  • Cannot apply while wet

4. BEHR Premium #ST-533 Cedar Naturaltone Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Stain and Sealer

BEHR Premium #ST-533 Cedar Naturaltone Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Stain and Sealer

While the average homemaker might pat themselves on the back after a decent stain, professionals and enthusiasts want the perfect wood shade for their deck. Behr’s quality product comes at over sixty different colors so you can find the perfect stain for your perfect home.

Color-coordination is important, but looks aren’t everything. There’s no point in using the item if it won’t last awhile in good condition. This 100% acrylic formula is great at penetrating the wood for a thorough sealing that can last up to six years of weather-beatings.

It has a very quick drying time, and you can see the final result in a matter of days. The faster the coating dries, the faster you can apply the necessary recoat. With the wide range of colors to choose from, you can see your perfect finish in no time.

The wood needs to be cleaned and dried before application, which makes for a slightly slower workflow. You need to sand any pre-sealed surface before application. While moderately weathered wood works fine, it’s best to apply the stain over a healthy deck.

After it sets in, the stain provides reliable protection for a considerable time. It can resist water and UV rays to lengthen the wood’s lifetime and keep it looking classy.

There have been some long-term weathering complaints, but you would want to recoat by that time anyway. It provides decent longevity, good quality, and a great appearance as stain and sealant.


  • Waterproof finish
  • 100% acrylic formula
  • More than 60 colors
  • Dries fast
  • Lasts a long time


  • Might flake or mold
  • Needs sanding and dry surface

5. KILZ L832211 Exterior Waterproofing Wood Stain

KILZ L832211 Exterior Waterproofing Wood Stain

While one product does one feature great, it messes up another. This semi-transparent stain does everything well and reliably so. It has decent longevity, good coverage, resistance to mildew and weathering, and it’s completely acrylic. The Kilz is an all-around option you can trust.

With a 100% acrylic composition, the item resists water well. It can withstand the usual rain and snow with no issue. The finish lasts over three years on deck and at least five years on sidings and fences. It is also resistant to mildew and UV rays.

Economic use is important for a lot of people. And this thing will not disappoint you. On a fresh coat, one container can cover up to 250 square feet. If you’re recoating, you can go even further; the coverage for a recoat is over 500 square feet.

Any unsealed wood surface is suitable for staining with this item. Sealants cover up the pores of the wood, preventing future penetration. In such a case, you would want to sand it before applying. Make sure to keep the wood dry for 24 hours before staining.

While a new timbre is an optimal choice, any wood 0-10 years old will hold the stain just fine. If your finish gets old and you want to do some upkeep, try using this company’s brightener and composite deck cleaner. They are a good match for this product.

This thing is consistent for use in your backyard. Be it for your deck or your patio furniture, the fences, or the shingles; it does a decent job.


  • Water-resistant
  • Prevents mildew damage
  • Works on old wood
  • Covers 250-500 square feet
  • Lasts more than five years


  • Coverage varies
  • Requires special paint pad

6. Cabot 140.0003495.007 Australian Timber Oil Stain

Cabot 140.0003495.007 Australian Timber Oil Stain

Woodworkers and artisans often want superior durability and quality of finish, even if it is difficult. This Australian oil stain is a rare product that conserves the toughest hardwood, though the process is a little draining.

The Cabot was designed primarily for hardwoods available in Australia like tallowwood and cambara. Artisans soon realized that it’s a perfect stain for hardwoods like mahogany and teak. It lasts for many years and does not fade its rich color easily.

The wood's surface, like mahogany, forms a beautiful semi-transparent protective layer that shows through the timber’s rich texture. Since oil never mixes with water, it unfailingly resists water and prevents moisture decay. Mildew is not a problem either.

This stain effectively absorbs sunlight; thus, there’s no damage from UV rays. It has a combination of iron oxide that helps in the absorption process, unlike a zinc oxide compound that reflects UV rays. The finish can last long periods in direct sunlight without fading away.

There is linseed oil infused in this liquid that makes for deep penetration within the wood. South American tung oil provides rich color to the timber as well as repels water. The finish doesn’t gray over the years, thanks to the long-oil alkyds in the oil.

Remember to clean the wood well of mildew and dust before applying the oil. Try drying it in sunlight for a couple of days to ensure zero trapped moisture within the wood. This thing can last more than a decade if used properly.


  • Great penetration
  • High coverage area
  • Unparalleled water-resistance
  • Absorbs sunlight
  • Lasts long


  • Only good for hardwoods
  • Stains hands and clothes

7. Thompson’s Waterseal TH.042851-16 Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Stain

Thompson’s Waterseal TH.042851-16 Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Stain

Thompson’s is one of the best available options in the market, even with all the competition. It lasts a long time, more than many other stains do. Its customer base is loyal because of the quality and durability this item provides.

This product contains advanced polymers that secure the finish from weathering. Its color doesn’t fade for a substantial period, keeping recoating frequency hassle-free. The polymers soak into the wood and block its pores so that water cannot enter.

