Anyone who's ever finished a deck knows to clean it beforehand to strip it of loose wood, mildew, stains, and any flaking remnants of previous finishes. But once you're done and want to apply the stain, there's another vital step: waiting for the deck to dry down to the last stubborn boards. Wouldn't you like to just sop up any puddles, brush on the stain, and let both stain and wood dry at the same time?
That's the idea behind Cabot Express Deck Wood Stain, about $37 per gallon, which we've just started testing. On its website, the company claims the product "is formulated for application on damp wood so you can begin to stain immediately after cleaning and completely stain your wood in one day." It's a semi-transparent stain, which our buying-advice video describes as a coating that shows off some of the grain of the wood—yet provides more protection than a clear sealer delivers.
To test the Cabot, we applied it to both damp and dry boards, situating them outdoors to test the stain's resistance to the elements. To better compare it to the competition, we also applied the top-rated semi-transparent stain in our Ratings, the Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Weatherproofing Wood Stain ($25 per gallon at Home Depot), to damp as well as dry boards.
By next spring, we expect to have preliminary results on how the two products measure up. In the meantime, both our Ratings and the video will help you narrow your choices. But if you're in the northern regions of the country, you'll may have to wait until next spring to refinish your deck. You need overnight temperatures above 50 degrees F for any exterior coating to dry properly.