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The Ultimate How-to Guide for How to Stain a Deck

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Why Should I Stain my Deck?

Let’s face it, no one enjoys spending time to stain a deck, but if your deck is advanced in years it usually requires some protection from the elements.  The elements are not friends to your deck – the sun literally burns the surface of the wood and rain and snow inject the wood with moisture.  Your deck gets more surface cracks or checks and the wood fibers pull apart from the constant expansion and contraction due to the changing moisture content.  What can we do to limit the damage done by the elements?  That’s where it’s important to learn how to stain a deck.  Deck staining seals the wood to keep the moisture out, while still allowing it to breathe.  It also serves as a UV inhibitor and reflects sun rays away from the wood.

How to Stain a Deck    How to Stain a Deck

How to Stain a Deck    How to Stain a Deck

Types of Deck Stains

There are numerous products available when looking at how to stain a deck, but you can group them all into three main types of sealers.  (1) Transparent sealers come in varying amounts of color and allow all the woodgrain to show, but contains minimal amount of sun protection.  (2) Semi transparent sealers are more solid than transparent sealers, which makes the grain harder to see, but also protects better from the sun.  (3) Semi-solids are the heaviest and paint-like.  They hide all the grain and some of the wood’s texture.  A good rule of thumb when choosing stains is this: the more color (or the more solid the stain), the better it protects from the sun, but less grain and texture is allowed to show through.

Sometimes people choose wood decks for the beauty and the woodgrain. Other times, wood is used because it costs less than the alternatives.  To maintain the natural beauty of the wood, I prefer to use transparent sealer with some color, and occasionally a semi-transparent for decks that require more protection.  I don’t like to use semi-solids for decking.  If moisture gets under the surface of the stain (and it will), semi-solids can peel.  Semi-solids will usually last longer than transparent sealers, but when the sealer starts to fail, the semi-solid will peel while the transparent will just fade away.  Finally, remember that most stains go on dark, but will lighten up as they age.

How to Stain a Deck – Step by Step Guide

The first step in how to stain a deck is to remove all the junk from between the boards.  This build-up can include dirt, pet hair, leaves, etc.  I built a crude scraping and cutting tool to accomplish this task.  I simply screwed and taped a reciprocating saw blade to a narrow scrap of wood.  If you wanted, you can actually use a reciprocal saw, but that requires getting on your hands and knees.  There is also the potential to cut through a floor joist, so an actual saw is not recommended.  With our homemade tool we can easily cut through the crud.  Some of it will fall below the deck and other pieces will end on top of the deck.  The stuff that’s on top can easily be blown or washed away.

How to Stain a Deck    How to Stain a Deck

How to Stain a Deck

Preparing to Stain a Deck

If there is an existing stain and it’s compatible with your new deck stain, you might be able to simply clean the deck and apply the new stain.  Most manufacturers don’t recommend using their stain on other manufacturers’ stains, but if the finish is almost gone, I wouldn’t worry about applying the new stain.  However, if you cover an existing stain with a transparent sealer, then the old stain will still show through.  You can help this problem by using the same colored stain as the existing deck stain.

Stain-a-Deck-Preparing-Deck

When instructing people how to stain a deck, I always recommend that the existing stain be removed if the colors of the two stains differ, or if they aren’t compatible according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.  If you’re lucky, you can simply use a good deck cleaner and solid scrubbing.  If that doesn’t work, you need to strip the wood with a chemical stripper or sand down the old sealer.  Chemical strippers are fairly harsh (they will burn your skin) and results can be unpredictable depending on the condition of the existing stain.  Sometimes it takes multiple attempts to completely remove the old stain, and this is especially true for vertical surfaces.  On the other hand, sanding is a lot of work, but the results are predictable and you can be sure it will remove the stain.  Sanding large, open deck surfaces can be pretty painless with the right tools.  Also, when you sand you create a smooth, new surface.  Sometimes I use a combination of a good deck cleaner, chemical strippers and sanding when preparing to stain a deck.

Chemical Cleaners

If you decide to use chemical cleaners to prepare your deck to stain, there are lots of products to choose from.  They come in either one- or two-step processes.  For the two-step process, the first part cleans the wood and the second bleaches the wood and removes tannins that can stain the surface.  One-step process cleans and bleaches in one application.  For older decks you can use a one-step process because tannin stains are not much of a problem.  However, omitting the bleaching step in a two-step process could leave your deck much darker.

