How Many Coats of Deck Stain to Apply

The general rule of thumb is to apply only as much deck stain as the wood can absorb. Typically this will be 2 coats, unless your dealing with extremely dense hardwoods which may only be able to absorb 1 coat of wood stain. Watch this video to see more tips on how many coats of stain to apply.


  1. Linda says:

    We applied one thin coar of Defy clear stain today – can we apply a second coat tomorrow ?? We used Defy a Cleaner and brightened yesterday ….

    • customerservice says:

      Linda, Once you apply a coat of stain and it dries, you can’t apply another coat, the second coat will be repelled and you will see peeling. Give it another year and once the deck starts absorbing water you can apply another maintenance coat.

  2. dave says:

    you suggest 2 coats DEFY Extreme 5 Gallon Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood Stain, Redwood
    do I cut it in twice and then do the floor twice.
    I was worried after cutting it in and doing the floor, I would mess up the floor while cutting in the second time.
    When can I walk on it after the first coat.

    • customerservice says:

      Dave, when you apply the stain I work in small sections, I’ll do 3 or 4 boards at a time. I’ll cut in those boards, then apply the stain with a push brush or car wash brush, and once I reach the end of the boards I cut in again those same areas and then reapply. I will work my across the entire deck using that method.

  3. Mary cousins says:

    I know Now…obvious to late since stain is wet to wet and you say redo second coat in a year so no peeling but the front of my deck is so much thinner than the rest of my deck…could you put another real thin coat on?

  4. John Cowger says:

    After using the cleaner and Wood Brightener the wood is wet. How long or how dry does the wood need to be before applying the Extreme exterior semi-transparent stain?

    • defyadmin says:

      John, once the wood is visibly dry, you can stain it. On a hot day, you could potentially clean and brighten it in the morning, and then stain it later in the afternoon/evening.

    • Sharon marie says:

      How much time does the stain need to dry before it rains?

      • defyadmin says:

        Sharon, dry time is normally between 2-6 hours. Low temperatures or high humidity can increase dry time.

  5. Megan says:

    My helper mistakenly added an extra coat to logs that already had two coats on them. I didn’t realize this until 3 days later. Is there anyway to mitigate future peeling? Would fine grit sanding help?

    • defyadmin says:

      Megan, at this point you’re better off to just wait and see. Sanding won’t help, but it could make it worse. If the wood is extremely shiny, that’s a sign that you could see peeling, but if not, it may be ok.

  6. Lindsey says:

    It’s my first try at staining a deck. After all the prep I applied the stain. I stained a few planks last evening but I think the coat was too thin. Can I apply second coat after 24 hours since the first application was probably too light?

    • defyadmin says:

      Lindsey, ideally you would apply the stain while the first coat is still damp. You may be able to apply a very light coat, but just be careful as the stain may not be able to soak in since the first coat is dry.

      • Wendy says:

        My decking had one layer of ronseal natural wood protector after it was laid I applied another coat about month later now it looks a dusty powder colour, what should I do please

        • defyadmin says:

          You may consider bringing the wood back to it’s bare state by applying DEFY Stain Stripper, then rinsing with a pressure washer. Follow that with DEFY Wood Brightener to neutralize the surface, and that will make the wood ready for a new coat of stain. DEFY Extreme Wood Stain will make your deck look great and will hold up to the elements.

  7. Craig says:

    When you list 100 to 150 square feet per gallon, is based on one coat or two coats?

    • defyadmin says:

      Craig, 100-150 sq. ft. assumes 2 coats. If you were just applying 1 coat, it would be 200-300 sq. ft. per gallon.

  8. steve coffin says:

    i just stained a new deck with Arborcoat semi transparent oil base stain. the deck is white cedar. i worked on a cloudy day and worked two panels at a time trying not to get ahead of myself making sure i got into the gap side of the panels. after drying i noticed brush marks. how can that be avoided? would a second coat being rolled eliminate the brush strokes or am i looking to create a bigger problem? i kept the leading edge wet during the process. ugggg

    • defyadmin says:

      Steve, this may just be a factor of the stain. Some stains show lap marks very easily, while others don’t. It’s odd that an oil based stain is having this problem, as they are usually the most forgiving when it comes to lap marks. Once the stain dries, you probably want to avoid applying additional coats, as they could peel. Semi-transparent stains need to penetrate, and this can’t happen once the initial coats dry completely.

