This post was updated on January 18, 2023
Tips for staining a deck yourself
Deck staining is a very important process that improves the appearance of your deck and helps to protect it from the elements. A good quality stain can help your deck last for a much longer period of time than if left untreated.
There are many different reasons you would want to stain or re-stain your deck, but it might be too expensive for you to hire a professional company, or you may just enjoy taking on DIY projects.
Whatever the reason, if you are looking for tips on how to stain a deck on your own, this article aims to provide you with tips on how to complete a stained deck yourself – to the highest possible standards.
See our new top-rated article on Deck Staining: How to Stain Your Deck Fast!
For more info, see our Deck Stain Facts section with over 150 simple Q&A articles that answer all the questions that you have regarding deck staining, cleaning, and prep.
How To Stain Your Deck Tips
- Make sure to choose the best deck stain for your environment and appearance preference. For further help, please visit: Top 6 Deck Stain Ratings
- Make sure you properly measure the deck and have the proper amount of stain needed to complete the project. It is always best to buy a little extra stain so you do not run out in the middle of the project. See here for tips on how much stain to buy: How Much Deck Stain to Buy
- Buy the proper tools to use when applying your deck stain. This can include: Deck Stain Brushes, Deck Stain Pads, Pump-up Sprayers, Rollers, Tarps, etc. See here for Deck Stain Applicators: Best Deck Stain Applicators
- Check the weather report before starting! Nothing worse than spending many hours of hard work only to have it ruined by a passing rainstorm when applying or later in the day. It Rained Shortly After Staining. What to do?
- Read the entire label of your new stain. It will tell you how to use the deck stain, in what intervals of time you can apply coats, and what to avoid. Even professionals read the label before starting work! Every product is different, and you need to pay close attention to the details.
- Make sure not to overuse and over apply the stain. You need to be very precise. If too much stain is applied the wood underneath can’t breathe. If you apply too much you will notice a film appears on the top that will be sticky or not dry at all: Why is Deck Stain Sticky?
Prep your deck first
First of all, you must prep the deck correctly. If you miss this step, it is likely problems will occur in the future.
Make sure to remove any existing older deck stains thoroughly first. If the stains are old or stubborn, you might have to use a deck stain stripper to remove them completely. If you do not need to remove an older coating, then you can use a wood deck cleaner instead for the prep.
You should be careful to ensure that no water is left on the deck after cleaning, and allow it to dry before staining begin. This is important because if the wood is still wet, the stain will not soak incorrectly and might ruin the aesthetic in the long run. The one option for damp wood application is the Restore A Deck Wood Stain.
Once you are done with the preparations, the real process of deck staining can begin.
How to stain a deck yourself
- Tarp or cover the house, plants surrounding the deck, and any nearby concrete. Make sure if spraying that you pay close attention to overspray and that it only lands on the tarps.
- Stir the stain evenly for 1 minute. Fill any pails, paint tray and sprayers first before starting the application.
- Always start with vertical surfaces such as railings. Using the stain pad, brush or sprayer, apply the stain from the top of the railings then down. Make sure you back wipe any missed spots and drips while working. If you are using a sprayer, check your surroundings to avoid overspray onto the house or plants.
- After completing the railings, double-check for any missed spots or drips.
- Move on to staining the floor. Using a stain pad, staying floor brush, roller, or sprayer, apply in the direction of the wood grain and complete each individual board before moving on.
- Finish and staircases last.
- If needed apply a second coat based on the manufacturer’s directions to the railings and or floors.
- When you’re done, remove all tarps from the area. 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.
For more information on staining a deck yourself, visit our top related articles on this subject here:
See our new top-rated article on Deck Staining: How to Stain Your Deck Fast!
See our Deck Staining Tips on Applying Different Types of Deck Stains: Best Way to Apply A Deck Stain
If you want to stain deck yourself without having any professional experience, it’s important to take your time and make a good job of it. Even after you complete the job, you will still need to keep an eye on the deck. From time to time, you may have to do some minor fixes and touch-ups and you should always make sure the deck is clean. Any dirt on the surface will slowly ruin the stain.
Final thoughts: Don’t rush it!
Deck Stain Help & Questions
Stain Reviews & Comparisons
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.
Cleaned , brightened, and lightly sanded surface of any feathered wood. Wood looks good to go. How does sanding affect the pores of wood to accept stain (oil). How soon should I stain? Used 60 grit then went over super light with 120 no pressure. I thought I remembered your article on not using any grit finer than 80. I thought sanding closed pores as in prepping for painting trim. Please educate me. Love this site. You have helped with many deck projects.
See here: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/why-sanding-a-deck-can-be-an-issue/
I have a 4 yr old Cedar deck, I’ve never stained or coated only clean it every year, but I’d like to eliminate the grey look and have decided to stain it next Spring (in Ottawa, On) I’d love to find a product that lasts more than one year due to our harsh weather. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Oh…I will be sanding and cleaning it before staining of course!
For Canada, try TWP 200 Series or Armstrong Clark Stains.
I have cleaned and brightened my deck. The wood is ready to stain. I live in Massachusetts, and the temperatures tomorrow morning are expected to be in the high 30s, rising to the low 50s by noon and ending up around 60. The day is supposed to be sunny with winds 10-20 mph, and the deck will start seeing sun around 1 PM. I can’t stain in the morning because the temperatures will be below manufactured recommended (50F to 90F). I could wait until Wednesday morning when the temperatures are to be in the 50s and try to do the deck before the sun hits it, but there is a 30% chance of rain Thursday evening.
