Design & DIY

How to refinish your deck step-by-step

How to finish your deck

The elements, foot traffic, rolling barbeques, and scampering dogs all contribute to the breakdown of a deck’s finish. But with detailed observation and knowledge of both old-finish removal and new-finish application, you’ll be able to plan and carry out your deck rejuvenation. Just follow these steps.

Establish its condition

While it may be obvious that a deck’s finish needs replacing, it might be less obvious whether any boards do. One of the problems with film-forming solid stains is that they can lift off the deck surface, thereby creating a place for water to hang out. If this condition remains for long, the patch of decking under the lifted stain rots. Replacing rotten boards will be your next step.

Achieve a sound surface

If your deck has a lifting layer of solid stain, you’ll need to remove it all. There are many water-based strippers that will be easy on both the environment and your health. To get maximum effect from the chemical reaction of stripper on finish, don’t apply the gel in direct sunlight. A cloudy, mild day is best, and covering the area you are stripping with a sheet of poly will keep the stripper wet and active much longer. There are also various surface-blasting options you could look into, like soda or corn. These are easier than sand on a soft surface like wood. You’ll likely have to do a bunch of hand scraping and sanding in the tight spots, but it will be worth it!

Perhaps your deck was finished with penetrating stain, and it’s just looking worn in the high traffic areas. If that’s the case, here’s how I’d approach it: with a power washer or a garden hose, in conjunction with a liquid deck cleaner, clean the deck surface and then allow it to dry. Observe the margins of wear; they may need a bit of feathering with sandpaper if they’re uneven. Start sanding out these transition areas with 80 grit until they’re smooth. Depending on the surface quality of the deck, you may want to follow this up with some finer grits, remembering to sand along the grain. At this point, I get out the vacuum to do the final cleaning before finish.

Apply the finish 

Water-based finishes aren’t the way to go anymore. For starters, wood has an affinity for water, and so a well-designed finish will take advantage of this. It will penetrate several cell layers deep, forming an integral bond with the deck that won’t peel. And should you spill some finish on the lawn, Ma Nature won’t take it too hard. The colours and degrees of opacity have never been greater. In fact, one of the toughest tasks will be deciding on a colour.

Applying the finish has never been easier. Design progress in the area of staining pads now provides you with some smart choices. A staining pad used in conjunction with a paint tray is a great way to get finish on your deck. Practice loading the pad with the right amount of finish to avoid drips. Once you get the hang of this method, you’ll love it. You’ll still need to use a good nylon brush in the corners and tight spots, but there’s even a staining pad with a perpendicular central applicator for staining the spaces between deck boards.

I apply at least two coats on fresh surfaces, being certain not to apply stain in direct sunlight—it needs to get drawn down into the wood before the water evaporates. When touching up the worn areas that you’ve prepped with cleaning and sandpaper, try to apply the finish just to the bare wood, using a brush to blend the margins. Give the new finish a chance to toughen up over several days before subjecting it to traffic. Then you’re finally ready for the deck chairs.

Planning a DIY project this summer? Head to your nearest TIMBER MART for everything you need.