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Re-staining an Old Deck

Deck Stain Failure

Old Deck Stain

Bringing an old deck back to life can be very rewarding. But like any rewarding venture, the task can be daunting. With the right knowledge however, it can be well worth the effort. A restored deck can give your home’s exterior a much needed facelift not to mention raise your home’s curb appeal and value.

Re-staining an old deck requires a few tools. A pressure washer is very helpful but a scrub brush can also be used. Pressure washers can be rented if you do not own one. Before re-staining an old deck, the surface needs to be clean. A good wood cleaner will go a long way in aiding the cleaning process. A quality deck cleaner will loosen dirt, grime, and graying making them easier to remove with the pressure washer or scrub brush. It will also rid the old deck of mold, mildew, and algae. The idea is to reveal clean bare wood so the new deck stain will perform properly.
If an old deck stain is present then you must use a deck stain stripper instead of a deck cleaner. The washing process is the same but the stripper will also loosen and emulsify most wood stains so they can be washed away as well. It is essential to remove any remnants of old stain so it does not hinder the new stains performance. Follow up the cleaning process with a quality wood brightener by following the instructions. You basically coat the wood with the brightener after cleaning; allow it to dwell for several minutes, then rinse. This helps open the pours of the wood to allow better stain penetration.

Once clean, allow the old deck to dry for a day or two. Re-staining an old deck can be done with a roller, brush, stain pad, or sprayer. Be sure to protect any landscaping or other surfaces from unwanted drips or overspray. Apply the stain and allow it to absorb into the wood. The amount of stain the wood will soak up depends on the age, condition, and porosity of the wood. Do not over apply the stain. Wipe away any excess stain that does not soak up after 10-15 minutes. This applies to the penetrating type of stains not the film forming type. The film forming type of deck stains are applied more like paint but they are more prone to peeling and cracking.

Re-staining an old deck is not hard with the right tools and knowledge. For the best results it is recommended to perform a light wash and maintenance coat to your old deck every couple of years.

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26 responses to “Re-staining an Old Deck”

  1. Caryl says:

    My husband and I bought an older house and looks like the back deck was painted…we would like to restore the deck this summer but not sure how to proceed. After reading the article on behr deckover and rustoleum products decided against that…is there a way to stain a deck that was once painted?

    • You have to remove it all if you want a penetrating old based semi-trans stain. That would require sanding it all off. Other option might be the Gulf Deck Revive:

    • Dave says:

      You can rent (or buy) a high powered pressure washer, and if you are lucky and the pressure is sufficient (3200 psi or so)…the old stain will be able to be blasted off down to the bare wood. I just did this on my 20 year old deck (it was BLACK with muck but originally was the "wrong choice" of redwood color). With a deck washing oxidizer product applied afterward (I used FLOOD), the deck wood looks very close to "new". After it dries out for a couple of days, you can stain it any color, as you wish. (no sanding required)

  2. Judy says:

    I recently divorced and have the house. My ex-husband did all the outside work but neglected the deck. It is about 17 yrs old and is graying. I want to restore it. This was very helpful information to a "beginer" with a senses of being overwhelmed by the project. I feel better prepared to tackle this project. Thank you.

  3. Linda says:

    We had our deck power washed but some stain remains. Sanding is not an option as the nails will get in the way. Should I still apply a stripper or will a brightener do? We live in Connecticut so get a fairly snowy winter and the deck gets heavy sun. What is the best stain for us? We wanted to go with a more natural color (and stay away from a painted look).

  4. Lori says:

    I live in Minnesota someone said I should just wait untl next Spring now to restain my deck is this true or is it helpful to do it now?

  5. April masilamani says:

    my deck is dark in places where furniture was and grey where exposed to sun. It's kwilla hard wood. I've sanded and used a deck old stain remover but there are still strong demarcation marks. Will this look bad when I re stain.

  6. Rocky says:

    I stained my 20+ year old deck last spring with an old sikkens solid oil stain. I did sand the whole deck with 60 grit sandpaper effectively removing 90% of the old solid deck stain that was failing. It is now January and I noticed that there are a few small areas where there is peeling. My question is the following, will the deck need to be stripped or can I apply another solid stain over this if most of the stain has adhered to the deck. Sikkens has told me to clean the deck with a mixture of water, tsp, and bleach then do a light scuff sanding with 80 grit sandpaper before applying a maintenance coat. I will be forced to use a water based stain as they no longer sell solid oil stains in my area. I live in Montreal Canada where the winters can be brutal. My deck is raised off the ground by 3 feet and is made of pt lumber. I really don't want to sand it down to the bare wood again (took 3 days). What are my options?

  7. Christine says:

    We live in upstate NY. Our deck is old and gray but still in good shape. We power washed it and are looking for a product to improve the look without peeling. What would you suggest? Thank you!

  8. Paul Agud says:

    At the end of your article "Restaining an old deck" you recommend "light wash and maintainence coat every couple of years". Please tell me how that differs from the full wash+brighten+stain routin described earlier in the article. I used TWP two summers ago — it's now quite worn- looking and I need to refresh, using the same TWP 103 product (assuming it's still available).

  9. Joy Zidon says:

    We have a deck that was stained with an oil base Pittsburgh stain 3 years ago. We added on to the deck and now want to stain it all. How do we go about matching the stain to make the deck look like one? I also want to go to water based stain. I find water based stain go on and looks better. We also have a bunk house that is stained with the same Pittsburgh stain and the north side has gotten darker or looks like its wet. Why is this and what do I do this next time staining?

    • Start by removing the Pittsburgh stains. Use the Restore A Deck stain stripper and pressure washing to remove. Brighten the wood when finished. Clean and brighten the new wood. Try the Defy Extreme Stain for this deck.

  10. Micky says:

    Hi we just stripped and sanded our 10 year old deck. We were wondering whether we should stain it now or wait for spring. We are in Toronto and the fall usually is accompanied with quite a bit of rain. Much appreciate your comments.

  11. joe says:


    we built a new cedar deck last summer (2015) using s4s kiln dried cedar. later (october) we applied a penetrating stain (woodrich) after brush cleaning to remove mill glaze, neutralizing and allowing the wood to dry. the stain was pretty well taken up by the new wood.

    NOW, (1 year later) we'd like to apply another coat of the penetrating stain. what should the prep process include?

    i'm thinking wash again (oxyclean) with brushing as needed, then neutralize with citralic acid, allow to dry and then spray/brush on the stain.

    i don't really want to aggressively remove the first application of stain but do want to get another application soaked into the wood before winter.



  12. Bob Colburn says:

    Deck Location State: Northern Illinois
    Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Almost Full Shade
    Wood Type: Pressure Treated Pine
    Mold or Mildew Issues: Near forest – some slight issues
    Reason for Previous Stain Failure: N/A
    Previous Coating? Either white solid stain or paint. Based on some chipping I would guess paint.

    I recently purchased a home with a deck in poor condition. The verticals (framing) is white with either paint or a solid stain. It is in better shape than the decking was, so I don't feel like I need to strip it. I want to change the color and was wondering if I could use solid stain. If so, which stain? Otherwise I will paint with the Behr Marquee. Thanks!

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*This is first and foremost a help site from our experience as wood restoration contractors. All stain and prepping manufacturer directions were followed with our reviews and ratings. We offer no guarantee of similar results. Take inconsideration that wood and deck stain results may differ due to prepping procedures, different wood types, exposure to UV radiation, natural weathering, etc.