Deck Staining Tips for Beginners

Deck Staining Tips for Beginners

Getting the best look from your deck takes patience and preparation, but staining your deck doesn’t have to be difficult. Just take your time and don’t take shortcuts. Here are some tips for staining your deck that can make the difference between an adequate application and complete satisfaction.


The first step in any home-improvement project is to determine what you want to accomplish and plan how you can achieve it. With deck staining, you need to consider the following:

  • Climate (how it will affect your deck)
  • Placement of deck (direct sunlight or not)
  • Type of wood and its condition
  • Color and finish you prefer
  • Potential mold or mildew problems
  • Overall maintenance and use of the deck


The decisions you make at the start of your project will affect how your deck will look tomorrow and in the years to come. Consider how the following factors will affect the end product:

  • Finish (how much natural wood you want to show through)
  • Color (how light or dark you want the deck)
  • Brightness
  • Durability
  • Ease of application
  • Ease of maintenance

You can boost the effect of your deck with a wood brightener. It will help restore the appearance of old, weathered wood, can neutralize stain strippers, and will help to open the surface of the wood for better stain penetration. It’s a quick step that will pay off in the end.


Clean the deck thoroughly, completely rinsing off any cleaning agent, to remove dirt and grime that reside on existing decks, as well as to remove mill scale (crushed wood grain) from new lumber. Then apply a wood brightener to give you a head start on enhancing your project.


Simply put, better ingredients cost more money. Quality materials will affect the long-term look of your deck and can help to prevent fading, mold and mildew, peeling, and noticeable wear and tear. If you want to get premium, longer-lasting results, you should be willing to pay for a premium product.


Different stains have different application requirements, so always read the directions first. You’ll learn how long to let wood weather, how long to wait after cleaning, how long to wait between coats, and how many coats of stain are recommended. Some directions may provide helpful hints that you might not have known that could make the difference both in ease of application and final appearance.


It seems logical that more would be better, but that’s not true with deck stains. You need to apply the right amount so that you achieve the appearance you desire while allowing the wood to remain healthy and resist peeling. Trust the stain manufacturer and your deck stain pro on how much should be applied.


Although using a sprayer or a roller is perfectly acceptable, I would strongly recommend against using a standard paintbrush for your primary application. Instead, I’d recommend using a car wash brush to apply your stain on your horizontal boards. This will make the process easier and quicker while preventing undue stress on your back and knees. Save the small paintbrush for vertical posts and tight areas where the car wash brush won’t fit.


Take your time. Apply the recommended number of coats and let your deck completely dry before you begin using it. Too often, people are excited and want to use it right away, but let the deck dry for at least 24 hours before you start using it. You’ll be glad you did.


Wash down the surface of your deck on a regular basis to keep it looking fresh. Dirt, spilled food and drink, trash, leaves, and grass can damage the finish and shorten the life of your deck stain. If your deck starts to become drab, you can easily freshen it up with cleaner, some wood brightener, and a light maintenance coat of stain.

By following these nine simple steps, you’ll end up with a professional-looking deck no matter your level of experience.


To learn more about the top stains on the market, view our Ranking & Reviews.

  1. For stains from the BBQ, etc., you may need to use a little cleaner. I use a little household degreaser on the BBQ stains for a few minutes before I pressure wash and it works fairly well. I will also mention, I do wash my deck with this method every spring, but it looks great. Jenny

  2. We recently just incorporated deck staining into our business. Really appreciate you taking the time to write this article. It was very helpful! Thanks a ton.

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