The chemical cleaner is applied to a dry deck surface with a pump sprayer or is rolled with a paint roller.  Be sure to wear latex gloves to prevent burning skin and old clothing that can afford to get bleach spots.  Some cleaner manufacturers will want you to apply their products on a wet surface.  It’s best to apply these products on cooler or overcast days. Once you apply the product, you want to keep the surface damp until you are ready to rinse it off.  Make sure you pay attention to the label for both accurate directions and safety.  You want to keep most chemical cleaners away from metals, like door thresholds.  Although most claim to be environmentally safe, it’s still a good idea to wet down nearby vegetation.  As you apply the chemical cleaner, you will want to scrub the deck with a heavy-bristle deck cleaning brush.  This will help in the removal of old stains, dirt and anything else that may be stuck to the surface.  Your knees will thank you if you use a brush with a long handle.  After the old deck stain and dirt are removed, you will rinse the surface off.  A pressure washer can get the job done quickly, but you must be careful not to get too close to soft woods or it will literally tear the deck up.  If you don’t want to take the risk, a garden hose with a good stream works as well.  Then, let the deck dry for at least a day or longer.

How to Stain a Deck    How to Stain a Deck

How to Stain a Deck

Sanding

If you decide to sand your deck to prepare for the stain, the first step is to sink all screws or nails below the deck surface. This is done to protect the tops of the fasteners as well as the sandpaper.  If the deck was screwed down, you need to back out the screws and then drive them a little deeper. Depending on the quality of the old screws, some inevitably break or strip and need to be replaced. For the bulk of the deck I recommend a large oscillating floor sander.  You can usually rent these at your neighborhood tool rental.  A floor drum sander also could be used and it may be quicker, but you run the risk of sanding too deep.  If the deck is very rough, I recommend starting with a coarse-grit sandpaper (36 or 50) and make multiple passes as needed.  Gradually step up the grit until you finish with 100 grit.  100 is suitable for a deck, but you probably need a higher grit for an interior floor. The purpose of using a finer grit is to remove the sanding marks made by earlier sanding. For spaces where the floor sander can’t reach, such as the edges of the deck and against the house, we use a random orbit sander and again gradually move the grit from coarse to fine.  It’s helpful if your sanders can collect dust so you can save time on clean-up and the sanders will work more efficiently.  You need to clean the deck after sanding to remove all the dust and open up the pores in the wood that get clogged when sanding.

How to Stain a Deck    How to Stain a Deck

Staining the Deck

Now comes the actual staining when learning how to stain a deck.  It’s important that you read the directions for your specific product to learn about recommendations for applying, but most stains can be applied with a pump sprayer, a roller or a simple brush.  I prefer to roll it on and then back brush it.  This ensures the sealer gets into all the cracks and crevices and is evenly distributed.  Try to stain one or two boards at a time and for the full length.  If you stain half of a board and come back later to stain the remainder, you could end up with visible lap marks.  Not good.

How to Stain a Deck

How to Stain a Deck    How to Stain a Deck

How to Stain a Deck    Stain-a-Deck-Stain-Finished

Wipe Down the Stain

For those who are just learning how to stain a deck, this final step is the one that many people leave out and with disastrous results.  You need to make sure you wipe down the deck with a cloth rag within 15-30 minutes to remove any excess sealer.  If you don’t do this, you can end up with a sticky deck and no one likes that.  Allow the stain to dry a day or two before you moving furniture back and using the deck again.

Stain-a-Deck-Wipe-Deckl    How to Stain a Deck

WARNING:  When finished wiping down the deck, you need to dispose of your oily rags.  You should place them in a metal container, soak with water and seal the can.  One of my guys learned the hard way about spontaneous combustion – it’s not a myth.  He left the rags in his truck on a very foggy evening.  At about 2 a.m. a neighbor called to say he could see flames in his truck.  By the time the fire department arrived, the truck was completely ablaze and not salvageable.

