Painting Article

Deck Staining & Maintenance Tips


How to best care for your deck so you’ll be able to enjoy your outdoor living space for years to come.

Decks are a popular, low cost way to add living space to your home and provide a place to enjoy the outdoors, while relaxing and entertaining guests. However, people often underestimate their inherent maintenance requirements and allow their condition to degrade substantially.

Exterior paint will typically last 7-10 years with relatively no maintenance (maybe the odd washing to maintain the appearance), but decks are subject to accelerated damage from foot traffic, furniture, pooling water, dirt, and plant growth from unwanted moss and algae. The above forces wage war on your deck, tearing apart the surface of the wood, and creating an even more inviting home for dirt and plants. 

Without proper maintenance the stain on your deck will completely fail; this can lead to wood rot and will add many hours, and dollars, to the preparation process when it comes time re-stain it in the future. 


Basic Deck Maintenance

As a general rule of thumb, the more transparent the stain, the more frequently your deck will require re-staining. Decks treated with transparent sealer will generally need to be re-sealed every year, decks stained with semi-transparent stains will generally need to be re-stained every 2 years, and decks stained with solid stain will need to be re-stained every three years. Of course, these time frames will very with the quality of the stain application and preparation, as well as the amount of abuse the deck is subject to. With our wet climate in Victoria, BC, decks will typically requiring staining more frequently!

Staining Process:

1. Clean the Deck

Start by clearing off your deck of any clutter (furniture etc.) and covering any plants that need to be protected. Next, use a broom to sweep away any loose debris, such as fallen leaves etc. Wet the surface of your deck and apply a deck cleaning solution to the deck’s surface. We recommend using an acid based chemical cleaning solution as it won’t try out your wood and it’s less harmful to neighboring plants than bleach-based products. Ensure that it is applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions…for very dirty decks, you can use a solution with less water. Deck cleaning is best done on a cloudy day where the sun won’t evaporate the cleaner too quickly. We prefer using a pressure washer to rinse the deck off, as it can help remove any remaining dirt or grime. However, do not go overboard with the pressure washer! This can cause unwanted damage to the deck’s surface if you go to close. Ensure that you pressure wash with the grain of the wood, keeping the nozzle moving at all times, and don’t go closer than about 8 inches to the deck’s surface. 

Note: If the deck is well behind on required maintenance and the existing stain is failing dramatically, you should apply deck stripper (instead of a cleaner as mentioned above), and thoroughly sand with a power sander to remove any existing stain. If this sounds like your deck, we recommend hiring a professional to help get your maintenance schedule back on track! Check out the photo below for an example of a full deck restoration project we did a few years ago! Click here to go to our main page and schedule an estimate.


2. Sand the Deck

Allow your deck to dry completely after washing; this may take up to 48 hours. Lightly sand the deck to remove any splinters, furriness, and flaking stain. If the your deck maintenance is on schedule, lightly sand with a pole sander and 80 grit sand paper. Sweep away any sanding dust and then you’re ready to apply the stain.

3. Select a Product & Stain the Deck

We always recommend staining, as opposed to painting, your deck. Using paint can look nice at first, but it will trap in moisture and likely fail quickly, especially in a wet climate like we have here in Victoria. Furthermore, if you decide that you want to switch to stain after painting a deck, you’ll have to completely remove the remaining paint in order to apply stain. This is extremely labor intensive and expensive if you want to hire a professional!

Choose the product that best fits your needs and visual preferences. Transparent wood sealers will protect your deck from the elements and brighten up your deck without changing the color, semi-transparent stains will alter the color of your deck while allowing the wood grain to show through the stain, and solid stain will change the color of your deck while hiding the grain of the wood. Solid stains don’t sink in as well as semi-transparent stain and form a film, almost like paint, after multiple applications. Keep in mind that solid stain is generally more durable than semi-transparent stain, but it will build up after several applications and can eventually peal like paint. When semi-transparent stain fails over time it simply fades away and can typically be re-stained after just a clean and light sanding. We recommend selecting a semi-transparent stain if your goal is to minimize maintenance over the long term, as it will generally last around 2 years and can be re-stained with relatively little surface preparation.

I’ve included a video below regarding stain selection!

Apply the stain in sections with a stain brush, roller, or sprayer maintaining a wet edge to avoid lap marks. Ensure to work with the grain and “backbrush” or “backroll” to maximize wood penetration. Wipe away excess stain with a rag to avoid pooling at all costs, as this will cause inconsistencies in color and leave your deck feeling tacky. 

Check out this video from our friends at The Idaho Painter for deck stain application tips!

Islanders’ Choice Painting specializes in deck staining. If you want to maximize the longevity of your deck stain and ensure a beautiful finish, contact us today to schedule a free estimate!