HowTo – Staining Your Deck

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    With proper maintenance your deck can last years longer so taking a half a day to paint it should not be looked at as a nasty chore but a protection of your investment.

    Penetration into the wood is the main difference between Paints and Stains.

    Paints can be thought of as a thick outer shell that will fail once it is chipped off. Stain will enter into the wood and continue to protect the wood even after the outer surface has been worn by people walking on it.

    This is why stains are preferred for decks and home siding and paints are good for interior or non-porous materials like metals.

    Since you will probably choose to stain your deck in either spring or fall you should watch the weather for a weekend where you have 3 to 4 days of above 70F temperatures and no rain.

    If you wanted to stain the deck on Saturday morning you should keep Wednesday evening open so you can clean it and allow a day or two of full sun to dry all the water out of the wood. There are a few different chemicals and methods that can be used and you should review our other HowTo to learn your choices.

    Once you have a clean deck you should prepare the area by taping newspaper or plastic drop cloth to the house or any other area that needs protection.

    Since stain is made to penetrate surfaces you will find it is very difficult to clean up if you splash or paint items by accident.

    You should first apply a single strip of masking tape to the bottom molding that surrounds the deck.

    To make a large section of newspaper you can lay pieces on the deck and tape the edges together remembering to overlap the pieces a few inches.

    Now position the large sheet of newspaper on the wall and tape the top to the siding and the bottom edge to the masking tape you applied earlier.


    There are three basic tools you can use to apply stain.

    • Airless or air spray equipment
    • Paint Rollers
    • Paint Brushes

    The least expensive and most effective is brushes. Paint Rollers can leave too much stain on the wood and can also leave behind fibers from the roller. Airless Sprayers may also apply too much stain and should not be used to apply stains if you wish to later use it for latex paints.

    Brushes will allow you to apply the exact amount of stain needed and they will help force the stain into the wood. They are also very inexpensive so you can decide if you will save them to use only for stains and oil based paints of if you can just discard them after the job is done.

    We have picked 3 different size brushes all are synthetic fibers. The smaller brushes will not be used that often but will allow us to get into tight areas. The larger brush is almost the same size as the decking and will allow us to apply one coat of stain with a single stroke.

    Mixing your stain is very important.
    Unlike paints the pigments and fillers in oil based stain will settle quickly to the bottom of your container.

    Also for color matching purposes it is always best to mix all of your cans of paint or stain in a larger container so that your whole batch is uniform.

    Our project will take approximately 3 gallons of stain. You can see an empty 5 gallon stain container we saved and are using to mix our batch.

    Once mixed we transfer the stain into a gallon container filling it about half full. You can see we have a stir stick in the 1 gallon container so we can continue mixing as we are working. Before you refill the gallon working bucket you should remix the stain in the larger container making sure to get the filler and pigments off the bottom of the can.

    When you first start out fill your working bucket with less product. Stain is very thin and splashing is very easy to do even when you are trying to be careful.

    When you apply the stain you want to apply enough that the wood stays moist on the surface but is not flooded with a large amount of stain. This may take a couple passes on new or neglected decks as much of the stain will penetrate into the wood.

    If you choose a semi transparent or translucent paint then you will see the grain of the wood in your final result. If you use a full pigment hiding stain you will have an effect similar to a paint finnish.

    Samples of your choices on different woods should be available at your paint supplier. If you will be applying stain to redwood then make sure you see the stain on a chip of redwood and not pine.

    Although most stains say they have a 5 to 10 year warrantee you can expect to refinish your decking material once every other year and your vertical surfaces once every 3 to 4 years. Full Sunlight, Kids, Mold, Tree sap and other factors may shorten the times between applications.

    Visit our other Howto Guides for Deck Building and Carpentry Help


    For Some Great Books on Deck Plans Visit our Builders Store  The Complete Guide to Building Decks
    Building Porches and Decks (For Pros By Pros Series)
    Complete Decks : Dream It, Plan It, Build It (Better Homes & Gardens (Paperback))200 Deck Plans on CD-ROM Browse for similar items by category:

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