Why is my deck stain fading?

Deck stain fading is a normal result of weathering in Australia. Every deck stain will change colour when exposed to the harsh effects of UV rays, water and dirt. However even though your deck will start to lose the richness of its stain, it is still being protected by the penetrating oil you applied to the decking timber.

Penetrating oils such as Equisol Pro E365 are designed to penetrate into the timber, giving your exterior decking protection. It will minimise cracking and warping. This gives your deck a longer lifespan.

Fixing a cracked and warped deck can be costly. Reapplying a stain is generally just a maintenance issue with a relatively small outlay.

If you find that the colour is no longer to your liking, and you want to re-stain, you need to prepare your timber to be able to receive more oil. Too much oil in the timber results in the oil sitting on the surface with less than desirable results. Too much dirt or contaminants on the deck surface from weather and traffic will restrict the oil and the colour from penetrating. Instructions on how to recoat timber are available here.

“Is my deck still protected when the colour fades?”

Yes! It’s important to remember that colour and protection are two different things. A faded and grey deck with oil applied in the last 12 months is still very well protected against the elements.

“How long before I can expect fading on my timber deck?”

This will depend on the environment your timber is exposed to. Beachside decks, for example, will have a harder time keeping their colour compared to milder more sheltered climates.

The other factor is the type of timber you have used. Hardwoods hold colour longer than softwoods. A high grade, denser timber will also hold its colour longer.

How much rain you get is a big indicator as well. Heavy rainfall areas will experience a faster fade than dryer climates. It’s not always practical, but if you can, keep your deck under cover. This also helps protect it from environmental debris like bird droppings, tree sap etc etc.

“Which colours fade fastest?”

Dark brown on a light timber will fade faster than say pale brown on a pine. The bigger the difference in colour between the natural timber pigment and the colour tone, the bigger the movement in colour as time progresses.

“Will a decking paint achieve longer lasting results?”

A film forming coating may look good, but the timber underneath that paint or film can be experiencing all kinds of problems. Because of the coating, you won’t be aware of it until it’s too late. Paint is not 100% waterproof, and its porous nature will allow water to get into the timber and it is very difficult for it to escape – that means mould, mildew and rot for your deck. In addition, it’s impossible to paint every surface where a screw is penetrating the timber. So the deck has lots of vulnerability.

Poly-urethane coatings (known as film coatings) offer great protection but over time they become brittle from UV exposure and can no longer stretch and shrink with the timber as it experiences heat, cold and moisture. Eventually the film coat will crack, letting water in. That’s when the real damage begins, and the painful work of stripping and sanding off the failed coating.

The benefits of a penetrating oil is that it replenishes the timber with the oil and aids the longevity of the cells in the fibre. Timber is a natural product, and is naturally geared to decompose over time. The penetrating oil extends the life of timber by offering it ongoing stability to prevent cracking, warping, splitting and so on. If you keep up your maintenance, your decking will last a long time.

"What can I do to make my deck stain lasts longer?"

  • Don’t clean your deck with domestic cleaning products intended for floor or driveways. These often have caustic chemicals or bleaching agents which will fade the pigments in the stain and also the timber. Generally they are also bad for timber.
  • Wash your deck regularly with a specially formulated deck cleaner (weekly or bi-weekly). This helps to keep acidic bird and animal droppings and sap away from the timber, as well as dirt that can get ground in through traffic wearing away at your timber.
  • Choose a stain that suits your timber. If you aren’t sure, ask an expert.
  • Build your deck under a roof, if you can. This offers protection from the unforgiving UV of the Aussie sun.
  • When applying the oil and stain, make sure you have prepped the timber appropriately. Don’t take short cuts, and follow manufacturer’s instructions to the letter.
  • Keep a diary of when your deck should expect a recoat. Monitor the timeline across the years and you will start to understand the needs of your exterior timber better. New decks need a few frequent re-oils to build up the oils inside the timber. Your deck may need recoating every 10 months if you are in an extremely harsh environment or have a huge dirt load on the deck.