Should I paint or stain my deck?

Before you stain or paint your deck, take the time to wash away any debris on the surface. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Larry J. of Yakima, Wash.)

Before you stain or paint your deck, take the time to wash away any debris on the surface. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Larry J. of Yakima, Wash.)

Dear Angie: Our deck has been previously stained, but it has worn off. The deck is not covered, so I want something durable. Would I be better off staining it again or painting it? – M.S., Sour Lake, Texas. 

Dear M.S.: Unfortunately, for exposed decks, they need to be re-stained every few years. Even the best stain fades eventually; especially in high-traffic areas.

For longevity, the best way to go, according to deck pros I’ve talked to, is to use a clear sealer or a semi-transparent stain on your deck.

The problem with painting a deck is that most deck surfaces are horizontal, so the paint just “lays” on the deck. As a result, those areas hold water. Painting, or using a solid-color stain with no sealer, will only help trap that moisture in the wood. So, as your deck boards expand and contract with variations in temperatures and weather conditions, paint begins to chip and you end up with peeling paint, rotting wood and other potential problems.

Related: How Much Does it Cost to Build a Deck?

A quality stain and sealer, though, penetrates the wood grain to seal it, while also allowing moisture to escape from the wood. It won’t chip, peel or crack as the deck wood swells and shrinks. The more tinting the stain has, the better protected your deck will be from fading and moisture.

Prepare the deck before you stain

Before you stain the deck, I do recommend you have a professional power wash and clean the deck to remove any remaining stain, sealant, dirt and grime. A properly prepared deck will yield the longest-lasting results. This is something you don’t want to do yourself, unless you have the expertise. A common issue power washing professionals see is homeowners who get a bit overzealous with the amount of pressure they use and cause splintering and other damage to the wood.

For more: How to Stain your Deck in 3 Easy Steps

Staining a deck can be a time-consuming job. What you think could be a weekend project could end up taking weeks if you do it yourself. I talked to one deck-cleaning company owner who joked with me that he doesn’t even stain his own deck because it’s such a demanding job. He hires his workers to do it for him. Plus, a quality deck maintenance company can offer the best suggestions for your specific situation to help you get the longest-lasting finish possible.

Don't stain your deck when it's wet

If you do tackle the staining yourself, you’ll want to make sure the deck is dry – two to three days in dry weather is typically sufficient – after it’s been cleaned and then apply either a clear sealer or a semi-transparent stain. Many products contain both a sealer and stain. Deck pros tell me that an oil-based or semi-transparent stain offers the most natural look. 

Angie’s List collects about 65,000 consumer reviews each month covering more than 550 home and health services. Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angie’s List to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at askangie@angieslist.com


Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story that originally posted April 24, 2013.


Comments

How long should I wait before staining a new pressure treated wood in Louisiana? MAI

I've heard several people say they typically wait about a month to stain a pressure-treated wood deck.

Stain every time painting is pointless the traffic the decking gets wont allow the paint to settle after a while it cracks and peels , staining is the answer or what I did was scrapped the lot and got PVC decking more expensive yes but easy to maintain wont discolour and should come with a 25 year warrenty .

Do you need to stain pressure treated wood?

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