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Staining A New Deck 4.8/5 (142)

Staining a New Deck

New Smooth Wood

Over the past year, we have numerous questions asked on the site, but none was asked more than “What stain or prep is needed for my new deck”? There seems to be an opinion among homeowners that 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 the 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 deeper 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 manufacturer’s 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 the 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. Over applying the stain will not give long lasting results. One even coat that soaks into the wood is what you 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, 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 newer wood better, even coverage, and can be applied sooner.

We would suggest one of these 2 brands for new wood if you do not want to wait 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.


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1,342 responses to “Staining A New Deck”

  1. michelle says:

    Home Depot pressure treated 30' x 30' wood for new deck August 2015. We left it untreated until this year. Late spring of this year we had to replace 1/3 of the boards due to twisting. Deck has not been treated yet. Its in the mid 50s now here in Illinois. Should we wait till spring (due to the new boards) or do something now before the winter (due to the year-old boards)?

  2. Erin says:

    I had a pressure treated privacy fence installed in July. It is now early November in Michigan. Should I try to stain it before winter or wait until the spring/summer? Any suggestions on stain? Thanks for a great website!

  3. ETurner says:

    What stain should I use for a Redwood fence? Should the stain be applied before the fence is built or do we need to wait? We live in California.

    Thanks in advance!

    • As the article states, you should wait and prep if smooth wood. If rough sawn cut it can be stained riafh away as long as the wood is dry. Stain after install either way. Stain with Defy Extreme or TWP 1500 Series.

  4. Ashley says:

    Just now having deck built. Should we wait to stain till spring or late summer when wood is hot and dry?

  5. Jason says:

    Hello I just recently built a new redwood deck in the mountains of Big Bear Lake,CA. I had to build it in 3 different sections due to time allowed so the front deck was built in September and the back deck in October and the side deck was just completed beginning of November. I want to let the wood age for proper staining prep and also so the colors match before staining. I'm approaching winter and want to know if it's okay for the redwood to go untreated until spring when weather is better and warmer or should I try to get the deck stained before winter?

  6. shuli says:

    I live in Maryland. We just replaced our floor deck with pressure treated wood (primum).
    I am wondering when should I stain it. Should I wait for the spring? is the snow won't damage the wood without any stain?

    • As the article states, you should wait. The Winter will not harm it if only 1 season.

      • Sauli Padilla says:

        Hi you will be perfectly ok if you wait and have it done in spring. just remember to clean using a outdoor or deck cleaner and brightening before applying the first coat of stain I always apply two coats it looks much better with the second coat it is hard to make it look evenly with just one coat good luck

  7. TJ Stockdale says:

    Hello. I'm looking for some expert advice. We live in Minnesota and have a deck and pergola that is just finishing up being built. Everything is cedar (some rough some has been sanded) except we used trex transcend spiced rum decking. They are also in the process of building a cedar fence for us as well. We are trying to figure out what product would be best and longest lasting as we get hard sun all afternoon. We are also determining when to do it. I know we are supposed to wait however I had a 27yr veteran stain company come out to give us a bid and he said he ABSOLUTELY would stain the deck/pergola right NOW and not wait till spring. He said that the grains of the sanded wood tends to cup a bit and isnt nice and smooth after pressure washing it next spring. We would like to save some money and do this ourselves but are now unsure since he said to do it now instead of later and don't want to rush into it unprepared/unresearched.

    • We would wait if it was us, but it really depends on the stain brand you choose for this. Best to always follow the manufacturer directions when dealing with new wood as they differ between brands.

      • TJ Stockdale says:

        I have not decided what stain to use yet. ANY suggestions? I want something great and long lasting as this is a large job with 400 feet of 6 foot fence and the deck/pergola. I know solid color is the best but I hate to cover up the beauty of all of the cedar. I am open to suggestions!

  8. MCHomer says:

    Will be building a large multi level deck. My builder is running about 3 months behind so will be starting the project in mid December (ugghh). We live in the Midwest so will be getting some cold, wet and snow précipitation until late spring. Thinking of using kiln dried cedar or possibly pine. I'm not a huge fan of PT pine but will listen to any recommendations. Will we be okay to just let the decking be naked until spring and then clean and brighten prior to staining? I want the finished product to have a rich mahogany or lighter color with yearly maintenance to keep looking great. The deck is north/northeast exposure.

