how to stain a deckMany homeowners struggle with all of the different stain brands and how to stain their deck properly. Main concerns are an uneven appearance and not having enough time to finish the project. Applying an exterior wood stain actually can be an easy and fast process when you utilize the proper steps.

Please take the time to read these tips:

  1. Choose a stain that is correct for your deck. There is not a "best" stain for all scenarios. Certain stains though will work better based on your climate, exposure to UV radiation, and type of wood. Please visit Exterior Wood Stains. On this page you will find a product filter that is very useful in finding the best stain or sealer for your wood. If you still have difficulty choosing please ask us for some help: Exterior Staining Questions
  2. Once you have chosen your stain it is important that the deck is properly prepped. Prepping the wood is the most important aspect in the entire process. This will ensure that your stain can properly adhere and penetrate into the wood. Improper preparation typically leads to premature stain failure. The cleaning, brightening and or stain stripping should be done at least 48 hours prior to applying the stain.
  3. On the day of staining make sure there is no rain in the forecast for at least 12-24 hours. Remove all furniture from deck and surrounding areas. Cover with plastic tarps all shrubs and flowers. Careful to not suffocate the plants. If there are any concrete patios nearby, it would be best to cover them as well.
  4. We suggest the use of stain pad applicators and or a pump type sprayer. The stain pads allow you to "push" the stain into the wood while at the same time applying evenly. Sprayers are optional as they will speed up the process but can create accidental over spray.
  5. Always start with the railings if applicable. Using the stain pad, apply the stain from the top down. Do in sections of about 4-6 feet before moving on. It is important to wipe any excessive stain that accumulates on the flooring. If using a sprayer, make sure that watch any over spray onto the house or plants. Look over the area for drips and missed spots prior to moving on. Tip: Fill a small hand held sprayer bottle with some stain. This will help you reach small areas where the pad cannot reach.
  6. After all the railings are done double check for any missed spots or drips. Best to touch these up before the stain dries.
  7. Applying the stain to the flooring is the easiest step. Make sure that you apply with the grain of the wood and always do the entire board end to end before moving on. Tip: Use the Deck Mop to make the step extremely fast.
  8. Many stains are considered two coats or "wet on wet". This means that you apply the second coat while the first coat is still wet or not completely dry. It is always best to thoroughly read and follow the manufacturer's directions on this. Tip: It is not always needed to apply two coats to the verticals/railings. The stain will last longer on these areas since they are less exposed to the elements.
  9. When done with the staining make sure to remove all plastic tarps off the plants. If you used an oil based stain, do not leave any oily rags inside the garage or home. Let the stain dry for at least 24 hours before putting any furniture on the wood.

If you have any questions on how to stain a deck please ask below. All questions are typically answered within a day.

