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Deck Maintenance: 7 Tips To Stain Your Deck Less Often

In a recent national survey, it was revealed that when it comes to critical activities adults are most negligent about, ‘not staining their deck’ was ranked at the top, 2nd only to ‘not flossing’. OK, so I totally made that up. But, you get the idea. We know that not staining a deck frequently enough will lead to rotted wood and costly repairs, just as we know that not flossing will lead to rotted teeth and dentists driving late-model cars.

But, staining a deck does not come cheap, so you don’t want to have to do it very often. According to Home Depot, staining a deck costs the average homeowner $600-700. (And this time, I did NOT totally make that up!). The moral here is proper deck maintenance can save you money in the costs associated with staining your deck,  just like flossing can save you money at the dentist and save your teeth.

So, here are 7 tips that will allow you to stain your deck less often:

1) Powerwash the deck EXTREMELY well before staining, and with detergent. While product labels these days are loaded with so much mumbo-jumbo that it’s often hard to find the instructions, the cautions on your paint cans that urge you to clean and scrape surfaces before application happen to be true. And, they are doubly true for deck stains. If you paint over loose dirt, you simply cannot expect that paint to stay there. If you paint over previously-applied paint that is peeling, the result is predictable, inevitable, and annoying. Your deck should be powerwashed under enough pressure to make the dirt and previous staining jump-off the surface, and detergent will take care of the rest, including grease. Given the benefits of putting extra rigor into the powerwashing process, it’s probably more important that this be done by a reputable professional than it is for the staining process itself.

2) Do NOT stain newly installed deck lumber immediately — wait a few months for the lumber to dry out. Whether the new deck boards are made from pressure-treated lumber or cedar, they contain moisture from some combination of water, chemicals, and natural substances that you do not want to seal-in by applying a stain. This internal moisture will interact with and degrade the stain. While the time the lumber takes to dry out may vary, you should count on waiting a minimum of 2 months.

3) Avoid transparent and semi-transparent stain. This one is going to annoy some of you, particularly those who like the color and wood grain of a cedar deck. In our experience, if you use a transparent or semi-transparent stain, you would have to stain your deck every 1-2 years to keep it looking good and prevent it from rotting. If you are willing to spend an average of $600-700 every couple of years to maintain a pleasing wood-grain appearance on your deck, I’d say ‘bully for you’, ‘congratulations on your financial success’ and ‘only in America.’ But for the rest of us, I suspect most would think there are better ways to allocate their limited resources.

4) Consider using Solid Color Deck Stain instead. This type of stain provides better protection of the wood and ought to last up to 4-5 years. The difference is that it contains more pigment, which blocks light, thereby inhibiting weathering. And while Solid Color Deck Stain somewhat masks the appearance of the wood grain more than transparent and semi-transparent stains, it does allow a vague view of the wood’s surface appearance.

5) Consider using Deck PAINT instead of Solid Color Deck Stain. Similar to Solid Color Deck Stain, Deck Paint contains even MORE pigment, and creates a flat shell over the lumber that completely conceals the underlying lumber’s character. Some brands claim to last 5-6 years. Deck Paints are relatively thick, and create a more effective barrier to light, dirt, and moisture.

6) Consider using Deck RESTORER instead of Deck Paint. OK, now we’re essentially talking about layering a new thin surface over the deck boards, that can actually fill small cracks and conceal splinters. With a viscosity that may range from 4X to 10X thicker than paint, some brands claim to last up to 12 years! However, we’re now moving into an area that changes the character of a deck, and may not be right for the typical homeowner. Brand names include Rust-Oleum Restore 10X and Behr DeckOver.

7) Replace your lumber deck boards with Composite boards. If you don’t want to stain your deck ever again, you want it to look as good on its first day as years later, and want it arguably to look even more beautiful than wood, I bring you good news. Modern technology has delivered the answer. Composite Decks are not made of wood, but instead are composed of many ingredients (e.g. plastic) that do not rot or dry out. They essentially require no maintenance other than an occasional powerwashing. So, why doesn’t everyone have one installed, why haven’t lumberjacks stopped cutting down trees for decks, and why aren’t all environmentalists singing Kumbaya in 3-part harmony? At $75-125 per BOARD, you can solve that enigma yourself. On the other hand, they really ARE within the reach of a good percentage of homeowners, especially when you consider the offsetting savings of not having to stain anymore. Fix St Louis would be glad to lend you samples and give you a free estimate to help you figure out whether or not a composite deck is right for you.

So there you have it — 7 ways to stain your deck less. Give us a call, and we’d be glad to review your situation and develop a proposal that’s right for you!