Stain-a-Deck-Dirty-Rags

Now that you’ve learned how to stain a deck, you can add this to your professional skill-set or make your old deck look like new.  Let me know if you have any questions about how to stain a deck and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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About

Mark Ellis has been the owner of Creative Redwood Designs in Northern California for over 35 years. His company specializes in exterior carpentry construction, primarily decks, gazebos...Read more

109 comments on “The Ultimate How-to Guide for How to Stain a Deck

  1. Jeff

    mark, one question i always get from homeowners regarding staining their deck is in regards to drying time. and letting the wood age if its new… should the decking be completely dried out if its rained heavy for a while. and should you let brand new wood decking age for a few months to let the sun bleach it evenly first or just go ahead with staining when its new

  2. Mark (Redwood) Post author

    Jeff, you definately do not want the decking wet. You want the stain/sealer to penetrate. A couple of days of sun is all that’s needed. Really, the same goes for new decking.

    I’m talking soft woods here. The sun immediatly starts degrading the surface of the wood. The sooner you can get protection on, the better. Hardwoods can sit for a while.

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Yes Nick, you could just sweep the deck, but to do a better job, wash it down. Sanding flattens the grain and clogs the natural pores in the wood. Ideally, you want to open those pores to accept more protection by the stain/sealer.

  3. Nick

    Can you elaborate on this a little? Just a quick sweep with a broom?

    “You need to clean the deck after sanding to remove all the dust and open up the pores in the wood that get clogged when sanding.”

  4. brian hergert

    Using a large oscillating or drum sander is going to try to level all decking boards. If some are even a little higher than the ajoining board it will try to knock it down. Most decks I’ve worked on would require a lot of sanding because of that uneveness or cupping.

  5. Bob Johnston

    You did not talk about solid deck stains. I have tried everything including sanding the whole deck before applying. No matter, within a year or two, the “stain” bubbles up in select spots, tears off with foot traffic and looks terrible. Is this simply the result of applying a solid stain (good for one season)?

  6. Greg Kallio

    There is no mention of pressure washing to remove the oxidation and old stain. I have found this to be very effective prior to sanding. Comments?

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      We use a pressure washer all the time Greg. But mainly for a good steady stream of water. On softwoods, nothing can destroy a good deck quicker then a pressure washer that is used incorrectly. Keep your distance away from the surface. It may appear that you are doing great and it’s doing a wonderful job of cleaning the surface, but in reality, you have just removed a lot of the softer portion of the wood, creating huge valleys.

  7. Dirty

    Thank You Mr. Ellis for this very detailed over view of the deck staining process. With all the information here I feel confident that this is a job that I will take on in a much more informed and professional manner the next time I do it. I have done this task a few time before but now know that I did some things a bit incorrectly. If I can clarify, you are saying It’s best to not sand so the stain goes deeper into the grain? If the wood is rough do you sand after the stain and maybe re stain? So sorry about this confusion.

  8. Leo

    I’ve started stripping my deck, but in the middle of the job I found out that I would need to sand it anyway.

    Can I just stop waht I’m doind and start sanding it,clean it and then stain it? Or once I’ve started stripping process I need to go all the way to finish?

    Thanks a lot

    Kind Regards

  9. Sergey

    Great article! Than you Mark for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. I will keep your tips and suggestions in mind when it is time to stain my deck. Thanks again.

  10. Sergey

    Mark, thank you for great and informative article. I really like that you paid attention to fire safety and proper disposal of oiled rugs. Thank you once again.

  11. Megan

    I’m wondering about drying time. The sealant I have says it must dry 48h after application, but I am having a really hard time finding that kind of a window. I guess I’m wondering just how important that 48h time is, or if a “little” bit of rain will ruin the whole process.

    Thanks!!

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      I’m sorry for the late reply, I just received these in my email today, a whole slew of them.

      The manufactures might mention how soon it is safe to apply their product before it rains. I’ve found that after about 4 hours, or even less, it isn’t a problem, if you are using a oil based product. A water based product might be longer.

  12. Brooke

    Mark, we are building a new home in the SC Lowcountry. There are 5 covered porches (and a heavy helping of fear of major maintenance issues). There is no way I will use an opaque stain – they seem to fail very quickly here. However, I would like to achieve a very dark color (to create a more seamless transition from interior to exterior flooring). Is there any product that is transparent but also dark, like there are for furniture and interior applications? This is probably going to sound ridiculous to a professional but is it at all possible to stain the wood with an interior stain and then seal with an exterior transparent product? I am either persistent or in denial… Thank you

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Hi Brooke, see the above reply as to why this is so late.

      There are many tints available for decks, including dark ones. Generally speaking, the darker tints will last longer then lighter tints, as there are more solids.

      Unless the pigmented stain says that it is suitable for exterior use, I would shy away from it.

