Stripping and finishing a deck

If you are sanding and finishing your deck, start your project on a two- or three-day...

If you are sanding and finishing your deck, start your project on a two- or three-day span of sunny weather. If your deck is new with pressure-treated wood, wait up to three months for it to properly dry and cure. If it hasn't been maintained for some time, you should contact a deck builder for advice.

Remove your furniture and fixtures off your deck and cover any nearby plants. Then, sand any splintered areas and repair any damaged boards. Clean any mildew and debris off the deck with a bleach-based cleaner, then rinse and wait for the deck to completely dry.

How to strip a deck

Apply wood stripper if you're changing the stain color or if you want to lighten the wood's color density. Strippers remove any stain and paint. When applying, it's important to wear goggles, protective clothes and toe-covering shoes to avoid getting it on your skin. A good rule of thumb is that the longer the stripper solution is on the wood, the easier it rinses off; nonetheless, it should stay on the wood no longer than 45-60 minutes.

With a pressure washer, rinse away the stripper along with the stain. The nozzle of the pressure washer should be aimed from an appropriate distance so as not to damage or splinter the wood. Depending on your brand of pressure washer, you should look for a nozzle cap with an output of 40 degrees. Anything less will likely splinter the wood. Once the patio deck is rinsed, you should allow the deck to dry for 24 hours.

How to choose a stain

Several stain types are available:

  • Wood toner: These are stains that are almost transparent, so that the wood grain and texture show through.
  • Semi-transparent: These are lightly pigmented, but you can still see the wood grain.
  • Semi-solids: These stains are darker, and mask most of the wood grain.
  • Solid stains: These are the darkest stains. They mask the most wood grain and texture and look more like paint.

When staining, you can use a paint roller, but bristle brushes are your best bet. Start on the deck surface and work your way over the deck, about two or three boards at a time using long, slow strokes. Read the stain manufacturer's recommendations, and do not apply too much stain. If you do, the wood may crack, peel or become too sticky to dry.

After you are done, the deck will need time to dry and cure. This process will take up to 24 hours. Do not walk or place your furniture (or anything else) on the deck until it has completely dried and cured.

If you're worried about taking on this task alone, find a professional to help.

Want more info on decks?  

How much should I expect to pay to stain a deck? 

Five deck cleaning and maintainence tips

What to consider before you build a deck

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