How To Stain A Deck Like A Pro | Deck Staining Tips

by / Saturday, 01 March 2014 / Published in Decks, How-To's, Remodeling Tips & Advice, Top Rated Post
how to stain a deck

Follow These Helpful Guidelines to Stain Your Deck Like a Pro

Spring is just around the corner!  It’s time to fire up those grills and get ready for outdoor entertaining on your deck.  Rejuvenate your deck this year by applying a fresh coat of stain.  Your deck should be stained every 1-2 years to restore its appearance and help prolong the wood’s natural life.  I have come across many homeowners who end up dissatisfied with their staining result. So I thought I should give some helpful suggestions to get professional results.  Follow these simple tips and staining your deck is definitely a great task for a do-it-yourself homeowner.

Wait to Stain New Decks

With a brand new pressure treated deck it is important that you wait a few months before applying stain.  Pressure treated wood needs to adjust to its new outdoor conditions because it contains lots of moisture inside the wood.  Within a few months the wood will start to lose some of that moisture and you will notice that the joints between the deckboards are becoming larger.  When this happens you know that your new deck is now ready to be stained.  Cedar decks, redwood decks, and ipe decks can be stained right after installation.

how to stain a deck

Preparing Your Deck with 3 Different Options

Using an extension pole makes scrubbing the wood cleaner or stain remover into the deck a little easier.

Tougher stain buildup will require renting a floor sander.  These are the same sanders used on hardwood floors.

Option 1 | Wood Cleaner

You will want to start by cleaning your new deck with a  wood cleaner.  Apply the wood cleaner, let the chemicals do their job for about 15 minutes and then scrub the deck with a scrub brush or stiff-bristled broom.  You can also use the cleaner with a power sprayer which is the best option.

Option 2 | Stain remover

If you have an older deck, previously stained deck, or graying deck from sun damage; then you will need a stain and sealer remover. They work wonders on old decks.  The chemicals found in wood cleaners are highly effective at cleaning weathered decks.  Plus there is no need to worry about harmful chemicals.  I suggest wearing gloves but the chemicals found in these cleaners are not dangerous to you or your landscape.

Option 3 | Drum Sander

If your deck has lots of old stain buildup, the task becomes a little more challenging.  Wood cleaners or stain removers will not get the job done.  Renting a floor sander is the best solution to combat stubborn stain buildup.  All of the old stain needs to be removed evenly or the old stain may show through the new finish.  Make sure all of the boards are free of old stain and look consistent throughout your deck.  A drum dander can often give new life to an old deck.

Don’t Forget the Wood Brighteners

Wood brighteners are often overlooked when staining a deck. But if you want professional results make sure to use a brightener on your deck.  Wood brighteners can remove unsightly discoloration and renew old wood to their original rich look.  They also neutralize any stain removers that have been used.  You don’t want any stain remover left on your deck when applying the new stain!  Use the wood brightener to kill the stain remover.  The application of wood brightners couldn’t be any easier.  Simply spray it on, wait a few minutes and rinse it off.  There is no scrubbing necessary.  Make sure you don’t skip this often overlooked step.  Sherwin Williams’ Revive is the brightener that we use.

Rinse, Then Rinse, and Then Rinse Again

After you have applied the wood cleaners, wood strippers, and wood brighteners it is time to thoroughly rinse the deck.  All of these chemicals that you have just used are formulated to breakdown stain.  So you want to make sure there is no trace of these chemicals left to possibly breakdown your new stain.  You can use a garden hose with nozzle at maximum pressure or a high-pressure power washer.  Rinse, then rinse, then rinse again.

Choose a Quality Stain

I am a frugal shopper and like to stretch my hard-earned money by trying to find the best deals.  Many times I find that a cheaper product may work just as well as its more expensive counterpart.  Stain is definitely not one of those cases where a cheaper product can perform as well as a more expensive product.  I have used cheap stains before and have gotten lackluster results.  Cheap stain does not hold up well over time.  Save yourself the trouble and spend the extra dollars for a quality brand stain.  If you want quality results, you most use quality products. I like to use semi-transparent stains for our deck projects.

Mixing the Stain

You want to mix your stain with a stir stick.  Never shake the stain because this can create bubbles in the finish.  You also want to occasionally mix the stain as you’re applying it to make sure the stain does not settle too much as it sits.  If you have a large deck it is essential that you mix all of the cans together in one larger pail.  This way you ensure that the stain will have a consistent color throughout the deck.  Even the same color and brand of stain can vary from batch to batch.

More Stain Is Not Necessarily Better

When it comes to applying the stain make sure that you do not put on too much stain.  This is probably the biggest mistake made when staining a deck.  When using stain such as a semitransparent stain, the stain is designed to penetrate the surface of the wood but still allow the wood to breath.  If you apply too much stain, the material will buildup on the surface of the wood creating a film. And the wood will no longer be able to breathe.  The excess buildup will eventually crack or peel creating an unsightly deck.  Just as in semitransparent stains, if you over apply a solid stain you will run into problems as well.  The overly applied surface will become sticky, waxy and slick.  This is because the buildup of stain interferes with its ability to dry properly.  Follow the directions on the product and apply just enough stain to avoid these problems.

The Brush Is the King

For fast application of the stain you can use either a sprayer or a roller.  However, for the maximum results you will still have to work the stain into the wood with a brush.  The paint brush will allow the stain to penetrate deep into the pores of the wood.  When working the brush, apply the stain with the grain of the wood.  A few strokes back and forth with the brush is enough.  If you over-stroke with the brush you may leave brush marks in the finish.  It’s really that simple.

There is no getting around using a paint brush if you want the best results.

Best Time to Stain a Deck

You want to start staining your deck in the morning.  If possible you want to avoid staining around midday when the sun is the strongest.  Sunshine speeds up the dry-time and hinders the workability of the stain. So cloudy days are the best days to stain a deck.  When you start a section of the deck you want to continue until you are done with no breaks.  This creates a consistent finish throughout your deck.

If you absolutely dread staining your deck you may want to consider replacing your decking with composite which requires no staining.

Don’t Paint yourself into a Corner

Have an exit strategy when staining your deck.  This should be obvious but you don’t want to paint yourself into a corner.  Stain the handrails and higher areas of the deck first so that drips do not land on freshly stained wood.  And make sure that you quickly wipe off any dripped stain to avoid any dark spots.  Allow the stain to completely dry for two days before using it.

You are now ready to stain your deck and get professional results.  Best of luck! To view some of the deck that we have built in the past, visit Milwaukee, WI Deck Builder.  Leave a comment below to let us know how your project went.  As always if you have any questions leave them below and I will be sure to get back with you.  Enjoy your new look deck!

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