Written by Terry Smith
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Best decking stain UK: Top anti slip, Sadolin, Cuprinol, and Ronseal deck stain reviewed and compared
This article was last updated on June 14th, 2022 at 10:55 am
Now that you’ve just finished with the decking cleaner ( not the most fun job is it 😀 ), or laid some new decking for that matter, it’s time to turn attention to the best decking stain to finish the job of maintaining. And to be fair, it’s not just about maintenance is it, the best decking stain will significantly enhance the aesthetics of your garden space too. I love a bit of decking, its perfect for an afternoon bbq and beer. It also makes sitting out with the evening patio heater a pleasant experience too. But it’s not just about aesthetics, the best decking stains will protect your timber for a long time to come – I got 15 years from mine before I replaced the decking, and this was a damp area of the garden so Algae grew quickly and I was hitting it yearly with a pressure washer!
With top brands compared and reviewed, namely Sadolin, Cuprinol, and RONSEAL – you’ll take away a fuller understanding of what deck stain you need by having a good read through this article and how to use it properly too. So let’s take a quick look at the overview of best decking stain and where this article ends up, but I strongly recommend reading to the end as you’ll pick up a few cracking tips along the way:
Best decking stain – editor picks:
Best best decking cleaner in the UK overall: RONSEAL ULTIMATE DECKING STAIN – best combination of value and quality
Best anti slip deck stain: Cuprinol Anti Slip Decking Stain
Best decking stain that can be sprayed: Roxil Wood Protection Liquid (5 Litre & Sprayer) – Weatherproofs and Protects Decks
Budget decking stain: Dark Grey Decking Stain
What you get in this article:
What is decking stain and how to pick the best one for your deck?
Decking stain is essentially a paint and wood preservative (well the better quality ones we are reviewing anyway) all rolled into one. The idea behind decking isn’t just aesthetics, it’s also about preparing your wood for another couple of years to ensure it doesn’t rot or degrade. The maintenance aspect of sealing your decking for me is more important than the lovely look you’ll get assuming you prep it properly and we will go more into that soon.
But it’s not just about aesthetics and protection of your wood either, some formulas, specifically the Cuprinol range are design as anti slip deck paint. So there might be nothing wrong with your current stain other than when it gets wet it becomes a bit slippery – the Cuprinol Anti Slip Decking Stain is exactly what you’re looking for. Just follow the link and select your preferred colour – they have a whole range and I don’t want to link to every single one!
You’ll also need to be sure that the stain you choose is suitable for your decking, most formulas these days are suitable for hardwood and softwood decking so unless I specifically mention, you can assume both are good.
And as if that wasn’t enough to think about, you’ll need to factor in price, garden position (more on that soon if you aren’t following), and how to apply your deck stain too!
The price on a decent deck stain like Sadolin, Cuprinol, or RONSEAL is getting right up there but I wouldn’t wish a cheap deck stain on my worst enemy. As a youngster when I bought my first house I tried to save a few quid buying a local hardware own brand. You might as well have called that a cheap emulsion with a colour pigment! It literally peeled off on the first clean up – and that’s with correct prep in front of my very eyes. Nothing worse than watching hours of work and expensive deck cleaner amount to nothing
Exposure to sunlight needs to be factored
And this is what I mean by garden position – if you’re in direct sunlight the stain needs to be all the better to avoid breaking down quickly. It needs to be able to move with the timber is it cracks and twists to avoid allowing water penetration which will then expedite the process of doing this all over again! With that said I know I am a Cuprinol nut but the RONSEAL ULTIMATE DECKING STAIN is without question the top pick if you’re looking for a stain to last. In fact as you read through the review it’ll be hard to decipher whether you want Sadolin, Cuprinol, or Ronseal deck stain as they are all absolute top quality in their respective ways. (Cuprinol for anti slip, Ronseal for lasting protection, Sadolin for a combination of those points when compared closely).
Will it peel of when you clean?
