Deck Sealer vs Deck Waterproofer: What’s the Difference? 

 March 14, 2023

By  Dale Keese

If you want to take your deck care to the next level but aren’t sure where to start, or can’t tell the difference between a sealer and a waterproofer – then you’ve come to the right place!

Deck sealers are applied to preserve wood, while deck waterproofers are used to prevent water damage. Deck sealers generally penetrate the wood while deck waterproofers form a protective layer on the surface of the wood.

Is there a difference between deck sealer and deck waterproofer? What are their similarities? What are their differences? We’re here to answer all your questions about deck sealer vs deck waterproofer, and help decode the mystery behind deck protection. Let’s dive in!

What is a Deck Sealer?

A deck sealer is one of the two primary products used to protect and waterproof a deck from the elements. Deck sealers are typically clear coatings that are applied directly to the surface of the wood and provide protection against moisture, fading and staining. When properly applied, deck sealers offer a durable, long-lasting solution for preservation of your deck.

The debate around whether or not to use a deck sealer lies in its potentially harmful effects on the environment. Sealers are chemical-based and contain VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), which can be released into the atmosphere during application and have been known to cause health risks and environmental damage. For this reason, many people opt to avoid using a sealer on their decks as they feel it brings unnecessary risk to the environment.

On the other hand, it is important to consider the full picture when deciding whether or not to apply a deck sealer. Not using a sealer can lead to greater risks in terms of wood decay, rotting and molding due to weather exposure, resulting in costly repairs down the line. A quality sealer will also make performing ongoing maintenance much easier, such as cleaning up spills or even repainting. As such, a careful balance should be considered when deciding whether or not you need to apply a deck sealer for optimal protection for your deck’s longevity.

While there is an inherent tradeoff between protecting your deck with a quality sealer and harming the surrounding environment with its chemical contents, taking proper precautions with the use of breathable non-toxic modern day formulations will both help protect your deck from the elements while minimizing its impact on air quality. With these considerations in mind, you can now move onto exploring how does a deck sealer work and what it does for your outdoor space.

What Does a Deck Sealer Do?

A deck sealer is a liquid or a solid product that is used to protect the wood from moisture, sun, and other elements. Sealers provide an extra layer of protection on top of stains or other finishes that are already on the deck, and can also be used as a standalone product for decks that have not been previously treated. They can come in water-based, oil-based, or clear finishes so homeowners can find something that will best fit their needs.

When it comes to sealing decks, there is debate over how “waterproof” sealers really are. On one hand, some argue that sealers stop water from seeping into the wood which protects it from rot and mold. On the other hand, some argue that sealers only slow down water absorption instead of totally preventing it altogether. It’s important to note that there is no such thing as a 100% waterproof sealer for outdoor decks since any type of sealant can eventually wear away due to the exposure to weather, foot traffic, sun rays and time.

At the end of the day, sealers typically act like an additional layer between the deck and anything else by helping retain deck condition and prevent moisture from coming in contact with the wood. No matter what side of the argument you're on though, products are specifically designed to extend the life of decks by up to three times longer than if they weren't sealed at all.

With this in mind, we now move onto the next section discussing what a deck waterproofer is and how it may differ from a deck sealer.

What is a Deck Waterproofer?

A deck waterproofer is a sealant or coating applied to a deck material to create a barrier that prevents water from penetrating the material surface and causing damage. Unlike deck sealers, which can only limit water penetration, a deck waterproofer forms a protective coating that keeps water from soaking into the material.

While some deck sealers are designed to be long-lasting and effective for up to five years before reapplication, deck waterproofers often last longer - up to twenty years in many cases. As such, they may be a better investment over time if your deck surface is exposed to harsher weather conditions on a regular basis. However, it's important to note that while they are more effective at preventing water penetration, they can also be more difficult to apply correctly as any imperfections in the application job could mean premature failure of the product.

On one hand, it could be argued that adding an extra layer of protection with a waterproof coating can significantly reduce the amount of water and moisture getting into the structure of the deck material and therefore minimize structural damage. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that applying coatings or sealants incorrectly can cause more harm than good as it will not provide full protection from rain, snow or ice and can end up trapping moisture in between layers. Thus one must be cautious when selecting and applying waterproofing products for decks.

Deck waterproofers provide an extra layer of protection against water penetration into the materials of outdoor decks and patios by forming a protective coating. When compared to traditional deck sealers, they offer better protection from the elements but come with added complexity due to the precision required in application techniques. Now let's take a deeper look at how deck waterproofers differ from traditional deck sealers.

