How To Stain A Deck

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Though it may be winter outside, it’s never too late – or too early – to think about staining your deck. After all, a good coat of stain doesn’t just make your porch, yard, or patio look great. It provides protection against sun and moisture, helps prevent rot, and ensures you have an excellent product for many years to come.

So once you’ve decided that you’re going to put some stain on, the next step is to do it properly and effectively. Here, we’ll go through the process of staining your old or newly-built deck, including some things to know before you break out the brushes.

Questions About Staining a Deck

While there’s definitely a right way (and some very wrong ones) to stain a deck, the good news is that with a bit of research and planning, you can easily get a professional finish on your own. Before you start, here are some important questions to consider:

How much deck stain do I need?

This is a tricky question, because it depends on a lot of factors – everything from the type of wood and how old it is to the colour, previous stain level, application method, or environment. Plus, every stain or sealer has a different coverage level. This site can help you calculate how much you’ll need.

A good benchmark is about 150-200 square feet per gallon. If your deck is about 12’ x 12’ or smaller, one can should be enough for a single coat, but it’s good to be prepared with extra, just in case. Very dry wood soaks up a lot more stain, and application in heavy direct sunlight can have the same effect.

Application methods vary between brands too, with some leading to more waste than others. We know you are here to learn how to stain a deck but it is always smart to check the label for the best way to apply that specific stain.

What is the best deck stain?

This is like asking, “What is the best vehicle?” It depends on use, preference, and environment.

Some of the most well-respected brands are Behr, Sikkens, or Arborcoat, each of which come in a range of transparent tones – from fully clear protective layers to semi-transparent, semi-solid, and solid coverings. You’ll need to consider what kind of wood you have, how much of your grain you want to show through, what you want your final shade to be, and how much protection you will need from the elements. Visit a paint store to ask a pro if you need direct answers.   

Also to note: if you have a previously stained deck, remember that oil-based stains can go over water-based stains, but not the other way around. Try to use the same base as the last time, if possible.

What is the cost to stain a deck?

This will depend heavily on the type of stain you get, how big your deck is, and the condition of the wood. Very dry wood absorbs a lot of stain, for example, so you will need a larger amount than if you were staining a brand-new deck for the first time.

A general ballpark amount for estimating is $5 per square foot. Add a little more if you are also adding in railings (there is a lot of surface area to clean and coat, and vertical edges where the stain can drip away) or the wood is old. It may be a little less if the wood is perfectly flat and new.

Remember that different stains also vary widely in price, so your choice of product will have an impact, too.

How many coats of deck stain do I need?

Some stains only need one coat, while others require multiple applications. It also depends on the condition of the wood, and whether it is new or restained.

Check the label on your chosen product, which will tell you the exact conditions of use. At the extreme, three coats on any deck should be enough, as each application seals the wood more and prevents more stain from being absorbed after that.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Stain Your Deck | DIY

Ready to tackle your deck staining project? Great! Set aside a sunny weekend and soon you’ll be enjoying a deck that’s almost as good as new.

Step 1 – Before you start, make sure you have the right materials. These will vary slightly from one deck to another, but some general guidelines would be to have a pressure washer, hand sander & sandpaper, and brooms for the prep work, as well as your chosen stain (mixed well), a large, stain-friendly brush and roller, and the appropriate cleaners. Depending on your layout, you may also need some painter’s tape and paper, to protect your siding.

Step 2 – At least one day before you want to stain (preferably 2-3), pressure wash your deck. You can also use a deck cleaner solution to remove dirt, debris, leaves, insects and nests, etc. from the surface and between the boards. Allow to dry fully before starting.

Step 3 – When you’re ready to begin, clear the surface and do an inspection of the deck and fix any areas in need of attention – replacing nails, straightening boards, sanding splinters or peels, etc. Sweep away excess dust.

Step 4 – If you have railings or other vertical features, start with those. Ensure the stain is properly mixed before applying to a small test patch to ensure it looks the way you want. When applying, use long, even strokes from the top of boards to the bottom, for full coverage.

Step 5 – For the deck surface, you can use a brush if nothing else is available, but a paint pad is better for speed and ease of use. Choose your exit point (door, stairs, etc.) and work backwards to there, using long, even strokes that cover entire boards at once – if you leave a line halfway through a board for too long, the overlap will be apparent when you come back to finish!

Depending on the stain, you may need to remove excess, or simply wait for it all to soak in.

Step 6 – Once finish, clean the brushes, pads, and other materials using the recommended guidelines on the label. (Note: do not leave rags with oil-based stain on them balled up and unattended. They can spontaneously combust. Always soak them in water until they are fully saturated, then lay out flat to dry.)

Leave the stained surfaces to dry for 24-48 hours, depending on the ambient temperature. When it’s fully dry, put your furniture and adornments back on, and enjoy a job well done!

For more in-depth steps on how to stain a deck, you can also visit this guide to go into more detail. Or you can always contact our experts here at Maritime West Construction – simply reach out and let us know what you need!

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