  13. aptitude

    Simply desire to say your article is aas astounding.
    The clearness in your post is just nice and i could assuje you’re an expert on this subject.
    Well with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post.
    Thanks a milliin and pleae keep up the rewarding work.

  14. Sarah

    I stained my deck recently. It looks great, but there has been a strange side effect. My once silent deck now creaks with every step I take on it. Is this a bad sign? Or am I just worrying over nothing?

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Hi Sarah, Is your deck nailed down or screwed down? Generally speaking, the squeaking is movement in the decking. With expansion and contraction, the fasteners loosen up and when you walk over that area, the decking slides against the fastener causing the squeak. Nails are much more of a problem then screws. I don’t see how staining the deck would be the cause of this. If you have nails sticking up, try to pull them out and replace with slightly longer screws of similar diameter. If your deck is screwed down, you might just have to tighten them down a little.

  15. Business Manager

    Great site you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics discussed in this article?
    I’d really love to be a part of community where I can get suggestions from other experienced
    individuals that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

    Thank you!

  16. aleisha

    Hi, want to ask you for an advice….
    We just built our decking out the back using cypress wood. Beautiful timber.
    We want to add little natural colour on it to make it a bit darker. BUT its ruined because we use the decking stain oil and the colour is awful, not right!
    What can we do? Sand it back again or? Please help!!

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Hi Aleisha, always sample stains on a inconspicuous spot or even a piece of scrap, if you are not sure what color you will end up with.

      Unfortunately, it is too late for that now. Your only recourse is to remove the decking stain, either through sanding or chemical means. Neither is pleasant.

      Generally speaking, clear transparent sealers will darken the decking a bit and can look great. However, they will not last as long as sealers with pigments in them.

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      No problem with waiting a few days. As long as the deck doesn’t get dirty, you can wait as long as you want, knowing that the sun is always derading the surface a little bit each day. The sooner the better for getting a little coat of protection.

  17. Ellen

    Hi Mark, Thank you for creating this valuable informative guide! Just need a clarification regarding your recommendation to ‘clean’ the deck after sanding. Do I need to use the chemical cleaner again, or is it ok to hose it down and just use the deck brush without any cleaner?

  18. michael leonard

    Mark – what are your thoughts on deck brightener? my deck is roughly 4 years old and not in horrible shape, but it’s never been stained and I’d like to Powerwash and Sand prior to staining. But the wood brightener was something that came up in my research. Thoughts on if it’s needed?

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Michael, we use wood brightners all the time. It is preferable to sanding in most cases. It’s covered in the chemical cleaners section. Oxalic acid is a wood brightener. It comes either premixed with other chemicals as a deck cleaner or a cheaper method is if you can find it in crystalline form and mix it yourself with water. Basically they are a form of bleach, without bleach.

  19. Cathy Parese

    I had to replace a lot of my boards. How do I stain it now with old AND new wood? Will there be a drastic difference?

  20. Kazmir

    Hey Quick Question! If I sanded my deck can it get wet before applying the stain or do i have to sand it again after it dries?

  21. penny

    I pressure washedmy redwood deck to remove paint, sanded it 3 times (it wasvery damaged),and pressure washed again because because it was so dirty. The wood fibers have come up. Can I stain it this way and do a light sanding afterwords or should I sand before the using the stain (oil)? Also, after sanding it rained for a day and I noticed that there were small dark spots in the wood that I hadn’t noticed before. I’m worried that it is mold. Does mold always appear raised on the wood or can it appear embedded in the wood?

  22. Artie

    I was told that if you pressure wash a deck, u shd wait a week, clean again with s hose and then wait two weeks to stain. Otherwise, you trap in the debris pushed into the wood by the pressure washer. Is that true? Thank you!!!

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Can’t say I’ve ever heard that one. If you are using the pressure washer and it’s pushing debris into the wood, you are destroying the wood itself.

      If used incorrectly on soft woods, a pressure washer has the capability to do more harm then good.

  23. Laura

    Need some guidance, we just built a house with a new deck of pressure treated wood and we are staining it with a transparent oil based stain. I want to put a outdoor rug down but my husband thinks it will cause a faded spot very quickly. Can I put a rug down with out causing damage and if I can how long should I wait? Thanks for your help.

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Unfortunately, where I live and work, there are no pressure treated decks, but my experience with other woods, the rug will leave a outline.