How Do Deck Waterproofers Differ from Deck Sealers?

The decision between using a deck sealer and a deck waterproofer may be confusing, but understanding the difference between the two can help make the right choice for your deck maintenance. Deck sealers and deck waterproofers are both designed to protect your deck from damage and preserve its longevity, but they differ in how they will affect your wood.

When it comes to preserving the look of newly stained wood, sealers are often the favorite option since they form a durable protective coat over the wood and create an eye-catching sheen. Because of their glossy finish, many homeowners opt for using a deck sealer when refinishing their decks. Although sealers provide protection from water damage and UV rays, some higher quality waterproofers offer more durability with their multiple coats of protection.

Waterproofers are sometimes preferred for decks because of their ability to resist moisture more effectively than sealers. They penetrate deeper into the wood to completely create a protective layer around each individual piece of wood, providing longterm protection and stabilization of the deck. Additionally, waterproofers tend to last longer than sealers as they require fewer reapplications over time. However, this additional layer of protection often comes at the expense of a lack of sheen or a matte finish instead.

Therefore, whether you choose a deck sealer or a deck waterproofer will depend on your needs and preferences as well as the condition of your current deck. While one offers better protection against moisture damage over time, the other provides added aesthetic appeal with its glossy finish that is sure to turn heads. Whichever you end up deciding on, it’s important to keep in mind that proper maintenance is key for extending your deck’s lifespan no matter which product is used.

Choosing the right penetrating sealer can help ensure that your deck receives optimal protection from external elements while also maintaining its appealing look. In the next section we'll discuss considerations people should make before choosing the ideal sealer for their decks.

Choosing the Right Penetrating Sealer

Choosing the right penetrating sealer for your deck is a crucial part of treating and preserving your wood structure. A sealing product that is of poor quality or not suited to the kind of wood you have can be detrimental and lead to various problems with your decking, such as premature wood discoloration, warping, and cracking.

Firstly, it is important to consider the type of wood being used for the deck surface. Hardwoods tend to be less porous than softwoods, although both may warrant the application of a penetrating sealer in order to protect them from moisture infiltration and prolong their lifespan.

Next, it is beneficial to consider whether you are looking for a sealer that will provide waterproofing properties. This is especially important if your deck is exposed to direct sunlight or heavy rainfall. Sealers are typically split into two main categories- water repelling sealers and waterproofing sealers- so it is useful to identify which one will suit your needs best.

Water repellent sealers offer superior protection against moisture damage but will not create an impermeable barrier on the wood’s surface. They should be reapplied periodically, however, in order to maximize their effectiveness. Waterproofing sealers are more expensive and carry their own set of advantages and restrictions; they create an effective barrier on top of the wood and protect from stains due to debris, but often require professional expertise for installation correctly or risk detrimentally affecting performance levels.

Choosing the perfect penetrating sealer for your deck depends greatly on factors such as wood species, desired level of protection, budget considerations and lifestyle needs. In the next section we will discuss what qualities to look for in a deck sealer, addressing these considerations further in detail.

What Qualities to Look for in a Deck Sealer

When evaluating a deck sealer, it is important to consider different qualities that will best fit your specific needs. Durability and longevity of the sealer should be at the top of your list when shopping for products. The most common deck sealers can provide anywhere from two to five years of protection. Customers should look for sealers with the longest lasting formulations – considering costs upfront, as well as maintenance costs down the line.

Another important factor to consider when selecting a deck sealer is ease of use. Products like water-based sealers are easier to clean up after, and often require less time drying than oil-based sealers, but may not last as long as oil-based treatments. Sanders or hand sanders may be needed before or after application depending on what type of deck sealer is used. Additionally, some sealers will have exceptional UV protection that can save the wood from sun damage better than other sealers.

Durability, longevity, ease of use and UV protection are all factors to take into consideration when selecting a deck sealer. Product reviews can play an integral role in assessing these elements – giving someone a sense of how well a product works based on other users’ experiences. While researching products, customers should critically look through reviews and decide what qualities best align with their deck maintenance needs.

Now that we’ve established what qualities to look for in a deck sealer let’s move onto discussing different types of deck sealers available on the market today.

