Deck Stain Pro | How to Prep Your Deck Before Staining
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How to Prep Your Deck Before Staining

How to Prep Your Deck Before Staining

Preparing a wood deck for stain takes patience and attention to detail. You can prep your deck like a pro if you take your time and pay attention. Here are a few items that separate the amateurs from the professionals that will impact the final appearance and longevity of your deck stain.


Amateurs often think that new wood requires little to no prep. Pros know that new wood needs just as much care as existing decks. New wood contains wood remnants, dust, and mill scale, which is a natural byproduct of the milling process. These need to be removed in order to ensure proper stain penetration and long-lasting performance.


Amateurs often use whatever sandpaper is convenient, without considering potential damage to the wood. Pros will use the proper sandpaper (typically 60 grit) and never steel wool, which will leave metal fragments and discolor the wood. And pros don’t over-sand the wood. It may look and feel great when sanded to a shine, but it could cause the wood to repel the stain.


Amateurs will pull any cleaning solvent off the shelf and use it. Pros know to use only a mild detergent or wood cleaner for this task. Other cleaning chemicals like household bleaches or paint removers will be too harsh and will damage the wood’s cellular structure. This can cause your deck to deteriorate prematurely.


Amateurs may not pay attention to how they use a pressure washer and damage the wood. Pros always wash the wood with the grain and keep the nozzle at least 8 to 12 inches away from the wood to prevent damage. Pressure should be set at 1000 to 1200 psi and no higher.


Amateurs will often carelessly strip the old coating thinking that the new coating will cover it. Pros know that a thorough stripping is necessary for the new coating to penetrate and adhere correctly. Remove all of the old coating prior to re-coating your deck in order to start with a surface that’s ready for the new stain. Be sure to use a sodium-hydroxide based wood stripper and ALWAYS use an acid-based wood brightener afterwards to neutralize the stripper.

Shifting from amateur status to professional standing when prepping your deck is easy. Just take your time and pay attention to the details. You’ll be glad you did.

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