While the solution is a great choice for all kinds of environments, it performs well outdoors. It resists mildew that damages the timber, and it gives UV protection too. The average lifetime of the finish you’re going to get is above four years in normal weather; it can last up to six years in optimal conditions.

Since the liquid seals the wood from the outside, it is important to ensure no moisture or dust is beneath the coating. For optimal results, dry the wood properly and clean it before applying the stain. You will notice further longevity if the wood is new.

A semi-transparent finish means you can see through the stain and notice the wood’s visible grain itself. This thing makes for a slightly more matte finish. However, the brand has some interesting colors available. Sequoia red and woodland cedar are mentionable ones. Now, if you're specifically looking for a cedar siding stain, you can look here.

With its waterproofing and durability, this product is a safe option to buy for staining your deck. It comes in luxurious colors that make your deck stand out.


  • Polymer infused technology
  • Effective water-resistance
  • Doesn’t easily fade
  • Interesting colors
  • One coat is enough


  • Requires prepared wood
  • Cloudy finish

What to Look for Before Buying?

A semi-transparent wood stain is a worthwhile investment. It brings out the natural color and grain of the wood, alongside protecting and enhancing it. While it makes for a safer deck overall, it also makes cleaning easy.

There are many options to choose from on the market, and most of them are great products. However, your choice of stain will depend on some specific factors. To choose from our list of the best semi-transparent deck stains, you should consider the following things:

Applying the Product

Most deck stains also work as sealants. They block the wood from every foreign element. However, the coating can also trap moisture and dirt inside and on the wood itself. It’s a great idea to clean and dry the wood you’re about to stain in most cases.

Dusty wood, after it is stained, looks uneven and like an amateur job. You can use a pressure cleaner to get rid of dust and dry the timber in the sun to vaporize moisture. Well-treated wood looks and feels great after it’s stained. Here, you can use the best primer for treated wood as well to get the best results.

Semi-Transparent Deck Stains

Apply thin coats of the liquid to ensure consistent absorption. You can use a wood staining brush, a sprayer, or a cloth to apply it; it depends on the product. Read the instructions included with the item for the best application.

Type of Wood

There are several kinds of wood you might use on your deck. What stain you use will depend heavily on the wood. Lightwoods are affordable and easy to stain; they are more suitable with water-based stains. On the other hand, hardwoods prefer oil-based stains for better penetration.

Pressure-treated wood can be a good option, as they are less prone to decay and rot. They require less frequent recoats as well. Composite wood, however, is very different from all the other ones. It requires no maintenance.

Exposure to the Elements

Weathering is a big issue when it comes to choosing a stain. While most options have some water and sunlight resistance, their extents vary. Some products are well-suited to one particular region, while others might not be.

Semi-Transparent Deck Stains

Look into the specific types of recommended stain in your region, factoring in rainfall, temperature, and seasonal changes. If the stain is suitable for a different place, it won’t perform well no matter its quality. Remember, even if you get a deck stain for weathered wood, that doesn't guarantee you the best outcome.

Oil-Based or Water-Based?

While the purpose of both is the same, oil-based stains work differently than water-based ones. The two are individually good for two kinds of wood. Water-based items perform well on lightwoods, and oil-based ones go well with hardwoods.

Oil-Based Stain

These are extremely reliable in harsh weather conditions. They penetrate the wood better and provide great water-resistance. While it takes oil-based liquids longer to dry, they are more durable.

Water-Based Stain

These things are more breathable, so they don’t trap moisture inside the wood. Water-based stains hold color better than others but are easy to clean. They’re particularly good for woods that tend to decay, like redwood.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does it take for semi-transparent deck stain to dry?

Most semi-transparent deck stains dry within 24-48 hours of application. The time is usually optimally maintained in dry weather, avoiding direct sunlight. However, some products can dry within 12 hours of application.

2. What is the best way to apply a semi-transparent deck stain?

You can apply these liquids with a brush, a sprayer, paint pads, or a roller. Usually, any of these methods work fine. Sometimes, products will specify which method to use for applying them.

3. How many coats of deck stain should I use?

You should only apply as much stain as the wood can absorb at a time, as a rule of thumb. For most kinds of wood, two coats are enough. However, dense hardwoods often require only one coat.

4. Can you put too much stain on a deck?

Yes, you can. The best way to apply it is in thin coats at a time over the surface. If you apply too much deck stain, it will form blobs that won’t sink in properly. Eventually, they will end up becoming uneven imperfections on the finish.

5. Will dew affect deck stain?

Dew is tiny particles of floating water. We recommend that you don't stain your deck at night because the dew will form on the yet-to-dry stain, and the moisture will damage the coating's integrity. The best time to stain your deck is in the morning or the afternoon.

6. Do you wipe off excess semi-transparent stain?

When staining your deck, always keep a rag around to wipe off excess liquid in one spot. If you're going to coat more than once, finish the first coat before wiping off the excess spots.

Final Words

Applying a deck stain can be fulfilling, but it's also a tricky job. Making the right choice is very important. For you, we've come up with the best semi-transparent deck stains review. These handpicked products are the best in the market and perfect for all kinds of decks.

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