And what about a deck stain you can actually clean? Again a cheap one that I refuse to include in this review will disappoint you. Using any serious force or a mid powered pressure washer will have it pull straight up. In fact, when I clean my deck after maintenance I really like a cordless power washer as it has enough power to move most dirt and grease because the new stain won’t allow dirt to penetrate the actual timber grain itself. You’ll notice big droplets of water form almost instantly the next time it rains so you know your decking is protected!
How to apply deck stain using a brush, garden sprayer, or electric paint sprayer once your deck is clean
Let’s assume that you’ve cleaned your decking and it’s looking great. I hope for your sake you found my best decking cleaner review before, which would have saved you hours on end of scrubbing, 😀 as well as penetrating your timber deep and giving it lasting protection! You’ll note I mention Cuprinol is the best and to my tested knowledge it is, but if your intention is to pick RONSEAL here then using the same brands’ formulas isn’t a bad shout either.
So with the deck cleaned you’ll need to make a decision. Do you want to apply your stain with a brush, garden pressure sprayer, or an electric paint sprayer. Depending on which stain you choose the options might well be limited. For example, the Ronseal decking stain in this review which is arguably the best then you’ll have no choice but to use the trusty hand brush! That is, unless you want to dilute the stain to make it more runny – A total waste of time buying a high quality stain then! Here’s a rundown on how to sort your decking using Cuprinol Silver Birch:
Cheaper stains will be easy to shoot through a sprayer, the quality giveaway really is when the stains only application method is the hand brush. It’ll then be thick and coat well enough to fill little cracks and crevices in the timber for a last look and protection too.
1. RONSEAL ULTIMATE DECKING STAIN
RONSEAL ULTIMATE DECKING STAIN is the best decking stain in the UK at the moment in my humble opinion. It was tough to call it between Ronseal and Cuprinol, especially with my known bias toward Cuprinol for their amazing Cuprinol 5 Star treatment :D. But credit where credit is due, Ronseal are really working hard on the research and development of their outdoor garden stains and paints. That’s not just decking either, their fence and shed paints are right up there as well. I picked slate grey because it looks modern and sleek. Some competitors have really fallen away over the years, namely Johnstones Paints who seem to refuse to move away from the traditional light and dark browns which are becoming ever less popular for a modern decking and garden look.
You can expect a really full cover from just one coat but it’s the same story as Cuprinol, don’t be tempted to stick at that, wait or it to dry and apply another coat. I would say in direct sunlight you can re-coat at less than the 4 hours the manufacturer suggests from personal experience, however on colder days I would allow more time. You want to apply the two coats in succession and then leave it overnight before walking on it or placing heavy furniture and plant pots. don’t cut corners too much on the time or you run the risk of the paint not being set underneath and as you place on a heavy plant put on lifters, hose lifters dig into the paint – I learnt that the hard way some years ago 😀
Ronseal suggest the coverage per litre is around 13m2. I have to say this is pushing it but I do feel it’s slightly more than Cuprinol when you compare them. However, again when you compare the price, Ronseal is a bit more expensive so that levels itself out to a very small margin overall between the two. I prefer a paint brush, it’ll look a bit streaky at first but will level itself out leaving a decent look. I know many opt for a big paint pad and use a tray for a big roller. Yes it does work but the grooves mean you have to push quite firmly and invariably lose paint between the gaps. That might be my clumsiness but it certainly doesn’t happen that way with a 3 or 4 inch brush!
You can expect a good couple of years service from this maintenance programme and it’s another one of the anti fungal formula paints just like Cuprinol. The paint is designed anti slip and you’ll be water proof in a couple of hours. That said, you really want to nail a dry hot day for staining the deck! Overall this has to be the best decking stain in the UK at the moment for my money.
- Best decking stain in the UK
- Touch dry in a few hours
- Re-coat in 4 hours
- Well priced for high quality
- I don’t think it applies well with a paint pad myself
2. Cuprinol Anti Slip Decking Stain
Cuprinol have a myriad of stain colours so when you look at the review counts you should multiply that number by tens and more. For the purpose of the article I chose the Anti Slip Decking Stain Black Ash version as it’s the one I’ve used regularly now for the last 7 years. I’ve treated my deck twice in that time and I haven’t had a day go by where my decking looks old or tired – just a nice looking Satin effect. I can also tell you the anti slip is a real thing too. I just love Cuprinol for their quality products, be it the Cuprinol wood preservative or the best fence paint. They are always the best or right up there and this stain is definitely the best anti slip decking stain in the UK right now. And when I reviewed this first off the bat in 2017 it was the same story, Cuprinol are miles ahead for their anti slip decking paint in my opinion. Not only that, this is an anti mould and fungal formula too so it’ll be looking to protect you for plenty of time to come as well!