  9. Steve Wilson says:

    I have applied a water- based, light coat of semi-transparent stain to cedar siding on my house. The one coat has given the look that
    I want but the product calls for two light coats which would make it too dark. Can I use your Defy Crystal Clear as the second coat? Does it truly have a clear finish or does it yellow or alter the present look? If I can use, do I apply more than one coat. Appreciate your help

    • defyadmin says:

      Steve, you can apply one light coat, but you may just have to do maintenance coats more often. The clear product is totally clear, but it’s not going to be ideal for your situation. That product is meant to be applied to bare wood, with 2 wet-on-wet coats. It would be difficult for you to apply the clear, while the semi-transparent is still wet.

  10. DON KAPLAN says:

    I have just power washed and sanded a 30 year old cedar deck. I’m getting ready to use defy extreme semi-transparent. I’m a little confused as to whether I need one coat or two coats as some manufacturers suggest after one coat the second coat will just kind of lay on top and leave brush marks. Will the defy extreme sink in and look nice and even?

    • defyadmin says:

      Don, if your cedar deck is 30 years old, then you should be fine to apply 2 wet-on-wet coats. Just make sure the second coat looks like it’s absorbing into the wood as you’re applying it. Newer cedar usually will only accept a single coat.

  11. Mark says:

    Maybe I misunderstood but the label on the can for our semi transparent indicated to only use one coat on our cedar deck boards. So we only did one coat. It looks okay but should it have been 2 coats? Will it wear out faster? If I wait a year to re-coat it do I then do 2 wet on wet coats? BTW, we are in Guelph, Ontario and our order got here in just 2 days. Impressive. Thanks.

    • defyadmin says:

      Mark, the short answer is to only apply as much stain as the wood can absorb. Typically cedar (especially new cedar) won’t accept more than one coat, but that’s more of a rule of thumb, and it certainly doesn’t apply to every situation. Older cedar wood can certainly accept more stain than newer, but it’s up to the end user to determine that. I would apply the first coat to a few boards, wait 10 or 15 minutes, and then see if a second coat soaks in easily. If so, 2 coats are probably ok. If the stain just lays on top of the wood, and doesn’t appear to soak in, then 1 coat is what you want to stick with. Two coats will last longer than one coat, but only if they are able to both penetrate into the wood.

  12. I am a new comer to sealing and maintaining wood decks. Our deck was just rebuilt using redwood. We are trying to decide whether to use a solid color or transparent color stain. What is the difference in longevity between using the sold color or transparent color stain? Do I need to apply two coats in both instances? Since the redwood is new, and has now weathered for about 3+ months, is redwood the type of wood that would normally accept 2 transparent stain coats using the wet on wet procedure?
    Thank you.

    • defyadmin says:

      Howard, the solid stain will last longer than the semi-transparent. Prep is also easier. Both products will normally take 2 coats. Concerning the weathered redwood, the rule of thumb is to only apply as much stain as the wood can absorb. You don’t want to end up with a shiny finish as that could result in peeling. Start with 1 coat, and if it looks like a second coat is absorbing, you should be good to apply it. If it just lays on the surface and forms a film, only apply 1 coat.

  13. Geziel says:

    I want to stain my new deck, should I use the cleaner stuff on it first?
    Also Are 2 coats of stain necessary of serve a benefit?

    • defyadmin says:

      Gezeil, the cleaner and brightener help prepare the wood so it can absorb stain more evenly and completely. 2 coats will make the stain last longer and give you better protection.

  14. This is great article. I am planning to get the outside deck of my house to get stain and come across with this blog it will really help me get it perfectly done.

  15. Mike says:

    So… The weatherman Didnt tell the truth! I cleaned and brightened a 2 year old dock (that had one coat of defy wood stain on it from over a year ago that needed to be recoated) with defy product… Let it set to dry for two days, began applying stain with no direct sunlight and then it happened, here comes the sun… At that point I was at the mercy of drying… Looks shiny which is a bad thing I understand…havent touched it yet, trying to gather info … If sticky, is there a remedy to save 2 days of work and $300?

    • defyadmin says:

      Mike, at this point the best thing you can do is let it weather. It may end up being fine. Sometimes applying in direct sun is inevitable, you just have to work fast. If you start to notice peeling at some point, you can use the stain stripper next spring.

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