      The opposite happens though, the rest of the deck will slowly weather and the area under the carpet will not.

      The other potential issue with rugs is that if they trap moisture under the rug, they can prematurely decay the wood underneath. I’m not sure if that is a issue with pressure treated decking or not.

  24. Susan

    I just sanded, deck washed and pressure washed a mahogany porch. I am putting a messmers uv on it. But I noticed I can see marks from the pressure washer. Should I do it again? Will they show if I don’t?

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Unfortunately, that is one of the pitfalls of using a pressure washer. You got a little to close to the wood. Yes, the marks will usually show through the finish. You might try lightly sanding around the marks to try and blend them in. Otherwise you might need to start over.

      When pressure washing and really it should be called pressure rinsing, use a green tip, which is a broad tip and not so much of a jet stream. Keep the wand at around 45 deg. and at least a foot away from the surface.

  25. Mark

    I just stained a new cedar deck with a semi-transparent water based stain and I was not understanding/cautious of lap marks. Is there anything I can do?

  26. dany

    hi i sanding my deck cedar i start sander by paper 80 i finish it paper 150 can i wash it after sanding and wait 48 hour before stain ? thx

  27. Colleen

    What is the best way to seal a 6-year-old redwood deck in a damp area of Northern California now that we can only buy water based stains (low VOC laws)?
    We had a little oil based stain left from the first seal and used this on the railing, and used the water based stain for the main flooring of the deck. The results were awful with the low VOC stain and all walkways are now bare wood after 1 1/2 years and the railings still look great. We now have to seal every year, or find a new way to protect our investment.

    Thank you Mark for your help! Your clear directions and advice are very much appreciated.

  28. Mark (Redwood) Post author

    Hi Colleen, I have pretty much retired now, so I haven’t purchased any sealers in around a year, but a year ago, I was still able to get oil based sealers from Penofin. I was working out of Los Gatos, in No. Calif.

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Short of stripping it off, try rubbing the excess off with whatever product is used to clean your brushes, such as mineral spirits or paint thinner. If it’s not too bad, it will eventually dry.

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      You don’t mention what type of wood you have, but I prefer oil based transparent or semi transparent stain/sealers. You will most likely need to clean the deck, as explained in the article.

  29. Jan

    I have thoroughly cleaned & used a Makita 9741 Wheel Sander & orbital sander on my older pressure treated fir deck.
    Today I brushed one coat of Pecan Ready Seal on 2 boards. I was shocked at how dark the boards came out (like chocolate)! The directions say the stain will reach its “true color” in about 10 days . . . but I’m wondering if they will really lighten enough to appear as the ‘pecan’ I was hoping for. Do you think the stain will lighten that much? Or, should I stop while I’m ahead and start over with a lighter shade?
    Living on the Oregon coast, I don’t feel I can wait 10 days to start the rest of the large deck. When the rains come in September, they usually stay until the next summer.
    I really appreciate any insight or advice you can share with me. Thank you.

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Pictures would be nice, but I’m not sure if you can do that here or not.

      Decks will definitely lighten up some. But from chocolate to pecan, I doubt it. Especially in 10 days.

      If at all possible, always test the stain on a scrap or in a hidden area.

  30. Mike

    When it comes to Wiping the deck, do you just walk or crawl on the wet surface to Wipe, or should you wipe as you go…standing on the unstained part. I had a Pro do mine a few years back. He rolled the whole thing then just walked all over it…wiping with a pad. Now I want to do it myself

  31. Mark (Redwood) Post author

    How soon you need to wipe depends on the weather, the sealer, and the wood. Sooner is better then too late.

    I’ll usually seal a section and then go back and rag the previous section. If the sections are such that I can’t rag by reaching, I’ll scoot around with rags under my feet.

  32. ElusiveWolf

    I’m interested in using a semitransparent stain, but my husband says that as it is applied over future years I will loose all wood grain (it will eventually look like it is painted). Is that the case? Do you need to strip it between applications? Or do you just use a sealent every year after the first year so that you aren’t adding so much pigment?
    Thanks – first time deck owner and afraid to commit to a color (which I have tested and like)…

  33. Stu

    My wife does not understand why I need to prepare the wood before applying the stain. It looks ok to her so why not put the new semi transparent over the 3year old stuff. Is she correct?

  34. Jeanne

    I had my deck stripped last week. It’s been sunny and warm here in Northern Virginia but my deck in not drying due to two things: dew and not getting sun on it during the day. Can it be stained with semi transparent stain when parts of the deck are damp?