It seems like tomorrow afternoon is my best window from a rain perspective, and temps after staining will not fall below 40. Is staining on a sunny day this time of the year a real issue?
You will be fine and are overthinking it.
The voice of reason; thank you.
I built a new redwood deck in July. The wood was dry, but I let it weather for 1 month after installation. I then used deck cleaner and brightener. Allowed to dry for a day or two, swept, and applied Valspar one coat semi transparent deck stain. The color was a very light grey. I applied the first coat and wiped up all excess stain in an orderly manner. I applied a light second coat roughly 8 hrs later. Looked beautiful for a week or so, then deck began to show dark smudges all over in spots where water tends to pool. Almost looks like spilled coffee everywhere. Any ideas as to why this happened? I will attach photos of raw deck,
newly stained, and how it looks now with smudges . Thanks for any help,
The spots are dirty water that dried on top of your stain as your stain is not breathable at this point.
You cannot stain new wood after only a month, it will not take, and most likely the Valspar will fail after the Winter. You will probably need to remove and start over next year.
Thank you for responding. Can I ask, is this the case with all grades of lumber, such as kiln dried? The people at J&W lumber and other contractors here in San Diego had never heard about letting the wood weather unless it was “green”, which it was not. Have you seen this type of reaction before? I read your article on when to stain, but are you saying I need to sand and wait 3 to 6 months before staining? And can I sand now as opposed to next year? I live in San Diego. Finally, is it possible that the Valspar product is just inferior and can you recomend another brand that would help me achieve this light grey semi transparent color with long last positive results? Thank you again for all of your time and patience helping newbies like myself
First 2 pics are within 2 days of staining
Second two are a week later.
All wood including kiln-dried needs to weather and be prepped. It is about opening the pores of the wood so the stain can soak in. we would remove, let weather, prep, and stain with a better brand like TWP or Armstrong Clark.
Valspar is a very poor stai in general: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/valspar-one-coat-stain-sealer-review/
Getting ready to stain my deck for 2nd coat. New deck first stained 12 months ago. I’m wondering when I need to wipe off the stain. I’m using TWP, and if I remember right, I only used pad and did not wipe off last year. What is the best technique? Thanks!
You do not need to wipe TWP in most cases. Make sure to prep first.
Is 24 hours sufficient dry time between prep and staining? I’d like to prep (clean, brighten) one morning and stain the next morning, assuming perfectly dry weather. Will be using RAD prep products and TWP100 stain. Thanks
No, you need at least 48 hours when staining with TWP after prep.
I’m going to be staining my deck with TWP 101 Cedar Tone next weekend. I’ve used it before and always use the Gemini cleaning and brightening products to clean the deck first. What I can’t remember is how long should I wait (or what is the maximum time allotment) between the wet on wet 1st and 2nd applications?
Apply the second coat about 20-40 minutes after the first coat.
I have a 5year old cedar upper deck with another outside living area below the upper deck. The upper deck “floats” on a waterproof membrane that collects rain and directs the water to the eavestroughs and downpipes. I have rough sanded the upper deck with 60 grit sandpaper. Are all wood cleaner/brightner solutions safe to use on the upper deck? I am concerned that the cleaner/brighter solutions may have chemicals that would damage the waterproof membrane below the upper deck. If I do not use the cleaner/brightner, is there a better product that would be acceptable without the cleaner/brightner step?
Yes, you should be okay to use a cleaner and brightener here and not damage anything.
I plan on staining about 1,500 square feet of redwood fencing with an Armstrong Clark semi-transparent stain. I want to use a sprayer. Do you have recommendations regarding the sprayer? Thanks
AC cannot be applied with a pump sprayer. Too thick. You will need an airless type sprayer.
I have stained my deck three days ago using a oil based semi transperent stain however it is still sticky to the touch and doesn’t seem to be drying
What brand? Post a picture, please.
We have a deck with outdoor wood which we had previously applied a solid stain. After only one year it started peeling. Now we sanded the whole deck down to bare wood. We also used a spackling compound to cover some of the cracks. We are planning to use a solid stain to cover any knots and spackling. What stain do you recommend?
Also I like to mention that we live in Oregon.
Try the Flood Solid stain Pro series.
First of all I wrote a question this morning and can not find question in forum so I will ask again. I have just bought a 12 year old house that has a enclosed porch that leads onto an open deck with finishing done at time of build and not done since.I found what I think is the original stains a Behr Deck Plus semi transparent gray and Penofin clear Brazilian Rosewood oil.I can’t say if oil was put on deck but the wood appears to be pine and the rails are cedar i believe so maybe the oil was used on the rails. I had the deck and rails pressure washed and with a little gray still showing,especially within the knotholes I feel a semi transparent gray would be best,I also want to keep the rails the natural cedar red.So my questions are-can I apply the stain without sanding;do I use a restoration/brightener; will an oil on the rails be ok;the wood is pressure treated wood on the deck;what stain would you recommend for deck floor (by the way I am in New Hampshire) I would like to use an oil stain with one coat.,Also the enclosed deck has an mildew issue and I believe was originally done with Cabot solid acrylic brown stain on the walls and ceiling and I believe done over with Minwax poly clear satin.I was told to scrub with Simple Green pro cleaner but it appears to take the mildew and poly down to stain and would be a really big job.Is there a way to to take off mildew without doing a big job? Enclosed pics of deck floor and rails with a spot I did with Simple green.Thanks.Ron
-You need to strip and brighten for the prep. You will need to do all wood.
-Not sure but maybe try watered down bleach for the mildew spots. Apply and rinse.
FYI, it is really hard to read your questions and comments without proper punctuation and spacing, etc.