Owners of old decks, take heart: HGTV host Jeff Wilson says solid deck stain will change almost any aging outdoor structure from ragged to remarkable. Here are his top three age-concealing tips:
Test It Out: To pick a colored stain, test it as you would paint. Try the stain on a couple of inconspicuous square feet of your deck, Wilson says. If you don't like it, use deck stripper to remove it rather than sanding, which creates unevenness in the deck.
Color Basics: "Remember the color wheel from grade school," Wilson says. Find the most dominant, unchanging color in your backyard--probably your home's exterior -- and choose its complement for a stain. Tan siding begs for a smoky blue counterpoint.
Wood Matters: Every wood has a natural cast to it. Pressed pine, commonly used for decks, is green when unfinished. If the natural color bothers you, try a semitransparent or solid stain to cover it, Wilson says. Or match the stain to the wood: a green-tinted stain for pine, for example.
Stain reapplied every two or three years freshens the appearance of the deck. Clean the deck thoroughly before reapplying stain.
Start your deck stain color search with these options: (clockwise from top)
Gray: A wash of cool gray gives a by-the-sea look. Try this subtle color on a large area. Color shown: Driftwood SW3027; sherwin-williams.com
Blue: Make a deck modern and a garden bench fabulous with a dose of blue. Color shown: Woodsman Blue Fog; truevaluepaint.com
Red:This strong color makes an impact against a brick exterior. Try it in smaller doses for a look that doesn't overwhelm. Color shown: Woodsman Redwood; truevaluepaint.com
Taupe: Pair this fuss-free color with patio furniture in rich hues: deep red, navy, or turquoise. Because it works well with other colors, it also works well in broad strokes. Color shown: Briarwood; benjaminmoore.com
Green: This sage green has enough gray in it to complement rather than compete with garden foliage, so it also works well in large doses. Color shown: Orchard SW3036; sherwin-williams.com
Note that actual colors may appear differently than what is shown on-screen.
Alter the appearance of a deck with stains especially formulated for decking. Oil-base and water-base stains color the wood and protect it from moisture and sun. Deck stains come in four opacities -- which one you choose depends on your taste and your deck's age.
Clear: or "natural" (top slat on planter) only barely changes the wood color. "If you have new or expensive wood, you probably want to see the grain, so use a clear stain," Wilson says. Life span: 1-2 years.
Tinted: (second slat on planter) gives just a hint of color, so expect the natural tone of the wood to come through and alter the stain. This subtle hue shift is the best option for outdoor color newbies. Life span: 2-3 years.
Semitransparent: (third slat on planter) will show the wood grain but has heavier pigmentation. "If your deck is older and you've replaced a board or two, use this to make it more uniform," WIlson says. Life span: 3-5 years.
Solid: (fourth slat on planter) completely hides the wood grain. If your deck has stains or other aesthetic damage, try a solid. It will cover most blemishes and offers higher UV protection for the wood. Life span: at least 5 years.