I normally lay on two layers quite heavy with a four inch brush going down the length of the boards, working my way across my decking as I go. You’ll note the manufacturers will tell you to follow the grain, this is going to be straight down the board obviously.
The first thing that’ll hit you is just how full the look is with just one coat. Don’t be tempted, lay on a second one and I guarantee you’ll get much longer and have a deeper look, in my case a deeper black, but if you select a different colour the same rule still applies.
Talking of coats, you can normally get about 20m2 out of one tin or about 8m2 per litre for one coat. Realistically you want to coats of stain so factor about 10m2 per tin in real terms. I know it can add up but the money saved on cleaning products in the future balances out the cost now, as well as just how great your deck will look over the next couple of years too!
I always try to nail a dry day for application. If I’m in direct sunlight it feels pretty touch dry after an hour and a half. If it’s a colder day you might be looking at 4-5 hours, maybe even the whole day if it’s really cold. The temperature doesn’t really matter though, the main thing is DRY! I don’t run about on it until the next day, but when I do, I instantly notice just how hard wearing it feels, as well as the excellent look it gives too! You really won’t be disappointed with the Cuprinol range! Very very hard to fault.
- Best anti slip decking stain in the UK
- Tough formula is very hard wearing
- Reasonable pricing for high quality
- Easily applied with a brush or paint pad
- Too thick for a garden sprayer
3. Sadolin Decking Stain and Protector
My third pick which is probably the best actual formula and hardest wearing is the Sadolin Decking Stain and Protector. The only reason this isn’t the top choice is the price! When I reviewed this back in 2017 it didn’t have much in the way of feedback and to be fair it still doesn’t. This is a commercial quality stain and you won’t find negative reviews easily on this formula.
It contains an anti fungal formula, it lays on very easily with a paint brush – you want two coats again, and it’s super tough wearing. Obviously the reason it’s not moving much on Amazon is the price. And to be fair people want the cool slate grey and black finishes the leaders RONSEAL and Cuprinol are coming up with. The old browns are dying a slow death in the garden paint world. That and factor the price, it’s always nearly twice as expensive with the same amount of coverage. It’s a tough sell for sure and you can then see why it’s been left behind!
There’s no question though, if you do choose Sadolin you’ll be surprise by the results! It’s easily up there with Ronseal and Cuprinol! If you want a traditional colour and the best of the best then this is it, but you have to question the price point with so many decent alternatives available.
- UV active technology.
- Super quality
- It also consists of fungicides that resists algae and mould growth for real. No sales gimmick.
- The Decking stain seeps deep into your deck to provide long lasting protection.
- It works super in all kinds of weather.
- It can be easily applied using a brush or a cloth
- It comes with protection guarantee
- Price point
- Lack of colour options
After putting a downer on things with Sadolin that’s turning into a bit of a white dwarf I decided to go for a paint as the wildcard which is representing the best value for money at the moment. The Dark Grey Decking Stain from BJP is an excellent deep coloured formula that needs a couple of coats. At the current price point you’ll get the most for your money of any stain we review in this article.
They claim up to 16m2 per litre. I have to tell you this is a bit of a problem for me. The thicker the paint, the better the coverage. This is going to end up wanting potentially three coats but to be fair at the prices concerned, if you have the time on your hands theres a few quid to be saved here when compared to Ronseal and Cuprinol.
The paint is typically touch dry in a few hours – obviously due diligence is required on this, as you’ll note I suggest some of the stains are touch dry above before the recommended time frame. Everything boils down to how much sunlight and heat. However, give it a few days to really harden up and what you’ll have is a decent deck stain cover that’s water proof for about half the money of Cuprinol when you compare them.
