6 Tips for How to Stain a Deck
If you are like me, you usually do a little google search prior to embarking on a project. If you are like me, it’s quite possible you learned that lesson after a few flubs… To be honest though, ye old google can yield quite a bit of conflicting information! When we were trying to talk to real people about staining Cedar Sidewall Shingles, it was very difficult to find someone in our area with experience. So, we turned to google… and got mixed results. The best option for us is usually trial and error.
I’m no expert, but I have done a lot of staining in the last 5 years… and then some. I want to share with you a few tips for staining a deck, so that you can get the best outcome. These tips apply to unstained, treated wood. Many people don’t realized that pressure treated lumber needs to be sealed– it is rot resistant, but still very susceptible to weather damage. That’s why it turns grey. We actually ended up leaving our deck unstained for 2 summers, simply because of all the construction we were in, and all of the staining we had to do on the house.
This is a project we tackled quite some time ago, but I never got around to publishing this post! So today is the day. I’m sharing my tips for staining a deck.
We re-used an old portion of decking that was built by the previous owners. I was concerned about how well it would take the stain, and the old and the new section looking different. In the end we got a seamless look, and you would never know the decks were built years apart. I have 2 words: Pressure Washer. Which leads me to step one….
1. Prep, prep and more prep!
I am a lazy painter. However when it comes to outdoor surfaces, prep is key in getting the stain to really soak in and cure properly. You want it to last as long as possible. The Pressure Washer is worth it’s weight in gold! It took me a LONG time to wash our deck, but it looked 100 times better when I was finished. I had planned to rough it up with a pole sander as well but this did the trick. If you are starting with brand new boards, let them “dry” at least 30 days before staining. Remember:
- Clean (give a good sweep or vacuum. Clean off the dust!)
2. Calculate your Square Footage and Get enough Stain!
I know this sounds obvious. BUT, anyone else get really excited and gung ho to start a project, grab a can of paint or stain, race home to get started only to realize you need 3 times as much? Talk to the people working at the counter, read labels, and calculate the coverage. In my case, I had to do 2 coats, so that was something to take into consideration as well.
Dry time, time to recoat, rain free requirements, application suggestions… while you don’t have to follow everything to a tee, it’s worth reading the label before you buy! If our deck was a wipe on, wipe off excess type of stain, I may have cried for a week.
3. Pray to the Heavens for Good Weather
I would say check the forecast, but here in Alberta it doesn’t seem to matter. I checked the forecast, and there was a 0% chance of precipitation. No word of a lie, an hour into staining, the sky turned black and it rained, hailed, snowed and sleeted in the course of 20 minutes. I may have shed a tear or 2… after all my hard work to prep, this is what the deck looked like. I debated pressure washing again, but decided to re-coat because it was a small area… in the end it’s hardly noticeable.
4. Work with a continues application on each board aka a Wet Edge
I found the magic reach for me was 4 boards at a time. You want the edge to stay wet- so that the coats don’t overlap. That way you will get a nice smooth finish. I had planned to use a roller, but went with a brush because it wasn’t soaking into the surface and needed to be back brushed anyway. In the end it was worth the extra time. If you want to work smarter not harder, there are all kinds of extensions and stain applicator options you can buy.
5. Work in the Shade when Possible
It might seem nice to have your boards dry nearly instantaneously, while getting a tan on a hot summers day. The thing is, it is better for the longevity of the stain if you stain in the shade. That way the stain penetrates more deeply into the wood, vs. sitting on the surface. It also cures properly. The sun to shade ratio on our deck was about 60/40 based on nap times… because that’s when I have time to work!
6. Don’t skimp on Quality
I have tested a lot of paint brands. To be honest, it is rare that I notice a huge difference… most often it comes down to the thickness of the paint, and doing 2 coats vs. 3. However, I notice a HUGE difference with outdoor stains. When it comes to a high traffic area like decking, you don’t want to skimp. I used a cheap solid stain on our old deck, and after one winter it had peeled. It could have been a combination of a few factors, but I was very disappointed.
So there you have it- my tips for how to stain a deck! A note about this stain- it has weathered very well through our Alberta winters. It is Behr Premium Weather Proofing All-in-One Wood Finish- tinted to the color chocolate.
Hope this is helpful for both rookie and experienced stainers… onto the next project!