7 Steps to Prep a Deck for Staining
While it certainly looks incredible when it’s done, completing a deck staining project at home is about a whole lot more than just upgrading the exterior of your dwelling. Stain acts as a barrier between wood and the elements. And as such, it slows down the entire aging process of the wood—keeping it in great shape for many years to come.
While an unstained deck can quickly incur moisture damage—which can lead to rotting, warping, cracking, and collapsing over time—have mold or mildew issues, fade from sunlight, or get infested with pests, having a stained deck virtually eliminates all of these issues.
And with so many stains to choose from, you can select the one that best complements your siding, brings out the natural beauty of the wood grain, and provides the opacity you’ve been looking for.
Ready to get started? Our tips will help you learn how to stain a deck so well it looks like you hired a professional to do it for you.
How to Stain a Deck
The process of learning how to stain a deck is pretty straightforward. With a little prep work, the right stain, and some good old-fashioned elbow grease, your deck can get a whole new facelift in just a few short hours.
Here is how it’s done:
- Painter’s tape
- Drop cloths
- Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Deck Stain
- Paint tray
- Paint brush
- Paint roller
- Pole extension
- Wood cleaner (optional)
- Deck stripper (optional)
- Soft-bristled brush (optional)
- Pressure washer (optional)
- Power sander (optional)
- 60 or 80 grit sandpaper (optional)
- Pre-treated deck boards, hammer, power screwdriver, and deck screws for repairs (optional)
Step 1: Remove All Items From the Deck
Before you get started on your staining project, you’ll want to remove all items currently located in your outdoor space. This includes patio furniture, umbrellas, decor pieces, swings, planters, firepits, portable heaters, bug zappers, and outdoor lights and speakers. Basically, look for anything sitting on top of your deck or hanging from its railings and move it out of the way.
Step 2: Clean the Deck
Cleaning the deck well is the next important step in the process. Stain will not adhere well to any boards that are covered in leaf debris, dirt, grease, or food spills. Start by sweeping the entire deck off with a broom. Then, apply a wood cleaner with a soft-bristle brush. We recommend JoMax by Zinnser mixed with bleach. Let it soak in and wash it away with a power washer.
For newer decks, simply skip most of step 2 if it’s not necessary. In that case, a quick sweep is probably sufficient.Professional Tip
Step 3: Inspect the Deck’s Condition
Once the deck is thoroughly cleaned and dried, it’s time to inspect the condition of your deck. Older decks, especially, may need to have some nails or screws driven back in or have warped or cracked boards replaced. Make any repairs now before proceeding to the next step.
New pressure-treated boards need to dry out for a minimum of 30 days before you can stain them. Staining them too soon prevents the stain from fully soaking in and protecting those boards from the elements in the future.Professional Tip
Step 4: Prep the Deck for Staining
Taking your time to prep the deck for staining is key to completing a project that looks great and lasts for a long time to come. Start by doing a light sanding with a power sander and 60 or 80 grit sandpaper. We recommend 100-150 grit max.
If your deck was previously painted, all paint will need to be removed before staining. For best results, old stain should be removed before switching from water-based stains to oil-based stains or vice versa.
Lastly, apply painter’s tape anywhere the deck and siding meet to prevent the stain from splashing or smearing onto your siding, and lay drop cloths down on the deck’s surface.
To know if different types of stains are compatible with one another, apply a small amount of deck stripper with a towel as a test patch. After 15 minutes, wipe the deck stripper away. If the original stain can be seen on your towel, it’s water-based. If it can’t, it’s oil-based.Professional Tip
Step 5: Stain the Deck Railings
After mixing your Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Stain well, use a paint brush to stain the deck railings with long, even strokes. For larger surface areas, a small roller may be used in place of the paint brush.
Step 6: Stain the Deck Boards
Once all of the deck railings have been stained, remove the drop cloths and stain the deck boards. To do this, pour Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Deck Stain into a paint tray and apply the stain with a paint roller on a long extension pole.
Move from the area closest to your home’s exterior then away from it. You want to end this project by staining the stairs, and you don’t want to work yourself into a corner.Professional Tip
Step 7: Stain the Deck Stairs
As you work your way down the flight of stairs, stain each step as you get to it using a paint brush for the risers and a paint roller for the treads.
Choosing the right deck stain can make a big difference both in the look of your deck and in the results you receive.
Deciding between a transparent deck stain, a semi-transparent deck stain, and a solid deck stain is more about personal preference than anything else. A transparent deck stain is basically a clear coat that allows you to see all the grain and imperfections in the wood while a semi-transparent deck stain provides some coverage and color and a solid deck stain offers complete coverage and color. The choice is really up to you.
One thing you do want to ask yourself, though, is if the stain you’re looking at is the best deck stain for pressure-treated wood out there—as long-lasting protection against the elements is an important consideration.
Fortunately, Benjamin Moore has developed the perfect solution for your home. Their Arborcoat series of exterior stains provide a superior level of protection against water, sun, pest, mold, and mildew damage while enhancing the natural look of wood.
With many premier finishes to choose from, you can be certain that you’ll find the perfect one to complement the exterior of your home while keeping your deck in tip-top shape for years to come.
While decks stained with exterior stains from other brands need to be refinished every few years, decks stained with top-of-the-line products, like Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Deck Stain, need to be maintained far less often.
Make the right choice the first time and enjoy your summers out in the sunshine.
Protect your Deck Right
Wood decks are not just a build-it-and-forget-it type of home project. They do require regular maintenance to keep them functioning well and looking great over time. Fortunately, deck maintenance can be made simple with the right products.
If you’re looking for the perfect way to treat your deck and protect it from many of the elements that can wear it down, check out Benjamin Moore’s Arborcoat exterior stains. After you apply one for the very first time, you’ll wonder how you ever settled for less.