How To Stain Your Deck Like a Pro

How To Stain Your Deck Like a Pro

You may have been let down by other wood stains in the past, so let's take a look at how to tackle your next stain project with total confidence and DEFY. Follow these steps to ensure a great-looking and long-lasting wood stain.

I have spent my entire adult life working with paints and stains, so I’ve seen many homeowners who were dissatisfied with their deck staining projects. Either it didn’t look as good as they thought it would, or it didn’t last as long. This article will show you how to stain your deck like the pros. Follow these steps to help guarantee a great-looking, long-lasting result.

Step 1: Take Your Time

With each step of the deck staining process, take your time. After the project is complete and your tools are cleaned and put away, nothing will have had a greater impact on the quality of the job. Take your time and allow new pressure-treated lumber to weather for a few months and dry out before staining it. Leave stain strippers on the surface long enough to break down old finishes before you rinse it off. Take your time in order to prevent overspray and spills on non-target surfaces; wait to start your project until the weather forecast is favorable.

Step 2: Preparation is Everything

Preparation is key to the final results. All wood needs to be well cleaned before staining — whether it’s a brand new deck or an older deck that’s been out in the weather and needs to be re-stained. Brand-new lumber needs to be cleaned to remove mill scale, which is a crushing of the grain during the milling process. If it’s left uncleaned, it can prevent wood stains from properly penetrating into the wood pores.

If there is a build-up of old stains on the deck, then the job gets a little tougher, but not impossible. Instead of a sodium percarbonate cleaner, you’ll need to use a wood stain stripper. Stain strippers are a little more caustic, so follow the directions carefully. They work well and will remove most weathered stains in a single application. Lastly, if there are small spots of stain that won’t come off during the cleaning process, they should sand off easily using a palm-type sander after the deck has dried. If those spots of stain are left on the deck, they will show through the new finish and detract from the deck’s final appearance.

Step 3: Brighteners are Beautiful

In the deck staining process, no step is skipped more than this one. It’s by far the easiest step to do and will have a dramatic effect on the final results. Wood brighteners are easy to apply. They help open up the surface of the wood to improve penetration, neutralize any stain strippers that were used, and restore the appearance of old, weathered wood to look like new again. That’s a lot for one product to accomplish, but brighteners will do all of that, so don’t skip using them. To use them, simply spray them on, wait a few minutes, and rinse them off. No scrubbing, no ‘elbow grease’ needed. They’re so easy to use and have so many benefits, there’s no reason not to use them!

Step 4: Rinse Like Mad

Use plenty of water after using any cleaning chemicals. Even though some of these chemicals can seem safe and harmless, they all need to be rinsed off extremely well after they are used. Left in the wood, these chemicals can resurface over time and begin to attack and break down the new stain. So once you are done cleaning, rinse the deck thoroughly to get all of the chemicals out of the wood.

Step 5: Stay Away From the Cheap Stuff

Now that the deck is clean and dry, it’s ready to be stained. Before you decide which stain to buy, keep in mind that you always get what you pay for. Better ingredients cost more money. If you expect premium results, then you’ll need to buy a premium product. Quality differs in resins, pigments, mildewcides, and many other materials that make up a gallon of wood stain. So stay away from the cheap stuff if you expect it to last.

Step 6: Take a Look at Waterborne Deck Stains

Water-based deck stains have become really popular in the last few years. If you have been reluctant to try them in the past, don’t be reluctant any longer. Air quality regulations have forced manufacturers to really improve these products, and some are now better, more durable, and longer lasting than conventional oil-based alternatives. They offer some distinct advantages that oil-based stains can’t offer. Good quality, water-based stains clean up with soap and water, have no nasty solvents, have a significantly better resistance to weathering, don’t need the wood to be completely dry, dry more quickly than solvents, and are much easier on the environment.

Additionally, some of the waterborne stains are synthetic, including DEFY Extreme Wood Stain. Synthetic resin wood stains are far less susceptible to mold growth, mildew and algae. If you’re in an area with a fair amount of moisture and humidity, then waterborne, synthetic stains, like DEFY Wood Stains, have some real advantages for you.

Step 7: Read the Can; Follow the Directions

Every product is a little different, so always read the label for directions. It only takes a few minutes and it will ensure that you have all of the right information before you get started. Pay attention to how many coats of stain to apply, how long to wait between coats, how long to wait after cleaning, and how long to allow wood to weather. Read the label first and you’re likely to get it right the first time.

Step 8: More IS NOT always Better

Semi-transparent deck stains are a great choice because they allow the natural grain of the wood to show through, allow the wood to naturally breathe, and are easily cleaned and reapplied. Pay attention to the directions and don’t over apply these types of products. When too much stained is applied, a film can form, much like paint, that will no longer allow the wood to breathe; the end result is peeling, which is a real mess. Only apply as much stain as the wood can easily absorb.

Step 9: The Paint Brush is Still King

Deck stain can be applied in several different ways. Using a pump-up garden sprayer and roller are two popular methods. An even better way is to use a car wash brush that is available at most home improvement stores. Using this to stain the horizontal boards will save your back and your knees and allows you to move much more quickly than using a small paint brush.

Regardless of how you apply your wood stain, keep a paint brush at hand. A paint brush is necessary for the vertical posts and railings and will work the stain deep in to the pores of a board. The agitation and friction caused by a paint brush will cause the wood to absorb more stain. So if you are spraying or rolling the stain, always back-brush it in with a brush while the stain is still wet; you’ll achieve much better penetration in to the wood. Watch the short video clip below for the best type of brush to use.

Step 10: Let it Dry

Step one of this article told you to take your time. When your project is finally done, take a little extra time before you start use it. Let your deck dry out well before putting it back in use. The stain needs to cure out before being subjected to the rigors of patio furniture and foot traffic. You’ve done everything correctly to this point, so make sure you allow at least 24 hours for it to dry out before using it.

Step 11: Maintain It

A small amount of effort can keep your deck looking great longer. Just as you would wash the dirt off of your car, you should occasionally wash down the surface of your deck to keep leaves and dirt from damaging the finish. If the deck stain starts to show signs of graying or loses its color, it can be easily cleaned up with a little wood brightener and a light maintenance coat of stain.


That’s it; eleven keys to deck staining success. Go ahead and try them to see what the results are when you set out on your next project to do it like a pro. You may just surprise yourself!

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