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What is best for decking, oils or stains?

Wood is a common choice for decking, this is due to the following reasons:

  • Visually appealing - wood offers a natural and timeless beauty which enhances the appearance of gardens and outside spaces.
  • Durable - high quality wood can protect against the element, making it a great choice for enhancing your garden.
  • Stability - wooden decks can support heavy loads and are sturdy, perfect for decking areas.
  • Can be treated - wooden decking can be washed, restored and further treated to prolong the life of your decking and visual appeal of your garden


Unfortunately as decking is made from a natural source it does tend to require ongoing maintenance to remain visually appealing. What causes your decking to appear unsightly?

  • Algae and mould - these thrive in cold, wet and damp areas which unfortunately leaves wooden decks susceptible to becoming slippery and dangerous, especially in periods of prolonged wet conditions 
  • If your decking is exposed in areas where leaves fall, this can also contribute to staining and slippy conditions in the autumn and winter months.
  • As wood is a natural substance it does need regular cleaning and ongoing maintenance to keep it in its original state. 

Looking for tips on how to restore your wooden decking?

In our previous article, we highlighted tips on how you can restore your decking with our range of prep products from our Osmo woodcare range.

Before you decide on a decking oil or decking stain, it is important to understand both finishes, luckily our experts have gone into more detail on the differences of these below starting with decking oils. 


Decking oils

Decking oil is a great choice if you prefer to keep the natural appearance of your wooden deck. Choosing a decking oil is commonly connected to the state of your decking, for instance, if the wood is in a good state to easily be restored back to its original woodgrain state. Decking oils offer many benefits to your decking, these mainly include:

  • Easily penetrates wood, helping to prolong the heath of wood
  • Protects against the elements and includes UV protection, like our Osmo Decking Oil
  • Prevents wood blistering, peeling etc. which can happen with other coatings
  • As oils soak into and penetrate the wood, they do not leave a coating which sometimes can result in the decking being slippery underfoot 

When to avoid decking oils?

In contrast to the benefits of decking oil, below we have outlined various reasons you should avoid decking oils, and choose a decking stain instead:

  • If your decking is in a state of disrepair or if the wood is extremely old, you would be best avoiding decking oils and opting for a decking stain instead to help hide any unsightly elements in the wood. 
  • If you are unsure of the wood type and if it has a treatment included, avoid decking oils as once this has been applied it’s not possible to paint over & this can cause further complications down the line.
  • If you’re looking to achieve an opaque or colour finish then you should avoid decking oils as these will not give you your desired end result
  • Decking oils require regular maintenance and reapplication to maintain their effectiveness. This can involve sanding or stripping off the old oil, cleaning the decking, and reapplying the oil periodically. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance option, avoiding decking oils is recommended.


What is the main difference between decking oils and stains?

  • An oil penetrates into the wood, enhancing the natural appearance, colour and strength of the natural wood whereas decking stains covers the top of the wood, creating a temporary barrier on the surface of the wood as well as adding colour to the woods surface, minimising the natural appearance of the wood. 

When to opt for decking stain?

  • When your decking is past the point of enhancing the natural wood, opting to add a coloured decking stain to help protect the decking from further weathering and footfall is the perfect decision
  • When you are looking to opt for a solid colour and move away from the natural wood appearance. You also then have the option to add this colour to other aspects areas of your garden, for instance, handrails, wooden furniture and spindles
  • If you are looking to achieve good coverage and get a great depth of colour
  • If you need to be able to walk on the decking a few hours after applying as the majority of decking stains are waterproof and can be walked on within a few hours
  • Decking stains limit and slow the rate of mould and algae growth 


When to avoid decking stains

  • If you’d prefer to keep the natural appearance of your wood, do not opt for a decking stain
  • If you regularly change your mind or easily get bored of an appearance, avoid decking stains as this isn't easy to paint over. For example, you would need to fully remove the coating, which can be challenging if your decking includes grooves
  • If your decking has previously been oiled, avoid decking stains, this is because previously oiled surfaces can repel or prevent the required adhesion that decking stains need to adhere to wooden surfaces
  • If your decking is made from a hardwood, like teak
  • If your decking is newly put down - it is recommended all wood types are given around 4-6 months to weather, this helps the surface of the wood to open and also assists on letting some of the natural oils to disperse, which is suggested before applying a decking stain


Things to look out for if applying decking stain

  • For best results, decking stain will need reapplied annually - although those that are heavily pigmented can last a lot longer
  • More solid-pigmented stains will show less of the wood grain, if this is not the look you are trying to achieve it is strongly recommended you opt for a decking oil over a decking stain
  • Undertake a small patch test to check you are happy before proceeding with the entire area
  • Keep any pets away from the decking until it’s fully dry - refer to your decking stain or oil for guidance on drying times as these vary across brands


The Best Decking Oils

  1. Jotun Demidekk Decking and Garden Stain Tinted Colours
    Jotun Demidekk Decking and Garden Stain Tinted Colours
    From £60.12 £50.10

The Best Decking Stains

  1. Jotun Demidekk Decking and Garden Stain Tinted Colours
    Jotun Demidekk Decking and Garden Stain Tinted Colours
    From £60.12 £50.10

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