So, the question is, will you risk quality and a lasting finish over a few quid? Personally it’s not for me but on a budget or with time on your hands it might well workout. Remember this is a relatively new brand to Amazon so we all know how that can go! Be interesting to see how this pans out when I update the article next year.
- Very well priced
- Nice colour
- Pretty tough wearing
- Easy to apply
- Newcomer and unknown
- Thinner than top competitors
5. Roxil Wood Protection Liquid (5 Litre & Sprayer) - Weatherproofs and Protects Decks
So with all the talk of paint thickness and quality I decided it’s time to include a stain that can be sprayed into the review and the easiest to apply when compared to all other options. Roxil Wood Protection Liquid is a pretty good protector of timber. The formula is so thin you’ll want to spray on three coats as a minimum but you’ll instantly realise its working the first time it gets wet – you’ll notice the water pooling as bubbles. This is a sure sign that it’s working great. They are using a silicone in the stain to help repel water from penetrating and it certainly works!
When you spray on the first coat you want to give it about half an hour or so to set, BUT NOT fully, you want to layer it up while it’s still tacky so they layers merge and bond together – this in itself should tell you that one coat is no where near thick enough and the downside to going with a sprayable decking stain!
What is more, it’s pretty hard wearing too. The fact it comes with it’s own garden sprayer is just an aded bonus making it really good value for money too. That’s not a sales gimmick by the way. it’s a well thought out tactic from the marketing team to ensure that you apply this stain the way they want. Brushing this one would take forever and be a really messy job. When you spray this on be sure to wear a mask
Overall it’s a great product if you’re looking for a wooden stain.
- Easiest to apply on this review
- Silicone base repels water lovely
- Very cheap solution to deck stain
- Doesn’t give a modern finish like Ronseal or Cuprinol
- Not as thick protection
Deck stain price comparison table
FAQs when buying decking stain
There are so many different types of decking stain that it is easy to get lost. You’ll need to decide what you’re looking for. Is it a modern look, high quality protection, a traditional feel? Perhaps even paint that helps to protect from slipping. So what I’ve done is put together a little FAQ that’ll help you pick the right stain for your decking.
Can I get anti slip deck stain?
Yes, both Cuprinol and Ronseal are noted as anti slip but Cuprinol are far more vocal about the point and I feel they have the edge on this. Especially with their Satin formula. Cuprinols’ Anti Slip Decking Stain is in my mind the best anti slip deck stain you can buy in the UK at domestic level at the moment. YOu’ll be impressed with just how effective a couple of coats are at reducing slippage in wet conditions. It’s worth pointing out this formula is for softwood and hardwood – it won’t work on the newer plastic composite type of decking that is now available.
How long does a quality deck stain last?
This is a really good question. There are a few really important factors that determine the durability. Obviously the first is the quality of paint. So if we take a look at Ronseal, one I’ve used plenty down the years it can vary significantly depending on whether or not it’s taking the full force of the sun for most of the day. Let’s assume it has very little shade, you’re likely to need to stain or paint every couple of years.
If however it’s pretty well shaded but remains dry, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if you get 5 years out of your decking paint. The difference the sun makes is significant. Equally if you’re decking is so shade it remains damp for long periods of time it’ll encourage Algae growth. This will decrease the lifespan considerably as well and you might expect to re-coat every 2-3 years. This situation will also require the most cleaning and maintenance too. If you’re lucky, your decking will get the right balance of sun and shade.
What’s the best value decking stain in the UK?
It’s a tough question to answer, for me the best value is Cuprinol because when I compare it to the others I feel it lasts the longest and I value my time more than the cost of the stain. To someone on a strict budget however you’re almost certainly going to want to consider the Dark Grey Decking Stain by BJP. Whilst it’s relatively unknown, a direct comparison of cost leaves this miles ahead in terms of a stain that’s quite ‘thick’.
If you’re just looking fo a bit of waterproofing than you could get away with less cost still – you could go for a water based runny stain like Roxil Wood Protection Liquid. There’s nothing wrong with the quality, it’s just a completely different stain and far less thick.