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How to Restain a Deck

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Restaining a deck is one of the best ways to maintain the condition of your deck and ensure it lasts a long time. While knowing how to restain a deck isn’t an enjoyable endeavor, it’s a great one to do because you see the results immediately. This article will cover how to restain a deck and other questions we had about restaining a deck.

We recently restained our deck, and it was pretty much a success (I mean, it’s done, and that’s what we wanted). There are certain steps we skipped (don’t worry, I will show you the step-by-step process for staining a deck), and others we did thoroughly. All in all, here is what you need to know about staining a deck for the first time and restaining a deck with some photos, of course.

restain a deck

Does your decking need to be stained and resealed?

Before you begin, you should check to see if your deck needs to be resealed. Check the deck and see if the water is beading up or being absorbed by the wood. If it’s being absorbed, your deck isn’t being protected, and you should restain and seal your deck. If you continue to leave it, it will begin to rot a degrade.


Deck Staining Preparation

Inspect your wood deck

Before you stain your deck, you will need to inspect it and see if there are any boards that need to be fixed. You’ll also want to take note of any other fixing that needs to take place, like screws sticking out. Loose spindles on the railing and other issues that have arisen from wear and tear. Now is the time to fix these things.

Replace any boards

The next step is to see if there are any wooden boards that need replacing. You will want to do this before sanding the decking because you may want to get it the same color if you are using a semi-transparent stain. A fresh deck board will stick out once the stain is applied.

Remove everything

Make sure your deck is completely free of all things (yes, even the 300 lbs swing bed you got from Costco). You don’t want to be moving items around while you are refinishing the deck. Take them off and put them somewhere out of the way of your deck.

Cleaning deck before staining

Before you paint, you should clean your deck—the easiest way to do this is to use a pressure washer (I use this Karcher model).  By power washing the old stain off a deck, you can remove any debris and loose fibers. The downside of this method of deck cleaning is that this will kick up loose fibers, and you will need to sand the deck.

Remove Paint

There are deck cleaners you can get to help you with the preparation of the deck. You may need to scrape the old paint off as well if it is peeling off. Or if you are like me, you just apply the stain over it and see what happens. It doesn’t look terrible but definitely does not look like a nice clean stain job.

Sanding Deck Before Staining

Sanding the deck can be done with a palm sander (this is a good one) if you only have a few places, but if you have a larger area, then you will need to use a random orbital sander; we used an 80 grit sandpaper on the deck and a 100 grit on the handrails. Make sure to use the proper safety equipment when sanding (aka Google).

After you have sanded the deck, you will want to refrain from washing the deck again and clean up any dust and loose items while you let the deck dry for a few days so it can absorb the stain.

preparing a deck for staining

Preparing a deck for staining

Selecting a wood stain

I’m not a professional with this, so I immediately sought out help. I’ve made my share of mistakes staining my deck, and I hope by sharing this will help you avoid pitfalls as I did. 

Here is my experience, the first time we stained our deck, it was with latex paint (oil-based were temporarily banned at that point), the stain was supposed to last 7 years. By the second summer, it was flaking everywhere. It took several years of peeling and flaking before it almost all came off.


We will never use latex paint or stain on a deck again.

This time we used oil-based paint. I asked a local painter in the area, and he said he used this Cloverdale paint. We ended up going with the Teak color. It went on easy, and since it was my first experience with oil-based paint, I found it very runny, but the wood absorbed all of it.

In fact, our wood was so bad that it took almost twice the amount of stain it should have—just another reason to stain your deck more often.

The stain choices were semi-transparent or solid. We went with the semi-transparent. This means you can still see the wood grain through the stain, so it retains the wood look. It was easy to use, and we were very happy with it.

The bottom line on selecting a wood stain. Go to a paint store and seek professional advice. Tell them your goals for the stain and what you want to achieve.


Tip for selecting your wood stain

If you are wondering what color will be right, go to the store with a piece of wood and get them to stain it with the colors you are interested in. Then leave that stain out on a quiet part of your deck for the year (yes, a year). It seems excessive, but you will see how the paint looks when it’s applied and how it will weather in your climate. A few of them we did looked very grey and didn’t hold up well, so I’m hoping it was worth the wait.

We did this, and it was hugely helpful in picking a color and stain.


What do you need to restain a deck?

The materials you will need to restain a deck are the following products:

Before we do any renovation or project, we like to cost out everything. Use this free home renovation budget template to get started. 


Staining a Deck

The best brushes to stain a deck

The best tool to stain a deck is a wood stain pad applicator. This can be attached to the end of a mop handle and allows you to save your back staining the deck while getting consistent coverage. It’s well worth getting! We have used them twice, staining our deck, and it has taken us a fraction of the time to get the staining done. You can buy these deck stain applicators here. 

