How to Refinish a Deck

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You want your backyard deck to be a good looking extension of your home, but after a few years it has begun to have a "weathered" appearance. Well, you don't have to spend thousands of dollars to replace it, and you don't even need to spend hundreds to have someone come in and refinish it--you can do it yourself. Refinishing your deck is a two-stage job: the first step is stripping off the old finish and a few days later the second step is to actually refinish your deck. It's the kind of project a handy person with a couple of spare days can easily do themselves. Here's how to refinish your old deck and have it looking like new again.

Things You'll Need

  • Hammer and nails or
  • Screw driver and deck screws
  • 150-grit sandpaper and power sander
  • Paint roller, brushes and paint trays
  • Shop vacuum
  • Clear off your deck and strip off the old finish (see my related eHow article on how to strip a deck).

  • After stripping your deck give it a couple of days to dry thoroughly before you move onto the refinishing stage.

  • Calculate the square footage of your deck by measuring its length and width. You'll need to know the size of your deck to determine how much stain you'll need for refinishing.

  • Choosing the right stain is an important part of refinishing your deck. Stains need to protect the deck from sunlight, heat, rain and water, as well as abrasion from people walking on it. Clear or semi-transparent stains will allow the grain and texture of the wood to show through, but they don't offer as much protection from the UV rays of the sun as semi-solid and solid stains. In general, the more color a stain has, the longer it (and your refinishing job) will last.

  • Choose between a latex or oil-based stain (latex stains clean up with soap and water while oil-based stains need Varsol or Turpentine for clean up).

  • After choosing your stain, carefully go over your deck and fasten down any loose boards by resinking any nail heads or replacing nails that are popped up above the surface. Using deck screws rather than nails will help hold the deck boards tighter, since screws won't pop up as easily as nails.

  • Using relatively fine grit sandpaper (150 grit) and your power sander (a belt sander works best, but any sander will do) give your deck a light sanding to smooth out the deck surface. The power washing as part of the stripping process will have likely have caused some minor surface damage and you want to remove the tiny splinters before staining your deck. After sanding, use your shop vacuum to blow any dust off the surface.

  • Start staining by "cutting in" deck around the deck edges with a paint brush anywhere your deck comes close to a wall, then use a paint roller to apply your chosen stain. Work slowly, one section at a time to avoid spattering stain onto any adjoining walls or yard ornaments.

  • After you finish the first coat, allow the stain to dry thoroughly before applying the second coat. Even if you don't think a second coat is necessary for appearance, the second coat will definitely help prolong the life of your new finish.

Tips & Warnings

  • Sand and apply stain working with the grain, not across it. This will help minimize any damage to the surface and ensure the stain gets down into the grain of the wood.
  • Between coats you could use your paintbrush to stain in between boards where the roller won't reach.
  • Don't apply your stain in direct sunlight. The heat will dry it too fast.
  • Some newly stained decks can be quite slippery--particularly after a rain. Your home or hardware store should carry grit (almost like a fine sand) specifically made for spreading on wet stain to give it a slightly textured surface and ensure your feet won't slip.

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