  9. mark says:

    This is not my first time staining a fence, but for some reason it totally slipped my mind to prep my fence before staining it. It is a newly built fence (about 5 months old), so I was going to pressure clean it to fully de-glaze it etc. Will those 10 boards come out differently then the rest if I prep them? Is there anything I can do to save them?

  10. ashley adam says:

    new year's 2017 – just installed a small, low deck around a pool with treated wood 1"x6"x different lengths. I'm in central Texas. Never snows, only freezes a few hours some nights in our harshess of winter. I'm looking for a stain that will bring out the wood GRAIN, but really protect the wood from the HOT HOT sun and high humidity. any suggestions? also, it says do not sand.. but I think I need to sand around the edges & screws so we don't get splinters??? (beginner here 🙂 )

  11. Jamesb says:

    Recently installed a Fijian Mahogany wood deck that had been dry klin . Do I have to wait to stain? Need recommendation on stain for this type of wood, prefer a tinted brown tone oil

  12. Jay says:

    I will be installing a new Port-Orford cedar deck this coming spring and I have been planning on getting most of the decking in a couple months and staining them all in the garage while I wait for the weather to warm up and dry out. I live in western Oregon and although temps aren't below freezing that much the rain takes a toll. Anyway, after reading some of the comments it sounds like it would be better to install all the boards and then wait a few months till mid to late summer to stain them. My question is doesn't applying the stain after attaching them prevent you from getting a good even layer of stain between the boards and on the underside (access under the deck would be VERY tight)? I just assumed it was best to seal/stain the entire board rather than just the surface. Also, would either TWP or Armstrong about be a toss-up for new Port-Orford cedar?

  13. Lorraine Wilson says:

    I had a large cedar deck built 3 months ago and was told to let it age a few months before applying anything to it. It got too cold to treat it and now there is muddy foot prints all over it and snow that just melted. Also, water pools in the center of it and is there for days. I am concerned that it can not be treated until the Spring and also about this water pooling in the center. Can you tell me what I should do and when I should do this? I bought Deck Cleaner from Home Depot and was going to clean my deck today since it will be almost 50degrees today and tmrw, but in reading the directions, it says not to use it on cedar unless the wood is 2 years old? I don't want to do the wrong thing and I am very concerned about leaving this untreated cedar all winter? Please help. Thank you . Lorraine

  14. Maxi says:

    We are installing new soffits and decking and would like to stain them the same color. I would like to stain the soffits before installing but let the decking weather, clean, brighten and then stain. Is doing it this way going to give me a visible color difference? And do you have any advice since the decking will weather at a much faster rate than the soffits?

    • Probably will have a color difference. It really depends on the porosity of the wood. Smooth wood like decking will be much less absorbent and will have less color when stained as opposed to rougher cut wood that is normally used for soffits. There really is not a way to get it to match perfectly. It will be close though.

  15. Kim says:

    Wow, thank you! My head is swimming in deck info.
    Just to be doubly sure I got this.
    Pressure treated large wood deck with lattice bkttom enclosure installed July last year. Showing some weathering & dark spots, may be mildew. Live in Florida, full summer sun, rain ect.
    So I need to clean and brigthen, pls tell me your product recommendation and best way to do it. Brush & hose?
    Also pls confirm the stain brand you recommend. One coat and additional coat about 1 yr down the road.
    Thank you so much!

  16. Chris says:

    I just finished a new PT deck. My plan is to put a hot tub on top on the deck boards. My question is should I go ahead and stain the deck boards before putting the hot tub down? Not sure the next time it will be able to move. I know it is too early to stain all of the deck but should I at least stain were the hot tub is going?

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*This is first and foremost a help site from our experience as wood restoration contractors. All stain and prepping manufacturer directions were followed with our reviews and ratings. We offer no guarantee of similar results. Take in consideration that wood and deck stain results may differ due to prepping procedures, different wood types, exposure to UV radiation, natural weathering, etc.

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