This post was updated on January 18, 2023
How to Spray a Deck Stain Tips
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How to Spray a Deck Stain properly and evenly.
We here at DeckStainHelp.com hear a lot about different methods and tools people use to stain their decks. Luckily, there are options so you don’t have to be tied down and committed to staining your deck any certain way. One way to apply stain onto your deck is by using a low-pressure pump sprayer. We hear positive results from people who use a sprayer to stain their decks from its ease of use. Best of all, if you use a sprayer and follow these directions, you can complete your deck stain project in as little as two hours.
Here’s how to do it.
Please note: Read all the manufacturer’s directions before you begin. This is a general guide to stain using a transparent or semi-transparent stain, but manufacturer directions override any discrepancies. In many cases, an Airless Sprayer or HVLP Sprayer will work with these steps and most stain brands. When spraying, wide fan tips are best. Avoid “cone” spray patterns. Some additional Deck Stain Pads, Brushes, and Tools can be found on that link.
Steps To Spray Your Deck Stain
- Mix stain thoroughly. Add stain to a paint tray and a pump sprayer. Take caution to avoid spillage and clean spills quickly.
- Start with wood railings first. If you do not have any railings, move on to #8. Cover outside surrounding areas such as concrete, grass, and shrubs with a large Poly Tarp(s). Tarp below deck if a raised deck.
- Hang a canvas tarp (9×12) 4 feet on one side, 4 feet on the opposite side, and 12 feet along the railings. The tarp is used as a backdrop for overspray.
- Apply the stain using the sprayer to one side of the railing, lifting one end of the canvas tarp. The opposite side of the canvas tarp will catch the overspray. Walk around to the opposite side and repeat this process, applying the stain on both sides. Make sure to get the outside edge of deck floor as well. Note: Keep Sprayer pressurized fully for even spray pattern
- Slide the canvas tarp down the railing and adjust the poly tarp if needed to match on the outside/below. Immediately back wipe excess stain on the section just completed that may have dripped on the floor using a brush or stain pads.
- Wipe any drips on the completed railing section using a brush or stain pad and scan the area for missed spots. Apply a second coat if needed to the top of the railings with the brush/pad. Check over the completed section for drips, missed spots, etc. before moving on to the next section of railings.
- Repeat steps 1-6 around the railings until you reach the opposite side. Check once more for drips or missed spots.
- Move on to flooring. Slowly edge out flooring (1-2 feet) that butts up to the house using a staggered line. Use a stain pad or brush for this process.
- Lightly saturate remainder of flooring using the pump sprayer. Be careful to not spray on house!
- Apply a second coat evenly to the flooring using the pad or brush. Use caution to only apply as much as the wood will take, as overapplying will lead to premature stain failure.
- If applicable, move on to stairs repeating the above steps.
- Very Important! Promptly dispose of rags and tarps by following the manufacturer’s directions. Most manufacturers suggest soaking any oily rags/tarps in water and lay flat to dry outside. Do not leave materials in tight balls or inside garages, trash cans, or homes as this could be a fire hazard if using an oil-based stain.
Have you used a low-pressure pump sprayer to stain your deck? We want to hear about your projects. Feel free to leave us any comments, questions, or feedback in the comments section below.
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As an article and comment contributor to the site, Scott has been around the pressure washing industry since attending college. In 1993 he started his first company called Oakland Pressure Wash specializing in exterior pressure washing and deck staining. That company evolved into OPW L.L.C. shortly thereafter concentrating more on exterior wood and deck restoration. Scott and his Deck Cleaning Michigan company have restored over 10,000 decks in the Metro Detroit area since the early years. He has become an authority in the deck restoration industry and has contributed to numerous wood restoration forums and informative sites.
All the products he suggests through this site are sold through online sites and in retail stores, allowing the consumer to choose their own means of purchase. Scott’s eCommerce sites do sell many top brands he endorses and if you appreciate any of the help he has offered then feel free to purchase from one of them.
Is it okay to use pump zero sprayer from scoots for driveway sealers ( box of sealer bottle is saying you can use sprayer but pump zero sprayer box is saying not recommended for staining. I am so confused.
We have never heard of this sprayer. If using a pump sprayer, get the best one that they have. Make sure it has a fan tip, not a cone tip.
They typically sell these in the garden or paint sections.
I have a Behr solid color stain. I have used a hand-pump sprayer before with this but I’ve learned it’s not recommended. Should I use it again or switch to a roller (for the floors) and brush (for rails, etc.)?
Do not use a pump sprayer with a solid stain. Rollers and brushes are correct.
Is there any deck sealer which will withstand or prevent mold
regrowth? I would clean, use sealer and then stain over sealer..
You cannot stain over a sealer or seal over a stain. Use a stain that prevents mildew growth. Try Restore A Deck Stains.
Hello – for 180′ of mixed privacy + regular picket fence, I’m looking at Ready seal (garden pump sprayer) or Armstrong Clark. For AC, would the unit in the link below work? Are there any garden sprayers that work with AC? Brush/pad would take too long for a weekend or two.
