Refinishing Your Wood Deck: A Step-By-Step Guide

The first time we refinished the wood deck on our new home, it was a nightmare. We thought it looked easy enough – a mistake many first-time homeowners make. Needless to say, after skipping several important steps, our deck didn’t look like we had expected. The next summer, we had to do it again. And when finished our deck the second time, we researched it and had a finished product we were proud of.

So what is the proper way to refinish a deck? Refinishing a deck is not complicated – you don’t need to hire a contractor to do it. It does, however, take a lot of work to do it correctly. Most of the work lies in correct deck preparation – which we skipped over almost entirely the first time we refinished our deck. Below are three easy steps to a beautiful, refinished deck.

Wash Your Deck

The point of washing your deck is to remove any dirt, cobwebs or loose chips of old finish. If you have a powerwasher, that will speed the process, but we generally use a regular hose attachment on the heaviest stream setting. Don’t forget to wash all parts of the deck to avoid inadvertently sealing in old dirt. Once your deck is clean and has had time to dry, you’re ready for the next step.

Removing Old Paint or Stain

The first thing you’ll need to remove old paint or stain is a paint chipper. Paint chippers are inexpensive and can be obtained at any hardware store. Inspect the current finish on your deck, and use the paint chipper to remove any loose or solid pieces of old finish. This saves you headaches later, because sanding unnecessary, large pieces of stain or paint will only increase the amount of dust you’ll have to avoid.

Once this is done, you’re ready to sand. If you don’t have a sander, you can rent one from a hardware store or tool rental store. Many national hardware chains, such as Home Depot, offer sanders for rent. Going hands and knees with sandpaper is an option, but for most decks, it would mean a lot more manual labor. You’ll want to use goggles, and possibly a mask, to avoid getting particles of old finish into your eyes, nose and mouth. Then you’re ready to start sanding! Make sure you sand evenly over the surface of your deck, removing all traces of old finish as you go. Afterwards, we always rinse our deck again to remove any dust and debris from sanding. Once it’s dried, you can move on to the last step – staining or painting your deck.

Applying Your Finish

You have countless choices when it comes to finishing your deck. Do you want to paint it? Stain it? There are two basic types of stain on the market, lightly tinted and solid. Once you have gone to the hardware store and chosen the type of finish you want on your deck, test the stain in an inconspicuous area of your deck to ensure it’s the shade that you want. If you are concerned about continuity of color between the cans of stain, you can mix them all together to make sure the color is 100% uniform. Also, check your local weather forecast or to make sure no precipitation is predicted for 12-24 hours after application. This will prevent water damage to the stain before it has had time to set.

Application with a brush has always been easiest for us; however, on large, horizontal surfaces, some people prefer to use a sprayer, which also works well. Two coats of stain, applied while the first is still wet, are ideal and always work well for us. This allows the wood to “soak up” the stain and for cracks and crevices to be penetrated.

If you follow the above instructions, you should have a finished deck that you can enjoy all summer and be proud of. A good deck staining will last much longer and look much better than a rush job, so take your time and reap the rewards later.

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