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Decks are extensions of your home's living space. When your deck becomes worn from exposure to harsh weather, it's time to give it new life by refinishing the deck.
Refinishing a deck is more cost-effective than replacing a deck. Often, a good cleaning and finish with stain or sealant will renew your deck. There are four easy steps to refinishing a deck. Begin by choosing your stain or sealant. Next, clean and prepare the deck. Then, sand the deck surface. And finally, stain the deck and seal.
Read on for details on how to refinish a deck.
Choose a Stain or Sealant
The first step in refinishing a deck is to determine whether your deck needs to be sealed. Then, you'll need to choose the appropriate type of exterior wood coating for your specific project.
- Conduct a water drop test by pouring a few drops of water on a deck board. If the board absorbs the water, the deck definitely needs sealing for protection. If the water beads, the wood is already sealed and may only need cleaning, unless you want to change its appearance.
- Stains color the wood and give your deck a new look. Most new types of exterior wood stain are formulated with sealants, so you only need to apply one product.
- Semitransparent stains or sealers let the wood grain show through and can be most effective on pressure treated lumber.
- Avoid such clear finishes as varnish or polyurethane as they can degrade when exposed to sunlight over time.
Clean and Prepare the Deck
An attractive, long-lasting finish begins with a deck that has been cleaned and prepped for staining.
- Inspect the deck, handrails and steps. Replace damaged boards and make sure no nails are sticking up.
- Clear the deck of all outdoor furniture, toys, potted plants, grills and other objects.
- Cover nearby plants or shrubs with plastic sheeting to make sure they don’t get spattered with cleaner or stain.
- Apply painter’s tape along where the deck meets the side of the house to avoid getting stain on your home.
- Clean the deck by spraying a biodegradable deck cleaner that removes mildew. Scrub with a stiff bristle brush, using an extension handle, if necessary. Do not use a metal bristle brush on cedar or redwood because the metal bristles may scar the soft wood.
- After cleaning, consider applying a wood brightener to the surface to improve the deck's appearance.
- Then, rinse the deck using a garden hose with a spray nozzle.
- Pressure washing is an option, but follow instructions to avoid damaging the wood. Use the pressure washer at a low setting with a fan spray nozzle.
- You may be interested in how to restain your deck. It's best to completely clean the deck before applying a new coat of stain.
Sand the Deck
If you plan to stain (or restain) the deck, sand the surface before application to make the wood better absorb the coating. Remember, water-based stains will need to be stripped off before you apply a new finish, while oil-based stains can be recoated after using a deck cleaner.
Here's how to sand decking:
- Use an orbital sander to remove any old gloss and smooth out any rough areas on decking boards.
- You may need to use a sanding sponge on the railings or balustrades.
- Use 60- or 80- grit sandpaper on the main deck boards, and use 80- or 100-grit on the handrails.
- After sanding, vacuum the deck thoroughly to ensure that dust does not settle on the new finish.
Safety Tip: Always wear a dust mask and safety goggles to protect your eyes when sanding treated wood.
Stain the Deck
Before staining the deck, make sure it dries for at least two days before applying stain or sealant.
How to seal or stain a deck:
- Begin by applying deck stain or sealant to handrails using a paintbrush, starting at the top and working down to the deck surface. You can also apply stain with a paint sprayer.
- Use a natural-bristle paintbrush to apply oil-based products and a synthetic-bristle brush to apply water-based stains.
- Then stain or seal the surface decking boards with a flat paint-pad applicator. Let the stain soak according to instructions and remove excess with a rag.
- Stain needs time to absorb into the wood, but dries quickly, so avoid applying the stain in direct sunlight.
- Porous wood may require a second coat of staining sealer for even coverage.
- Most decks do not require sealant on the underside, especially when made of pressure-treated wood.
- Stay off the deck for a full day to ensure it dries completely.
- Remove painter’s tape, return furnishings to their desired place and enjoy the results of your deck restoration.
Tip: Apply deck stain with your exit in mind, such as ending at the steps, so you don’t have to track through wet stain.
When you learn how to refinish a deck, you will help it last longer. Maintain the deck to keep it looking attractive. Keep the deck swept and perform regular inspections for signs of wear and tear. Replace damaged deck boards as needed. Periodically rearrange outdoor furniture to prevent sunlight from creating mismatched color patches. And give the deck annual cleanings with a cleaner that removes mildew.