Different Types of Deck Sealers

Understanding the different types of deck sealers is essential to ensuring you make the right choice for your project. Deck sealers enhance and protect wood and other surfaces like concrete and stone. They help reduce water infiltration, prevent fading, and add additional protection against mold, mildew, elements, and wear.

The two main categories of deck sealers are acrylic-based sealers and penetrating oil-based sealers. Acrylic-based sealer forms a transparent film on the surface that doesn’t allow water to penetrate into the wood’s pores. Penetrating oil-based sealer goes beyond just forming a barrier as it actually soaks into the wood’s pores and stops water from entering.

The debate between acrylic deck sealer vs oil deck sealer has gone on for many years. On one hand, penetrating oil based deck sealers provide better long-term protection but require more maintenance than an acrylic based deck sealer. On the other hand, acrylics tend last longer but do not penetrate as deep as oils, leaving some of the wood exposed to water infiltration.

When considering which type of deck sealer is best for your specific project, it's important to weigh all of these factors before making a decision. Now let's move on to discuss one of the most common types of deck sealers in more detail, acrylic deck sealers.

When it comes to deck sealers, there are two main types: acrylic-based sealers and penetrating oil-based sealers. Acrylic-based sealers create a barrier on the surface that does not allow water to penetrate, while oil-based sealers actually soak into the wood's pores and prevent infiltration from occurring.

Both have advantages and disadvantages, so when deciding which type of deck sealer is best for your project it is important to take all factors into consideration. The most common type of deck sealer is acrylic deck sealer.

Acrylic Deck Sealers

Acrylic deck sealers are a popular choice for people who want a low-cost, easy-to-apply sealer. Acrylic sealers are one of the least expensive options and usually come in an easy-to-apply spray formula. This makes them attractive for DIYers and those who don’t want to pay for a professional installation.

The downside of acrylic deck sealers is that they can wear off quickly and need to be reapplied often. They also tend to look yellow when exposed to UV light, which requires you to reseal your deck more frequently. Additionally, since acrylics tend to break down easily, they may not last as long as other deck sealants.

However, the advantages of using acrylic sealant can outweigh this downside if properly applied. If applied regularly and correctly, they can protect wood decks from water damage and provide excellent resistance against mold and mildew buildup. Since acrylics are water-based, they don’t have as strong of an odor as some other products, making it easier to apply them around pets or children.

Overall, acrylic deck sealers can be an excellent choice for homeowners who don’t mind re-applying their sealant every so often and can properly apply the product. Moving forward, we will now discuss the pros and cons of "Clear Resin Deck Sealers".

Clear Resin Deck Sealers

Clear resin deck sealers are a popular choice because of their invisible nature and fast-drying properties. They penetrate into the wood's pores to create layers of protection against water, UV rays, and mildew. This type of sealer does not contain oils that can darken or yellow the wood, resulting in a “natural” look without changing the wood’s color. However, clear resin sealers provide less protection for your wood surface than other types of sealers because it does not completely fill in the wood’s pores.

On the one hand, people may argue that this lack of sealant coverage allows the wood to remain breathable; thus, allowing any excess moisture underneath to escape instead of becoming trapped below crushed (and nonbreathable) sealer surface. On the other hand, some may argue that this lack of coverage provides little protection from water damage or discoloration caused by UV rays – making resealing more frequently necessary than with other types of sealers.

While clear resin deck sealers offer an aesthetically pleasing option with faster drying times and lower cost up front, they provide less protection and require more frequent resealing than other options for waterproofing decks. As we move on to discuss water repellent sealer-waterproofers next, it is important to understand these pros and cons when considering which type of sealer is best for you.

Water Repellent Sealer-Waterproofers

Water Repellent Sealer-Waterproofers are a type of sealer and waterproofer combination, designed for use on exterior decks, patios, fence boards, or any other outdoor surface. These products provide users with multi-purpose protection from water damage and the elements, while still allowing the wood to breathe naturally.

The most common type is an acrylic blend sealer, which typically contains a pigment for color. This type of product is designed to provide a mildew-resistant finish that repels water and dirt. It also helps reduce cracking and warping due to changes in temperature and humidity.

The debate over water repellent sealer-waterproofers involves the degree of protection they offer against water. Some argue that these products are only effective against light moisture exposure, since they don't form a continuous membrane that can create a waterproof barrier like other types of sealants.

Others say that they are adequate for outdoor areas with normal levels of moisture exposure due to their breathability. Supporters point out that by allowing some moisture to escape, the wood remains less susceptible to warping and cracking due to extreme temperature fluctuations.

