How to Stain a Deck

How to Stain a Deck

There it is your beautiful new deck. The fun times are already floating through your head. You are planning your guest list. The grill is waiting to be fired up. Before you get ahead of yourself there are things to consider about your deck and how to protect and maintain it for a longer life and more enjoyment for you and your family.

Should You Stain Your Deck?

There are a couple of reasons to stain your deck. 1) You would like a colour other than the natural wood and 2) the stain can protect the wood construction of your deck. Canada is known for some rough weather, long harsh winters in particular. Snow and water can wreak havoc on your wooden deck. It is smart to not only stain it, but to add a water protective coat as well.

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What Styles of Stains Are Available?

There are many types of stains. A typical stain will only last about 3-5 years. It is important to pick a stain that penetrates the wood to eliminate peeling. Some folks actually paint their decks and are very disappointed the second or third year when the paint starts coming off in large strips. This makes your deck seem old and uninviting. Choosing the right stain can prevent headaches down the road.

Here are some questions to consider when choosing a deck stain.

1) Does your deck get a lot of sunlight during the day?

2) Is your deck in a shaded area with limited sun exposure?

3) Do you live in a humid, moist climate?

4) Do you get a lot of precipitation?

5) What type of wood was used in constructing your deck?

6) Is your deck new (up to 1 year) or older (2+ years)?

7) What is the volatile organic compounds (VOC) rating? Canada has laws that prevent the use of certain stains because they emit vapours that contribute to air pollution. For more information on Canadian VOC laws consult their website

All these items may become a factor in staining your deck.

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Stains fall into a broad range of categories. The list can be daunting and cause one to consider hiring a professional. The chart below details the various types of stains and will hopefully help you decide on the right type for your deck.




Water Based

Environmentally friendly;

easy clean up;

resists mold and mildew

Does not penetrate as well as oil based products;

can peel

Oil Based

Penetrates wood very well;

easy to apply

Prone to mildew, strong odors

Resurface Coating

Perfect for older decks;

thick enough to fill in cracks;

great UV protection

Begin to peel early but are extremely hard to remove

Solid Stains

Looks and acts like paint;

excellent UV protection

Does not penetrate the wood well;

apt to peel

Semi-solid Stains

Can be water or oil based;

great UV protection

Not much wood grain will be evident;

looks more like a paint

Semi-transparent Stains

Great penetration and UV protection; easy to put on

Water based types function poorly

Transparent Stains

Easy to apply;

maintains a natural look

Need annual coat;

poor UV protection

Clear Finish

Does not change the appearance

of the wood;

applies easily

No UV protection;

turns gray quickly


Some stains offer UV protection which prevents the wood from fading and turning an ugly grey colour. The more solid, deeper colours offer more UV protection than the clear or semi-clear stains.

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With all that being said, there are two deck stains that meet Canada’s VOC laws and perform well in the climate. The Defy brand has water repelant stains and come in a variety of colours from light grays all the way to deep, rich browns. Defy products can be shipped to Canada if you cannot find them at your local store. Shop at  The Armstrong Clark Wood Stain has oils that penetrate deep into the wood. It too comes in variety of colours including redwood and a new deep mahogany. Armstrong products can be shipped via Purolator. Order these products at

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Which Tools and Materials Do You Need?

Each stain should come with instructions, tools and steps to stain. A general list is as follows:

  • Deck stain
  • Broom
  • Drop cloth
  • Paint pole and pad
  • Paint-pad tray
  • Paintbrush
  • Painter’s tape
  • Paint stir stick
  • Pressure washer for older decks – there are also deck cleaners available if your deck is really weathered or discolored

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Steps of Staining a Deck

A couple hours on a nice clear day and you can have your deck stained in no time. Here are some quick, easy steps.

  1. Clean your deck surface. Remove all debris. If you have an older deck you may want to power wash it. If you power wash the deck wait 24 hours before staining to make sure the deck is completely dry.
  1. Using the painter’s tape, tape off the exterior walls and areas you want to protect from the stain.
  1. Plan your moves. Where will you start and finish? Is there a way off the deck without walking on the fresh stain?
  1. Place a drop cloth on the last area you will stain. This is your staging area. Mix the stain and fill the paint tray with stain, dip your paint pad in the stain and begin to apply to the wood surface using even strokes. Complete smaller patches at a time to help control the application. It may be best to start with the railings as well so drips can be taken care of more easily. If the pad is not coating the surfaces between the boards you may have to use a paint brush to reach those areas. Once the whole surface is coated begin on the sides of the deck.
  1. Allow at least 24 hours for drying. Read the directions on your product to make sure this is enough time.

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How Often Should You Stain Your Deck?

Certain woods may require an annual staining such as clear pressure treated, cedar, redwood, and some tropical hardwoods like teak. Or, if your deck gets a lot of exposure to the sun you may need to apply stain annually. The best advice is to follow the directions on the can and use your eyes to determine if your deck is looking a little lack luster and needs a refresh.

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How Do You Maintain Your Deck After Staining?

The deck should be cleaned by sweeping a couple times a week. Annual cleanings using a mild soap are recommended. In high traffic areas a deck brightener can be applied to refresh the look of your deck. When the deck really begins to show wear and tear it is time to re-stain. Follow the same steps as mentioned above; clean, stain, dry, use.

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It is always nice to extend your living area by adding a beautiful outdoor space such as a deck. Family gatherings, luncheons, picnics, and fun will all be part of the excitement on your newly stained deck. Imagine that big gas grill with some burgers cooking, your family and friends seated on stylish furnishings that make your deck an outdoor room and the smile on your face – contented with a job well done.

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