How to Choose and Apply Paint and Stain to your Porch and Deck
A deck adds comfortable outdoor living space that the whole family can enjoy. Extend the life of your deck by applying weather-resistant paint or exterior stain.
Painting or staining a porch or deck may seem like a daunting task, but almost anyone can be successful if they plan, evaluate, and prepare before painting or staining. By properly protecting your deck you can extend its life and increase its use in the years to come.
Evaluate the Deck
The first step is to evaluate the porch or deck. Is there a paint, stain, or sealer already on there? If so, is it still working? If water beads up on the current coating, the new stain won’t absorb and the new paint won’t adhere. Plan to remove any coating by stripping or power washing the deck. Are there any structural repairs that should be completed prior to coating? Is there mold or fungus that needs to be killed and removed before the new coating can be applied? New coatings will not adhere properly to fungus, dirt, and mold. Inspect the deck and make notes about what needs to be done prior to beginning your project.
Plan the Project
Check the weather.
The deck must be completely dry in order for the new coating to adhere, and after the paint or stain is applied, the coating must have time to dry thoroughly before the next rainfall. Plan to paint or stain your deck for a week without precipitation. Ideally, the deck should dry for three days before coating it, and remain dry for two days after coating.
Estimate the amount of time the project will require.
If the deck is new and just needs coating, the project could be completed in a weekend. If the deck requires repairs, stripping of old paint, sanding, or cleaning, then plan to complete the project over the course of several days, allowing at least a half day for each procedure. Now is the time to enlist help. If you have a large deck or a deck that needs stripping, repairs, or extensive cleaning, consider asking others for help. Coordinate schedules and plan a manpower day by assigning specific tasks to each volunteer.
Consider your budget.
A quality exterior paint or stain costs upwards of $30 per 400 square feet of coverage. Brushes, rollers, sprayers, and other tools vary widely in price, so consider how much you have to spend before you begin, and borrow tools to reduce your overall cost.
Prepare the Surface
Using a chemical stripper or a manual scraper, remove the old paint or stain. Wash the deck thoroughly with a no-residue cleaning solution like TSP (tri-sodium phosphate). Rinse thoroughly with a garden hose or a pressure washer set to a low setting. Allow the deck to dry completely for at least 36 hours.
Paint or Stain
Choose an exterior paint or stain that is specifically formulated for decks; it will be more rigid and durable for foot traffic. For best results, apply an exterior primer before applying solid stain or paint. Semi-transparent stains do not require a primer, but they do require extra care: be sure to back brush (use a dry stain brush to distribute wet stain) where you have applied new stain in order to prevent pooling or overlapping marks. Coat a small area (approximately a three-foot square) before moving on to the next area. Be careful to avoid pooling (allowing too much paint or stain to accumulate in one place); it is better to apply several thin coats rather than one thick one.
How to Refinish a Porch or Deck
Although staining a deck is hard work, it’s well worth it. Besides adding beauty, staining protects and preserves your deck and/or porch.
Some homeowners choose not to finish their porches and decks, keeping the natural look of the wood. Although they don’t have to invest time, labor, and money in paint or staining supplies, not finishing porches and/or decks can result in them not lasting as long. When deciding on how to finish your porch and/or deck, first determine whether you want to paint or stain the wood.
Advantages of Stains
- No peeling – Unlike paint, stains don’t peel, lasting longer.
- Transparent beauty – The beauty of the wood shines through the stain.
Disadvantages of Stains
If you restain your porch, you’ll need to first strip off the old stain, which can be not only time-consuming but dangerous if you work with acid. On the other hand, when using opaque paints, you can paint over the old color without having to do any stripping.
Choosing a Stain Color
Choose a color that goes well with your wood. Tinted stains will enhance a wood’s color, while semitransparent stains will render an even bolder appearance as it covers over the wood’s grain. It’s advisable to choose a stain with a sealer because this will save you the step of sealing the stain once applied.
Begin by cleaning the deck. Although you can use a hose, you may want to rent a pressure washer and deck cleanser. To avoid damage (and fuzzing up the wood), choose a low setting.
Even on wood that’s never been finished, after washing off all grime and dirt, check to see if the deck looks exceptionally weathered. If it’s too worn for your standards, use oxalic acid to bleach out the gray.
Removing an Old Stain
f you have an old stain on the wood, you’ll need to remove it before staining. This way you start out with bare wood that has been conditioned to accept a stain.
Sanding option -You can sand off the old stain, but it’s much easier to use an acid-based stripper product to wash it off. However, if you don’t want to mess with chemicals (as well as worry about falling on a slippery surface), then maybe you should use the sanding option. Using a belt sander, sand across the grain of the wood. Then sand diagonally (with the grain.) Wash all particles off thoroughly.
Stain and finish stripper – Purchase an acid-based stain and finish stripper (found at most hardware and home improvement stores.) Besides consulting with a store professional, carefully follow the product’s directions. To protect surrounding shrubbery and other items from discoloration or unwanted chemicals, be sure to, cover them with plastic drop clothes before applying the stripper. Wear old shoes and clothes, as the acid is corrosive. Protect your eyes with goggles and wear gloves.
Apply wood prep – After removing the old stain, apply a commercial wood prep product to protect the stain. First, moisten the wood and then apply. After about ten minutes, scrub and rinse.
Applying the Stain
Once the wood is clean and bare, it’s ready for staining. Use a roller for floor surfaces and brushes or rags for railings. Avoid using a sprayer as this will spatter stain on your house. Once dried, you can’t remove it without damaging the house paint.
Granted, staining a deck or porch is a lot of hard work. However, it’s well worth the time and energy invested. Besides your deck lasting longer, you will have also learned a valuable new skill for future home projects.