This post was updated on January 16, 2024
How To Stain Wood Decks
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Staining a deck can be overwhelming with the plethora of deck stain choices and not knowing where to start with your project. The last thing you want is an uneven appearance or running out of time to enjoy your finished project by a certain date. Staining your deck can actually be a relaxing, rewarding process if you follow these steps that make your project a fast and easy one.
Staining Deck Steps and Tips
- First, choose a stain that is best for your deck. Certain stains excel in certain environments based on climate, UV ray exposure, and type of wood. Visit Exterior Wood Stains for a product filter that easily narrows down the best stain or sealer for your wood. For further help, please visit: Top 6 Deck Stain Ratings
- Next, properly prep your deck. This is the most important step of the deck staining process. Properly prepping your deck will ensure your stain can properly adhere and penetrate the wood. Failing to properly stain your wood will lead to deck stain failure prematurely. The cleaning or stain stripping followed by brightening should be done at least 48 hours prior to applying the stain unless you are using Restore-A-Deck, which can be applied the same day as the prep.
- On staining day, make sure there is no rain in the forecast for at least 12-24 hours. Remove all furniture from the deck and surrounding areas. Protect all shrubs and flowers with plastic tarps but make sure to provide enough room for them to breathe to prevent suffocating them. If there are any concrete patios nearby, it is a good idea to cover those too.
- We recommend the use of stain pad applicators or a pump-type sprayer. The stain pads allow for flawless, even application while pushing the stain into the wood to prevent stain puddles or dripping. Spraying your stain makes it fast and easy, but it is prone to over applying or uneven application. if you use a spray, make sure to back brush for an even appearance.
- Always start with vertical surfaces such as railings. Using the stain pad, apply the stain from the top down. Do this in sections of 4-6 feet at a time. Make sure you regularly wipe any excess stain that accumulates on the floor. If you are using a sprayer, check your surroundings to avoid overspray onto the house or plants. Scan the area for drips or missed spots before moving on.
- After completing the railings, double-check for any missed spots or drips. Touch these up before the stain dries.
- Now for the fun and easy part, staining the floor. Make sure you apply in the direction of the wood grain and complete each individual board before moving on.
- Many stains want you to apply “wet on wet,” which means you apply the second coat while the first coat is still wet or not completely dry. This will be in the manufacturer’s instructions, so pay close attention. Deck Stain Help tip: It’s not always necessary to apply two coats to verticals/railings.
- When you’re done, remove all tarps from your plants. If you used an oil-based stain, do not leave oily rags inside the garage or home. Allow for the stain to dry for at least 24 hours prior to placing furniture on the wood.
If you have any questions or suggestions for how to stain deck wood, feel free to leave them below along with pictures if you have them.
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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.