How to Stain a Deck

Dress up your deck with a fresh coat of stain. You'll add major style to your yard in just four simple steps.

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Whether you're staining a deck for the first time or touching up an existing stain job, these simple steps will help your deck look its best. All you need to do is prep the wood, power wash, and apply stain. It's a super simple process, but will require some manual labor and dry time.

Plus, stain does more than add beautiful color. It can help protect your deck in the long run. Most stains protect against water, rot, mold, and other pesky problems.

How much time you'll need to devote to this project depends on the size of your deck. Most can be stained in one weekend, plus a few days of dry time.

Your Guide to Deck Finishes

What You Need

  • Belt or orbital sander
  • 60- or 80-grit sandpaper
  • Broom
  • Deck cleaner
  • Stiff brush
  • Garden hose or power washer
  • Painters tape
  • Deck stain or paint
  • Paint roller
  • 5- to 6-inch-wide paintbrush
  • 2- to 3-inch-wide paintbrush

Step 1: Prep the Deck

Before applying any stain or paint, you'll need to prep the deck's surface. Use a belt or orbital sander to lightly sand the deck, working in the direction of the wood grain. Thoroughly sweep the deck to remove any wood dust particles.

Then mix a batch of deck cleaner according to manufacturer's directions. Apply it, then scrub with a stiff brush. Make sure to scrub in the direction of the wood grain to thoroughly clean the surface. Depending on how dirty your deck is, this may be a process you'll need to repeat to thoroughly clean the wood.

Step 2: Power Wash

After you've scrubbed, use a power washer to rinse off the cleaner from the deck. If you use a power washer, use the fan or 40-degree nozzle, being careful to not get too close to the wood. The heavy, direct water pressure can damage the deck's surface. Allow deck to dry completely, which can take 12-24 hours.

Editor's Tip: If you don't have a power washer, you can rent one from your local home improvement store. You can also use a garden hose with a sprayer set on the jet spray.

Step 3: Apply Stain

Once the deck is completely dry, use painters tape to protect your home's siding adjacent to the deck. Then apply stain or paint with a roller. Work carefully to avoid blobs and streaks. Stain small, 3-foot-square sections at a time, then pause with the roller and brush the surface with your large paintbrush. This step eliminates drips and puddles and creates a more natural brushstroke. Make sure to only stain in the wood grain.

Editor's Tip: To make the staining process easier, work with a helper. Have one person roll on the stain while the other brushes.

Leftover Stain? Pretty Projects You Can Make

Step 4: Stain Details

Use a smaller paintbrush to stain deck railings, spindles, stairs, skirt boards, and any other remaining portions of the deck. Make sure to pay close attention to the edges of the boards so you don't have brushstrokes that run against the grain. Let stain dry 48 hours before walking on it.

More Ways to Improve Your Deck

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