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Redwood Deck Staining Tips

Stainining Redwood Decks

Staining Redwood Decks

Staining a Redwood Deck Help and Advice

Keeping a redwood deck maintained will slow the weathering process of the wood and increase the life expectancy of the deck. Regularly cleaning and refinishing helps the redwood keep its natural beauty while providing a barrier of protection.

To stain an old redwood deck its important that the surface be clean of any dirt or debris. Using a pressure washer or scrub brush, apply a wood cleaner to the surface and work loose any dirt, grime, and gray wood fibers. Do not use excessive pressure or get too close to the surface if you are using a pressure washer. You will notice how the wood lightens up as you wash it. Clean the wood methodically until the wood will not lighten up anymore then move to the next section.

Once the wood is cleaned and rinsed off, apply a wood brightener to the surface. This will neutralize any cleaners that you used and prepare the wood for stain. The wood brightening process can help the new stain perform better so do not skip this step. After brightening the wood, rinse it well with fresh water and allow the redwood deck to dry for a couple of days.

When staining a redwood deck you want to have temperatures between 45-95 degrees. Ideal temperatures would be between 60-80. Try not to apply stain in direct sunlight. Be sure there is no rain forecasted for 12 hours after staining is complete.

It is best to stain a redwood deck using a brush, roller, or sprayer. Use whatever stain application tool suits you best. A perfect stain for redwood would be a semi-transparent penetrating stain. These types of deck stains dive into the wood grain to help block out damaging moisture and ultraviolet rays.

Be sure to stir the stain well prior to opening. Cover surfaces to protect them from stain drips and overspray. Use plastic to shield siding, windows, concrete, plants, etc. Start by staining all the deck rails and spindles. Take care to follow the stain manufacturer’s application instructions. Stain the redwood deck floor after the railings. Once you have started staining a decking board, finish it from end to end before moving to the next. Staining the entire length of a board at a time will help to eliminate lap marks. Lastly, stain any steps or stairs working your way down. Allow the redwood deck stain to dry for 24-48 hours before allowing foot traffic.

How to stain an old redwood deck is easy when you use the right tools, deck stain, and methods. Protecting an investment like a redwood deck is certainly worth the effort. A well-kept deck not only adds to the curb appeal and value of your home, it gives you and your family some nice enjoyable space to enjoy the outdoors.

Questions on Staining a Redwood Deck? Ask Below

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22 responses to “Redwood Deck Staining Tips”

  1. Kevin says:

    I am just completing our redwood deck. I want to seal the deck, but not necessarily stain the deck. I have used sealers on other projects in the past that left an oily residue and collected a tremendous amount of dirt (I want to avoid that on this deck). Eventually I ended up putting a clear urethane sealer over it that seemed to work well but I wasn't sure if that was the proper product for a redwood deck. Any insight would be appreciated.

    • Putting a urethane on a deck is a bad idea. It will peel, trap mold, and blister. It will also be very hard to remove as strippers will not take it off. You will need to sand it off. In addition a clear product will offer zero Uv protection from graying. You must have a tint/stain for this.

  2. Jodi says:

    We just installed a redwood deck in Colorado. We need to sand down the joints because some of the joints are high. If we let the wood weather will the stain take different on the sanded spots. Also, what type of stain do you recommend for my area?

    • If you spot sand then yes the stain can dry lighter there. Best to sand now and let it all weather for 3 months or so. Prep then with a deck cleaner and wood brightener. Look at the Armstrong Clark Wood stain.

  3. Stephen Crockett says:

    I have approximately 1000 sq. ft. of Redwood deck that needs refurbishing. What would you recommend as the best way to apply the:
    1) Deck stripper
    2) Deck brightener
    3) Deck stain

    • 1. Apply stripper with a pump sprayer and pressure ash off
      2. Apply brightener with same and lightly rinse after 15 minutes
      3. Stain pads and brushes are what we use.

  4. Timmy says:

    I just built a new deck with ur normal treated lumber!! I love the deck stain in the pic above!! Is that Redwood stain and will the wood I use look very similar to that pic with whatever stain was used in that pic above??

  5. zeke says:

    building new redwood deck, have redwood heart 4 by 6, it is beautfui wood and would like to have natural color come thru
    is Thompson water seal ok for this?? I got some other one that says it is transparent but turns the wood orange?? I'd appreciate any tips or products to help this new wood seal and look great!! thanks

    • You have to have color/tint on the product if you want to prevent UV graying. Clear will just gray naturally. Thompsons is useless. Look at a semi-transparent stain.

  6. A Jones says:

    For new redwood deck is oil-based or water-based stain better or does it not matter?

  7. Jim says:

    How about an 8 year old redwood deck that has not had anything done to it? Where to start?

