A brand new deck looks great, but to keep it looking that way requires upkeep. You need to protect it with a good deck stain. Rico De Paz, "If you have a pressure-treated deck and you put nothing on it, after a few years you'll get something like this - a lot of cracks and turning gray."

To find which stains last the longest, Consumer Reports' Rico De Paz applies them to wood panels. The panels are left on Consumer Reports' roof for up to three years. Other panels are left in a shady spot to test for mildew resistance.

The type of stain you use makes a difference. A clear finish shows off the wood's natural grain and texture but tends to only last a year, and it won't keep the wood from turning gray. A solid stain lasts longer, but it covers up the natural grain of the wood. Rico De Paz, "It's more durable. So three years later, it's almost exactly the same." A compromise? A semi-transparent will still look good after two years. This semi-transparent Cabot Express Deck Wood Stain claims you'll need no dry time between cleaning your deck and applying the stain.

So testers applied the Cabot to a wet wood panel. They tried the same experiment with a semi-transparent stain from Behr. Rico De Paz "And after two years the Behr still looked really good, while the Cabot had started to break down." In fact, that Behr - the Premium Semi-Transparent Weather Proofing Wood Stain - earned top ratings. It costs 37 dollars at Home Depot.

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright ©2014 Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.     

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.