Preparing Your Deck for Paint or Stain

If your deck is looking a bit shabby, perhaps it is time to paint or stain-or, as the case may be, re-paint, or re-stain. Whichever one of these you plan on doing, preparation is the key to the ultimate results. If you want a finished deck which is not only fresh and beautiful, but will last a long time, then start your project with proper prep work. All wood, no matter what type, needs to be thoroughly cleaned before painting or staining, no matter if it's brand-new or an older deck which has been subject to serious weatherization. Brand-new lumber, while it may seem "just fine," requires a good cleaning in order to remove what is known as "mill scale," which is basically a crushing of the wood's grain which occurs during milling. If the wood is not properly cleaned, your stain may not penetrate the wood as it was intended to do. If you have access to a high-pressure power washer, or can rent one, your job will be much easier and quicker. If not, don't despair, you can still get beautiful results, it will just take a bit more elbow grease. Although it's something you might not think about, consider the outside temperature before you decide to prep and stain or paint your deck. The best temperature for stain and paint is above 50 degrees, but below 95 degrees, and shoot for a time when there is no rain in the immediate forecast-in a perfect world, allowing your deck three to four days to thoroughly dry following cleaning is best.

Washing Your Deck

Older decks which have had years of sun and rain, not to mention possible mildew, mold and staining from normal usage, must have all these surface problems removed prior to painting or staining. Your older deck may appear to have a gray color from sun exposure, or if you live in a highly humid area, black mold or mildew may be present. In order to remove everything from your deck and leave it spic and span, wood cleaners known as percarbonate, or oxygen bleach cleaner can work really well for this critical step. These wood cleaners clean your deck thoroughly, yet are considered "green," in that they don't harm the environment, or any plants you have growing around your deck-and even better, they don't harm humans either.

Stain Stripper and Sanding

If your deck has been stained time after time, you may be left dealing with a build-up of stains, and the oxygen bleach cleaner may not be sufficient. In this case, you will have no choice but to use a stain stripper, which is more toxic than a percarbonate cleaner. It's important to wear rubber gloves and eye protection when applying a chemical stripper to your wood deck. The stain stripper will generally remove most weathering stains as well as layers of stain in one application, and you can get into the corners with a putty knife. Once you have cleaned your deck thoroughly take a good look at it. It is likely you may still have small stains which were not removed by the stain stripper, so it's time to bring in your small sander. Make sure you wait until the deck has completely dried, or your sandpaper will clog up. Sand every problem area thoroughly, then give your deck the final once-over.

Wood Brighteners

A step which is often skipped in preparing a deck for painting or staining is actually one of the easiest to accomplish, and one which offers significant results. Apply a wood brightener to your fully cleaned wood deck-it's easy and well worth it. The wood brightener will improve your chosen stain's penetration by opening up the wood's surface, and also restores your old, shabby wood to a near-new condition. Wood brighteners are simple to use-simply spray, wait a few minutes and rinse. What could be easier?

Finally-Time to Paint

Once your deck is pristine and ready for stain or paint, make sure you put drop cloths over any of your treasured plants, or deck furniture which could be harmed. Your deck is clean and dry and ready to stain, so your main objective now is to remember that sometimes you really do get what you pay for. Better ingredients typically cost more money, and if you want stellar results, purchase a higher-quality product. In other words, if you want all your hard work to last, stay away from the cheap stuff. Water-based deck stains have become more popular in the past few years, and have really improved in quality-they are now much more durable and long lasting than they were in the past, when typically oil-based stains were always used. If you plan to paint your deck, then make sure you use a high quality primer before you paint. Whether you use stain or paint, read the label thoroughly and follow instructions to the letter. Your payoff will be a fabulous-looking deck which will give you years and years of service.