Dark Stained Deck with White Rails

Jun 23, 2014 | Outside, Projects

UPDATE:  I painted and re-stained the deck in Fall 2019 and have after photos at this link.

Staining a deck is one of those projects that no one likes to do, but the finished product is definitely worth it (and so is saving hundreds or thousands of $$ by doing it yourself).  But sometimes you just need a break from painting, and after painting Tuscan’s room, I definitely need a break so staining the deck is not high on my “Want to do” project list, but it’s certainly high on my “Have to do” list.   We had the deck built about 3 months ago and since then, the unfinished wood has gotten a few stains and marks on it, so staining to protect the wood ASAP is a must before our $8,000 investment gets ruined.

In staining the deck, to get the dark stained deck with white rails look, I wanted a stain color that was dark, but not too dark because I didn’t want the deck to get too hot.  I also wanted the rails to be an off white and not the same as the deck boards because the deck is big and I didn’t want it to look like a big blog of brown deck.  I was going for a look like this:

Deck Inspiration Photo


I love the white and brown mix of rails and decking but I wanted my colors to be reversed from the pattern in the photo, so dark stained verticals with white horizontals.  I also love the stair lights in my inspiration photo and I’ll try to get some when they go on sale at the end of the summer season.

I did a bunch of searches online to see what different stain colors would actually look like on other people’s decks, but even Pinterest was lacking in photos.  So, here’s my test swatches for those out there looking to see what a few stain colors look like before buying a sample:

Behr Wood StainsDeck Stains 2

Deck Whites

In the end we went with Cordovan Brown (the top color) since it is a medium brown tone without reds or greens in it and it paired really well with the rail color that we chose, Navajo White (the very bottom color).  Navajo white is actually a very light cream color which related well with our siding that sits right up against the rails.

One good thing about  not having those pre-fab composite rails is that you can paint the wood any color to match your siding.  The pre-fab rails come in white, white, or white.

Here’s a picture of the work in progress:

Deck ProgressFunny story…actually it is an irritating story with a good ending…  I first started painting the rails with my white color and after about 2 sections which took about an hour, I noticed that the color was way too white.  Like blindingly white.  Like, “Oh crap, I got the wrong color white” white.   And what’d you know, I accidentally got Pinto White instead of Navajo White.  I honestly don’t know if I asked for the wrong color or if I asked for the right color and Home Depot made the wrong color, but it doesn’t matter because Pinto White is now my “primer” which I need 3 coats of and Navajo White is now the top coat which I need 2 coats.  Lemons to lemonade people.

Navajo v

I figure it should take me about 2 full days to stain the entire deck since there’s a lot of deck to cover.  And, since the kids are home from school for the summer, I now have painters who will work for popsicles…  YEA!  If the weather cooperates and my workers don’t go on strike, hopefully in about a week I’ll have a post with our newly stained deck.

Supply List:

Behr Cordovan Brown Semi Transparent Stain (1 gallon or 5 gallon depending on your job size –> I needed the 5 gallon for my size deck)

Behr Cordovan Brown Solid Stain (1 gallon)

Behr Navajo White Solid Stain

Deck Stain Pad (great for fast, streak free staining)

Painters Pole to attach the Deck Stain Pad

Paint Pan– I like this one because it’s deep so you don’t have to refill your paint from the bucket as often

Paint brush– My very favorite brush that shows the least amount of brush strokes

Behr Wood Cleaner

Behr Wood Stain and Finish Stripper

UPDATE:  I painted and re-stained the deck in Fall 2019 and have after photos at this link.