When you are looking for a stain that is right for your deck project it will depend on what you want the deck to look like when you are finished. Do you want it to be a solid color to make it appear painted? Do you want the wood grain to be visible? The answers to these questions will determine the type of stain that you use.
Here is a list of stains and their differences:
Transparent deck stains -- these have the least amount of pigment of all of the stains and they will let the grain and texture of the wood to show through. This creates a great finish but it generally will have to be done once a year. It only comes in a few colors so many people would rather have a stain that lasts longer.
Semi transparent stains-- This stain shows a very good color on the wood and it will show the texture and the grain well. It will last about two years and if two coats are put on it the stain may last longer. This type of stain can be tinted to many colors.
Semi solid deck stains -- This one has a little more pigment than transparent stains but it still lets some of the grain shine through the stain. If you use two coats you will get the same color as a solid color stain. If you prepare your deck before you stain it properly, this stain could last 3 or 4 years.
Solid color deck stains -- this type of stain will totally cover the grain but you will still see some of the texture. It looks more painted and may have a slight sheen depending on the manufacturer. There are many different color options for this type of stain and you can also have a color custom made. The solid color stain can last up to four years or more with the longevity depending on how much sunlight and weather work with or against the color of stain chosen.
Transparent stains are mostly oil based and take slightly longer to penetrate the wood and dry. Solid stains are generally latex with some oil based resins to help with durability. These stains dry quickly and give your deck a protective coating
In choosing a color for your deck staying with one of the lighter earth tones will help it last longer. Reds are not a good choice because the color oxidizes faster and you may find that you will be re-treating the wood within a short time.