How to Restain a Deck [Full Guide 2024]

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Restaining a deck is an essential task for homeowners desiring to maintain the allure, durability, and life of their outdoor space. 

As time passes, elements like the sun, rain, and regular foot traffic can degrade the original stain, leading to a faded and vulnerable wooden surface. But with the right tools and techniques, you can refresh the look of your deck, ensuring it remains a centerpiece of your outdoor living for years to come.

This guide walks you through the process, step by step.

1. Determine the Need for Restaining

Before you dive into the staining process, it’s important to evaluate the current state of your deck. 

If water beads up on its surface, the previous stain is still providing protection. But if the water is absorbed, this indicates it’s time to restain. 

Moreover, you should thoroughly inspect the deck for any signs of damage like rot, splinters, or warping. Restaining your deck can take a lot of time and effort, but it’s well worth your time.

2. Choose the Right Stain

There’s a variety of deck stains available in the market, each designed for specific deck conditions and desired appearances. 

Transparent stains are suitable for decks in good condition with attractive wood grain you’d like to showcase. They, however, offer the least UV protection. Semi-transparent stains give a hint of color and better UV protection, making them a fit for decks a few years old with minor imperfections. 

Solid stains are geared towards older decks with significant wear, effectively hiding imperfections while revealing the wood’s texture. And for decks that have seen better days, deck resurfacers provide a thick finish, capable of filling in cracks up to 1/4-inch.

3. Gather Necessary Supplies

Preparation is key, and ensuring you have all the required supplies at hand will make the process smoother. Essential items include a deck cleaner, the stain of your choice, paintbrushes or rollers, a paint tray, a power washer (or a strong garden hose), protective gloves, and safety glasses.

4. Prepare the Deck

The quality of your deck’s preparation can be the difference between a long-lasting stain and one that fades or peels prematurely. It lays the foundation for the rest of the process, so it’s crucial not to cut corners.

  • Clear and Clean: Begin by removing all items from the deck, including furniture, potted plants, grills, and decorative items. With a broom or leaf blower, clear away any leaves, twigs, and other debris. Dirt and foreign particles can interfere with the stain’s adherence, so a clean deck is a must.
  • Deep Cleaning: After sweeping, give your deck a deep clean. Specialized deck cleaners are available that can help remove mold, mildew, algae, and deep-seated dirt. Remember that mold and mildew aren’t just unsightly – they can also make the deck slippery and unsafe. If you don’t have a specialized cleaner, a mixture of warm water and mild detergent can also be effective for general cleaning.
  • Power Washing: For a more intense clean, consider power washing. This can help remove older, flaking stain and embedded dirt. However, be cautious. Using too much pressure or holding the nozzle too close can gouge the wood. If you’re new to power washing, it might be worth hiring a professional or seeking advice before starting.
  • Sanding: If your deck has been stained before and shows signs of peeling, cracking, or uneven wear, sanding is often necessary. Sanding removes the old stain and creates a smooth, receptive surface for the new one. It’s generally advised to start with a coarser grit sandpaper, such as 60-grit, and move to a finer grit, around 120-grit, for the smoothest finish. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain to prevent scratches and ensure evenness.
  • Final Rinse and Dry: After cleaning and sanding, give the deck a final rinse to remove any residual cleaning agents or wood dust. Then, allow it to dry completely. A wet deck will not absorb the stain effectively.

5. Apply the Stain

The weather plays a critical role in the staining process. It’s advisable to work when there’s no rain expected for the next 24-48 hours and when temperatures are between 50°F to 90°F. Before committing to the entire deck, apply the stain to a small, hidden section to ensure it offers the color and finish you desire. When you begin staining, work methodically from one end to the other, using a brush or roller in the direction of the wood grain. Ensure the application is even to prevent pooling or dripping. Depending on the type of stain and the result you’re after, a second coat might be necessary. Always consult the manufacturer’s guidelines.

6. Let it Dry

Once your deck is stained, it’s vital to let it dry thoroughly. Typically, a drying time of at least 24 hours is recommended, though some products might necessitate longer. Resist the temptation to replace furniture or walk on the deck during this period.

7. Maintain Regularly

Proper maintenance is paramount in extending the life of your deck and ensuring the stain remains vibrant and protective.

  • Routine Cleaning: At least once a week, depending on usage, sweep your deck to remove leaves, dirt, and other debris. Organic material can rot and stain the wood if left unchecked. Monthly, consider washing your deck with a mild detergent solution to remove surface grime.
  • Address Spills Immediately: Accidents happen, but prompt action can prevent permanent stains. Whether it’s a spilled drink, food, or other substances, clean it up as soon as possible using a mild detergent and water.
  • Check for Wear and Tear: Every few months, inspect your deck for signs of wear, like fading stain or areas where water no longer beads up. These can be indicators that a touch-up is necessary. Additionally, keep an eye out for protruding nails or screws, splintering boards, or other hazards, addressing them as they arise.
  • Annual Deep Clean: Once a year, as seasons change and especially after winter, give your deck a deep cleaning. This can be done using a specialized deck cleaner or a power washer on a gentle setting. This removes accumulated dirt, mold, or mildew, and prepares the deck for any necessary restaining.
  • Limit Sun and Water Exposure: While it’s not always feasible to keep your deck completely shielded from the elements, there are steps you can take to minimize damage. If your deck is in direct sunlight for many hours a day, consider installing a pergola, awning, or large umbrella to provide some shade. Ensure your deck has proper drainage to prevent standing water, which can accelerate wood rot and damage the stain.
  • Reapply Protective Finish: Depending on the wear, every 2-5 years you’ll want to consider restaining or resealing your deck. Even if the stain color remains vibrant, the protective qualities can diminish over time, so reapplying ensures your deck remains safeguarded from the elements.

The effort invested in restaining your deck revitalizes its appearance and functionality. With the right approach, preparation, and patience, you can transform your deck into a space that’s not only aesthetically pleasing but also durable. Remember, it’s not just about aesthetics – it’s about preserving your deck for many more years of enjoyment.


If you like this then do check out:

How to Choose the Right Decking Material

How to Create the Perfect Garden Bar

How to Create The Perfect Garden Room


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Jen Stanbrook
Jen Stanbrook

Jen is an award winning digital publisher and has been creating interiors and home decor content for over 10 years.
She has an insatiable love of home interiors, has worked with hundreds of brands, and currently supports many bloggers within the creative industries to share their expertise through writing.
She spends most of her time in her little garden office pod, has 2 daughters and 2 (fighting) cats.

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Instagram

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