Successfully Staining My Deck Myself

Before I tackled the project of staining my deck myself, I had a lot of questions. How do I clean my deck? What stain should I use? How should I stain the deck (by hand or with a machine)? How much stain will I need? What should the temperatures outside be and how long will it take the stain to dry? Finally, I wasn’t sure how much it will cost to stain my deck and whether I can save money somehow?

In the end, staining my deck cost me $342. In hindsight, the project could have been done for $56 less, and I’ll explain below how to save that money. In addition, I now own a paint sprayer that I can use in other projects. Here’s everything I learned by successfully staining my deck myself.

Should I Strip My Deck?

All the paint experts I consulted told me that I should strip my deck. That would have involved buying an expensive deck stripper and having to work with this toxic product. It would have harmed the yard below and around the deck too.

Instead, I took pictures of my weathered deck. I went to four home improvement stores before I found a true expert. He looked at the pictures and concurred that the deck is so weathered that stripping it is advisable but not a must.

Should I Pressure Wash My Deck?

Pressure washing my deck was easy and highly advisable. I didn’t realize how filthy the wood was until I began washing away grime. If I had simply stained my deck as it was, all the grime that was invisible to the naked eye would have become highlighted.

You can buy a cleaner to use with a pressure washer. I chose to use water only, because it seemed to work well enough. You can rent a pressure washer from your local home improvement store if you don’t own one.

What Kind of Stain Should I Use?

I wanted to stain my deck with a transparent stain that would highlight the beauty of the wood. I soon learned, however, that you can only use a transparent stain (even if it’s pigmented) on wood that’s 100 percent clean. No dirt or old stain of any kind are allowed (not unless the old stain is still in excellent condition). That’s because the new stain will adhere to the old one, being unable to penetrate to the wood.

My deck had been stained a long time ago (before I bought the house). The stain was weathered but it was still visible in places. By pressure washing my deck really well, I was able to remove so much of the old stain that it was alright for me to skip the process of stripping the old deck. However, I was limited by the type of stain I could use.

The paint expert recommended a semi-transparent stain rather than a fully transparent one. There were 20 or so colors I could choose. Dark mahogany and pine were the most popular, he told me. I actually chose a cherry stain to match what had been used on the deck in the past.

What Should the Weather Be Like?

I waited for four sunny days to dry the deck after I had pressure washed it. Then I started staining the deck early in the morning, when the temperatures outside were around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. By noon, the unstained portion of the deck became too hot to touch, as temperatures rose into the high 80s. In addition, the hot wood seemed to drink up the stain, consuming twice as much product.

After I finished staining, the deck seemed to dry almost at once. And, yet, I was warned by the paint expert that should the deck feel tacky anywhere that means it still needs to cure. In fact, the deck actually took about three days to cure fully despite the warm weather. Had it been more humid, it might have taken longer.

Should I Stain My Deck by Hand or with a Sprayer?

All four paint experts advised me to stain my deck by hand. I bought two paint brushes that work with oil-based paints. I hand painted the deck in sections, working the stain into the cracks between the floor boards with the use of a smaller brush. I only used a paint sprayer when it came to staining the under-side of the deck.

The advantages of using a paint sprayer to stain the bottom of your deck are twofold. It takes very little time and you don’t have to fight gravity. With a paint brush, on the other hand, paint will keep trickling down your hand. But you have to protect the area around the deck, or the paint sprayer will paint the wall of your house as well. In addition, the paint sprayer will waste paint due to over-spraying and wind disbursement of clouds of paint.

How Much Stain Should I Use?

Though my favorite paint expert estimated that I would only use three gallons of paint, I actually ended up using close to five gallons. This is where I could have saved money. First, I recommend shopping around for the cheapest paint prices. Though you may buy the same product, you’ll find that different home improvement chains will price the stain very differently. I paid $42 a gallon in one chain, and then I found the same brand for $36 at another. Also, I recommend buying five gallons, even if this means that you have to store leftover paint for the future. I could have bought five gallons for $136 instead of paying close to $200 for the individual gallons I ended up buying. Finally, look for rebates from the manufacturer or the store. I was able to save $10 this way.

Now that I successfully stained my deck myself, I don’t have to worry about the condition of the wood for a full five years. The whole project took four days: one to pressure wash and three to stain.

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