How to Stain a Deck

There are some people who have never experienced having to stain their deck. Clients will often ask us how to preserve their new deck investment; and so for those undertaking such a task, the following information may be helpful.

When considering how to stain a deck, there are a few different scenarios for which a person may be faced with. There is the brand new deck,as well as an older deck which has already been stained previously, decks which have been painted before, and decks that do not have wood as there finished flooring or railing detail.

In the instance of a brand new wood deck, there are a few key points to consider. If for example, the deck is constructed of treated lumber, there is a preservative which has been applied by the mill designed to help the underlying spruce lumber to endure.

When dealing with any type of new deck lumber it is important to allow any moisture to dry out of the lumber materials. Once installed, one should wait a minimum of six months for pressure treated lumber to climatize and dry out thoroughly.Deck lumber should have no more than a nine percent moisture content.

Staining a deck prematurely can result in the stain product peeling or the appearance of sporadic coverage once the stain has dried. This can be true of naturally water repellant lumber such as cedar, teak, mahogany and hemlock.

It is generally accepted that leaving a fresh lumber deck for one summer season is a best practice before attempting to stain.

Also important is to purchase a quality stain product. While it is not always the case, generally the more expensive varieties of deck stain tend to provide a better and longer lasting result. There are water based and oil based stains available. In this writer’s opinion, using an oil based stain provides a superior result.

When selecting a deck stain, colour is a consideration. Most beautiful species of lumber show best by using a clear or natural stain, which enhances the appearance of natural colour variations and grain  in the wood. Western Red Cedar as an example provides beautiful natural variations of lighter, darker, and red hues. Application of a clear oil stain will make the appearance pop.

On pressure treated lumber, a clear or natural stain will make the product appear more like an expensive species of wood. Many people will choose a coloured stain on pressure treated lumber to act as a complimentary colour to a dwelling’s main colour scheme or to blend in with the main colour scheme of a home. White or grey are examples of modern trends when colouring a deck.

The stain supplier can provide colour samples to select from, and can then tint clear stain to the desired colour. When staining a deck, it is advised to obtain a couple of sizes of stain brushes. Purchasing quality brushes is suggested to avoid loose hairs coming away from the stem of the brush during operations. A smaller two inch angled brush works best for railing pickets and awkward areas.

If one has a compressor and a spray gun; this represents another option which can be time-saving. Some things to consider when contemplating use of a sprayer include one’s skil level in being able to apply a smooth, even coat, void of runs, and adequate protection of adjacent areas from over-spray, Also to factor are weather conditions, as a windy day can result in a mess.

Using a wide stain brush provides the opportunity to get well into the cracks between floor boards and to apply an even finish. When staining, it is important to carry the boards to completion and work in a uniform progressive manner. The nature of stain is such that if one stops mid board; even for a short time, that it will leave an un-even appearance. Under such a circumstance one can see where one started and stopped.

Ideally when staining, it is important to maintain a fluid motion and to bring along the boards in a progressive manner. It is also suggested to stain perimeter railings and architectural features first,to avoid drops of stain on the floor surface of the deck, and to protect the floor surface first with plastic or sheeting in the railing areas to receive stain.

A deck staining job is best undertaken when weather is above sixty degrees and there is minimal to no threat of rain for at least two days after completing the staining project. Wearing  latex or tight fitting garden gloves will help to keep stain and the related solvents off one’s skin. Eye protection is strongly advised as a precautionary measure against accidental contact.

Always stain in a uniform manner and avoid staining oneself into a corner. If staining will require the use of a ladder or step ladder, such as on a raised deck or a deck which has a higher ornamental trellis, etc. Be sure to have confidence for such a task and make sure the ladder is placed on a  level surface and  be tied off as required, Always maintain three point contact with the ladder. If there is any lack of confidence involving use of ladders, one is advised to hire a professional to complete such work and one who has the proper liability insurance.

The key for staining a deck successfully involves the proper preparatory steps.

If one is dealing with an existing deck which has been previously stained; using a pressure washer is advised to first of all clean the surface, and to extricate any loose paint or stain.

Be sure to inspect the deck surfaces for rot or deep cracks in the surface of the lumber. Necessary repairs should be completed prior to moving forward. A flat scraper on a pole is an excellent tool to remove large flaking paint finish, prior to pressure washing. Insure that all floor boards are well secured with coated deck screws as/if applicable. Check that railing structures are securely firm and not loose and wobbly. Inspect stair treads and the underside of the deck if it is visible.

Assuming the deck is sound, and if power washing has been completed; allow a sufficient amount of time for the deck to dry. When power washing, select a tip that provides a directed fan setting in order not to create gouges or deep grooves in the surface of the wood.

If the wood surface exhibits hairy fibers or unevenness in the appearance, sanding the surface may be necessary. A belt sander and hand held orbital sander work best for the floor surface and railings respectively. Start with a medium grit sand paper and then progress to a smoother grit, particularly when addressing railing spindles and hand rails. Proper dust masks and eye protection should be utilized during this stage.

Once sanding is completed; use a portable electric compressor with a blow nozzle to remove all excess dust from exposed surfaces and cracks in the deck boards. Finally use a dampened soft cloth to wipe the surfaces of the deck, which will help the grain of the wood  to raise up.

Now one may begin staining the deck in earnest. The result will be a beautiful and well protected deck.

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