Everything You Need to Know About Deck Stain
Deck stain is the ideal way for showing off the natural grain and beauty of wood. Choosing a high quality exterior wood stain is essential to protect your wood from the sun’s UV rays, wind, rain, snow and even mold and mildew. Exterior wood stains provide protection that can keep your wood deck, fence or siding looking great for years.
The exterior wood stains listed on this website will lighten your workload by lasting longer before needing to be reapplied. The most durable options are often the most expensive up front, but their longer life should save you money over the long haul. When choosing a stain, it’s helpful to know how much wood grain you want showing.
Stains come in 5 different ‘sheen’ types:
- Clear: Clear finishes protect and beautify the wood. A clear stain will not provide as much UV protection as a stain that has a tint.
- Translucent: Tinted wood finishes add sheer, nearly transparent color allowing the most wood grain and texture to show through.
- Semi Transparent: Transparent stains contain the lightest pigmentation designed to accentuate natural wood grain and character.
- Semi Solid: Extra pigment adds longevity. Wood grain is barely visible. masks the wood grain but allows texture to show through. While Semi-Solid Stains provide greater opacity, they still highlight the natural texture of wood and provide a deep-penetrating, flat finish.
- Solid: Total coverage gives maximum protection. No wood grain visible.
Stain Sheen Types:
- Oil Base Stain: Protects the wood better than a latex (water) base. Sometimes companies try to trick you by putting “deep penetrating oil” on the front of the can, but then say to use soap and water to clean the brush. If it’s truly an oil base stain, it will tell you to use mineral spirits for cleanup.
- Water Base Stain: These stains clean up easily with warm, soapy water and give off little odor during application.
- Oil Modified Stain: This is a newer type of stain. It was created because many oil base paints and stains are being outlawed by the EPA due to high VOC’s. With this type of stain, the oil penetrates the wood and the water evaporates off. You clean up with soap and water.
I highly recommend using Cabot, Proluxe (formerly Sikkens) or TWP stain. When choosing a stain, it’s helpful to know how much wood grain you want showing. Stains come 5 different ‘sheen’ types.
Note: New pressure treated lumber requires a six-week drying period. Water-repellent lumber requires one year of weathering prior to application. New rough-sawn wood should be dry-brushed using a brush with stiff bristles to remove loose dirt and fibers.
Materials You Will Need:
- TSP- powdered form
- Pump Sprayer
- Hard bristle brush. They make deck-cleaning brushes, which is what I like to use.
- ¼’’ roller nap, if you decide to roll the stain on the deck. (Also, make sure to back brush when rolling the stain on).
- Any size brush. (Make sure its compatible with the type of stain you use. i.e. “Oil based Paints and Stains or Latex Paints and Stains)”.
- Roller tray and cover
- Gloves, if you don’t want the stain to color your hands.
- Pressure washer
- Paint Thinner (For oil base stain)
Prepping the Deck for Stain:
Proper prep work is one of the most important parts of the staining process. Without adequate prep work, your exterior wood surface or deck will be susceptible to peeling, bubbling or an uneven finish.
- Wet down the deck with your garden hose
- Mix 4 ounces of tsp with 1 quart of bleach and three quarts of water, in a pump sprayer
- Spray down the entire deck with the solution and let it sit for 15-20 min. Do not let it dry on the wood.
- Scrub the deck with a hard bristle brush.
Take the pressure washer and start washing away the solution as if you were washing soap off your car. Go in a sweeping motion with the grain of the wood. You will be able to see the white detergent, and you want to make sure to get all of it off of the wood.
-IMPORTANT: When you turn on the pressure washer, face the wand away from the deck, pull the trigger and then face it towards the wood. If you engage the trigger while the nozzle is facing down toward the wood, you’re likely to damage the wood causing marks that won’t come out unless they have been sanded. Make sure to hold the wand at least 10” to 12’’ away from the wood as your washing the detergent off.
After power washing, the deck needs to dry for at least 2-3 days. The moisture content of the wood should be below 15%. The only way to know the exact moisture content of the wood is to use a moisture meter, which you can buy at any hardware store. However, if you don’t want to purchase a moisture meter but still want to make sure the wood is dry enough to stain, place a black rubber mat on the wood in direct sunlight. Let it sit for 30min to an hour. When you remove the mat from the wood surface, if there is any moisture present than the wood is too wet to stain.
How to Apply Deck Stain:
Apply your stain when the temperature is between 55 and 95 degrees. If the wood is hot to the touch, it’s too hot to stain.
- Take your brush and dip it into the can.
- Stain all of the vertical surfaces first. Then stain the horizontal surfaces.
- Make sure you don’t trap yourself in. Start staining the boards closest to your house. Be careful not to get any stain on the house, especially if you are using oil base because it will not come off.
Stain one board at a time. Make sure you do not stain several boards at once because it will give an uneven finish. Stain one board at a time, and stain vertically with the wood, not horizontally. See the picture below
- Once you have finished staining the body of the deck, you can work your way down the stairs.
- Look at the back of the can to see if it requires 1 or 2 coats. Typically, it’s a one-coat application, but it can vary.
- Do not walk on the deck for 24 hours
- Do not put furniture on the deck for at least 72 hours.
I stained each board in full, before moving to the next board. Notice how I did not stain in the opposite direction of the wood boards. This is because the stain would look like a checkerboard when fully dry. That’s why it’s important to apply deck stain using the correct procedure.