How To Stain A Deck:
What DIY’ers Need To Know To Be A Pro

how to stain a deck for a professional lookWondering how to stain a deck yourself but still get professional-looking results? After all, you want your deck to look as good as your lawn and yard. When doing the staining yourself, you not only want to save money and protect the wood, you want people to ask “Who did you hire?” because it looks that good. This article covers all the steps the pros know about deck staining.

Does My Wood Deck Need A Fresh Coat?

If water is not beading on the surface, then yes, your deck needs a fresh coat of stain. Have you ever wondered why beading water is so important? Here it is in a nutshell; if the water isn’t beading, it is soaking into the wood and causing damage. If it is beading, new stain will not soak in.

How To Stain A Deck? Prepare Like The Pros

The very first step in deck staining successfully is to prepare just like a pro would.

  1. Clear the area – remove everything from the deck (on top and underneath) that can be moved: furniture, BBQs, planters, lights, etc.
  2. Clean the surface – Sweep away all debris in between cracks, and use a wood cleaner to wash and remove all mildew and stains.
  3. Assess – Replace cracked, warped, or split lumber. Sand down rough spots, hammer down nails that have popped up, or tighten loose screws.
  4. Check the forecast – the ideal weather conditions are 50º to 90º F, low humidity and no rain for 48 hours before and after.  Also, avoid applying in direct, bright sunlight.

How To Stain A Deck? (And Not The Rest Of Your Property)

This is key to a professional looking DIY job. Use cardboard, drop cloths, and painter’s tape to cover everything that could possibly get stained. Use drop cloths to protect your lawn, and rig up poles and cloths to protect taller plants, bushes and trees. Think about drips below because let’s face it; gravity is not on your side!

Deck Staining Pro Tricks: Buy enough stain to do the whole job, and thoroughly mix all cans together in one container so you have the same look from start to finish. And never, ever, shake stain as bubbles will form. Always stir.

Methods To Apply Deck Staining

Something you rarely hear when you’re looking for how to stain a deck professionally is that there are really only three things you need to consider when you choose equipment: time, money, and effectiveness. Here are a few methods you can use to apply the stain:

  • Roller: Useless - wood is rarely perfectly flat, and a roller can’t reach between boards.
  • Paint Brush: Cheap, very slow, easy-to-use, with effective coverage, but back-breaking work.
  • Paint Pad: Less back-breaking, will not get in between boards, inexpensive.
  • Airless Sprayer: More expensive, perfect coverage, best with 2 people, cannot be used on windy days.

At the end of the day, if you have large areas to stain, or a lot of lattice work, the airless sprayer will pay you back in years of ease, comfort and time.

How To Stain A Deck: Application

  1. Work A Section At A Time – Work in 6 foot sections. Start with railings. Manual methods require deck staining of cracks and crevices before the top surface; sprayers do it all at once.
  2. Two People Benefit – While spraying railings, a 2nd person can hold up large plywood or cardboard to protect. Spraying requires back brushing, so while one sprays the other can use a brush or paint pad to back brush to prevent pools of stain.
  3. Be Safe! – Always wear a mask and safety glasses to protect against fumes and spray.
  4. Plan Ahead – How will you stain without being painted into a corner? Plan your route carefully.

Professional-looking deck staining is simple. If water isn’t beading, it’s time to stain. Clear everything like furniture and planters. Clean the wood thoroughly, sand rough spots, and replace lumber that needs it. Check weather conditions and be sure the deck is completely dry. Cover everything that needs protection so your lawn and plants don’t end up suffering. Mix your cans of stain together and apply by working in sections. Now you know exactly how to stain a deck like the pros do, so get out there and get started!

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