It’s a beautiful August morning in Ohio and I’m enjoying a cup of coffee on my 9 year old deck. This past Spring I spent some time cleaning and sealing my wood deck and the results were beautiful!
Now let me tell you that this is not usually the case. As a matter of fact I have re-stained my deck about 5 times; completely stripped and sanded it twice. I have to admit that this is one of my least favorite home maintenance projects. However, this year I figured out a few tips that made it much easier.
There are many YouTube tutorials out there on this process and my goal today is not to repeat information. The basic process is to sweep/vacuum, clean, brighten, and stain. The key to a nice finish is taking your time in prepping the deck surface.
5 Tips for Cleaning and Sealing a Wood Deck
- Cleaning method – The first time I cleaned my deck I used a garden hose with a cleaner, followed by a brightener. This worked great. The second time I cleaned my deck I decided to strip the finish, because I wasn’t happy with the color or the way it was wearing. Since I wanted to switch from a water based stain to an oil based stain, all of the old finish needed to be removed. So I decided to use a power washer since the stripper wasn’t working well. This was a big mistake! While it did take off the stain easier, it also raised the grain on the wood. I ended up sanding my whole deck. This did give me a nice smooth finish, but it was A LOT of work. So you definitely want to avoid using a power washer and stick to using a simple garden hose and garden sprayer. Also, make sure the tip on your garden sprayer is working properly with a smooth and even application of the cleaning product. If your cleaner/brightener is spitting out, it will leave a spotty finish that may show up after your final stain.
- Sanding (maybe) – If your horizontal decking is flat, without a lot of cupping and there aren’t nails sticking up above the surface, you may want to consider renting an Orbital Deck and Floor Sander from a big box store. The rental with accessories was around $100. This saved me a lot of time and saved me from a couple days of knee and back pain. I still sanded my deck rail with a palm sander and some tight spaces by hand, but this was much easier than doing the whole deck by hand. Sanding makes the stain soak into the wood better and gives the over all finish a smoother/nicer look.
- Type of stain – It has been a few years since I have used a water base stain and the products may have improved. The reason I chose to use an oil based stain is because they go on nicely, soaking into the wood resulting in a beautiful finish. My experience with water-based stains is that they go on more like paint and sit on top of the wood. I just prefer the look and application of an oil based stain.
- Stain Color – Take your time when picking out the stain color. You will have to live with the color for a long time. Most companies will let you buy a sample of their stain colors so you can test them on a sample board. I usually do this in an inconspicuous spot. My number one rule is that if I’m not 100% sure that I love the color, I keep looking. I order several samples and test them all. Let them fully dry in the sun, since the color will change as the stain dries. After using many different brands of stain, my favorite is TWP. I always order the 5 gallon bucket for free shipping. Usually this will coat my 18′ X 20′ deck twice. After testing many samples, my favorite color is 1503 Dark Oak. I only put on one coat the first year and then re-coat the horizontal boards the following Spring. The more coats, the darker your final color will be.
- Use a paint sprayer – In the past, I have been too afraid to use a sprayer. This year, I masked off my house, the deck flooring and used a sturdy piece of cardboard to mask the opposite side of railing. I sprayed all of the railings and vertical surfaces in about 4 hours. I used a spray on/wipe off method. This eliminated drips and made the stain very even. The finish turned out great. Then the next day I sprayed the horizontal decking and my husband used a deck pad to move the stain into the wood evenly. We did all of the horizontal deck boards and the steps in about 1 1/2 hours. The sprayer took care of the gap between the boards and applied the stain evenly. I’ve had my sprayer (Wagner Control Spray Max) for a while and used it on these bookcases, too.
Well, this may not be the easiest home maintenance chore, but if you keep up with cleaning and sealing your wood deck it will remain beautiful for many years to come. I hope these tips make you project a little easier!
List of resources:
Deck Stain – TWP 1503 Dark Oak
Orbital Deck and Floor Sander – Rented from Home Depot
Stain Pad – Shur-Line – Home Depot
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