Things I Learned from Staining My Deck

After a year of letting it bake in the hot sun, my wife and I decided to stain our deck this Labor Day Weekend. Since we’d never painted much more than a yard sale sign, we boned up on what we needed. We measured our deck and determined we’d need only a single gallon. We consulted a painter. We bought several brushes and masking tape. We even bought the cleaning solution and sandpaper to make sure we had a good surface to work with. We thought we were ready. Boy were we wrong. Some lessons we learned……….

The Paint Can Lies (a.k.a. your husband can’t use a tape measure)

We measured our deck and came up with under 250 square feet of space to be painted. The can said it covered 250 to 350 feet. Perhaps. Assuming it was a good day and you spilled it into a 25 x 10 pan. When all was said and done, we used about 2 and 1/2 cans of stain. I highly recommend that if you can return the stain (which you should be able to do if it isn’t a custom color) that you buy more than you think you’ll need and return it when the job is done.

Just Because the Can Says it Lasts Five Years……

This one we learned from the painter. He said that a clear covering is probably best for any surface that you walk on. Semi-transparent stain and regular paint on surfaces will get walked off over time, and probably have to be repainted or touched up every year. We stuck with the semi-transparent stain because we liked the look.

Budget Three Times The Amount of Time As You Think it Will Take

Given the size of our deck, I assumed it would take about a day of work to complete the project. It took three. Granted, we lost two or three hours when we ran out of our first can of paint on that first day, but we still put in about 20 hours.

Call Ahead

That first day, when we ran out of stain, I assumed that our friendly neighborhood big box would have a half a dozen cans or more (just like the original location of the big box retailer where we bought the first can). After driving about 8 miles to get there, I found out the didn’t. This meant another 8 mile trip to the next nearest Lowes, and then back home, for a round trip of 21 miles for one stinkin’ can of paint. (And we needed YET ANOTHER after that.) If we had called ahead, I’d have saved myself a wasted hour trying to track down the stain.

Look for Good Weather

We had one absolutely beautiful day followed by two more days that would make a camel seek out niagra falls. It was so hot you could fry a sidewalk on an egg. Obviously you want to plan for both your comfort, and to ensure that rain won’t interrupt your progress (or ruin your work). Intense heat can also affect the quality of the stain.

Work From a Bucket or Tray and/or Stir Often

I was working directly from the can for a portion of our staining, and I got lazy in stirring. The problem with that is the color and texture of the stain appeared to change midway through staining, to the point where we decided to discontinue the use of the can we had. By using a bucket with small portions, you ensure a more consistent color throughout.

Try to Apply a Consistent Amount to Every Surface and Smooth Out Drips

One of the most disappointing aspects of our efforts is that there are a lot of drip marks and the floor is not one consistant level of stain. Some sections of the floor are darker than others or look like they have additional brush strokes. Unfortunately, this is hard to tell when you’re staining, so you may want to test your abilities on a hidden portion of the deck before you proceed.

Stain + Rags and/or Steel Wool = Fire

Seriously. I had no idea. These items can spontaneously combust. I’m still nervous three days later with the can of stain sitting in my garbage can.

Get Several Brushes

I got a 4 pack of Rubbermaid brushes in different sizes that made work much easier than if I worked with a single size. A roller might work, but we thought brushes were easier for ensuring that the area between the boards was painted.

You Do Not Have To Let Your Deck Age

According to, their products do not require wood to age. In fact, they indicate letting it age may cause damage to the deck. Check with your home improvement store or the manufacturer’s website, but more than likely, you can treat your deck immediately.

Enjoy Your Hard Work

Our deck may not look like a professional masterpiece, but it is something my wife and I accomplished together, which will only enhance our enjoyment of it.

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