deck stain tips

How to Stain a Deck in 3 Easy Steps

The weather is starting to cool — you know what that means. It’s time to stain your deck. After a long summer of barbecuing, bonfires, and patio parties, your deck could probably use some maintenance. And the optimal time to stain your deck is dry, moderate weather – so fall is a perfect time.

How Often Should I Stain My Deck?

You should stain your deck every one to three years. Why? Staining creates a protective water-resistant layer around the wood of your deck to prevent damage from the elements and to help it last longer. It also brings out the beautiful colour and texture of the wood, so your deck looks its best.

How do you know if your deck needs a fresh stain? Try the water test. Drop a little bit of water onto the wood, and if it takes longer than ten minutes to absorb, you can get away with waiting another year. iI it absorbs within ten minutes or less — that deck needs to be stained. 

How to Stain Your Deck 

deck stain tips

Step 1: Plan ahead

You shouldn’t stain your deck on a whim. Rain and sunny weather will impact your results, so look at the forecast and ensure you have a few days of dry, moderate temperature. 

You need at least a full day to let your deck dry completely to begin staining, and another full day to let the stain dry, so make sure there’s no rain in the forecast. 

Conversely, direct sunlight will make your stain dry too quickly, which could lead to uneven colour or visible brush strokes. Try to stain between 10 and 25 degrees celsius, ideally on an overcast day. 

Once you have a plan, it’s time to get all your materials in place. You’ll need:

  • Deck stain
  • Broom
  • Scrub brush
  • Paintbrush
  • Pain pad + paint pole or a paint roller
  • Pain tray
  • Painter’s tape
  • Pressure washer (optional)
  • Garden hose
  • Ladder (optional)
  • Sander or grit paper

Step 2: Clean your deck

Power washing deck before adding a stain.

Before you can get staining, make sure your deck is spotless. Any dirt, stains, or mildew left on your deck will get trapped under the stain, so it’s vital to get rid of everything you can.

Start by removing all of your patio furniture. This is also a good time to check up on your patio furniture. Maybe it’s time for a clean or upgrades. 

After you’ve swept all the dust, dirt and debris off your deck, wet it with a garden hose before applying any cleaner. Use a TSP solution (Trisodium Phosphate) to remove any grease or stains. Get a quality deck cleaner and apply it generously. Use a deck brush to scrub problem areas, if need be. 

Leave the cleaner on for ten minutes or whatever the label instructs. You can wash the cleaner off with a garden hose or a pressure washer. A pressure washer will get the job done quickly and easily; however, be cautious when using a pressure washer. The sheer force can tear the wood on your deck. Use the lowest setting on your pressure washer, use a fan tip or a rotating tip, and keep it about 12-18 inches away from your deck while you’re washing it. 

Once you’ve washed your deck, you can use grit paper or a sander to sand down any uneven or splintered areas. Sweep away the residue.

Leave your deck to dry for one to two days before applying the stain.

Step 3: Pick & apply your stain

Picking a stain colour for deck.

Next comes the star of the show — the stain. You can choose from oil-based stains or water-based. If you have stained your deck before, it’s essential to know what kind of stain was previously used. 

Oil-based stains can go over water-based stains, but if you previously used oil-based, you can’t go over it with water-based. For best results, you should match whatever base you previously used. 

As for the colour, you have lots of options. You can choose clear stains that will enhance the natural look of the wood. Semi-transparent will let the natural wood shine through but can change the tone and depth of your wood colour. Lastly, solid stains completely change the colour of your deck but allow you to have bright, vibrant colours. 

Note that you can’t lighten your deck colour with stain — you may use oxalic acid to brighten your deck before staining, but a lighter stain won’t work on your deck. 

Select a colour that will compliment your patio furniture. If you have cool-toned patio furniture, such as aluminum, opt for a cool-toned stain. Conversely, if you have warm-toned patio furniture such as wicker, opt for a warmer tone to compliment the colours. 

For the best results, test your stain on a spare piece of wood (ideally the same wood as your deck if you can) and allow it to dry so you can see the true colour of the stain, and ensure you’ll be happy with the results.

Paint brush on deck.

Once you have your stain selected, use some painter’s tape around the edges of your deck to protect the edge of your house and other areas you don’t want to be stained.

Sweep the deck once more before staining.

Make sure you have an exit – don’t stain your way into a corner. Make sure you start somewhere where you can work towards your deck stairs or the entry to your house. 

Open your stain, stir it thoroughly with a paint stirrer, and pour it into your paint tray.

Start by applying the stain to the highest points, such as the railings and posts, with a paintbrush using long even strokes. Work your way down.

For the deck itself, you can continue to use your paintbrush for complete accuracy. Applying the stain with a paintbrush will allow you to get the stain into the grains and pores of the wood – however, using a brush will take a long time. 

A paint pad or a roller will allow you to get the job done much faster. For better accuracy, you can use your paintbrush to apply stain between the boards as you go.

Once you’ve applied an even coat, clean your brushes and paint tray, and leave your deck to dry for a full 24 hours before walking on it or replacing your patio furniture. 

You’re all done! Your deck is all set for the next few years. Make sure to refresh your stain every few years to keep it long-lasting and looking good. If you have any questions about deck staining, patio furniture or anything in between, our experts at the Fireplace Center and Patio Shop would be happy to help. 

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