How to Stain a Deck

Three Methods:Preparing the DeckChoosing a Deck StainApplying the Stain

Staining your deck will keep it safe, well maintained and attractive. You should apply a fresh coat of stain every few years, or when the deck starts to show signs of wear and tear. Stain a deck by cleaning it, preparing the wood surface and applying the stain.

Method 1
Preparing the Deck

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    Clean off all the furniture. The surface needs to be completely clear before you can stain it.
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    Sweep the deck to remove any branches, leaves, pebbles or other debris.
    • Check between the boards to make sure there are not small rocks, sticks or other items in the way.
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    Look for any areas where wood has splintered or appears worn. These areas will need to be sanded before the deck is stained to make them smooth and bring out a brighter shine.
    • Sand in the direction of the grain. Use a pole sander, which allows you to stand while you sand, or get on your knees and sand with a hand sander.
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    Wash the deck with a deck cleaner. Cleanser can be found at hardware stores, home improvement retailers or department stores.
    • Follow the directions on the deck cleaner you choose to use. Some will require you to wet the deck before washing it, others will want you to apply the product directly to the wood.
    • Allow the cleaner to soak into the deck according to the instructions. Rinse the deck after cleaning it if necessary.
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    Leave the deck to dry. Usually this will take about 2 days.

Method 2
Choosing a Deck Stain

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    Look for a stain that is similar to the color of your deck, or a shade darker.
    • Test the stain color in a small part of your deck to ensure it is the color you want.
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    Check for a stain that is water repellent. It should provide waterproofing and protection from ultraviolet rays.
    • Use a water repellent stain that also provides protection against mildew.
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    Consider a semi-transparent stain if you want to keep the original wood grain visible on your deck. Many of these stains will also show the texture of your deck's wood.

Method 3
Applying the Stain

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    Dress appropriately. To protect yourself, wear gloves, pants and a long sleeved shirt. You might also want to wear goggles or safety glasses to protect your eyes.
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    Stir the stain in the can. You do not want any bubbles and you do not want to shake the stain.
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    Use a bristle brush or a paint roller to apply a light, even coat of stain to 2 or 3 boards at a time. You will need a small paint brush in corners and other difficult places, such as steps or benches.
    • Brush from one end of the board to the other, using long and even strokes.
    • Spread the stain smoothly. You do not want it to puddle.
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    Continue brushing or rolling the stain until the entire deck is covered with a single coat.
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    Leave the stain to dry for at least 3 days. Some people will put a second coat on, but this is not necessary. Bob Vila says that more stain is not necessarily better. If you apply to much, it can peel or crack.
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    Put the furniture and other items back onto the deck once it has dried completely.


  • Check to see if your deck is repelling water effectively. This will tell you that the stain is still working.
  • Generally one gallon of deck stain covers 150-200 square feet. Calculate area and buy your stain all at once to avoid mixing batches which may appear different because of the manufacturing process.
  • To avoid what professionals call picture framing apply stain to small sections at a time working from one end of the board to the other before moving to the next board. Overlapping stain will show up making the finish look checked and unprofessional.
  • Matching exact color is difficult, so plan on doing the entire deck over again if you feel you need to touch up.
  • Typically, and depending on traffic volume, stains and paints on horizontal floor surfaces last only about two or three years. If you aren't committed to maintaining your deck every two or three years, consider alternatives such as polyurethane coating, synthetic deck flooring materials or overlays.

Things You'll Need

  • Broom
  • Sandpaper
  • Deck cleanser
  • Deck stain
  • Paint brush
  • Paint roller
  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles

Article Info

Categories: Walls Fences and Decks