Staining a deck is a big job, and there’s lots of mistakes people easily make. When we first moved into this house in the late fall of 2016, one of the things that I loved was the beautiful finish on the back deck. It was a beautiful medium toned brown, and felt so lovely underfoot. Fast forward a few years and this is what it looked like a few weeks ago. Gross!
There was very little, if any stain left, and a lot of dirt and maple keys. We have a giant maple tree, just steps away from this deck. While it provides lovely shade for the whole back yard, it leaves sticks, maple keys and leaves everywhere like crazy. Plus, because our back yard is so shady the grass doesn’t grow all that great, so there’s a lot of dirt blowing around, too. All of that had accumulated on the deck.
Mistake #1 When Staining a Deck: Not removing the old finish.
This wasn’t necessary in my case. Our finish was so old, there really wasn’t much left. But they do sell deck strippers specifically made for removing old stain from decks. This would be especially important if you are planning a drastic colour change.
Mistake #2: Not Cleaning Your Deck
You can use a pressure washer for this… if you are careful. You do not want to use too high of a pressure, and you do not want to get too close to your boards. Please be careful if you choose to go this route because you can really gouge your wood. I have read that it is actually not the best way to do it… there’s varying opinions. It probably is quicker.
I did not use a pressure washer. You can buy deck cleaner specifically for this, but I did not do that either. I used oxi clean and borax, hot water and a deck scrub brush attached to a broom pole. It actually worked amazing! I swept the deck clear of debris, then hosed it off. You soak your deck with the cleaning solution let it sit, and then scrub away. When I was finished and it had dried, it already looked 10x better! The wood looked so much improved, and it was brightened considerably. It even got rid of the mildew. I try to avoid harsh chemicals as much as I can, so that is why I chose to go this route.
This is honestly what it looked like after just cleaning it! The boys and I love to sit out here and read stories.
Mistake #3: Not Giving your wood sufficient time to dry out.
Once you have thoroughly cleaned your deck, you really do need to give it a few days to dry out. It may seem dry to the touch after a few hours, but trust me, it’s still wet “inside”. It’s not going to kill you to wait a few days for it to dry.
Mistake #4: Not Sanding
You really do need to sand your deck. Sanding will ensure a clean, smooth surface for the stain. This is important. Please don’t skip this step, especially if you used a pressure washer. A power sander will make the job easier. I used a random orbit sander with 80 grit sandpaper, but a belt sander works great on decks too and would be quicker. Make sure you remove all the sanding dust when you’re done. I swept it clean, and then vacuumed the entire surface with a shop vac.
Mistake #5: Not using a good quality stain and not applying it properly.
You do not want to be applying the stain on a sunny hot day. Your stain will dry out before it has time to penetrate properly and will leave lap marks. You want to keep a wet edge as you are applying it. It’s recommended to stain early in the morning. I didn’t finish prepping until around 11 am, but it was a cool day and our deck is mostly shaded, so I didn’t have to worry about that.
I applied the stain with a brush and a staining pad screwed onto a broom stick. Remember to keep a wet edge! On my deck, I applied two thin coats. Personally, I like that better than one thick coat, because I am not perfect, and for sure I miss spots. This way I ensured that the entire deck was coated properly. But make sure you follow your manufacturer’s recommendations, because lots of stain only requires one coat.
I used Deluxe Professional Wood Finishes. (Not an affiliate link.) My brother-in-law is a professional painter and he highly recommends the Deluxe Brand. This is the product he recommended for our deck. It is semi-transparent and an acrylic/oil blend.
I used the colour Sierra because I was trying to match the colour of our fence.
Mistake #6 When Staining a Deck: Thinking you’ll be done in a day!
You won’t. It’s that simple. It is an entire process and takes time and energy to do it right. So, make sure to plan on a few days, at least.
Mistake #7: Using your deck too soon.
It may be dry to the touch, but is it really dry? Make sure you follow the directions on your can regarding dry times. I waited 3 days before really walking on it too much and putting my furniture back on.
And Here Is a sneak Peak of it all finished.
Make sure you come back in a few days to see the big reveal 🙂
A Few Bonus Tips When Staining a Deck:
1. Keep some baby wipes handy. They are great for wiping up any stain you may accidentally get in places where it shouldn’t be, for example the siding of your house.
2. If you have little kids, consider having someone take care of them for you. My boys spent the day at their Nana’s while I applied the stain. I knew the temptation of touching the new stain would be just too much for them 🙂
3. Monitor the forecast. You really do not want rain to fall on a freshly stained deck. It will leave watermarks, and that would terrible after all your hard work!
4. If you have railings, start with them first. I am actually really glad that we don’t have any railings on our deck! Also, plan your exit… you don’t want to “paint yourself into a corner.”
5. Something to consider- a stain pad is great for speed, but a brush pushes the stain in more.
Did you find the information in this post useful? I would love it if you would pin it! I would love to hear about your adventures in deck staining in the comment section, as well!