How to stain your deck
Always read the entire label on your stain and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Always follow the outdoor working conditions before using any staining or sealing product on your deck. The exterior temperature and humidity guidelines are EXTREMELY important. Failure to follow these guidelines can result in a failed stain job. Always perform a “stain test” on a piece of scrap decking or on a small, inconspicuous area of your deck to make sure the colour is correct, your deck’s finish is not damaged, and the stain reacts as desired.
Your Blue Chip Deck is an investment that should be protected. Staining or sealing your deck is a great way to ensure that you and your family will continue to enjoy it for years to come.
Why Stain or Seal?
When exposed to the elements, wood decks can weather quickly. As wood decks age, certain vulnerable components naturally degrade from exposure to the outdoor elements. However, not all decks degrade the same.
What Degrades my Wood Deck?
- High Humidity
- Extreme heat
- UV exposure
- Snow removal
- Ice removal
- Unremoved Foliage
- Everyday wear and tear!
Humidity and water
Wood decks that are often in contact with rain water and humidity from the outdoors are prone to degradation. The excessive moisture causes your deck’s wood fibers to swell and retain a high moisture content. Wood with a high moisture content is a great substrate for natural growth creating the perfect environment for unsightly mold and mildew that can lead to a rotting deck.
Blue Chip Tech Tip: Areas that are particularly vulnerable to rot are areas where water sits and does not dry. These areas include the very top portion of your deck frame (joists) and your decking butt and mitre joints.
Heat and UV
On the other hand, UV rays and excessively dry/hot weather can be equally damaging. Consistent high and dry temperatures cause cracking, shifting and twisting of your wood decking material. UV rays can cause considerable damage to your wood deck’s exterior finish by drying out the natural oils in the wood (e.g. cedar) or the preservatives in treated wood causing the colour to fade to a dull grey.
Ice and Snow
The scraping action of snow/ice removal can cause considerable wear and tear on the finish of your wood deck. You can lessen these effects by doing your due diligence in keeping your deck clear of heavy snow that requires hard scraping, and by preventing leaks or moisture on your deck’s surface that causes ice buildup. If you must shovel, be gentle when removing ice and snow from your deck’s surface and try to shovel with the decking pattern.
Blue Chip Tech Tip: When removing ice and snow from your deck, try to use an all-plastic shovel. Metal shovels or plastic shovels with a metal blade should be avoided.
Even though your Blue Chip Deck is built entirely from weather resistant pressure treated lumber, the regular staining or sealing of your deck will continuously create a new exterior layer that protects your decking’s wood core from the factors listed above. Stains and sealers are designed to penetrate and absorb into your deck’s wood fibers. The penetrating action replenishes and protects the wood’s oils by creating an exterior layer to retain moisture on the inside, while protecting the wood from the elements on the outside.
Staining vs Sealing
A sealer is a protective coating that seals the surface of your wood deck. Sealers are normally translucent or transparent with a very slight tint. Sealers are commonly used on natural woods, such as cedar, to protect and preserve the beautiful grain pattern without taking away from the beauty of the cedar’s natural colour. Sealers come in oil-based and water-based formulas.
A stain will have similar water repellant properties that you will find in a sealer. However, a deck stain is designed to protect and add/or change the color of your wood deck. Stains vary in opacity from nearly transparent to completely solid coloring.
There are three general classes of deck stains:
- Solid stains
Transparent stains have a light tint that only slightly alters the wood’s colour while still maintaining the wood grain pattern.
Semi-transparent stains are used when the underlying colour of the wood is being changed but a clearly visible grain pattern is still desired.
Solid stains are thick, opaque with an intense colour and function like a paint. Solid stains tend to mask the wood grain pattern on your deck.
Blue Chip Tech Tip: Transparent and semi-transparent stains tend to fade over time, whereas solid stains tend to flake off. We recommend avoiding solid stains if possible. Once a solid stain starts flaking, it’s obvious and unsightly. Be aware of opaque dark tones for your decking. Darker tones absorb more thermal energy, resulting in a hot deck surface.
Oil-based stains vs water-based stains
Most exterior stains come in either an oil-based or water-based formula. Both will protect your deck from the elements but there are some distinct differences to consider when choosing between them.
