Deck Staining Tips

Has “Stain The Deck” been on your To-Do List all Summer? Now that Fall is here, are you urgently trying to find time to stain your deck? Although time is slipping away here in Des Moines, if you are looking to stain your deck before the snow flies, now is the time to plan, prepare, and execute this outdoor project!

Staining a deck can feel like a daunting task. In an effort to help check this DIY task off your To-Do List, below are a few quick deck staining tips.

1. Clean Wood

Ladies, you wouldn’t apply makeup to your face without first washing your face, right? Guys, you wouldn’t wax your car without washing it first, right?

Well, think of wood the same way. You want to remove the dirt, glues, and debris before applying any sort of stain. Properly cleaning wood surfaces will help you avoid sealing dirt into the wood, while also improving the wood’s ability to accept the stain. This extra step seems annoying, we get it, but you’ll be surprised how much junk collects on wood, even over a short period of time.

2. Brighten Wood

After the wood is spick and span, we have a secret. Wood brightener will do wonders for the finished look of your deck. Like the cleaner you used, wood brighteners require a good amount of water while being applied. Don’t let your deck dry with these semi-harsh chemicals on your deck. Having a dedicated “wood watering” assistant is definitely a good idea. This position is not difficult, so invite over a friend, hand them a cold beverage, and attack this process as a team.

3. Water vs. Oil-Based Stains

The big question is whether you’re going to use an oil-based or water-based stain on your deck. For larger surface areas, you may be looking to spray the stain. Oil-based stains are harder to clean out of sprayers and often cost a bit more, so if it’s a humongous fence, finding a water-based stain might be a good idea.

If you have less surface area, oil-based stains definitely give you more options and last longer in the occasional harsh Iowa climate. With more transparency and longer lasting protection, if you’re able to use an oil-based stain, we recommend it. If you’re staining a new deck for the first time, an oil-based stain is key to enriching the original color of the wood as well.

4. Stain Color & Transparency

If you’re trying to maintain an old deck, a solid, or at least a less transparent stain may be a good idea. If it’s a new home and this is the first or second time you’re staining the deck, you probably want to select a more transparent stain. Clear stains are available, but adding a slight hint of natural color will ensure the original colors of the wood are maintained and protected. One trick is to use a sample on the wood to ensure you like the finished product, but in general, it seems like stains always come out darker than you expect so plan accordingly.

To give you a real world example, the photos to the right is a two year old deck and fence here in Des Moines. The deck was stained with a single coat of Cedar-colored Ultra Premium Red Label Penofin. The fence in the background was stained with a water-based, semi-transparent, Covered Bridge-colored stain called Deckscapes from Sherwin-Williams. Both retail for around $45/gallon.

5. Applying Stain

Ok, your deck is cleaned, brightened, and ready to be stained.

First, ensure the deck is completely dry. Remember, no rain 24 hours before you apply stain and no rain 24 hours after the staining project. Assuming the deck is dry and thirsty for stain, it’s time to make your deck amazing.

When applying stain, a pad, brush, roller, or rag can be used to apply the stain. Many experts suggest that a stain pad is the easiest and results in the smoothest finish. All these items can be found at any home improvement store and many times, simple start kits provide everything you need in a single package.

As you apply the stain, take your time and keep in mind that more is not always better. Evenly work the stain into the boards of your deck and don’t forget those nasty cracks.

Keep in mind that wood can only absorb so much stain. It’s important to wipe the deck soon after you’ve applied the stain in order to avoid a sticky mess. A second coat may be necessary, especially if you’re staining an older deck. If you have a team of volunteers, applying the stain to even a large deck is a breeze. If you’re a lone wolf on this, work in smaller areas to ensure a smooth, finished look.

Lastly, it is critical to follow the directions provided on the label of your stain. Coming into your deck-staining project prepared will result in a more visually appealing, longer-lasting deck to enjoy with family and friends.

6. Avoid Fire

It’s amazing to see how much attention is given to avoiding spontaneous combustion. Although it sounds like something you’d see in a sci-fi movie, it’s a proven fact that stain-soaked rags can ignite if not properly disposed of. Soaking used rags in water will dilute the danger and disposing of them at your local hazardous material drop-off is the safest approach.

7. Deck Maintenance

Alright, you’ve completed this project and you’re in luck. A properly stained deck required very little maintenance. As you would with other outdoor surfaces around the house, keep your deck free of dirt and debris. A full wash won’t hurt either. In short, if you properly care for a well-stained deck, you’ll enjoy 3-5 years of beautiful protection.

For more great deck staining ideas, we’ve organized a small collection of additional resources from companies that all provide excellent deck stain. Good luck, contact us if you have questions, and we invite you to share your finished deck and fence photos with us throughout the social media landscape very soon!

Sherwin-Williams – Deck Staining Tips

Penofin – Deck Staining Tips

Cabot – Deck Staining Tips

Behr – Deck Staining Tips