Painting or Staining? Your Guide to Deck Revitalization
Thursday Jun 30th, 2022
Nothing embodies summertime in Canada more than hanging out on your deck, grilling, sipping cold drinks, and making memories with family and friends.
Like other areas of your home, your deck does need to be cared for regularly to ensure it lasts long enough to keep the good times rolling season after season. Keeping your deck in tip-top condition is another way to maintain curb appeal - just ask a Realtor!
In addition to keeping your deck free from dirt and debris, you should consider painting or staining it. The added layer of product protects your deck from moisture, mold, bugs, sun, and other harsh elements. Changing the colour of the wood is also an easy way to revitalize your deck without a total overhaul.
Let’s look at how you can paint or stain on your own (or with some friends!) and end up with a new look you’ll love for the entire summer.
Painting versus staining
Not all decks are made equal. You’ll need to brush up on your knowledge of wood boards, paints, and stains to make sure your deck refurbishing or rebuilding project is a success.
“Making a choice between paint and stain isn’t just a matter of preference. Many factors, including wood type, weather, foot traffic, budget, and style come into play,” says Emmett Wallace, owner of Dub's Construction which specializes in indoor and outdoor home renovations.
Below are four key steps to guide your summer deck revival project.
Step 1: Confirm the material
Before you decide between paint or stain, you should determine what material your deck is made from as not all materials can be painted or stained.
Cedar, redwood pine, and treated lumber are the most common materials for decks. These woods take paint and stain well, and they are resistant to rot. Cedar and redwood are pricier than their counterparts, so consider using stain on them if you want to maintain the visual integrity of the wood. Painting treated lumber is a more affordable option with more colour choices.
Vinyl, IPE, composite, and recycled plastic decks are gaining in popularity. These non-wood materials are easy to maintain and come in several colours—though they can often carry a heftier price tag than wood. The con? They don’t accept stain or paint. If you’re unsure about your deck’s material, call in a professional to help.
Step 2: Make a choice
Once you’ve confirmed your deck can, in fact, be painted or stained, it’s time to consider the pros and cons of each product.
- Best for decks that don’t get a lot of foot traffic, especially since paint can be slippery
- Hides the wood grain and imperfections
- Comes in a variety of colours and finishes
- Easy to maintain and keep clean
- Can last 10 years or longer
- More resistant to fading caused by heat and ultraviolet (UV) rays
- Requires more prep, including layers of preservative and primer
- Takes longer to cover entire deck
- Thicker consistency is more likely to blot
- Difficult to change from paint to stain
- Must be coated with a clear sealer
- Great for decks that receive lots of foot traffic
- More budget-friendly per gallon
- Gives a natural look and enhances the wood grain
- Easy to apply
- Can be easily painted over
- Lighter consistency applies evenly and is less likely to blot
- Available in two-in-one stain and stealer formula
- Can last up to eight years
- More prone to fading caused by heat and UV rays
- Colour options are limited
- More difficult to maintain and keep clean
Step 3: Select a product
By now, you should know what your deck needs, and all that remains is to purchase the paint or stain. In terms of cost, one 3.7-litre can of deck stain or paint can range from $16 to $66, depending on the brand, transparency, and retailer. For a deck about 550 square feet in size, you’ll need approximately two cans to complete the job.
Let’s explore the different types of products you’ll encounter at the hardware store.
If you opt for paint based on your wood type and maintenance needs, you should consider a product formulated for outdoor use. This type of paint will usually contain UV protectants and other additives to protect the surface long term. Pick an oil-based paint best suited for floors. Oil paint protects the deck from moisture and has a longer lifespan than water-based paint.
Be sure to grab a preservative and primer to protect the wood, and that you have a smooth base to paint over. You’ll also need a polyurethane sealer to keep the paint intact.
Stains come in a range of pigments, from transparent to opaque. The higher the opacity, the more durable the stain. High-pigment stains provide protection from moisture and UV damage. Many stain brands are formulated with preservatives, so you don’t need additional primer. You may require a clear sealer, but opting for a two-in-one product can save you that final step.
Once you’ve landed on a stain or paint to use, you’ll also need to gather:
- bristle brushes;
- a roller tray;
- a stain pad;
- a bucket;
- stirring sticks; and
- cloths (for cleanup).
You’re all set on the product front, but the real work starts now. Staining or painting your deck requires a bit of prep to make the application easier. You don’t want to rush the cleaning, sanding and priming phase of this work because it’s what helps the paint or stain go on smoothly and stay there
“Don’t forget to check the forecast for the week,” advises Wallace. “Always be sure to pick a clear day with low humidity and no chance of rain because moisture is your enemy.”
You should only paint or stain your deck when the moisture level is low. The general rule of thumb is that wood surfaces should have no more than 15% moisture. A great way to test your deck’s moisture level is by pouring a bit of water onto the wood. If it beads up, the wood is too wet to paint or stain. If the water is easily absorbed, you’re good to go. Be sure to wait for days when the humidity outdoors is between 40% and 70%—any higher could affect drying quality and time. As far as primers are concerned, use a shellac-based formula if working with paint. You can skip this step when using stain.
If your deck has surface cracks and other easy-to-fix imperfections, you can fill them with an exterior-grade wood filler before you sand the surface in the direction of the wood grain. If your deck needs more serious repairs, you should schedule an assessment with a professional.
Once you begin to apply the paint or stain, give each coat a few hours to dry. How quickly the coats dry depends on the temperature outside and the size of your deck. In a nutshell, give yourself two to three days to get the job done.
While these tips are for anyone looking to update their deck, they can also be applied to new decks that haven’t been painted or stained. Just keep in mind if you’ve recently installed pressure treated boards “you should wait six months to a year before staining or painting it,” says Wallace. “This is because this type of material is typically installed soaking wet.”
There’s quite a lot of effort that goes into upgrading your deck’s appearance, but it’s a project that’ll leave you feeling accomplished. Add to this all of the warm, sunny days you’ll get to enjoy from your very own backyard oasis and you’ve got a summertime DIY activity that’s hard to resist.