Garden sprayers will not work with the AC Stain. Only airless. Not sure if the HVLP will work but doubt it.
Thanks for the quick and helpful response. So rolling/brushing is the best option for AC Stain then?
Stain pads and brushes.
Many thanx for this info. Tried using a HVLP gun…..no bueno!! Going to do lattice spraying.
I have sprayed my fence before with the bug sprayer it took me two hours this year I bought a semi Translucent stain to bug sprayers later it didn’t work got a deck sprayer with five different flows and I still can’t get it to come out right it’s a mess what am I doing wrong is it because it’s semi-translucent please help
Depends on the brand of stain and how thick it is? Not all semi-transparent stains are sprayable.
So what do I look for on the stain can in a semi transparent?
There is nothing on the can that will tell you this. You learn from experience. For example, none of the semi-transparent water-based acrylics from Home Depot or Lowes will spray well or at all with a pump sprayer. Of the top brands that we rate, all will spray with a pump sprayer but the Armstrong Clark Stains (slightly too thick): https://www.deckstainhelp.com/the-5-best-deck-stain-reviews-and-ratings/
If you know what brand you are going to use then we can offer advice as to if will spray well or not.
Expert Stain & Seal semi-transparent. Color: Pecan. Will it spray well? Please give me the names of a few sprayers I can research and choose from. Barbara
Sorry but no idea if that product works well or can be sprayed. Best to ask them for help.
How do you open it to add more?
We do not understand your question.
Can I thin Thompson’s similar transparent so it will work in a sprayer?
If yes….than what do I thin it with?
No, that is probably not a good idea.
Can solid stain be used in a sprayer? And where to get info on sprayer ratings for semi and solid stains?
No you cannot pump spray a solid stain.
We just purchased Behr solid stain and it says right on the 5 gallon bucket that it can be sprayed .
Airless sprayer only, not a pump sprayer.
I’ve been trying to spray ReadySeal stain with a hand-pump Chapin sprayer, and, as one other person mentioned, it’s not coming out as a spray but thick droplets and using way way way too much. Any advice on how to remedy this?
Better sprayer or try pumping more to get more pressure.
How is the best way to clean out a pump up sprayer after you use it to spray stain or decking oil ?
Use mineral spirits.
I am gonna be staining a wood deck and patio furniture with a garden sprayer what is the best oil base stain to get that will give it a slight cedar color look to match the other deck.
Try Armstrong Clark or TWP Stains.
We recently purchased Sherwin Williams SuperDeck waterborne deck stain. We thought we could apply it with a hand pump sprayer and it didn’t work. It would only come out in a thick single line vs a nice, even spray coat. I checked the sprayer with water to make sure it was functioning and it was. Any thoughts or suggestions?
It cannot be sprayed with a pump sprayer. Too thick.
Ok so please advise on the best sealant that works in a pump sprayer… i’ve heard that Thompson’s is too thick as well. It just took me weeks to seal (transparent) 187 wood spindles with a brush and i’m hoping next use to use a pump sprayer (just for spindles, railing tops and floorboards, the pad application works well). Thanks!
Any of these top deck stains (besides Armstrong Clark) will work in a pump sprayer. https://www.deckstainhelp.com/the-5-best-deck-stain-reviews-and-ratings/
Having decided to use Armstrong Clark semi-solid stain, I’m trying to decide on the best way to apply it. I have 3 decks to stain so applying with a pad isn’t very appealing. I was wondering if I could use an airless sprayer with the semi-solid stain. There are several models that are between $60 and $110; I’d rather not spend more than that even though I’d use it for other jobs. A good hand-pump sprayer is about $45 so an inexpensive electric airless might be worth a relatively small amount more, especially if it saves significant time. On the other hand, the need to frequently refill the small cups hold might offset any gain in application time. Your thoughts, please.
The AC can be applied with an airless sprayer. It will not work with a pump sprayer.
Can I clean a pressure-treated swing set with RAD Cleaner and Brightener Kit and use RAD solid stain for protection? We are in south Florida where it gets a lot of sun, heat, and humidity. Will a gallon of stain be sufficient?
Yes, you can use the RAD for prep and stain. Probably two gallons for the two coats.
Can I use solid stain in a deck sprayer.
Does not emphasize the need for back brushing?
Yes it does in step 5.
Hi! I’m planning on using the spray method to stain a new cedar deck for the first time. (After waiting about 8 months for the wood to dry) I’ll be using TWP 100 series, after reading your reviews. But I have black aluminum balusters. Do I need to tape these, or will the oil based stain wipe off without any issues?
Also, is there a pump sprayer that you recommend?
It wipes off the smooth coated black spinldes if you wipe right away. It does not wipe of powdered coated spindles. We use contractor grade sprayers by Chapin.
Hello, what does the canvas tarp do? Doesn’t it get in the way and stick to the stain?
Minimizes the overspray of the stain so it does not get all over your plants, house, etc. It can be slightly “messy” but that is why you will need to touch it up after doing a section of railings with a brush or staining pad.
Thanks. What deck stain pads to do you suggest?
Padco or shurline is what we use for our decks.
Any other alternatives. These are hard to find