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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  • We will reply to your comment shortly
    Tara Cole · 10/04/2013
    I recently purchased and applied the Armstrong/clark hardwood stain on ipe. After 1 week the deck is still wet (it's actuall the floor of a 3 season room. I've wiped the decking with a dry rag many times and each time my rag comes up with stain on it. How do I remove the leftover oils such that the decking is safe to walk on without staining cloths and/or feet.
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    The Sealer Store · 08/27/2013
    The guy at Kelly Moore is correct and your friend is not.
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    Audrey Zmuda · 08/27/2013
    I recently had a deck replaced. The guy at Kelly suggested I let the deck weather before staining it, and this is the advice given here, so that's good to know.

    I have a friend who insists that we goofed and should have stained the boards before assembled so it can be coated all the way around the boards. It makes some sense, particularly because I live up in Truckee, CA at elevation ~6500 so I do get a fair amount of snow.

    Do you have a comment on this? Thanks so much!

    Best,
    Audrey
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    The Sealer Store · 05/22/2013
    It is very difficult to spot sand but you could try one knot to see if it works otherwise you will need to strip and sand the entire deck. Clean and brighten when done then apply the Extreme Clear.
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    Fil · 05/21/2013
    Hello,
    I have a cedar deck, unfinished, and weathered for 7 months.
    I cleaner and brighten the wood.
    Allowed to dry for 48 hours.
    Prior to applying Defy Extreme Crystal Clear i noticed some minimal hazy wood fibres around the knots of the wood ... looked like remnant mildew perhaps?
    I debated whether or not to sand it off.... i chose not to...sadly
    I applied the Defy Clear as recommended during shade warm temperature 20 degree Celsius, although after complete dry time the finish looks dull and the knots remain with slight grey hazy patches around knots
    The Defy Clear has dried well, its not shiny and absorbed well, water beads off nicely when wet; yet the Cedar feels hard to touch...just curious is this normal?

    I wish to remove the “grey” patchy spots – in order to have a complete uniform look and natural color.
    What should i do?
    Do i sand down the patchy spots? or sand all the deck boards? what grit?
    if i do sand, should i clean and brighten again?
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    The Sealer Store · 05/03/2013
    Now that you sanded you should use a cleaner and brightener to finish the prep. Deck Stains are sealers as well. I would look at the Armstrong Clark decking stain.
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    Sharon Cook · 05/03/2013
    Dear Sir--

    I got a new PT wood deck at my Maryland home in January. I read on the Internet to let the wood dry thoroughly at least 3 months prior to staining, but after just 4 months the deck had issues with "raised grain" as I guess it does not take as long for 5/4" boards to dry and the sun took a toll on it. Anyway, the contractor came back today and power sanded the boards which I'm not sure was a good idea for new wood (from what I've read) and he should have probably used sandpaper to take care of the raised grain. With all this in mind, would you suggest I put a sealer on it or a stain. The contractor told me sealers are better than stains. And how long should I wait now that it's been power sanded? This deck is really stressing me out.
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    The Sealer Store · 11/14/2012
    You did a few things wrong:

    1. New wood should dry and weather for a few months before staining.
    2. All new wood should be prepped with a deck cleaner and brightener to open the pores and remove mill glaze.
    3. You over applied the stain.

    You will need to remove the stain and start over to fix this.
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    Carol & Nils · 11/14/2012
    We just put up a redwood deck and used the B grade of lumber. We then applied a coat of super deck 1910 Natural stain. about 30 hours later I applied a second coat. It has been 3 days now and it is still slightly tacky. We cannot put furniture on it yet.

    What did I do wrong? Thanks for your help.
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    The Sealer Store · 10/10/2012
    No deck stain will protect from dog urine.
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    Ron · 10/10/2012
    I have decided on the Armstrong-Clark Sierra Redwood semi transparent. I have a large redwood deck in Albuquerque, NM that is in partial shade. We have 2 small dogs that "relieve" themselves on the deck. Will the stain protect the redwood against discoloration? I have used Penofin Blue in the past and it wore off within 6 months and the spots where the dogs went turned black.
    Thanks!
    Ron
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    Brob · 10/02/2012
    Thanks for the info. One step that we did take when we applied the second coat is that we let it sit for about an hour or two and then wiped off any excess. Hopefully that helped control the amount of excess stain that didn't absorb in. I suppose that second coat didn't absorb, rather it just dried on top of the first coat. It looks beautiful, but is still slick. I suppose we'll see how the weather treats it as we are in rainy season now and soon winter.
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    The Sealer Store · 10/01/2012
    TWP should not be applied to new wood until 4-12 months after install. Only one coat is needed for new wood. In addition TWP is a penetrating stain that does not leave a shine unless over applied. This shine is an issue as it is extremely over applied. This will most likely result in premature product failure or peeling. Unfortunately there is not much you can do until it is time to redo in the future. You will need to strip it all down and start over.
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    The Sealer Store · 10/01/2012
    It will be okay if it drops below 50 degrees a few hours later but you do not want it to drop below 32 degrees.
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    Hermanson · 10/01/2012
    If the stain says apply between 50 and 90 degrees, and dries within 3 hours, if it drops below 50 degrees 3 hours AFTER application (so after drying time) and then freezes that night, will that affect the stain? I can't find this answer anywhere.
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    Brob · 10/01/2012
    I used TWP 1500 series to stain my new PT deck made with kiln dried wood. After it was built, I waited a month, pressure washed it, then used a wood cleaner, wood brightener, and then sanded it. We then applied the TWP 1500 stain. After one coat it was absorbed in nicely (it was very thirsty) but looked dull/faded so we applied a second coat about a week later. Now it has a beautiful shine. The stain is dried, but the deck is slippery now. Is there anything I can do to help reduce the slippery finish?
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    The Sealer Store · 09/07/2012
    Basically the same but application instructions may vary depending on the brand you are using.
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    Peter · 09/07/2012
    Are the INSTRUCTIONS for Sealer -- the same as STAIN? POWER SPRAYER -- do you have any advice as to their use for SEALER?
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    The Sealer Store · 08/24/2012
    I would look at TWP 1500 or Armstrong Clark.
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    Jean Hammock · 08/24/2012
    My 1000 sq ft deck is 17 yrs old and has been refinished twice. Once with CWF and last time with BEHR transparent (both oil based). I have replaced some boards on the deck and all the top rails. Some of the boards are very weathered. I have pressure washed it entirely. Trying to decide what stain to use. I am a 77 yr old female and plan to do it myself. Hopefully something that will enhance the appearance and last a long time.