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Are Solid Stain and Paint the Same Thing for Deck Staining?

Solid stain and paint can look nearly identical, but they are not at all the same and should not be used interchangeably, especially when staining a deck. In this article, we will cover the differences between paint and solid stain, tips for identifying which is on your deck, which should be used on a deck, and why.

The differences between paint and solid stain

Paint and stain are very different products. Paint is a product that, when applied, applies a film layer on top of a surface to protect it from the outside elements. Stain, on the other hand, soaks into the wood to protect it from the outside elements.

Paint can be applied to nearly any material: wood, metal, plastic, and others. Stain can only be applied to porous surfaces as it is meant to soak into the material to provide protection. Both concrete and wood are porous, although stains are specially formulated for the surface they are meant to be used on, with deck stain just being meant for wood.

Although a solid stain looks like a paint it is formulated to soak into a surface to provide protection. However, solid stains will have a small film layer on top like paint.

A paint can be applied on top of a stain under normal circumstances but the opposite is not true, generally. A stain cannot be applied on top of a paint as it will have nothing to soak into. For more on this, read our article: Will Deck Stain Cover Paint? 

Color Selection for Painting
When it comes to selecting a coating, look at more than just the colors.

Tips for identifying paint or solid stain

The main difference between paint and stain is the ability to soak into a porous material. This will be the primary factor we use to identify an existing coating, although it is imperfect and one cannot know exactly what was used without having some sort of external proof as the method we will describe is imperfect.

If the existing coating is peeling, remove a chip from the coating and inspect the bottom of the chip. If wood is still attached to the chip, this hints at it being a stain, although it is not exact proof. 

Inspect the rest of the deck. Was this chip removed due to getting old or was it removed from surface damage? If it is from aging, this continues to hint at it being stained rather than painted. If it was from surface damage, it is still unclear. 

Inspect the bare wood area under the chip that was removed. Is it a lighter, yet similar, shade to the top coat? If so, odds are you are dealing with a stain and not a paint. If the underlayer of wood is untinted, paint may be the coating you are seeing.

Should I use paint or solid stain on my deck?

Paint should never be used on a deck floor, ever. As paint is a film layer, minor scratching or abrasion will cause premature peeling. Stain will adhere to the surface of the floor better and take more abuse from walking, furniture, pets, shoveling, etc. At EcoWash, we strongly encourage stain on a deck and strongly discourage paint.

There are many types of stain outside of just solid stain. If you are looking to explore options, check out our article: Which Type of Deck Stain is Best?

EcoWash Sales Internship
EcoWash Representative with Customers

Solid stain and paint may be similar in appearance, yet they are very different for the applications they are meant to be used for. When maintaining a deck, there are a lot of techniques, skills, and knowledge needed before getting started. If you are looking for more expert advice on your project, reach out to an EcoWash representative here.


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