Unless you built it on your own, you are probably unaware of the time, money, and effort that goes into creating a deck from the ground up. It’s a very laborious process, one that requires skill, knowhow, and, above all else, a significant amount of money. Deck experts can always spot those who don’t understand the costs of building a deck with one simple observation: the deck itself. People who love and value their deck take the time to ensure it’s properly cleaned, maintained, and regularly stained. Those who don’t often ignore all the necessary things you have to do to keep a deck in its best condition.
If you love your deck and want it to look its best, here’s an in-depth guide to cleaning and staining a deck, with many of the tips you’ll need to do the job right.
1. Give Yourself Plenty of Time
Properly cleaning and staining takes time. Not only does the work itself take time, often over multiple days, but the products you use will need time to soak in and set. For these reasons, it’s important that you give yourself plenty of time to do the job properly. Be sure to check the weather before you decide to stain your deck, and coincide your efforts with dry periods. Spending a few days cleaning your deck and getting new wood, only to have the rain come and ruin your efforts, is never a good idea.
2. Inspect Your Deck
The first thing you have to do with your deck is give it a proper inspection. Look around for wood that’s cracked, damaged, overly moist, or rotten. Look to places where it seems to be getting undo wear and tear, and compare sections against each other to see where your efforts are needed most.
3. Replace Damaged and Rotting Wood
Once you’ve taken a look around, start by replacing pieces of wood that need to go. This can include rotting pieces, which need to be dealt with as soon as possible, and pieces that are simply too damaged to do their job right. Be sure to remove the entire piece, not just the section in question, and replace the wood with a similar piece for better consistency. If you feel under-equipped to do the job yourself, be sure to have a professional come and do the work.
4. Prepare Remaining Wood
Once you’ve replaced the severely damaged and rotten wood, it’s time to turn your attention to the other pieces. Get your sanding gear and wire brush out and start scrubbing. A lot of good wood can get dirty and deteriorate faster when it isn’t properly scrubbed down, which will shorten the lifespan of any good deck. But by scrubbing off all the dirt with a thorough sanding, you can keep it looking its best. The sanding is particularly important, as it will smooth out your deck and give the stain something to cling to when it is applied. Without proper sanding, the stain won’t be nearly as effective, and won’t last for as long as properly prepared wood. Surface preparation is the most essential step in any project, so make sure you take your time and do a good job or you will compromise the quality of your finish.
5. Select the Right Stain
Finding the right stain comes down to some key factors: the kind of wood you have, the climate in which your deck lives, and the colours you want. For each of these factors, be sure to do the proper research and, if necessary, get professional opinions by people who know decks and deck stain products. Picking the wrong stain can lead to a myriad of issues, so be sure to take the time to find the one right for you, your deck, and your weather.
6. Clean Prior to Staining
Once you have the right stain, it’s time to clean your entire deck from top to bottom. This will not only help your deck look its best when you apply the stain, but it will ensure that the stain bonds to the actual wood instead of the dirt and dust that’s bound to be on top. A pressure washer is often the preferred way to clean a deck, and a great chance to eliminate all the dust that sanding, hammering, and brushing has caused up to this point. But be sure to keep a brush handy for those tight spots. Pressure washing may cause some of the wood to crack, in which case you may need to replace some pieces and prepare it again for staining.
7. Follow the Directions
Now you’re finally ready to stain, and the first thing you do when you stain a deck is read through the directions on your stain thoroughly. Every stain has different chemical components and, as a result, need different conditions and application methods to get the job done right. Be sure to follow these directions and apply the stain using the method described on the product, and give your deck the maximum amount of time possible to dry and set. That means leaving it for a long while, avoiding any contact to give it time to strengthen.
8. Keep a Paintbrush Handy
No matter how you end up applying the stain, be sure to keep a clean paint brush handy. Decks often have many nooks and crannies, and a brush can help you get a coat over every tiny detail.
9. Keep an Eye on Your Work
Some of the best, most thorough staining jobs ever done have been ruined by neglect. Just because your deck is properly stained doesn’t make it immune to weather and regular wear and tear. A solid staining job will probably last a couple of years, but be sure to thoroughly inspect your deck every season to see if there’s problems. If there are, like rotting wood or other damages, get them taken care of as soon as you can. Leaving decks to their own devices often lead to major repairs down the road, which can cause a lot of problems.
If you have any questions be sure to contact us, and remember there are always professionals who can take care of this type of project for you should you feel uncertain about any aspect of staining your deck.