Oil-based stains function by penetrating the wood pores and fibers of your deck, creating several layers of protection on your deck’s surface. The deep penetration of an oil-based stain creates a very durable finish with great longevity. The penetrative action and absorption of an oil-based stain into the wood also leaves a very even and well-absorbed finish. The overall finish, appeal and durability of an oil-based stain is excellent and, when done correctly, has the best results. However, the application of oil-based stains does require more work, a more difficult clean-up (involving mineral spirits/paint thinners), and emits strong, flammable and irritating fumes (VOCs).
Water-based stains are an easy way to maintain and protect the exterior finish of your wood deck. The main attraction of a water-based stain is the easy application, simple cleanup, non-toxic smell and environmental friendliness. Water-based stains act as more of a surface coating rather than a penetrative oil. Water-based stains have a faster drying time and tend to be less sensitive to changes in the outdoor environment. Water-based stains are also available in more opaque/solid colours and have a wider range of colours with varying intensities.
If you are going to take on the task of staining your deck, we suggest that you purchase the right tools to make your job as easy as possible and to produce the best results.
Tool to have on hand are:
- Pressure washer or garden hose
- Tarps or drop-cloths
- Sanding sponge and sandpaper
- Roller (optional) *must be back-brushed*
- Slotted screwdriver or knife
- Garden Pump (optional) *for thin stains only*
- electric sprayer (optional)
- Latex gloves
- Painters tape
- Paint brushes
- Paint thinner (oil-based only)
- Paint tray
Blue Chip Tech Tip: Don’t be stingy when it comes to drop cloths, disposable gloves and rags. You’re going to need a lot!
Preparing Your Deck
Before staining or sealing your Blue Chip Deck, it is strongly recommended to wash the deck’s surface thoroughly. Your deck can be washed effectively using a garden hose with a pressure fitting to remove large debris. For an effective stain job on a severely weathered deck, or a deck with a flaking finish, you will need to further remove the old and loose stain flakes and the weathered layer. The correct use of a pressure washer will allow for easy prep and cleaning of your wood deck for staining. In areas where there is excessive stain flaking and weathering, sanding will be required. After cleaning is complete, you should allow the deck 48-72 hours of dry-time before starting your stain application. After the preparation is complete, tape off all delicate areas and position drop cloths accordingly.
Blue Chip Tech Tip: When pressure washing, only use a fan-tip nozzle with a spray angle of at least 25-degrees. Do NOT exceed a spray pressure of 3100 psi. Keep spray-nozzle 8” or more from the deck surface. Take your time taping off edges and preparing drop cloths on areas where stains or sealers could drip.
Staining Your Deck
Always read your selected stain’s entire label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the exterior application conditions and method. Staining instructions will differ depending on your chosen application method and stain type. REMEMBER TO USE AN OUTDOOR STAIN!
When staining, it’s best to start with the top of the handrail and wood deck accessories and work your way down. If you have a pergola or any overhead wood structures, start at its top and work down with the railing. In the event of a drip, the stain can be wiped away easily on surfaces that are yet to be stained. We recommend using drop cloths to prevent unnoticed drips from falling and drying.
Once you are ready to start staining the deck boards, start alongside your house and work away from it. Stain WITH the grain of the wood and your decking pattern. Make sure your applicator is getting in between the deck boards, into any exposed end-cuts and into butt and mitre joints. Like painting, you will need to maintain a “wet edge” and systematically overlap the fresh wet stain to the slightly dried stain – work the stain into the wood evenly to prevent dark blotches. Avoid applying stray amounts of stain to boards you have not yet stained as that may result in a blotchy appearance. Apply the stain in such a way that you finish with the stairs. Don’t “stain yourself into a corner!”
Blue Chip Tech Tip: FOLLOW THE TEMPERATURE and WEATHER GUIDELINES. We cannot stress this enough! Make sure you have a good window of application time for your stain. Pay attention to the weather forecast, the evening low temperature and humidity. Cold temperatures and humidity can affect the curing process and overall adhesion of a stain. Failure to do so can result in a tacky deck. This is especially important in oil-based stains.