What’s the difference between oiling and staining decking?

staining a deck

Treating your deck generally means one of two things: oiling it or staining it. Though they’re both intended for slightly different purposes, they do share certain characteristics, which means that it’s often easy to get confused on the differences between oiling and staining your deck. Luckily, we’ve got you covered here at Savoy Timber; we’ve broken down decking oils and decking stains side-by-side for you in the table below, so you can get a clearer idea of which does what. First off…

What are oils and stains?

Decking oils

A protective, practical measure mainly designed to preserve the wood while helping to replace the natural oils of the timber, which fade over time. (Decking oil generally isn’t designed to change the colour of the decking boards, but some can sometimes darken the wood.)

Decking stains

Decking stains are designed first and foremost to change the colour of the decking boards, enhancing the appearance of the timber by highlighting the natural grain.

How do oils and stains work?

Decking oils

Decking oils can be either water based or oil based. Both work by penetrating deeply into the decking boards and working from within to protect the wood from water damage, as well as preventing cracks, splitting and warping of the decking boards.

Decking stains

Decking stains are mostly varnish-like products that coat the surface of the deck, building a plastic-like filmy layer over its surface to seal the decking timbers and protect them from the elements (including sun, rain, mould and algae).

decking stain

What do oils and stains protect against?

Decking oils

Decking oils are rainproof, and many contain ultraviolet filters or blockers which act to slow down the effect of sun damage and water damage to the timber. Due to the deep penetration into the wood and its effectiveness at sealing the water out, decking oils provide excellent protection against mould and fungus.

Decking stains

As well as doing brilliantly at their intended purpose to change the colour of the wood, decking stains can also provide a high level of UV protection. As a bonus, if the stain is carried in an oil then it will effectively preserve the wood at the same time (although if it’s a water-based stain, it’ll provide UV protection only). For many of the same reasons, though it’s not their primary purpose, most decking stains provide decent protection from mould and algae.

How often will I need to re-apply oil or stains?

Decking oils

Depending on whether you’re using a water based or non water based oil, you’ll probably need to apply it once every six to eighteen months. To be honest, the exact answer is probably down to your own opinion of how good you think your garden decking looks!

Decking stains

If you’re using a transparent stain, chances are you’ll only need to re-stain the wood once a year. If you’re using a solid-pigmented variant, it might even be as infrequently as once every five years. Again, it probably depends on how good it all looks!

Our top tips to successfully oiling or staining your decking

Whatever you happen to be doing, there are some tips and tricks that always hold true for best results:

  • It’s best to stir the contents of the tin thoroughly for at least a few minutes before you begin the task of properly applying it. This way, the colour pigments and other important compounds are properly spread throughout the mixture, not concentrated at the bottom of the can.
  • Don’t do the entire deck straightaway – make sure you do a test patch first, and allow it to fully dry so you can see how the entire deck will turn out. If you can do this in an out-of-the-way section of your decking, all the better (just in case it goes wrong)!
  • Keep an eye on the weather in the run up to treating your deck, whether you’re oiling or staining it. You’ll need the weather to be dry for at least the minimum drying length stated on the tin. If it’s damp or wet it’s not necessarily the end of the world, but the likelihood is that the final finish won’t be quite as high-quality as it would be in all-dry weather.

That’s pretty much all there is to it! If you’re looking to get started oiling your deck, we stock the fantastic Liberon Decking Oil here at Savoy Timber, available to buy online or at any of our three DIY stores in Preston, Blackpool or Wigan. Why not stop by your local, take a browse and see how we can help get your decking shipshape in time for summer?