  35. Karen

    I stained my deck a pecan color and noticed as it dried there is a grayish cloud look to most of the boards. I applied stain with a paint brush.What can I do?

  36. Joan Croni

    My contractor didn’t sand anything on my cedar deck. Now 10 months later I’m having it stained. I would like to sand alittle. Should I sand after it is power washed? How long should I wait for it to dry before I sand. After sanding rinse the deck off and wait how long before staining? I would only be doing the sanding. The end of boards are very rough. Recommendations on hand sanding.

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Unless the deck is very dirty, I would sand first. What is the purpose of sanding? If you are trying to smooth the tops of the boards out, I would use a random orbital sander with maybe 80 grit sandpaper.
      Be careful if you spot sand, as that will often show up in the finish.

      Do not use the pressure washer to clean your cedar deck. If you get close enough to really clean it, you are probably damaging the wood, since cedar is a soft wood. Better yet, use a deck cleaner and rinse off with a pressure washer or a garden hose. Dry time will vary with the temp and amount of sun the deck gets. In hot weather and full sun, you can probably stain it the next day

  37. Paul

    Great thoughts here! I do have some questions if you wouldn’t mind.

    1. Powerwashers to clean off the deck before staining. Yay or nay?

    2. My wife is insistent on using a rag to stain the whole deck by hand. Not a brush because she’s worried about drip drops being peppered throughout the deck. I said we can use a sprayer and back brush it or use a deck brush and a large bucket. Thoughts?

    3. Do I apply the sealant after the stain?

    Many thanks in advance. Great tips on here!

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Paul,

      I have no issue with power washers to aid in cleaning the deck, the problem is if you get too close and actually start removing the softer wood. Use a chemical cleaner and rinse with the power washer. Keep your distance.

      I actually prefer a paint roller to apply the stain and sealer. Your methods are ok. I’ve used sprayers quite a bit and they are the only way to go on railings, but I think that coverage can be suspect sometimes.

      Whatever method you use, always wipe after allowing the stain or sealer to soak in. Read the directions on the can.

      I always used the transparent sealers that have the color already mixed in. A lot of stains are not suitable for exterior use and they will have to be compatible with your sealer.

  38. Rob S

    I just sanded my cedar deck to bring down the grain after cleaning. Do I need to apply a brightener before staining? If I do will that process raise the grain again?

  39. Mark (Redwood) Post author

    No you should not need to use brightener after sanding. You will need to get the sawdust off though. This can be best accomplished by a good rinse. This will also open the pores of the wood, which get somewhat clogged with the sanding. The amount of grain raise should be very minimal.

  40. Dominique

    I have a new redwood deck. I am reading conflicting information on letting the wood weather before applying a stain. Can you please advise? Thanks!

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Yes, there is conflicting info on this. I see the logic of both arguments. If the decking is green (wet), I prefer to let the surface dry out a little bit. My reasoning is the deeper the sealer/stain can penetrate, the better.

  41. Liz

    My decks are about 15′ in the air. What I am trying to figure out is when do I stain the vertical support boards that go around under the deck? They are highly visible and have to be stained too. It seems like when I stain the boards around the edges, some stain would drip on those boards.

  42. Coffee Guy

    After stripping the old stain with a chemical stripper and power washing, should I use a neutralizer? I’m confused about what type to use if so. Can you enlighten on Brightener vs mineral spirits. Mineral spirits is what was recommended on the stripper tin, but then I used the power washer so not sure if I still need to naturalize or not. Thanks!

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      The stripper product should tell you whether you need to neutralize the deck. Generally speaking, after you strip the deck, it will be pretty dark. In that case, you should use a brightener, which will lighten the wood considerably. I prefer brighteners that contain oxalic acid. I’ve never heard of using mineral spirits as a neutralizer. Only use for that, would be to clean your tools used in the stripping.

  43. Michelle

    Hi Mark,
    I live in northwest Oregon. It’s October now, and my cedar deck was sanded about 3 weeks ago. My deck guy has not been able to stain, and the weather has changed. It is now wet (very little sun with some rain forecast every day for at least the next two weeks and temperatures are dropping). At this point, do you recommend we wait until the spring/summer so the wood can completely dry or proceed with a water-based stain now?

    I SO appreciate your expert opinion.

