Like any exterior element of your home, Mother Nature can wreak havoc on your deck. Now is the time to give it a little TLC so you can enjoy it all summer long. Before you roll up your sleeves, keep these tips in mind.


Choose Your Project

The two main options you have for giving your deck a facelift are either using a stain or restorative deck paint. There are pros and cons for each option. Here are a few to consider.

Pros of Stain

  • Easier to apply
  • Highlights the natural elements of your wood
  • Has a variety of color options

Cons of Stain

  • Makes repairing crack, voids and splinters a necessity since the product is usually too thin to cover them.
  • Not guaranteed to cover stains or imperfections.
  • Typically has a shorter lifespan than paint


Pros of Paint

  • Provides a higher barrier of protection from the elements. Most deck paints typically perform better than stains to protect against sun damage, mold, rot and mildew. Many users also say that they do a better job of repelling dirt.
  • The color choices are virtually endless.
  • Some paints have a restorative element that because of their thicker finish, allows them to fill gaps and cracks in your wood.

Cons of Paint

  • Some users have complained that painting their deck was more difficult than staining. Because paint is thicker, you may have to work harder to get an even finish void of brush or roller marks.
  • Once you paint, there’s pretty much no turning back. While it is easy to transition from a sealer or stain to paint, it’s pretty cumbersome to remove the paint and return to another finish.
  • Paint conceals the wood’s natural beauty.
  • The paint finish or color may have drawbacks when the elements change. lighter colors may show dirt more easily while darker colors have a tendency to absorb more heat. Some users have remarked that the textured paints may be uncomfortable to walk on barefoot while others remarked that gloss or semigloss finishes can be extremely slippery when wet.
  • Some restorative paints can only be used on horizontal surfaces due to their thickness.

Protect the Plants, Your home and Yourself


Before you use a deck stripper or cleaner to prepare your deck for your project, soak any nearby plants with water and cover them with plastic sheets. Be sure to remove the plastic when you’re finished using these product. This will help to protect your plants and reduce any stress the process may have caused.  

Protect the House and Rails

Be sure to cover any surfaces that you don’t want to be painted or stained. This includes your house, the railings and possibly underneath your deck where product may slip between the floor boards. 


Make sure you are prepared for this project with all of the protective gear. Pros recommend using rubber boots and gloves. If you are using a product that may splatter, it may be a good ideas to wear safety glasses and and clothing that covers all exposed skin.  


Choose the Right Temperature

This project is deal for a cool, overcast day and often the preparation phase my take a full day’s time. Whether you are staining and painting to prepare your deck you may be required to use either a deck cleaning or stripping product, sometimes both. Hot dry days, to to hinder the effectiveness of these products because they evaporate too quickly. Both strippers and cleaners work best when they are wet so choosing a cooler day will help make this project a little easier and more enjoyable.


Check the Condition of Your Deck

Before using any products, check the condition of your wood to see what shape it’s in and address any construction issues of your deck.

  • Make sure the deck is sound and doesn’t need more serious repair. Rotten wood is something our Pros specifically recommend you look for and address right away if it’s found. One quick way to check for rotting wood is buy testing it with a screwdriver. If it will easily push through, you may have a more serious problem on your hands that painting or stain will not fix. This wood will need to be replaced with new boards.
  • Look for large splinters to remove.
  • Remove or reset protruding nail heads.


Prepare Your Deck Properly

Preparation is key to the success of your product. Although the manufacturer of the product you are using may have instruction on how to prepare your deck, our Pros recommend following.

  • To ensure you get all of the previous stain off, go over the deck and railing with a wood scraper first and then follow with a deck stripper.
  • Use a deck stripper for peeling stain. Generally stain peeling is caused because before the stain was adhered, the deck wasn’t stripped of old stain and cleaned properly. When the deck is properly prepared, the stain adheres to the wood better and prevents premature peeling.   Using a stiff nylon brush like Red Devil’s Narrow Stripping Brush will help you to work in the stripper into some of the crooks and crevices to finish the job quicker and more effectively.
  • After applying and rinsing the stripper, let your deck thoroughly dry before applying your paint or stain. Our pros recommend waiting a few days to make sure the deck is dry throughout.

Tips for Using Deck Strippers

Deck strippers are great for removing old stain and sealers and allow cleaners to better penetrate your wood surface.

  • To save money and make your stripper go further, use a wood scraper to remove the loose layer of the previous stain.
  • It is best to start first with the railing and then work your way down to the deck boards.
  • Work on small sections of the deck and railing while scrubbing hard to reach crevices with a stiff nylon brush. This will help you to to finish the scrubbing process before the solution evaporates.

Tips for Using a Deck Cleaner

Deck cleaners are typically formulated to either remove the worn surface layer of wood or to remove stains on the wood from issues like mildew.

  • Our Pros recommend addressing mildew stains first, rinsing  and then following with a wood refresher cleaner.
  • Like strippers, it’s most effective to work in small sections. Also using a stiff nylon brush on small crevices to work in the cleaner makes a big impact.
  • Most cleaners will remove deck sealers but for pre-existing stain, you may need to first use a deck stripper.

Apply Your finish

Whether you decide to go with a stain or a restoration paint, our Pros recommend you allow your deck a few days to make sure it is completely dry before applying a finish.

Stain Tips

  • Start with the railings first and work your way down to the deck boards. While you’re working on the railings, cover the deck boards so that no stain drips down on them. 
  • Be wise about choosing your stain color. If your wood meets your satisfaction, you may want to go with a clear stain or sealer, if there are some imperfections you want to cover, a darker or less opaque stain may be the choice for you. Remember that some shades show wear more quickly than others.
  • Be careful not to put too thick of a coat on your deck, this could lead to premature peeling.

Deck Painting Tips

  • Some deck paint is thick enough to fill in any cracks or holes you may find in your wood. If you are unsure about the consistency of your paint, address these issues before hand with a sealant like LIFETIME® Ultra -230 Premium Acrylic Sealant.
  • Most restoration paint manufacturers and our Pros recommend that this type of paint only be used on horizontal surfaces. This will mean that you may have to find another finish solution for the railings.
  • Our pros recommend using a brush to make sure that the edges and crevices are adequately covered. Use a roller for the rest of the surface.
  • When using a roller, press down on the deck board and roll forward to allow the product to fill any cracks that may be left. Our Pros recommend to only move the roller forward so that you don’t thin the product too much and create issues like air bubbles.
  • To make the finish smoother, follow over the roller with a paintbrush.


Are you a pro with tips of your own?  Contact us here to share your knowledge or comment below.

Do you have questions about your home improvement project? Connect with us here or comment below to receive help from one of our pros.

One thought on “Tips to Stain or Restore Your Deck

  1. I like how you mentioned ensuring the condition of the wood on your deck before using anything to restore it. My wife and I are thinking of hiring a restoration specialist because we noticed last week that the wood on our deck looked dirty and old due to the previous owners not properly maintaining it. I think it’s a good idea for us to consider all of our options when hiring a reputable professional that can help us make our backyard timber patio durable and look as good as possible.

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