No matter what side of the debate you are on, it cannot be denied that water repellent sealer-waterproofers offer better protection than plain sealers alone. They will give your deck or patio a longer life by protecting it from both UV rays and the harsh effects of rain and snow.

Water Repellent Sealer-Waterproofers have many advantages over more general sealers and/or waterproofing agents. They can provide an extra layer of defense against both natural elements and harmful mold or mildew growth. In the next section we will discuss the various types of Water Repellent Sealer-Waterproofers available on the market today and how to decide which one best fits the needs of your project.


When it comes to preserving and protecting your deck, it is important to select the right product for the job. Deck sealer and waterproofer are two different types of products that can be used in deck maintenance, but they have distinguishing features and advantages.

Deck sealer is generally used as a surface-level coating. It is best used to protect decks from water damage, mold, fungus and mildew. It also acts as a protective layer and is available in both oil-based and water-based varieties. It helps to protect the deck's original color while adding a glossy finish.

On the other hand, deck waterproofer is generally thinner than sealer and is better suited for areas that often get wet or are prone to moisture retention. It penetrates deeply into the grain of the wood providing additional protection against water damage, mold and mildew. The majority of waterproofers are either solvent or silicone based.

Selecting the appropriate type of sealer or waterproofer for your deck will depend on where you live, what kind of wood you use and whether your deck needs more protection from weather elements or from water intrusion. If you notice signs of wood rot or if your wood has become stained due to high levels of moisture, then waterproofing might be a better choice than sealant. However, if you want to keep your newly installed or painted deck looking beautiful for longer periods of time then sealant may be the ideal choice for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any differences in the application process for deck sealers and waterproofers?

Yes, there are significant differences in the application process for deck sealers and waterproofers. Deck sealers act as a protective finish rather than a permanent waterproof barrier. This means they must be reapplied regularly to maintain optimal protection, usually every 1-5 years depending on the product. Deck sealers are typically easy to apply with a roller or brush, but must be applied correctly and evenly to ensure an even coat.

On the other hand, deck waterproofers form a physical barrier between the wood and water that can last up to 10-15 years. These heavier liquids are often thicker and require more preparation prior to application. They must be mixed properly and applied with a sprayer or roller for even coverage. Proper application is essential to making sure the waterproofer seals all areas of the wood properly before it begins to dry.

How do deck sealers and waterproofers work?

Deck sealers and waterproofers work by penetrating the surface of the wood and sealing out moisture. Sealers form a layer of protection, while waterproofers penetrate more deeply into the wood and create a water-resistant barrier.

Deck sealers form a semi-permeable coating over the deck's surface that repels water, preventing it from penetrating the wood and causing damage due to mold or rot. The sealer also protects against UV radiation, which can cause fading or splintering of the wood over time. Sealers need to be reapplied periodically to maintain their effectiveness.

Waterproofers typically provide a more durable solution than sealers, as they penetrate deeper into the wood. This helps keep moisture from entering the wood and causing damage from the inside out.

Waterproofers also block water from reaching between boards that have spaces in between them on the deck's surface, reducing the chance of warping. They are also less likely to crack or peel over time than sealers and generally require less frequent reapplication for longer-lasting protection.

What type of benefits does each offer?

Deck sealer and deck waterproofer both offer advantages when it comes to protecting outdoor decks from the elements, but each offer different benefits.

Deck Sealer: A deck sealer is primarily used to protect and enhance the appearance of the deck by preventing wear-and-tear, rot, mold, and mildew. Many deck sealers are also water-resistant, providing added protection against water damage. Deck sealers come in a variety of finishes such as clear, toned, and solid color options. They can also be applied as a spray or brushed on.

Deck Waterproofer: A deck waterproofer is designed to provide a more complete level of protection for wooden decks by penetrating into the wood itself and creating an extra layer of protection. This water-proof layer resists absorbing any moisture and prevents water from seeping into the wood's grain where it can cause rot and soiling.

Most deck waterproofers are available in either clear or tinted versions, with the latter option providing more UV protection for the wood. In addition to protecting the wood, some waterproofers may also help reduce slipping hazards when the deck is wet.

About the author

Hey, I'm Dale Keese.. thanks for reading.. hopefully this article can save you some time and trouble with your sealing job. I'm also in the process of making some video walk-throughs for youtube so check back soon! thanks

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