Refinishing a Wood Deck The simplicity that makes decks easy to build also makes them easy to restore. All parts are accessible, and most sur-faces and hard ware are clearly visible, so you can check their condition and make installs as needed. Inspect everything—decking, railings, stairs and framework. Push or pull firmly to ensure parts are tight, and keep an eye out for discoloration, mold or other indicators of rotting wood. Press a screwdriver into surfaces that appear suspect; if the tip penetrates easily and tears the fibers out, replace the part.
Even if a deck is structurally sound, its appearance will eventually degrade from accumulation of dirt, exposure to sun and rain and ordinary wear and tear. A deck cleaner will renew wood that is raw or has been treated with a penetrating sealer. Film finishes, such as varnishes or paints, will have to he removed with a chemical stripper. When they’re off, replace them with penetrating sealers or solid-color stains that are easier to renew. Wear rubber gloves and protective eye wear when working with strippers and cleaners.
- It Most surface finishes—paint, varnish, solid-color stain—will flake off under the pressure of a sharp paint scraper. Remove the bulk of the finish by hand, then sand the remainder or apply a chemical paint stripper.
- Railings often have the heaviest accumulation of paint or finish. Wearing gloves and safety glasses, apply stripper and watch for finish to blister. Keep the surface moist and work in sections less than 6 ft. (2 m) long.
- Use a stiff synthetic-bristle brush to scrub loosened finish from the wood. If the finish doesn’t come off readily, wait longer or reap-ply chemical stripper. Clean up crevices and corners with a putty knife or scraper.
- After the railing is stripped, renew the deck-ing surface by spraying a deck cleaner. This will work on accumulated dirt, discoloration and minor stains. Cover nearby plants with plastic sheeting to avoid damaging them.
- Working in sections, allow the cleaner to sit on the wood for about 15 minutes. Then scrub the decking clean with a stiff-bristle brush. Work the brush briskly in the direction of the wood grain. Rinse with water.
- After the deck has dried for 48 hours, use a paint roller on a pole handle to apply clear or tinted sealer. Weathered wood surfaces are highly absorbent, so apply the sealer generously. Brush between boards, if necessary.
Replacing a Deck Board
Like any natural material, wood varies in appearance and durability. Occasionally you’ll find board sections that have aged poorly and need to be replaced. Here’s a simple technique:
With an angle square as a guide, use a jigsaw to cut the section of deck board from between the joists.
- Cut alongside each joist.
- Fasten sup-port cleats to the joists to hold up the ends of the new deck board. Pull them tight against the underside of the adjacent decking.
- To reduce the chance of splitting the wood, blunt the tip of the nails before driving them. if using deck screws, drill pilot holes.
New Deck Staining
Stains add color, providing a richer look to bland woods. Plus, they can unify mismatched colors, such as uneven tones or bands of sapwood. The final color depends on the wood—even two pieces of the same species can stain differently—and the finish. Experimentation is key. Penetrating stains, such as aniline dyes, add pure, clear color without obscuring the grain. Work fast, because they absorb quickly into the wood. Pigmented stains, such as oil-based wiping stains, are easy to apply, but deposit larger particles that can muddy the grain. Gel stains combine the advantages of both: They’re almost foolproof, absorb evenly and allow the grain to remain visible.
Tips for a Top-notch Stain Job
- Wear old clothing, a shop apron and gloves, and work on an old bench or cover it with thin plywood. Stains are difficult to remove from you or from the wood.
- Mix custom colors by combining two or more stains of the same brand and type.
- When making your own colors, mix enough to finish the entire project. You won’t be able to get an exact match later if you come up short.
- To test stains on existing work, such as an old table, apply the color first in an inconspicuous area, such as under the top.
- Thoroughly stir oil-based stains to dissolve the pigment that’s usually sitting on the bottom of the can.
- When applying oil-based stains, wipe the wood with mineral spirits just before staining to ease and even stain distribution.
- Try spraying penetrating stains, which gets them on the surfaces more quickly. You’ll get more even cover-age with fewer overlap marks.
- Use alcohol-soluble stains for touch up. They’re easy to pinpoint and they dry almost instantly.
- Place used oil-soaked rags in a flameproof, water filled container to prevent spontaneous combustion.
Test your stains on scraps of wood from your project that have even been sanded using the same process. Note the type and amount of stain you use and be sure to apply a few finish coats to get a feel for its final color.
Prewet: When using water-soluble stains, raise the grain first with a damp rag. Sand it smooth when dry, and then stain. Now the water in the stain won’t raise the grain.
Rub. With wiping stains, rub the stain into the wood using a soft, clean cotton rag. Stain in any direction you wish, but always make the last pass in the direction of the grain. If you need to remove excess stain, use a rag that has a small amount of stain on it.
What Are Dyes and Glazes?
Dyes and glazes are stains of a different sort. Dyes are tiny color particles, much smaller than those in pigmented stains, sold either in powder form or as a liquid. They’re great for making custom colors or for staining without obscuring the grain. Glazes are heavy-bodied pigment-type stains that you apply over a sealed surface to add tone and uniformity. Their thick, work-able consistency lets you “age” a piece to make it look old. Glazes come premixed or you can make your own by combining artist’s oil with a glazing medium.
Recycle your empty pump type spray bottle for spraying wiping stains. Spray a small section at a time, then wipe. It’s a great way to reach intricate areas, such as spindles, and you’ll use less stain than you would brushing.