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.

562 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:

    Hi,
    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:

    Hi,

    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!

  15. Gary says:

    I installed a new deck with a northern ex poser and used KDHT wood hem fir with pressure treated posts. i want to use Armstrong Clark stain after i clean and treat the wood. i am wanting to fill the cracks in the posts and deck boards, what will accept the stain to match the color and what type of stain would you recommend. The deck is only one month old now.

  16. momof4 says:

    Hello from Deming, WA! Thanks for all the good advise. I have a covered deck (about 450 sq. ft.) and it is treated lumber. We had it built in May and I am thinking of staining it before the rainy/snow season gets here. At night, it drops into the 30's – is that going to damage the stain? Will it be bad for the wood if I don't get to seal it until next summer? Not sure what I should do…

  17. Andrew May says:

    I will have a new cedar deck by mid September. I live in Ontario and by mid October it will probably be too cold to stain and our winters here have lots of snow! So my question is — should I attempt to prep and stain the new deck even although its not been down the recommended period (I couldnt affort to wait more than 3 weeks before it gets too cold) or is it OK to wait until next Spring and do it then? I'm leaning towards using Armstrong if that makes a difference. Thanks for any advice!

  18. ETJ says:

    Deck built with pressure treated lumber for frame and cedar planks for decking. Partial sun and partial shade in fairly extreme range of temps (Iowa). Previous owner had painted it so I've done the painstaking work of sanding it all. A few of the cedar planks did need replacement, and the stair stringers were re-built due to some rotting, but overall it has about 90% of the original 7 year old wood, freshly sanded now.
    1. Wondering if the next step needs to be waiting for several months, then clean/brighten, and then apply stain, or if it can be stained right away knowing that I may have to re-apply to some areas of lower penetration?
    2. Does clean/brighten ALWAYS need to take place after freshly sanding?

    Thanks!

    • 1. Wait until Spring and clean and brighten for prep.
      2. In most cases yes. Cleaning removes the sand dust while the brightener, cleaner, and the water will help to \”swell\” the wood grain so the stain is able to dive deeper into the wood cells.

  19. Cynthia Fung-Sunter says:

    My new cedar deck and fence (lattice work not solid) were just completed. It is now September 4. I live in Canada, close to Seattle, Washington. From what I've read, I should wait for 4 weeks before staining. By then, it will be too wet so should I just wait until spring/summer and hope the deck isn't damaged? What kind of damage might be anticipated? We rarely get snow, but lots of rain. What kind of information do I need to have about the wood for future decisions about product and application? (I'll ask the fellow who built it, while I still have him working on other projects.)

    • The fence you could probably do now if rough sawn but the deck you should wait until Spring. Stain them with the Armstrong Clark Stain. Prep the deck with a deck cleaner and wood brightener before staining.

  20. Jonatha carroll says:

    We have a cedar deck in Adirondack Mts of NY we used a Sikkens product that is peeling. What product would you recommend and how should we prepare the deck before applying a new product. We have been very unhappy with Sikkens. The main part of the deck has a sunny western exposure.

  21. Michelle says:

    Hi, my husband sanded half our deck 2 weeks ago, and the other half this week. There is a color difference between the two sanded portions of the deck. Should he re-sand the other half to match the newly sanded half, or the stain will unify the two?
    We plan to use semi- transparent Flood stain ( can,t find the stains u recommend here in Montreal. We plan to wash the deck and let dry for 48hours before staining. Do u think it will unify after the washand stain? Thank u so much for your help.

  22. LSB says:

    We have cedar railings on 2 decks and stairs – built 14 months ago. Most of the cedar was not stained. Got weathered/silvery gray. Some mildew spots in places, some boards cracking slightly. Sanded down the weathered surface to prepare to stain. WE CANNOT USE ANY CHEMICAL CLEANERS OR BRIGHTENERS because the water flowing off our deck runs directly into an erosion control system that ends in our rain garden. Chemicals will hurt the plants there. Now it is getting cool and damp as we go into autumn. Should we apply some stain/finish now or let the newly sanded cedar weather again until the spring? We can wait until there are a couple of dry autumn days but it won't go above 70 during the day. (Probably shouldn't have started the project at all at this time but ….) Also, the railings on one of the decks were stained last year, about one month after they were built. Used Arbor Coat semi-transparent. They look almost as weathered as the railings that had never been finished. How should we prep these for re-coating and should it wait until the spring? Finally, the product. We already used the Arbor Coat and weren't crazy about having to do 2 coats (stain + clear coat). The result was acceptable in appearance but wish it lasted longer. I tried a sample of a California alkyd stain on a small section of the back stairs. I liked working with it but the color is way too dark and 24 hours later it is still tacky (granted it is a cool, damp September day.) But one coat is appealing. Any suggestions on product? Prep and Application? Timing? Thanks.

