Staining A New Deck

New Smooth Wood

New Smooth Wood

Over the past year we have numerous questions asked on the site but none was asked more then “What stain or prep is needed for my new deck”? There seems to be an incorrect opinion among homeworkers that is is okay to stain new wood right away or even before the deck is installed. This is incorrect for most wood types and stain brands.

In this article we will cover the required prep and waiting period needed before applying a stain for the first time.

New Smooth Decking

New smooth decking boards are not porous enough for most stains to be able to penetrate properly. This is mainly due to:

  • Mill glaze when cut
  • High moisture content
  • Chemicals in Pressure Treated Wood

Most wood stains when applied to new wood will have a very difficult time of penetration into the wood cells. This will result in an uneven application and premature stain failure by quickly fading or peeling. Remember, the better the stain soaks into the wood, the longer the life of the stain.

How To Prep for New Smooth Wood:

  1. Install wood and let weather for 1-12 months. This varies depending on the stain brand. Read and follow the manufacturers directions
  2. After waiting period you should use a wood cleaner and a wood brightener. This will remove the dirt, UV graying, and mill glaze.
  3. Let wood dry for a few days after the cleaning.
  4. Apply 1 Coat Only of the stain! Even after the waiting period, new wood is still not very absorbent to stains. Over applying the stain will not give longer lasting results. One even coat that soaks into the wood is what you would want to achieve.
  5. Be prepared to apply a maintenance coat in 12-18 months.

Once you get through the first couple of years, your deck stain will perform much better as the wood will allow more stain and a deeper penetration into the wood.

TIP: Do not sand new wood. This will smooth the wood even more reducing the stain’s ability to penetrate into the wood.

Rough Sawn Wood

Rough Sawn Wood

Rough or Rough sawn Wood

Rough sawn wood is not used for horizontal decking surface but rather verticals such as fencing, wood siding, etc. This side of the wood does not have a mill glaze and is very absorbent. As long as the wood has a low moisture content, it can be stained right away.

Stain Brands for New Wood

In our opinion certain brands of stains will work better on new wood. Through the years we have tried numerous stains on new wood and we have found that stains that contain paraffin (non drying oil) will penetrate into new wood better, even coverage, and can applied sooner.

We would suggest one of these 2 brands for new wood if you do not want to want 3-12 months to allow the wood to weather.

Armstrong Clark Wood Stain – Waiting period of 2-3 months

Timber Oil Brand – Waiting period of about 1 month or less

If choosing either brand, you will still need to prep the wood to remove mill glaze with cleaning and brightening.

Please ask any questions you have below.

532 Responses to “Staining A New Deck”

  1. Susan says:

    I have a cedar deck coated with Sikkens BRD that needs re-staining. I have a few question about the instructions from Sikkens for removing the old stain that state: " Spray all wood surfaces with clean water, completely wetting the wood. Apply a cleaning solution of four (4) ounces of 100% powdered Tri-Sodium Phosphate (TSP) or phosphate free substitute with one (1) quart of liquid bleach and three (3) quarts of water to the wood surfaces with a garden sprayer or a heavy nap roller cover. Scrub surface with a hard bristle brush for 15-20 minutes to help remove mill glaze or weathering. Do not allow solution to dry on the wood surface. Power-wash wood surface clean fresh water using 500-800 psi with the nozzle 8-12 inches away to remove cleaning solution. Allow the surface to dry for 48 hours, or to have a moisture content of 18% or less before application. Sand all cleaned wood using 80-120 grit sandpaper for vertical surfaces and 60-80 grit sandpaper for horizontal surfaces. Always sand in direction of the wood grain and remove sanding dust. Finish should be applied within one week of preparation for horizontal surfaces (decks) and four weeks for vertical surfaces (siding), provided that the surface remains free of dirt, grease, grim and mildew."

    My questions:
    1. What would be a good "phosphate free substitute" for TSP, assuming that it does an equally good job and it is less toxic than TSP?

    2. It doesn't appear that one has to use a brightener if using TSP or substitute. Is this correct?

    3. I would like to avoid using a power washer. Could I do an acceptable job with a garden hose (I do not want to take chances damaging the wood)

    4. Would I need to really sand the whole surface of the wood or is it OK to sand only places where I can see that maybe the prior stapes did not completely remove the stain?

    Sorry for the many questions but I have never before had to deal with a deck and maintain it and I would like to keep the job "manageable". Thanks in advance.

  2. Todd says:

    I live in northeast Connecticut and put down a new cedar deck in November of 2012. The deck gets about 5 hours of direct sun in the summer and we have a lot of trees on our property. After reading your reviews, I put down a single coat of Armstrong Clark semi-transparent stain in May 2013. Within a few months a black algae/mold began to form and by fall my new deck looked like it was 10 years old and completely neglected. What happened? Last month (July 2014) I scrubbed the deck clean with OxyClean (hydrogen peroxide), which worked wonders to bring the deck back to original form. What do stain do you recommend to avoid the same disaster the second time around.

    • It could have been that there was a tree pollinating in the area and the pollen dust was trapped in the stain as it dried. This has happened to us before. Try switching to TWP this time around.

  3. Pabartlett says:

    I live in Utah-very dry climate. I have just had a new redwood railing built on my deck. It has a western exposure, but gets plenty of shade in the afternoon. My builder recommended Sikkens Translucent Stain, but I am seeing many bad reviews on that product. What would you suggest for this climate? The wood is already very dry. Do I need to let it weather as your site suggests? Do I need to wash it before staining? I want to do it right, but am confused by so many differing opinions. Thanks for your help.

  4. Regina says:

    We will be using Yellawood Kiln Dried After Treatment (KDAT) to replace a older deck. It is in North Georgia, with a southern exposure. Since it is KDAT, How long should we wait before staining?