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    Dean Peterson · 08/14/2020
    We have a deck that had a thick coating on it. We tried numerous methods to remove the tough coating, to no avail. So the main part of the deck is coming down and we have purchased pressure treated lumber that is drying in the garage right now. Our intent is to pre-stain the lumber before assembling the deck. Our choice is oil stain. We live in northern Wisconsin. What is your advice on pre-staining the lumber and using oil stain? How long does the lumber have to dry before applying the stain?
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      The Sealer Store · 08/14/2020
      You cannot prestain wood. It needs to be exposed outside and weatherEd for 3-4 months or longer after install. Clean and then brighten wood. Apply just one coat to exposed wood.
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    Louise Marshall · 07/24/2020
    If you use one type of sealer can you do a different sealer when it’s time to reseal
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    Louise Marshall · 07/24/2020
    What are your thoughts on penifin
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      The Sealer Store · 07/24/2020
      We stopped selling it as we had lots of complaints of it turning black in color after 6-12 months. It is a known issue if you search it up.
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    Aileen Addleman · 06/04/2020
    How do you stain an older redwood deck? Do you need to use a different stain?
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    Danielle · 05/10/2020
    We live in Washington Crossing, PA. We have a new pine deck that has weathered for nine months. We are planning on preparing it prior to staining per this site's instructions. The deck is in the sun all day and gets much hotter than the air temperature. We want to stain it a rich, red/brown. Please advise and thank you!
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      The Sealer Store · 05/10/2020
      Try Armstrong Clark in Rustic Brown or Brown Oak:
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        Danielle · 07/24/2020
        We went with semitransparent Brown. We followed the directions to the letter! It was challenging cleaning and brightening, but well worth the effort. The deck is stunning. TY for the GREAT products and direction! Would not use any other products than these. You cannot find this quality in any home improvement store! So happy!
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        Danielle · 05/10/2020
        Thank you!
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    terry · 04/30/2020
    How do I avoid a visible "line" if I stain a large deck over two days? (i.e.stain half one day and the other half the next?)
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    Jeff Koberg · 04/30/2020
    Hoping for help in Ohio. I had new deck flooring installed that needs to be stained. Looking to use Armstrong Clark Semi Solid for application on new flooring. My question is that I want to change the coloring of the existing railing. It is stained a dark brown (stain about 5 years old) and would like to have the railings be an tannish color as I am looking for a two tone appearance. Can I use latex exterior paint over the existing stain? Do I need to strip off existing stain? Apply primer over? or do i need to do something totally different? thanks
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      The Sealer Store · 04/30/2020
      Strip off what you can and then use the solid stain over the rest. No need for a primer. BTW, AC semi-solid cannot be used on new wood unless it has seasoned for 12 months and then prepped.
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        jeff koberg · 04/30/2020
        Thank you on the railing question. Should I use semi transparent or do I have to leave "naked" for the year?
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    stephanie malahoff · 04/10/2020
    HI I have a cedar deck in Victoria BC that needs redoing. I have used Sikkens products in the past and it is too much work to maintain. Am now prepared to change to a stain either solid or semi transparent Defy Extreme seems to have good reviews.
    1. Can you ship to Victoria?
    2. Would stripping, sanding be best prep?
    3. Husband asking if any product can go on top of Sikkens?
    Open to all advice
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      The Sealer Store · 04/10/2020
      No, nothng can go on top of the Sikkens. It has to be sanded off. Once removed, look at TWP 200 Series:

      We ship to Canada.
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        Stephanie malahoff · 04/18/2020
        What are the smallest quantity of this product you could could ship Do you have gallon containers? I would do this deck in stages.
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          The Sealer Store · 04/19/2020
          the TWP 200 comes in single gallons.
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            Stephanie’s malahoff · 05/19/2020
            Is a newly Sanded deck considered “new wood” with the TWP wet on wet application . The deck is otherwise six years old.
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              The Sealer Store · 05/19/2020
              Ony use one coat of the TWP 200 for this.
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                stephanie malahoff · 05/21/2020
                What is the difference between the 200 series and the 1500 series? I ordered the 200 series cedartone but find it is quite dark, on some boards dark brown. Without any light reflection it will appear that much darker than expected. In the 1500 series it appears brighter comparing the swatches. So back to the question - whats the difference between the 2 series?
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                  The Sealer Store · 05/21/2020
                  The 200 Series will lighten up. It can take up to 14 days for it to do this. The 1500 is not allowed in Canada due to VOC laws and that is the main difference.
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    Marisa Yates · 01/31/2020
    I had an deck build in August of last year, 2019. Do I need to put an waterproofer under the deck floor or just leave the decking bare?
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    Susie · 10/01/2019
    Do I have to sand before staining. I have some blanks with wording on it and some railings have splintered
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    Cherish · 09/07/2019
    this is so helpful.....i am so ready to stain my deck, which has weathered heavy rain and 2 atlanta winters; that have left my deck gray, ugly and a few stains (one nice size from a turkey fryer spill). i was told there wasnt a need to power wash, but to clean with a deck cleaner wait 24hrs and stain. do i need to seal deck with a polyurethane? prime the wood? or can i just stain? ??????????? do not want my DIY to go bad. thank you.
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    Peter · 07/05/2019
    I read on another site not to sand the new deck, they suggest: 1) leave it for 1-12 months, or use 1 of the advised stain brands to shorten this to 1-3 months), 2) use a wood cleaner and brightener, 3) let it dry for a few days, 4) TIP; do not sand, 5) apply 1 coat of wood stain, 6) apply a 2nd coat 12-18 months later.

