- Ideas & How-Tos
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Sunshine and rain take their toll on your deck. Learn how to test the wood, apply deck cleaner and deck stain or sealer. Then follow the steps to bring your deck back to its original beauty.
Use this checklist when you go to the store and purchase your items.
A water test is the easiest way to ensure that the wood can absorb sealer or finish. Sprinkle water on the deck. If it soaks in immediately, the deck can be sealed. If the water beads up or stands on the deck, your deck may not need sealing yet.
UV rays penetrate wood, which causes graying. Apply a brightener and cleaner to restore the wood's natural beauty. Deck cleaners help remove dirt, nail stains, algae and mildew. If your deck isn't brand-new, always use a cleaner before applying finish. Deck cleaners help remove dirt, nail stains, algae and mildew. If your deck isn't brand-new, always use a cleaner before applying finish.
Remove all deck furniture and other furnishings.
Sand splintered areas with a pole sander with 80-grit paper. Repair or replace damaged boards. Make sure to drive in any popped nails first – or even better, replace them with deck screws.
Sweep off loose debris and clean between the cracks of the boards with a putty knife.
Wet surrounding plants and shrubs. Cover them with clear plastic sheeting to prevent spotting with chemicals.
Some cleaners require the surface to be damp before applying, while others require the surface to be dry. Consult the product label. For concentrated cleaners, follow the manufacturer's mixing directions.
Use a paint roller with an extension handle, a garden sprayer or a stiff-bristled push broom to apply cleaner to the entire deck. Don't allow cleaner to puddle in any area.
Speed up the process by having one person apply the cleaner and another person back-roll the deck. Back-rolling is a process in which one person uses a roller or broom to spread any puddles.
Keep the deck wet with cleaner. Don't allow the cleaner to dry.
Scrub tough areas with a stiff brush or broom. Avoid using wire brushes or brooms. The bristles can break off into the wood and cause rust spots.
Allow the cleaner to soak into the wood. Soaking time is usually no more than 10 minutes, but check the product instructions.
Rinse the deck thoroughly with a garden hose.
Wash equipment with soapy water. Rinse plastic sheeting with water and remove.
Allow deck to dry at least two days before applying a sealer.
When applying a sealer or stain, always read the manufacturer's directions. Drying times differ based on air temperature and humidity. Before you start, check the deck boards for needed repairs such as split boards or popped-up nails. Here are some additional tips to make the job better.
An alternative to stains or sealers is applying a resurfacer or restoration product. These finishes are like a very thick paint. Applied with a brush or roller, they cover deck boards and do not show wood grain.
Check the weather. Try to find at least two days of dry weather with temperatures between 50°F and 90°F.
Remove all deck furniture, plants and furnishings.
Sand all grade stamps, marks and splintered areas. The entire deck may require sanding with a pole sander or palm sander to speed up the process. Sand in the direction of the grain. Be sure to wear a safety mask so you won't inhale the sawdust. Drive in popped nails or replace them with deck screws.
Sweep off loose debris and clean between the cracks. Make sure the deck is dry.
Wet surrounding plants and shrubs and cover them with clear plastic sheeting
Stir the sealer or stain thoroughly. Don't shake sealer. Bubbles will form in the finish.
Apply a thin, even coat of sealer or stain over a two- to three-board section with a paint roller with an extension handle or a sprayer. Two thin coats are better than one thick coat that doesn't properly adhere or dry.
Don't allow the finish to puddle. To speed up the process, one person applies the stain or sealer and another person uses a roller or broom to spread puddles and to work the finish into the wood, a process known as back-rolling.
Repeat the above process for the entire deck. Use a paintbrush to apply the sealer or stain in corners and other difficult areas, such as steps, railings, end grain and cracks. A second coat is optional.
Rinse the plastic covering the plants with a hose and remove it.
Allow the deck to dry completely.