How To Paint Or Stain A Deck

Marshall McCauley | Improvement Center Columnist | December 14, 2011

Painting or staining a deck can be a straight-forward, DIY home improvement project. Before you get to work with your brush and bucket, however, you'll need to decide which exterior finish is right for your deck. A semi-transparent stain, which can highlight the natural grain pattern in wood, might be the right choice for a slick new redwood deck; on the other hand, a fresh coat of acrylic paint is probably the better choice for breathing new life into an old wood deck that has turned weathered gray. Whether you decide on paint or stain, be sure to apply it during good weather, and follow all of the manufacturer's instructions.

How to paint a deck

  1. Before applying a new coat of paint to your deck, you should scrape off any old paint that is flaking, peeling, or bubbling. After scraping the old paint, use a medium-grit sandpaper to feather the edges of the scraped area.
  2. If your deck is new and has never been painted, then you can simply sand the raw wood with some 120-grit paper, after which you should vacuum the deck to remove any saw dust or debris. Although some brands of premium paint claim that a primer coat is not necessary, you may get better results and longer-lasting protection, if you prime your new deck before applying a latex or oil-based paint.
  3. You can use a brush, roller, or paint sprayer to apply the primer and the paint. If you rent a paint sprayer, which can cost about $70 a day, make sure to get detailed instructions and advice on using and cleaning the machine.

How to stain a deck

  1. If you want to stain a deck that was previously painted, then you will need to sand your deck to bare wood to insure that the new finish adheres to the old wood surface.
  2. Using a semi-transparent stain will allow some of the wood's natural grain to show through the finish, while a solid stain will appear more opaque, similar to a coat of paint.
  3. If your deck is made from a soft wood, such as pine or spruce, you may need to apply a pre-stain conditioner to the wood, which can help the stain achieve a consistent finish without any blotching.
  4. Although you can use a brush or sprayer to apply a coat of stain, it is often easiest to use a lint-free cotton cloth to wipe the stain directly on the wood.

When painting or staining a deck make sure to protect the surrounding area from spills and drips with tarps or plastic sheeting. Wear old clothes, a hat, eye protection and rubber gloves to protect yourself, and work carefully--if you do, the finished project might just look like a pro did the job.