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How to Stain a Deck

Your deck is the perfect place to enjoy time outside on a warm summer day or a crisp fall evening. If it’s starting to look a little worn out, staining your deck can help you breathe new life into your outdoor space. The process isn’t difficult if you’ve got the right supplies. We’ll show you how to get the job done right.

Skill Level: Beginner
  1. Step 1 Choose the Best Time to Stain Your Deck

    A deck that is in need of staining.

    Here are a few ways you can determine the best time to stain your deck. Test your deck to see how urgent your project is. To do this, sprinkle a small amount of water onto the wood. If it absorbs in less than 10 minutes, your deck needs urgent care. If not, you can schedule your project in the next few months or when time allows.

    Plan at least three days to prepare the deck for staining. This process involves cleaning your deck thoroughly and waiting for your deck to dry before beginning the staining process.

    Choose a time of the year where you can expect 10-degree to 30-degree temperatures with no rain forecast. Make sure you double-check the weather before you begin your project. Plan your day to avoid applying stain in direct sunlight if possible, working in sections as the sun moves across your deck.

  2. Step 2 Inspect and Prepare the Area

    A person kneels on their deck to inspect it.

    Before you can stain your deck you’ll need to inspect and prepare the area. Remove all furniture and accessories from your deck as you’ll want a clean, open space to work with.

    Inspect your deck for damage. Sand any splintered areas with 80-grit sandpaper or a belt sander. Replace any missing nails at this time. You can also tighten down screws that may be sticking up.

  3. Step 3 Clean the Deck

    A person sweeps debris and leaves off of their deck in preparation for staining it.

    The next step in the process involves thoroughly cleaning your deck. Start by sweeping away dirt, dust and debris with a broom. A large push broom is a smart choice for a big deck.

    Rinse your deck with water, pushing dirt and debris off the wood surface. You can also use a pressure washer on a light setting.

    Use a deck cleaner product and a brush to deep clean the wood. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a deck cleaning product then rinse your deck again.

    Allow your deck to dry for several days before applying stain. In most cases, 2-3 days will be adequate.

  4. Step 4 Choose the Best Deck Stain for Your Needs

    Stain is poured into paint trays for easier application.

    Choosing the best deck stain for your projects depends on a variety of factors unique to your deck. Look for a stain made for your deck’s wood. You’ll get the best results by matching the right stain with your decking material.

    Oil-based stains can be used over the top of water-based stains, but water-based stains won’t provide proper coverage over oil-based stains. In general however, you’ll get the best results by using oil-based stain over oil-based stains and water-based stains over a deck previously finished with a water-based stain.

    Consider stripping your deck if you’re going for a lighter color than your previous stain. Look for a stain designed to repel water and protect against harmful UV rays, it’ll keep your deck in great shape longer.

  5. Step 5 Start with the Railings

    A person applies stain to their deck railings  using a brush.

    Sweep your deck again to remove any debris that may have accumulated after your deep cleaning. Make sure you sweep the railings with a broom to remove any dust as well.

    Use painter’s tape to protect your siding and nearby parts of your home and try not to drip on the deck. Stir your stain thoroughly and transfer it to a paint tray to make things easier.

    Test a small patch of wood in an out-of-the-way area to make sure you like the color. Begin staining your deck working your way down from the highest points like posts and balusters. Use long, even strokes with your brush to ensure a consistent coating on your railings.

  6. Step 6 Stain the Deck Boards

    A stain is applied to a deck using an applicator.

    Choose your starting and stopping points, like by your deck stairs or a back door to your home and work in this direction. Use a paint pad applicator or a brush about the width of your deck boards. Apply your deck stain in long, even strokes along the length of your boards.

    Use a small paintbrush to apply stain in cracks and problem spots. You can also touch up areas between boards this way. One coat is generally enough when staining your deck boards.

  7. Step 7 Allow the Stain to Dry

    A freshly stained deck looking nice in the sunlight.

    It’s recommended that you let your stain dry for 24 to 48 hours before walking on your deck. Wait an extra day or two before putting heavy furniture back in place.

What You Need for This Project

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