Lessons Learned from Staining a Deck

A couple month’s ago, my husband and I decided that we should finally stain our deck… after living in our house for a few years. I know, I know… that’s bad to let untreated wood go through the elements with no protection so we finally found a free weekend on a warm northwest day to do it. And HOLY CRIPES we did not know what we were in for… especially if you want it done well. We looked up a bunch of stuff on the different steps to take, this is a really good one from Dunn Lumber.

  1. DEFINITELY clean your deck, below is pic of how gross the build was on our deck:

    You can find tons of deck cleaners at any hardware store. We went with the Beher All-in-One Wood Cleaner. You’ll want to make sure you spray the cleaner, and start scrubbing away one section at a time… we tried to spray the entire deck and found that we couldn’t scrub fast enough before the clean disappeared. Also, if you have the time, I highly recommend getting into the grooves between the plants with a flat head to get rid of any gunk or leaves built up. This is one step we didn’t do and… and we regretted it once we got to the staining part, keep reading to find out why…
  2. After rinsing off the cleaner, LET THE WOOD DRY! I can’t stress this enough, you want your deck to be dry so that there’s no water to mess with the stain (or paint, if you choose) once you put apply it.
  3. Once the wood is dry – SAND IT! We skipped this step because we were lazy… but we’re not the type to walk out onto the deck barefoot soo… skip! This is definitely a step we will do at our next go around, so if you’re the type of person to go barefoot on your deck, this is a must after a scrub.
  4. On to the fun part! We choose to go with an oil-based stain because we wanted to still see the wood grain of our deck. However, paint does last longer, it just depends on the look you want. My husband did a bunch of research on the different brands and we ultimately went with this one at Sherwin-Williams. They had a great selection of colors to choose from as well! We wanted a contrast to our cedar railings so we went with a transparent oil-based stain for the railings.
  5. On to the prep, you’ll want to cover any area that could potentially get sprayed by stain that you don’t want stained. Our deck is on the second floor, so we had to cover the concrete patio below to make sure that doesn’t get ruined either.
  6. Now, onto the kicking and screaming… the railings were a B*TCH to do, to make sure to paint all four sides was SO ANNOYING. My husband and I definitely had to switch off or we’d go crazy. Also, be prepared for how you’re going to get in and out of your house… you don’t want to walk over the area you just stained so have a plan, don’t paint yourself into a box!
  7. Also, remember those sides I was talking about in Step 1, this is where it pays off to have cleaned them, otherwise, the stain is just going to sit on top of the dirt and build up. Don’t forget to paint the sides as you go, if you don’t, the wood won’t look truly stained from all angles.
  8. Pro-tip to avoid any weird overlaps you see above, make sure to paint one entire plank at a time, we didn’t figure this out till later… you’ll want to do this so that the entire plank is evenly coated and the color is even throughout. When you get to a point where you need to refill your brush or roller, don’t start painting right on top of the area that is faded, start at an unpainted spots about 6in’ away and paint towards the faded area you want to connect to, this will help with getting a more even color across the deck instead of immediately layering the stain and having darker areas.

Voila! Deck DONE! (Ignore the crazy yard in the back… I’ll have more to come on our landscaping adventures!)