How to Stain a Deck: All You Need to Know

Content Table
    Tools and Materials You Need to Stain Your Deck

    Decks are an important part of our lives; we spend memorable moments with family and friends there. They also increase our living space and add to our quality of life. Unfortunately, decks are not immune to harsh weather conditions, in fact, harsh temperatures and other weather phenomena affect their integrity.

    Every few years, it is important to stain your deck to avoid mold and mildew build-ups. When staining a wood deck, it must be done under perfect weather conditions to maximize the desired results.

    Tools and Materials You Need to Stain Your Deck

    The first question on any homeowner’s mind before staining a deck is always: what do I need to stain my deck? It is important to come in with a well-designed plan and the right equipment to stain deck:

    • Broom
    • Stiff synthetic-bristle brush
    • Putty knife
    • Garden hose
    • Clear plastic
    • Goggles
    • Safety mask
    • Painter’s tape
    • Scissors
    • Rags
    • Manual pole sander
    • Sandpaper
    • Paint brush
    • Paint roller
    • Deck cleaner
    • Wood conditioner
    • Wood stain
    • Wood finishing coat

    The Best Way to Stain a Deck - 8 Simple Steps

    Understanding how to stain a deck is not a difficult task, but it does require thorough planning, and it is therefore one of the most important steps to stain adeck.

    Choose the Stain

    Choose The Stain for Deck

    When applying deck stain, it's essential to take note of the different products present in the market to make an informed decision.

    • Paints: Ideal for an opaque finish, paints provide good UV protection and can cover up flaws in the wood. Note that they may chip or peel over time.
    • Stains: Stains seep into the wood, highlighting its natural patterns while providing color and safeguarding it. They are sold in different levels of opaqueness, ranging from clear to solid.
    • Oils: Decking oil feeds the wood, giving it a natural finish. While oils offer water resistance and UV protection, they may require frequent reapplication.
    • Decking Protector: This transparent coating adds an extra layer that repels water and has protection against moisture, fungi, and UV radiation.

    Prepare the Deck for Staining

    Prepare Deck for Staining

    Choosing the right equipment can make a significant difference and also help make the process of staining your deck go smoother.

    Here are the different tools available, and their characteristics:

    • Brushes: Perfect for intricate areas and trimming – Brushes offer the highest level of control. They are perfect for vertical surfaces and hard-to-reach areas. However, despite providing a durable finish, using a brush is time-consuming.
    • Rollers: The most convenient option – Made for covering large, flat areas, rollers are the easiest way to stain a deck. Staining a deck with a roller is arguably the most consistent and easy option.
    • Paint pads: Ideal for semi-smooth surfaces – Paint pads provide a similar result to rollers. They are great for smooth surfaces with few irregularities. Paint pads are a middle ground for those who dislike using rollers or brushes.

    Apply Deck Cleaner to Wash the Wood

    Prepare The Deck for Staining

    Preparing the deck for staining will help to remove dirt, debris, and other unsightly materials from the surface.

    • Clean the surface properly: Clean the surface of your deck with a pressure washer or mild soap and water to remove dust, debris, and other contaminants. This will ensure that the deck stain adheres to the surface properly.
    • Sand down the surface: Sanding the entire deck surface down will remove dirt, assist in leveling out rough areas, and create a surface that better accepts stain.
    • Fix any damage: As a general rule, replace any rotten boards or repair any areas that have splintered or become damaged to ensure a smooth finish.
    • Allow time to dry: After you wash and clean the deck, give it enough time to dry completely before applying the stain.

    Sand Your Deck

    Sand Wooden Deck

    Deck cleaners are essential before applying deck stain as they help remove dirt and stains, making the wood clean and ready for staining.

    • Choose the right cleaner: Choose a cleaner that is compatible with your decking material. Some cleaners are suitable for rough surfaces like pressure-treated lumber, while others are for smooth surfaces.
    • Prepare the deck: Follow the directions on the bottle and prepare your deck for cleaning. Ensure that you have enough cleaner for the whole deck.
    • Apply the cleaner: Depending on the cleaner type, you can either spray the cleaner directly on the deck or mix it with water first. Use a scrub brush or broom to apply the cleaner to the wood.
    • Rinse off the cleaner: Rinse the cleaner off after a suitable dwell time, and avoid letting it dry on the surface.

    Start with Railing and Other Raised Objects

    Prepare Wooden Deck for Staining

    After applying deck cleaner, the next step to enhance the deck's look is sanding it. Sanding eliminates any raised wood fibers, removes stains and dirt, and creates a rough surface that absorbs the stain better.