  8. Paula Katz says:


    We live in San Francisco. In 2014 we replaced most of our back deck and steps with kiln dried clear heart redwood because with my deck abutting my neighbor's house, the SF Building Inspectors would give us a permit only if we used the clear heart redwood or cut back the deck by two feet. After researching stains, but somehow missing your website, we decided to use Penofin Ultra Premium Red Label Transparent Redwood stain. Because we spent so much for the beautiful clear heart redwood, we wanted to be able to see as much of the redwood as possible, so we went with the transparent redwood stain with some color in it, and the deck looked beautiful. But the deck turned black fairly frequently from mold/mildew, and whenever we cleaned it, it didn't take long to turn black again. Although our lumber yard said that we should re-stain the deck every year, the Penofin folks insisted that we did not need to re-stain the deck yearly, and that we should do it every 2 years, even though I told them that we live in San Francisco four blocks from the Pacific Ocean, and our deck faces the Pacific. We followed their advice. The deck gets black from mildew/mold fairly frequently in our weather conditions. We just cleaned it last week and found nearly all traces of the stain was gone. We are looking for a new stain, and we will stain it more frequently. And because my painter last week used a combined wood cleaner and wood brightener that did not remove all the mildew and what little remained of the Penofin stain (which he said would require stripping the wood), my new painter is in the process of sanding down the deck and steps to the original redwood to remove all remaining stain and mildew, and once again it is starting to look like the beautiful brand new redwood that we installed.

    So we researched stains again and luckily found your website, and I have read quite a bit of the information, although after awhile it begins to blue. We want to use an oil-based stain, and it appears from your website that the two best stains would be TWP 1500 and Armstrong Clark. We have a few questions because now we need to pick the stain, determine whether to use transparent or semi-transparent, and to pick the color. As I said, we live in San Francisco four blocks from the Pacific Ocean. Our deck and steps face west. A good deal of the year, it is foggy and moist from the Pacific. Other times, it is sunny, and the deck and steps get direct sun those afternoons. (Our sunsets are beautiful!). Often my deck is moist in the morning with dew. And there always is the salt from the Pacific Ocean. We also have competing desires. As others have mentioned, on one hand, we want the rich color of the clear heart redwood, which we paid so much for, to be seen through the stain, and we are concerned that the semi-transparent might cover it up too much. On the other hand, we know that the semi-transparent stain will provide more UV protection against greying than will a transparent stain, to which we would add color.

    Which Stain to Use? Assuming that I go with a semi-transparent stain, which comes in both the TWP 1500 and the AC stains, and assuming I like the colors in both, do you recommend one stain over the other, and why? I noticed that on your Deck Help Articles on either the New Redwood Deck Staining Tips or the Redwood Deck Staining Tips, in response to a few questions, you recommended the AC stain on redwood decks, but did not explain why you believed that would be better than the TWP 1500, and in another response you said to try either one. Your reviews of the TWP 1500 and the AC were not on redwood; do you think the results would be comparable on redwood? Any advice you can give on which of the two stains to use and why one is preferably over the other would be greatly appreciated.

    Transparent or Semi-Transparent: All of your recommendations are for semi-transparent to provide more UV protection to prevent greying because the transparent stain would fade faster than the semi-transparent. Do you know about how long the transparent stain with color would last on a redwood deck facing the Pacific Ocean, and about how much longer the semi-transparent stain would last? I also am going to check with AC, which sells both types, but we would love your independent opinion. We realize that if we go with a transparent stain with color, we have to go with AC because TWP 1500 does not come in a transparent stain, and that we probably are going to have to stain it more frequently. We are going to order samples of the TWP 1500 semi-transparent in a couple colors and the AC transparent and semi-transparent in a couple colors, and we'll test all the colors and the different stains on some extra pieces of redwood and see if the semi-transparent hides the beautiful clear heart redwood too much or not, and which colors work best for us.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all our many questions and for providing this invaluable service. We've already recommended it to a few friends who have deck questions.


    • Semi-transparent do not cover or mask the wood in the AC or TWP. Both of those products would work well for you. Not one being better. We would suggest one of those two in the semi-transparents.

      BTW, Penofin turns dark on most people. it is the nature of the stain itself.

  9. Paula Katz says:

    Hello, this is Paula Katz again. Last night I sent you a long comment with lots of questions. You no longer have to answer those questions. I contacted Armstrong Clark, and they answered all my questions sufficiently, and they are located in Sonora California and sell their products in San Francisco, so we can pick up samples and gallons of the stain quickly. You recommended Armstrong Clark in enough replies to other comments that I am comfortable going with them. I really appreciate all the time and effort you put in your website. It has been very very helpful. And I am sorry for sending you such a long comment last night. I feel a bit overwhelmed when I am addressing a new topic and have to make lots of decisions. So thanks again. Paula

  10. Chris H. says:

    This is a great website thanks for putting it together. We have a redwood deck that is 17 years old and I am in the process or pressure washing off the blackened Penofin stain that was put down about 5 years ago. I see in this thread that you say Penofin will typically blacken, wish I would have known that before. One unique thing in my situation is that the entire surface is in deep shade and rarely sees any sunlight. What is you recommendation for this condition? I'd like to be able to see the natural grain and add some color without having to do this every few years.

  11. L Plendl says:

    Thank you for this amazingly informative website! We are installing a very clear grade horizontal redwood fence. It's a mix of sap & heart wood on smooth kiln-dried wood (to mask part of a block wall). In terms of "the look," we'd like a nice richness and a beautiful soft sheen light to medium in color. Would you recommend Armstrong or TWP or something else? Many 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.