    Thank you!!
    Michelle

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Hi Michelle, I’m actually somewhat in the same boat. The house I purchased last summer had a peeling painted deck. I’ve mostly sanded it down and then we got a inch of rain yesterday. I’m hopeful that it will still dry out and I can proceed. If not, I will wait for spring time.

      I have not been impressed with any of the water basede stains/sealers.

  44. Mary

    Mark, you mentioned the possibility of leaving your sanded deck exposed over winter…..time is running short this fall and i was going to do same thing, but worried about snow and ice penetrating wood grain, raising it and damaging wood…….what are your thoughts?

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      I was able to get my deck stained yesterday. We are forecast for over 2″ next weekend.

      Obviously, if you can get the deck sealed before winter steps in, that would be ideal.

      Water actually does less damage to the surface of a deck then the sun does. The issue with water is two issues. If the deck gets soaked and them dries out, over time this will loosen the fibers and results in deeper checking or surface cracks. Sealing the deck minimizes this occurrence. The other issue is where the water sits and is combined with oxygen. This is the breeding ground for mold and eventually rot. This is going to happen regardless whether you seal the top side or not. The way you combat this is with good materials that resist rot.

      Snow should have little affect on the deck. In fact it is better then rain. It offers a barrier.

      After sanding a deck, you actually do want to wet it down to open the pours so that the sealer can penetrate.

      I’m not sure if this answers your question or not, but it’s not the end of the world if the deck has to go through a winter unprotected.

  45. Louie

    Hi Mark,

    I’ve recently had to dismantle my eight year old cedar deck to make room for an addition to our house. I just sanded the cedar boards and they look like new (previously grey). Wondering if I need to wait a day or two after I damp wipe them before staining? The boards have been stored indoors for over two weeks now…very dry. Also, do you have any opinion on Thompson’s new Penetrating Timber Oil? They claim that it is made up of a blend of 3 oils. It’s expensive stuff. Thanks, Louie

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      Hi Louie, I would definitely wait at least a day after damp wiping. It can’t hurt, right.

      I haven’t used or seen the Thompson’s product, but in the past I’ve not been impressed by their products for wood.

      1. Louie

        Thanks Mark. I am waiting at least two days before staining. Yeah, I’ve heard so many negatives about Thompsons; but some positive reviews for this new oil product (Penetrating Timber Oil). Any recommendation for an oil based stain for cedar? Also considering Sikkens Cetol SRD. Thanks for your advice and a great article.

        Louie

  46. LARRY MANERA

    Hi I put thompsons clear water sealer on my two year old deck 36 hours ago but then it started to rain and it hasn’t stopped yet and my deck has turned white with all the rain, should i try brushing off or hosing it off before it drys or should i wait and see how it drys first.

  47. Pam

    I’ve read all the posts and still need help. I have a fairly large deck that was stained with behr transparent weatherproofing. That stuff is like latex! I stripped deck and power washed but there were numerous spots stripper didn’t remove. I sanded with orbital 50 grit. On second try spots of stain came up looked like freckles. sanded again today much happier . However I notice some areas where the chemical spotted the wood and the sanded did not lift it. My question is should I sand the whole deck now for uniformity and coarser grit to rid spotting? Or chemical strip again ?I’m not sure if they spots will bleed through and of course it’s right at the doorway. Also some boards have green tint to them. Water does not stand anywhere Thanks a million! Signed so confused

  48. CJ

    Great article! Could you provide any advice regarding stain options? Planning on something semi-transparent. My current candidates are Armstrong Clark or TWP 100 series. Any feedback would be welcome!

  49. Mill Shires

    I am ready to procede with my deck. It was installed last summer/fall. It is cedar, and we used a sealer. Minimal tint; we like the natural look. We were advised to put on a very light coat, which we did, and to wait to put on the 2nd coat for this summer so the deck could ‘season’.

    Some areas now look like they had laquer put on (golden), and other areas are almost white, chalky, dry looking. It was supposed to be transparent…but picked up a golden color. We never had tacky areas. We were told last summer to let the deck sit a month (we did), then put on a light sealer (we did) and that this summer after rains are done and the deck can dry out (which puts us into July in the Pacific NW), to put on a new coat.