The other thing you will need is a brush. If it’s an oil-based stain using a synthetic brush will be better. It’s also recommended to get a couple of different sizes. We had a 4-inch one for the large areas and a 2.5-inch one for tough-to-reach places and spindles (we will talk more about spindles in a minute).

There are a lot of ways to stain a deck surface. You could use a nylon brush, but that will take a lot longer. Go with the pad applicator.


How to Stain Wood Spindles on a Deck

There are a few ways to stain spindles on a deck. What we found to work best was a combination of cloth and a narrow tip brush. We had a lot of spindles (nearly 200), and it took all day to do them. The brushes are good for the tight areas, and the cloth is good for the spindle.

Wear gloves; this method will give you tons of splinters. While we wore gloves the whole time, for the last 4, the gloves ripped.

Since we were unprepared, we cut up old clothes and used them. Had we known, we would have used these cloths; they are the same material as the pads to do the deck’s surface.

What didn’t work on deck spindles

We tried this style of a mitt; due to the age of the wood, we stopped after the first spindle it left fluff everywhere. I could see gloves like this working, but it wasn’t the case for us. I think it would need to be a very smooth surface for this to work.

before and after restaining deck photo

Staining the Deck

Use the stain and apply it very liberally; make sure you have laid out some drop cloths for any of your plants, rocks, or other items. Then dip the deck staining pad in the paint tray (we used a lasagna tray because the incline of the normal paint tray made it hard to spread evenly) and spread it around.

Staining in between the Deck Spaces

One of the trickiest things will be to stain in between where the deck boards gap. Some pad applicators have a tool that comes out to fit in the gaps. Ours did, and it worked great until the space got too tight and broke the pad that applied it on the sides. But until then, it worked great!.

This is the applicator we used to stain in between the deck boards. I highly recommend it.

Clean up

Once you are done, you can clean up using some mineral waters or paint thinner. Make sure to dispose of the paint in an environmentally safe way and be careful of what you do with the rags. Oil-based paints and rags have been known to spontaneously combust and cause house-damaging fires.

Enjoy Your Newly Restained Deck

Finally, you are done. Return all of the items to the deck and enjoy your newly stained masterpiece. Since we did the deck, we find we are using it more as it is no longer an eyesore, and we are happy with it. Sure we made some mistakes staining the deck. But the way I look at it, it’s protected, and it looks way better than it did before.


Frequently Asked Questions about Restaining a Deck

Can You Apply Oil Based Stain on a Latex Water-Based Stain

Our first deck stain was on latex, and while most of it had flaked off and looked terrible, we were able to apply the oil-based stain on top of the latex (water-based) stain. It was noticeably shinier than other parts but still stayed on.


Can you restain a deck without sanding?

You can restain a deck without sanding it; we did this time. But we didn’t pressure wash it either. Everyone we know who has stained a deck told us that it would be a big job of sanding the deck after pressure washing. That’s because the force of the pressure washer will force up splinters in the deck that will need to be sanded down before walking on it.

Another reason is that when we restained the deck, we were more about protecting what we had and wanted to get it done quickly. The wood needs to be dry, so depending on the time of year and the weather, it can be challenging to get everything right with the weather and humidity. Make sure you have everything ready to go for when the weather is right to stain.


How to Restain a Deck Without Stripping

You can directly stain on top of your deck without stripping, but the results may vary between the deck and how it has aged to the different stains you can use, it is possible, but it may not absorb the stain very well (or at all). We cleaned the deck of any wood splinters and applied the stain, but our deck was way overdue for restaining.

If you are unsure about restaining the deck, take a small area and test it to see if it requires restaining.


How to Restain a Deck Without Sanding?

As I mentioned, if you do not want to sand, I would try and remove the dust and debris from the deck. Replace any boards that need to be replaced and then begin restaining the deck. You should wait for a couple of dry days before applying the stain and then apply it. By not taking all of the steps, you could be setting yourself up for twice the work (meaning you may need to do it all again if it doesn’t go your way).


Before and After Pictures of Restaining a Deck

Overall I’m happy with how it looked. The stain on top of the latex wasn’t great, but it will likely keep blistering off, and I will have to give it a second coat in the fall. Here are some before and after shots.

before restaining a deck picture

after restaining a deck picture with teak cloverdale sharkskin stain

Final Thoughts on Restaining A Deck

Now that it’s done, I wish we had done it earlier. I’m not thrilled with how it looks on the parts that still have latex stain on it from before, but to have sanded all of it wasn’t something I had time for. With that drawback aside, we have used the deck every day since staining it because it feels like new again. The next project is how to stain a picnic table (since we have a gallon leftover).

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Related: Can you put a pergola on a raised deck?

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