    Here are some tips to help you sand your deck effectively:

    • Choose the right sandpaper: A combination of 60 and 80-grit sandpaper will suffice for most decks, but you can go for a finer grit if you want a smoother finish.
    • Use a sander: Use a belt sander, palm sander, or power sander to get the job done quickly.
    • Sand along the wood grain: Sanding against the grain can create scratches on the surface.
    • Clean up: Remove all dust and debris to ensure a smooth surface for the deck stain.

    Stain the Deck Boards

    Stain The Deck Boards

    Starting with the railing and other raised objects is an essential step in applying deck stain. These areas require careful and intricate work to prevent drips, smears, and unevenness in the final finish.

    Here are some tips to help you get started:

    • Choose the right tool: Use smaller brushes, paint pads, and rollers to reach into tight areas.
    • Always begin with the railings: Start with the railings and work your way down, working in sections to ensure consistent coverage.
    • Apply thin coats: Apply stain in thin coats, and avoid overbrushing. Excessive coats will peel and cause blotching over time.

    Plan a second coat: Plan for a second coat a few hours after the first for maximum protection against mildew stains and the elements in general.

    Wait Until the Deck Is Dry

    Stained Deck Drying

    Knowing the best way to apply deck stain can make all the difference in achieving that flawless finish you desire. Here are some tips on how to apply deck stain:

    • Choose the right tool: For large surfaces like decking boards, rollers or sprayers might be more efficient in applying the stain.
    • Consider the weather conditions: Trying to apply stain in extreme temperatures, high wind, or direct sunlight can lead to the stain drying too quickly, ruining the finish.
    • Apply the stain thin: Apply the stain thinly and let it dry for at least 24 hours before walking on it. Using a sprayer or roller may require a second coat to ensure full coverage.
    • Wipe away excess stain: Always wipe away the excess stain that does not get absorbed into the wood to avoid unevenness in the final finish.

    Wait Until the Deck Is Dry

    After applying deck stain, it's crucial to wait until the deck is dry to get the most out of your efforts. Letting the deck dry completely before any foot traffic or outdoor furniture is placed on it is vital.

    • Check the drying time on the stain can: The drying time varies depending on the type of deck stain used. Make sure to check the can for detailed instructions and follow them.
    • Avoid moisture: Generally, it takes around 24 - 48 hours for the deck to dry, avoiding any rain and moisture during this time is recommended. Try to finish the staining process a few days before forecasted rain since rain can ruin everything. 
    • Check missed spots: Once dry, double-check to ensure that no spots were missed or are uneven.

    Bonus Deck Staining Tips

    Staining a wooden deck

    Now that we covered the basics of staining a wooden deck, here are some bonus tips that will make your deck stand out:

    Check with the Weather Forecast

    When staining a deck, it's important to keep an eye on the forecast. Fall temperatures and conditions are typically ideal for staining a deck.

    It's recommended to wait for a week of dry fall weather to ensure that the deck dries slowly and adequately. If it’s too hot outside, the stain won't absorb well because it will dry too quickly.

    Pick the Right Brushes

    Make sure you have the proper equipment before staining a deck. While a paint roller can handle most of the surface area, a brush is required for the small, hard-to-reach areas between the boards.

    It's best to avoid using polyester or nylon brushes, as they may stiffen and become unusable. Instead, opt for a natural bristle brush, as it is easier to clean, won't stiffen over time, and can be reused for future projects.

    The Perfect Finish Starts With You

    Breathe new life into your space. Entrust Oahu Pro Painters with your property and expect results of the highest quality.


    Staining your wooden deck every few years is crucial to ensure the integrity and quality of your deck. This can be a big and time-consuming project which requires a lot of materials. It is important to use the right equipment to end up with the best results. 

    However, many homeowners often look for projects around the house, this may be one that is best left to the professionals who will make sure that your deck reflects your home.

    Contact Oahu Pro Painters to get help staining your wooden deck today!


    How long does it take to stain a deck?

    This depends on the size of your deck, but a typical wooden deck will require 4 to 5 days of work because of the cleaning process before the staining and the waiting period between letting the stain set.

    Does a deck need to be dry before staining?

    Once you power wash the deck, you must wait 48 hours before applying the stain to ensure that the deck is fully dry. Your stain won’t stick to the wood if the boards of your deck are still moist. This is also why it is important to carve out a dry period in the forecast to stain your deck.

    Can you apply a deck stain with a roller?

    Yes, you can. However, it is essential to note that using a brush is unavoidable because you need to ensure that the stain gets into all the cracks and crevices of the wooden boards on your deck.

    How many coats of stain should you put on a deck?

    This depends on the type of stain used, but it’s recommended that you apply at least two coats of stain for maximum protection. Keep in mind to let each coat dry completely before applying the next one. Additionally, make sure to check the instructions on your chosen stain as some may require multiple more than one coat for proper coverage and protection

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