They say there is more than one way to skin a cat. Well, there is also more than one way to know how to stain a deck, feline pets notwithstanding. Is your deck brand new, freshly installed and waiting to come to life with a stunning covering of color?
Or is it an old, weatherworn one that has seen family parties, years of summers and winters and survived the elements, and now needs a bit of a facelift? Staining a deck that is old is a different story altogether to finishing off a brand new construction.
Extreme Makeover for your Tired Old Deck
How to stain a deck that is looking worse for wear begins with restoring the timber to a condition that will enable it to accept a new coat or two of decking paint. There is also no use in painting over damaged wood. It should be repaired, not only for the safety of the deck in general, but also because doing half a job will only mean the other half has to be done at a later date anyway.
Clean before Staining
Begin with cleaning. Your deck should be cleaned on a regular basis, which will mean an easier job when it comes time to restore it back to its original beauty. If it is been allowed to gradually fall into a state of decline, knowing how to stain a deck is going to be a tertiary consideration. First comes cleaning, then repairing.
Repair and Replace
Remove all furniture and other fixtures, inspect the boards for rot, cracks, splinters, splits and twists. You will have to replace any boards that show evidence of serious structural compromise. Once the carpentry fix-ups are complete, sand back the boards to smooth out any roughness and also to remove any traces of old stain products.
Any spot sanding can be done with a belt sander. Sand across the grain of the wood, followed by diagonally and ultimately, with the grain. Now you can learn how to stain a deck. At this point, the deck can be old or new. You are basically starting with bare timber that has been prepared to accept the stain.
Learning how to stain a deck is fairly simple. There are fundamentals to understand but mostly, it is a job that a handyperson with basic skills can do with confidence.
Brighten the Wood then Seal
Using a commercial deck-brightening product, apply with a sponge, garden sprayer or mop. Keep safety in mind and wear goggles and rubber gloves. Once dry, you can apply either a semitransparent stain or a clear sealer, the function of which is to enhance the decks water resistance and stabilize the color you will use.
The next step in how to stain a deck is to actually start applying the stain. Use a roller for floor surfaces and a brush or rag for railings. Using a sprayer will probably result in stain getting on the house. Once it dries you will not be able to remove it without damaging the house paint.
When you buy your stain, decide whether you want one that is tinted, this will enhance the color of the wood, or semitransparent, which will result in a bolder look by masking over the grain of the wood.
How to stain a deck in fewer steps will depend on whether your stain includes a sealer or not. You can apply a sealer/stain product in a single step but if you buy a stain that does not include a sealer, you will have to seal the wood as well.
Once you have learned how to stain a deck, it will be a skill you will carry for life. That is a good thing because, given the exposure to sun, rain and dirt, a deck will need to be re-stained after 4 to 5 years.
Deck Image by Tom Gilbert