Wood Deck Stains


Whether you’re using wood deck stains, paints or any type of weatherproofing, you’ll need to thoroughly clean and prepare your deck. Deck cleaners come in many varieties and should be compatible with the particular deck stain you ultimately choose. Go to a big box or deck retailer and see what they have to offer. Or search wood deck stain or deck stain products using the Bing Custom Search box right -> for more information. Deck stains have a three or four step process, involving cleaners and brighteners.

After using the cleaning product, allow the deck to completely dry before proceeding. Your deck may not look pretty at this point, but have courage. You’ll see an amazing transformation when you apply the stain, if you do everything correctly. There is a chemical in deck woods called tannin, a staining compound found naturally in cedar, redwood and other woods which can be cleaned by using a deck brightener or acid based wood cleaner.

Before you begin to clean and prepare, however, you must cover and protect anything you don’t want damaged or adversely effected by chemicals or staining products. Use 1 to 3 Mil (very thin plastic) to cover everything. Its easy to work with, if you’re careful.

Cover all plants and shrubs, lawn grass and any part of your home that may get hit with spray or splatter. After cleaning the deck with chemicals that are deadly to your foliage and destructive to paint and other things, you’ll be spraying off the surfaces with your hose, you know. Visualize that as you cover things.

Take a moment to determine where your start and end points will be. You want to start with areas that are above the lower part or floor of the deck. This way the wood deck stains can drip or splatter and be covered and blended when you stain the main floor. Don’t wait long, and never overnight, though, as the drips and splatters can cause dark spots. Even in shorter periods of time some darker stains can cause spotting.

Your starting point should be the railings, moving down to the floor surface near the house and ending at the stairs. Stain the stairs as you back down, being careful to stain the underside of any overlapping step which may be seen from ground level. Design your route so that you never have to cross back over your path, possibly stepping on freshly stained wood.

Stain, as with any paint type product, should not be applied in temperatures below 55° or over 90° and, of course, if rain is imminent within the next day or so. Colder temps cause paints and wood deck-stains to “weep” or drip and hot temps cause bubbling and blistering. Rain is obvious, but a few drops may be worse than a storm—which may wash all your hard work away—as a few drops could leave behind ugly spots which will cause you to have to re-do the entire process!

Wood deck stains come in many shades, from clear to dark. Decide how you want your deck to look by going to a big box paint department and looking at the stain displays, which are there for just this purpose. Here you’ll see what happens to your particular type of wood with what particular type of stain applied.

Talk to the salesperson and let them know of any problems or issues your deck may have and any ideas you want to check on the feasibility of. These may include making your deck look like a different wood to methods of bringing out or enhancing the grain.

Finally, never stop in the middle of a board. Always maintain a wet edge, meaning; do not let the edge of the stain dry, then try to blend it in. It doesn’t work with stains. In other words, work fast and carefully or you may end up with brush marks or “lap marks” which will taunt you every time you go out back. Time your breaks accordingly.


• Brush & Roll – A favorite method, as this requires the least preparation, and clean-up. Brush in (called “cutting in” by the pros) the tight areas—the crevices, spaces between boards and areas close to the house or other things you don’t want accidentally stained—then roll over the flat, larger areas. If two people are involved, this is an extremely fast and efficient way to go. You don’t need a high end brush or roller cover, either. A good quality, inexpensive 3″ and 4″ (natural bristle for oil based stains or nylon for water based) and short (3/8″ nap) roller cover.

You can buy a “six pack” of roller covers for really cheap. Some people advise high end brushes and roller covers, but I’ve found it makes little difference with wood deck stains, and I just throw them away, instead of cleaning, after the job is done. A lot easier, and maybe even better for the environment than having all that stain go down the drain.

• Lamb’s Wool Pad – Similar to a roller, these distribute the stain quickly and more evenly. Lamb’s wool pads come in a variety of textures and weights. On the package you’ll see what type of pad and its purpose. Look for the words “wood deck stains” or similar. These do not come in cheap varieties, but cleaning is fast and easy.

• Sprayer – This is how the professionals do it. After cleaning the deck and railings, while the plastic protection is in place, you simply walk around spraying. If you own a sprayer or are considering buying one, this may be the way to go. But keep in mind that, although the actual “staining” is fast, the preparation and clean up may not be.

You’ll have to cover the surroundings more carefully and in a wider area than the other methods, as the spray really travels outdoors! And clean up is more intense, especially if you have a professional paint sprayer with the long hose and compressor. These professional units also have roller attachments, though, and may be right for you if you plan on doing lots of painting projects.

This really is a fun and interesting project, and the results will make any pains you feel seem worth it. Wood deck stains are a bit difficult to use and need to be reapplied every few years, but the process brings out the very best in your deck. So, put on your work clothes and get busy!.

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Updated: October 17, 2013 — 6:20 pm

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