    • Prep with a good pressure washing at a low pressure of 1200 PSI or lower. Cleaners and brightener would help but if you do not want to use them then use straight water but be careful to not damage the wood. Look at Armstrong Clark Stain for this. I would suggest waiting at this point until next Spring.

  23. Maria says:

    Hello. We have a new deck, that was built last summer, so it weathered for 12 months.
    Then my husband decided to sand it, "to get it smoother"… Then I did a test of the stain… and the stain does not take… It stays sticky on top of the wood, does not penetrate at all. :-s
    I just read your article on Staining a New Deck and noticed your advice not to sand… which now makes sense, since I see the stain does not take on the sanded wood. :(
    1—What do you suggest we do ?
    —a)Let it weather for another season? (would that be ok to spend another winter with no protection? -heavy snow here)
    —b)Wait a few weeks and then stain?
    —c)Could pressure washing and a deck cleaner help so we can stain next week?

    2—Our deck has two levels. Only one of the levels is sanded. Should we stain the second level which is not sanded this year and the sanded one next year? Will the color be ok between the two decks if we wait a season ? We plan to use semi-transparent stain.

    Thanks you so much for your help.

    • 1. Wait until Spring and clean and brighten for the prep.
      2. Do both next Spring so they look even.

      • Maria says:

        And having 2 years (2 winters) in Quebec Canada with "bare" wood will not create too much damage to the wood ?
        That is my main concern… I want to protect "my investment" since it's brand new… :-s
        I will order the Resto-a-Deck online, but for the stain I was thinking of Flood semi-transparent. I don't have much choice here in Canada from the stains you recommend…

  24. Maria-again says:

    What do you think of this product : Flood deck cleaner
    It seems the product does both : clean and brighten. Is that good enough ?
    The Restore-a-deck you suggest is only available thought online purchase… = more expensive and long to receive

  25. Dennis says:

    Hi,
    September 2014, we just moved into a new home in Southern Maine an area close to the ocean. Our deck is pressure treated pine and was just finished two weeks ago. I would like to stain and seal now before winter; cooler weather is definitely nipping at our heals. Would this be a wise move or should we wait until spring? Our contractor told us you don't have to wait for wood to dry, but I'm old school and find this hard to believe.

  26. Alex says:

    I just spent more $ on a Cedar Deck than I wanted too. I like it though and am nervous about it’s care. We had it built 3 months ago and I wanted to treat it before winter. I live in near Chicago IL. I spent 5 hours cleaning the wood yesterday with a behr product and it looks ready to stain. It has been raining a lot. I talked to Home Depot and asked about a product to keep the natural wood look, They recommended the “Sikkens Cetol SRD Translucent Wood Finish.”

    1) It is supposed to rain today and it has been raining a lot recently. I have a 4 day window after today to get it done. Should I wait for a day or two after it rains to apply the finish? Does it matter?

    2) Does it matter if it rains a day or two after i apply the finish?

    3) I read above not to sand the wood, but every youtube video recommends a light sanding with about a 100 grain sandpaper.

    4) What have your heard about the Sikkens product? I heard good things from a sales person and am looking for verification that it is a good product from someone else.

    4) Do you have any more advice?

    Thanks in advance to anyone who responds..

    • Alex says:

      The deck is clean and the color when it’s wet looks awesome. I didn’t realize that the wood was so dirty! The wet look after it was cleaned is the look we want all the time. That is our goal when we apply the Translucent Finish.

    • 1. Yes you should wait. It needs to be dry.
      2. Depends on the brand but most can take a rain a day after application.
      3. Clean and brighten for the prep. Sanding can reduce stain penetration. If you sand, use 60-80 grit and rinse well with water when done to remove sand dust.
      4. Not a fan of Sikkens.
      5. Try to find TWP 1500 Series

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