  5. Gary says:

    Just had a new cedar deck built. Contractor used black aluminum poles for the spindles, very common here in Minnesota. How will the Restore A Deck cleaner and brightener products react with the aluminum?

  6. Jeff Schreoder says:

    Just finishing a new redwood deck w/fir posts/beams up in the California foothills (3200 feet). It's hot and dry up here.
    Since reading on your great site about waiting to let the wood dry out before staining, I have a couple questions:
    1.) Could I use the AC semi-transparent stain after letting the deck dry out for just a month, or do I really have to wait 2 to 3 months? (2 to 3 months pushes us into rainy season and winter.)
    2.) If I waited until spring to stain, will I have allowed the rain and snow and freezing to damage the deck from a staining standpoint?
    (A local contractor said not to let it go thru the winter w/o stain on it.)
    Thanks for a great website.
    Jeff Schroeder

    • 1. Hard to say but a month and prepping might be okay. Just make sure you only apply one coat.
      2. Not really. Prepping will restore the wood.

      If you stain the year it will help with the winter. Worse case scenario is you will have to do a light maintenance coat next Spring.

  7. mattp77 says:

    Need advice choosing the best finish. I built a 16×42 deck of pressure treated pine. I live in southeast ohio. Entering the 3rd summer and I have done nothing to it , except I just pressure washed it. Ive been reading reviews all day. I want to see the wood, but also hide the difference in color the pressure washing created. I would like to get something locally, and start tomorrow. Sikkens,Sherwin williams, porter, all available. Or something else? What should I use?

  8. Rob says:

    I didn't see any comments on kiln-dried PT wood. We recently replace the boards on our deck with the kiln-dried PT wood, and wanted to treat with TWP100. Should I still wait several months for the wood to weather or is it okay to treat now? I was going to use a brightener first, let it dry, and then treat with TWP100. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • We treat kiln dried differently then say new cedar or pressure treated. While it will take a stain better, it still needs to be prepped to help with glaze from the mill that can reduce the stain\’s ability to absorb. Use a deck cleaner and a light scrubbing or pressure washing. A brightener is needed after. Only one coat of the 100 Stain.

  9. Petercross says:

    We live on St. George Island, Florida (in the North Florida panhandle), the house is 300 feet from the Gulf of Mexico. In February 2014 we finished a very large deck project on the south side of the house on multiple levels (Gulf of Mexico side). It is exposed to the elements and in full sun. The weather here is hot and humid in the Summer. Winter can be cold, but rarely below freezing and is dry. The deck is exposed to frequent rain storms during the summer. The deck is built with premium pressure treated yellow pine, and the top horizontal railing boards are KDAT pine. The deck and railings have weathered somewhat since we finished the project and will require prep before staining. We like the look of a semi-transparent stain but can also live with a semi-solid look. I personally prefer oil based stain that will penetrate and seal the wood. Mildew is a concern but not a huge problem as we go through dry periods. But I would like to use a stain product that I can wash (say with a mild bleach) to remove mildew about once a year. Maintenance is an issue as this is a very large deck and I wonder what product would you recommend for this application and what type of ongoing maintenance do you propose? I am contemplating using the TWP 100 but would appreciate your advice, Thanks!

  10. Dan says:

    I live in the Chicago area and have a 3 month old pressure treated deck with a cedar pergola. The deck has a Southern exposure and gets full sun. I would like to go with a darker semi-transparent stain. What brand would you recommend? I was leaning towards Armstrong based on the reviews.

  11. Susan says:

    The boards we used for our railing have a few stamps on them in black ink (it looks like ink). I really would like to use a semi-transparent stain to allow the wood grain to show through bit am worried about these stamping a showing through. What can be done about this? They are all P.T. Wood. Please help.

  12. Dawn says:

    We live in Charlotte, NC where summers are hot and humid with frequent rain, and winters can be below freezing with occasional snow. Our deck gets full sun most of the day. We just had a new PT deck built about 5 weeks ago. Our contractor says it is ready to stain. Some of the boards are dry to the point of cracking already, some boards still seem moist to me and have a green coating on them. I'm wondering if we should wait a bit longer? Some of the boards are warping. Will staining/sealing keep that under control? We're also concerned because we have 4 dogs who track in red clay soil on their paws. We don't want the wood to be permanently discolored from that so feel that we should stain/seal sooner rather than later. Thoughts? When we do stain, what product do you recommend for our situation? Our deck is large, so we want the process to be as easy as possible. The more I read, the more confused I get so I appreciate input. BTW-I posted this question on the forum as well. Wasn't sure which place was better

  13. Tanya says:


    We installed a transparent roof over our deck last year – corrugated plastic sheets. I would like to stain the rafters under the plastic sheets to match the deck itself, which was stained with AC semi-transparent. For us it's really hard to clean it with RAD for various reasons (cannot use pressure washer there, hard to cover surrounding wall and windows, etc.)

    My question is – can I just lightly sand it with 60 grit sandpaper instead of using RAD? Will it remove the mill glaze? I know you don't recommend sanding of the new wood, but is it a big problem if stain won't be fully absorbed there? Nobody touches the underneath of the roof anyway…

    I appreciate your help.

  14. Joe Loiacono says:

    In late May – early June I replaced all of the deck boards on my deck in Maryland. Fortunately I got to this web-site just before treating the whole thing with 'Overdeck'. I purchased TWP (100?) Walnut to stain the rails and walls and it is absolutely gorgeous and goes on so well.

    I left the deck boards to dry out and am wondering whether i should stain this Fall (before end of October when it gets too cool) or wait until next Spring. I thought I had read some detailed prep instructions, but can't find them now. Can you point to them? Thanks!

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