Home deck staining can be a frustrating process. If done incorrectly, a lengthy chore can be ruined after one heavy rain. But properly weather-treating your deck is an economical way to protect your home from weather damage. And with the right preparation and execution, the result can be not only functional but great-looking, too.
Before You Start
Picking out the right stain is the first, and arguably most important, step. There's a wide range of deck stains out there, and they vary in quality and price. If you can afford it, consider splurging for some of the higher-quality stuff; it'll last longer, look better, and be easier to apply. You should also consider water-based stains. These products are better for the environment and better on your lungs, as you won't be breathing in any toxic solvents. They also clean easier, and the wood doesn't need to be as dry for them to work. In recent years, the quality of water-based products has really improved, making them a viable alternative to oil-based stains.
Also, keep an eye on the weather forecast--make sure you pick a couple of rain-free days to work.
Preparing the Deck
If you're working with brand new wood, you're going to need a sodium percarbonate cleaner, also known as an oxygenated bleach. These products are both easy on your hands and lungs, and friendly to the environment--they won't damage any nearby vegetation.
If you're trying to clean off old stain build-up, however, you're going to need something a little stronger. Stain stripper is a more caustic cleanser, but if handled carefully, it can get the job done safely too. Follow the directions on the stain stripper carefully.
After you've cleaned it, you can also apply a brightener. These products are very easy to use--all you do is spray them on, wait a few minutes, and then rinse them off--and they'll really improve the quality of your staining job.
In any case, be sure to rinse the deck very thoroughly before starting to stain it.
Applying the Stain
You can use a sprayer or a roller to apply the stain to your deck. But be very sure not to over-apply the stain; if you do, the layer of stain will be too thick to allow for vapors to pass through, and it will peel before long. Follow the directions on the can to see how much to apply.
Also, no matter what you use, also use a paintbrush. Vigorously brushing the surface of the deck while the stain is still wet is a great way to help the stain penetrate the wood.
Make sure you let everything dry well before using the deck.
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