    If I sand, lightly, and then wash the deck, doesn’t that moisture soak into the wood and so sealer would not go in as deep and even? Or should we just wash the deck and then reseal without sanding — but concerned if wash deck the moisture will prevent sealer penetration even if wait a couple of days. What if we just used compressed air to clean the deck…would that work or would it result in wood pores not being open (like when you wash) because of sanding, so even if dry it still would not soak in the sealer?

    After that issue is solved and we have applied the sealer —- how can I wipe down a deck 15 to 30 minutes after sealing it to keep it from getting tacky (the sealer we used last fall got tacky in minutes!!) —- I don’t think you should walk on a newly sealed deck!? So, that means brush on sealer the length of one board and then immediately wipe it down? And, if I wipe it down, am I not removing the sealer from the top? Really confused by some of the information in the article and comments.

  50. Heather

    Hi, I know this probably will sound like a stupid question. I had cheap paint on my deck for about 3 years. Recently I sanded and stripped and sanded and stripped (you get the idea) and then I used wood brightener. It looks great except for the 4 long boards that I had to replace. I believe you are supposed to wait to stain new boards? So should I stain the rest of the deck and wait until next spring to stain the new boards? Also, I have a fence surrounding one side, and the house on two sides. Do I stain the trim boards first or the other boards first? I’m assuming trim boards but I do not want to mess this up as it has taken me well over a month to prep this. I’m using Pittsburgh Ultra semi-transparent oil based stain. One more question. I’m using a contrasting color for my fence but won’t have time to do the fence this year. Can I purchase the stain now and will it still be good next spring? It took me 10 samples to find the two colors I like and I’m afraid that color may go obsolete. If it does, I have to start all over. Ok, last question I promise. The stain says I can apply if the wood is damp. If it says this, is this actually ok? Thank you!!

  51. Mark (Redwood) Post author

    Hi all, I have to apologize, for some reason I no longer receive notifications for comments made to my article.

    If you have a question, you can email me at redwood10@aol.com
    Also, be aware that I’ve been retired for 3 years, so I’m not up to par on the latest and greatest new methods and products.

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      If the deck is already built, it will be impossible to coat all 6 sides. Sealing can’t hurt, though the most problems occur on the surface and areas that make wood to wood contact. If the deck is already built, the only one of those problem areas you can treat is the top surface.

  52. Joe

    I have a cedar deck with pressure treated framing. Do you recommend staining the underside of the deck and the framing? The water-based stain I have says boards should be treated on all 6 sides.

    1. Mark (Redwood) Post author

      If the deck is already built, it will be impossible to coat all 6 sides. Sealing can’t hurt, though the most problems occur on the surface and areas that make wood to wood contact. If the deck is already built, the only one of those problem areas you can treat is the top surface.

  53. Debbie

    I so enjoyed your information and advice. Can you please recommend a couple manufacturers/brands of semi-transparent, oil based stains? We have Lowes and Home Depots, but had heard they don’t carry very good ones. I live in SE Michigan and will be putting the stain on new (cured)and soon to be sanded pressure-treated wood. Thanks!

  54. Tracy

    Hi Mark,
    Your information has been very helpful! Any opinion on Super Deck brand of transparent stain?
    Also, do you recommend any particular type of stain for a cedar pool deck? The chemicals from the pool seem to be extra hard on this deck.
    Thanks,
    Tracy

  55. Beth

    Hi. I have a deck that was in very bad shape, parts had paint leftover on it. I power washed it & there’s still paint left in certain areas & I didn’t understand how to powerwash properly so I damaged the wood a bit and I still didn’t get all of the yucky stuff off the wood. I’ve got about 1/3 of the deck sanded. So now I should stain the 1/3 of the deck or I can wait until I sand the rest which could take a few weeks and then stain? I don’t need a deck brightener if I sanded right? I didn’t understand about having the deck damp b/f staining, it should be dry or damp when staining? Two coats of semi-transparent stain is good? Sorry I’m really new to all of this. Thanks. -Beth

  56. Jo Lynn

    Hi Mark! We just built a covered deck and getting ready to stain it. I prefer the semi transparent stains. We live in Florida. I think from all the research I have done, we should wipe off any excess stain. So should we put on another coat after it has dried to ensure better protection? And what is the best way to apply the stain to the floor, brush, roller or pad. I feel the rollers hold too much stain and results in a lot of dripping. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

  57. Joan

    Hi, I did the one thing you are not suppose to do – I did not wipe up the excess stain enough and now I have a sticky deck. One person recommended Mineral oil but that took stain off the wood! Please help!

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