    Im getting confused at what moment you should sand the deck and if you need to use a wood primer for the next coat of stain?
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    Jason · 06/11/2019
    We just moved into a new house. The new deck was built 6 months ago and hasn't been stained. I had to add a section of railing and build a gate for baby-proofing. Will the existing deck be ok for another 3 months so I can stain it all at the same time?
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    Ruth Browne · 06/05/2019
    I got an estimate for staining my new deck and the estimate includes applying epoxy. Why would the deck need epoxy? Isn't that glue? Should I be concerned about this?
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    KD · 04/25/2019
    We live near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We installed a new wood deck (#1 lumber) in June 2018 and let it sit since install. Almost entire deck is in direct sunlight. We would like to stain/seal now. Am I right in assuming we do the following steps:
    1. Powerwash
    2. Use Restore-A-Deck Cleaner
    3. Use Restore-A-Deck Brightener
    4. apply semi-transparent stain
    5. apply waterseal/clear topcoat?

    Also, when applying stain- if common technique is two coats, wet on wet, do you just do a small section at a time to reach all boards without stepping on freshly stained boards? How long dry time between the wet on wet coats- within minutes?
    How long should we wait between stain application and watersealer application?
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      The Sealer Store · 04/25/2019
      You pressure wash after the RAD Cleaner. You rinse with a pressure washer after the brightener. Depending on the stain you choose, you can do two coats wet on wet if allowed. Apply to all and then reapply to all 20-6 minutes later. Do not do in sections. You can walk on wet stain for the second coat.

      You never apply a sealer over a deck stain.
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    Jose · 01/05/2019
    Hello, I have a deck that was built 8 months ago. Half of the deck is covered by a roof. What will be the best stain to use and does it need to be preped before staining? I would also like to keep a light color would that be recommended?

    Thank you,
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    Billy Wilson · 06/17/2018
    Is sanding a 3 month old redwood deck in lieu of using a deck cleaner
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      The Sealer Store · 06/18/2018
      Sanding is not the best way to prep. Closes the wood grain. You want the wood porous and slightly rough so the stain can soak deeper into the wood grain.
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    Billy wilson · 06/17/2018
    Do you need to use a deck cleaner and or deck brightener on a 3 month old redwood deck
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    Kurt Cooper · 01/17/2018
    I'm in Central Florida & just want to put down a deck around one side of my koi pond. It's about a 500 sq. ft. area. I was just going to use treated 2 x 4's. So I guess my question is I want a cedar/walnut stain coating but assume I would still add a clear coat sealer afterwards to maintain the look & longevity. I can't wait or physically strip the seasoned 2 x 4's after 3-12 month due to hundreds of various palms & other plants in order to get the stain to work & I want to finish this in 2-3 days. Should I just use non treated 2 x 4's on top & then stain with the cedar/walnut finish & the next day or two apply the clear coat sealer to finish? And the other question is it possible to use a inexpensive 2-3gln weed/lawn hand sprayer to apply both the stain & sealer?
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      The Sealer Store · 01/17/2018

      You cannot apply a clear coat sealer over top of a deck stain. It will not soak in and will ruin the deck stain. You also should not stain brand new wood now. The wood needs to season for 3-4 months at a minimum and must be cleaned and brightened for the prep after the wait, prior to staining.
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    The Sealer Store · 09/13/2017
    Hi! We had a new porch built a year ago using thermally modified hardwood lumber. it was stained by contractor with AC semitrans stain. Since then, the wood has been easily stained by oil or standing water, and I wonder if it was poorly prepped or stained. I want to restain with the AC: is there any special prep given the poor take of the first application, or just the standard routine?

    Prep with the Restore A Deck Stripper Kit so it is down to the bare wood: