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DEXIT: On deck staining, are you a Remainer or a Leaver?

It is not widely appreciated, but throughout history the humble handyman has provided wisdom and inspiration to some of our greatest moral leaders. Examples range from the Bible’s “a wise man builds his house upon a rock”, to Abraham Lincoln’s “a house divided against itself cannot stand”, to Dorothy’s “there’s no place like home.”

But every once in a long while, there are things us handymen can learn from politicians. That’s the case today on the issue of BREXIT, on whether Britain should leave the European Union. “Remainers” want to hold onto this post-WWII arrangement that seemed mostly designed to keep Germany from invading everyone else, and everyone else from letting them. On the other hand, British “Leavers” want out of the European Union because they’re not thrilled with the idea of countries who recently invaded them writing their laws and telling them what to do.

The equivalent issue in the handyman world of Fix St Louis is “DEXIT” — homeowners breaking away from the ongoing need to stain their deck, freed-up from being a serf with their DECK as their master. Most decks are tyrants, demanding they be stained every couple of years under the threat of becoming uglier, more decrepit and, when replacement is required, expensive.

The “Remainers” in the DEXIT question are those with a cedar deck and a traditionalist disposition, who insist on maintaining a deck composed of cedar lumber with a natural wood look. While it’s true that cedar DOES resist disintegration better than most other woods, if not sealed every couple of years the ends of boards start splitting, knot holes enlarge, and the wood turns an ugly gray color. Why does it have to be sealed so often? Because the translucent stains that maintain the look of the wood don’t protect against water & temperature changes as well as solid stains/sealants.

The “Leavers” in DEXIT have, if you pardon the expression, “splintered” into 2 groups. There is a “Pressure Group” that likes to replace rotted cedar lumber with much longer-lasting and much less expensive pressure-treated lumber, then make the new boards blend in by staining the entire deck with a solid stain or an even better-protecting “deck & dock”-type coating. Then there is a “Composite Group” that prefers to replace all of the floor boards with good-looking, WOOD-looking boards made of plastic-like materials.

So, which deck party is right, the Remainers, the Leaver Pressures, or the Leaver Composites? Well, in the decisive opinion of us here at Fix St Louis, it all depends.

The Remainer Party may be right for you if you are a top 1-percenter who doesn’t mind the cost of staining your deck every couple of years, and haven’t noticed the uncanny resemblance between the deck attached to your beautiful house, and the raft Huckleberry Finn floated down the Mississippi River. Of course, we recognize that there are “honest Remainers” out there who may hold a different point of view, and have decks that everyone can agree are stunning.

The Leaver Pressure Party may be right for you if you don’t like the effort or expense of staining your deck every couple of years, and think if solid-color exterior lumber is good enough for the rest of your house, it’s good enough for your deck. Solid stain should last 2-3x longer than the translucent stain discussed above, about 4-6 years in total, but you can boost that up to 10+ years by using a “deck & dock” coating instead.

The Leaver Composite Party is for those attracted to the appearance of these deck boards, which often look better than real wood right from the start. And also for those who never, ever, ever want to stain their deck again. And also for those who would take pride in the fact that archeologists 10,000 years from now will find only their deck and the Cahokia Mounds. And also for those willing to pay the extra cost.

In any event, Fix St Louis brings the good news that with DEXIT, unlike BREXIT, everyone can plot their own course, and be a master of their own fate. Remainers may remain, and leavers may leave. No one will be tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail. Oh that reminds me, we didn’t talk about deck railings. Let’s leave that for another day.

Dr Steve
Fix St Louis