All DECKED Out: Staining and Caring for Your Outdoor Platform

Deck Transformation: Before (above) and After (below)

The harsh weather conditions of Texas cause Deck refinishing and staining to be a very popular service. Oftentimes, however, it is not done properly.  The KEY to getting outstanding results is in surface preparation.  When prepped correctly the deck will turn out great. Rush through prep, skip a step (or two) and the deck will not look right or last very long.

Over-application of the wood finish coating is a major source of problems and complaints.  There are many do-it-your-selfers or non-professionals that believe that when it comes to coating, more is better. This is simply not the case and is particularly a problem for decks. Most deck finishes are designed to penetrate the surface of the wood. Putting too much of these coatings on the wood leads to a buildup of material, forming a film which can ultimately peel or crack. For water-repellent products, over-application can result in a surface which is overly waxy, sticky, or slick. Over-applied stains will often result in sticky surfaces, since the coating buildup interferes with their ability to dry properly.

It is a face that all exterior wood needs protection from the elements.  This is due to the damaging effects of the weather on exposed surfaces.  The day that you finish installing a deck or other exterior wood structure is the day trouble can start.   Consider these points:

  • Morning dew, rainwater, and sprinkler’s water, are quickly absorbed by unprotected wood, causing it to soften and swell.
  • Direct exposure to the sun’s heat causes drying, causing the wood to shrink.  Continuous cycles of wet and dry, swelling and shrinking cause wood to warp, split, crack and check-all of which leads to premature wood degradation.
  • Surface graying is caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays on unprotected wood.
  • Consistent moisture creates conditions for the growth of mildew, algae, mold, and other fungal organisms that feed on wood. spreading across and staining the surface.
  • Termites and other wood-boring insects also use wood for a food source, causing rot and decay.

Weathered Wood

If the wood on your deck is uncoated, it needs to be cleaned thoroughly with a product specifically formulated to remove the aged top layer, which will rid the surface of its graying appearance, ground in dirt, stains from food, fungus growth, including mildew, mold, and algae.  After cleaning the surface we use a pressure washer to aid with the cleaning, but use low pressure 500-800psi.  Too much pressure will cause the wood to deteriorate.

A stain stripper will need to be used first, if you have a previous failed coating on your deck.

New Wood

Just as in restoration of old wood, it is necessary to prepare the surface of the new wood before coating. Preparing the surface involves cleaning the new wood, in order to remove invisible surface barriers, such as excess wax, or mill glaze, a burnished surface often found on new cedar lumber.

Preserve your woods beauty and structural integrity by following through with a regular maintenance program.  Once your deck is installed and protected it should be cleaned once a year, inspected, and re-stained as needed.  Daily exposure to UV-rays will wear away the coatings surface layer, thus making it necessary to re-apply periodically.

Splash water on your deck and notice if it is absorbed or beads up. If it is absorbed rapidly your deck is ready to stain. If it beads up you still have stain or contaminants on the surface.

Types of Deck Stain

Transparent Deck Stains are the lightest pigmented. These are also called wood-toners and will enhance the woods natural beauty. They typically offer the least amount of UV protection from graying as the trans-oxides are usually low. They offer the most natural look.

Semi-Transparent Deck Stains are higher in pigment and trans-oxides. They still penetrate into the wood but have a higher ability to stop UV discoloration. Typically are “richer” in color then the Transparent Stains and accent the wood grain.

Solid “Opaque” Wood and Deck Stains are not transparent at all. They will mask or cover the wood similar to a paint but are thinner in consistency so they will penetrate into the wood cells. They offer the best UV protection from graying.