Have you ever spent hours thinking about a project, trying to talk yourself out of it because you’re convinced it will be too much work? Well that’s exactly where I was at on staining the deck or not staining the deck.
This is how my deck looked Thursday evening. My dad built my deck around 2002 or 2003. Before that most of it was the deck surrounding my parents above-ground pool for 15 or 20 years. Those boards are old!
Being under trees and heavily shaded, it’s always been an annual chore to clean the moss and slime off of the surface. I clean it with the power-washer every year and on my hands and knees with a scrub brush and bleach every other year. Still, I was drinking deeply of the whole ‘let it age naturally, its pressure treated’ and ‘old grey wood looks great!’ Kool-Aid.
As a child of the 70’s, I also have a bit of a mental block over stain. Back then, every single piece of outdoor wood was either ‘redwood’ or ‘cedar’. Neither of them looked the least bit natural, and both are what immediately comes to mind when I think of stain.
Last year I started thinking how much stain would spruce up that old wood. This spring I was thinking even harder about it. But I was also worried about the upkeep of stain. I know even the best stain in the world isn’t going to last forever, and I did not want to add another annual chore to my spring. So I cleaned the deck, on my hands and knees with bleach and laundry detergent to get the slime off. Then I hit it with the power washer.
It still looked like shit. Since stain was looking better by the minute, I asked at the hardware store if I needed to sand the deck down before staining it. They advised me that as long as it was clean, I could stain it without sanding it first. Just to be on the safe side, I grabbed a package of 60 grit sandpaper for my little palm sander.
Sanding the Deck
Sunday morning, I went outside for my morning coffee and smoke, still in my sleepwear of leggings and a t-shirt. Everything from the deck was still sitting off to the side of the yard and the deck was empty. I kept looking at that deck and the sander that was out from the night before.
Halfway through my first cup of coffee, I grabbed the sander and started sanding. And just like that, I started a job I was trying to avoid. I kept my expectations realistic. Rather than try for like new smooth, I just leveled out the grain a bit.
Two hours and two cups of coffee later, I finished sanding**. Or at least up to the other door. I decided to leave that area for next weekend so we could still get in and out. You can see how beat up the wood is from the dog’s nails. They have their own little version of the ‘Tokyo Drift’ they use when they’re rough-housing.
This is what my ‘pajamas’ looked like after I finished sanding. Next came the real moment of truth.
Staining the Deck
Once that brush hits wood, it’s commitment time! I was now staining the deck whether I wanted to or not.
Here it is after I finished the first coat. By this time I was really getting excited to see how it would look finished.
Those damn birds just won’t give me a break.
As I worked my way across, staining the deck, I used a piece of craft or poster board – the foam core kind – to keep the stain off of the siding. I also kept a damp rag handy, good for misses with the brush and continued bird shit episodes.
Here it is after the second coat. That one board at the bottom of the steps is terrible to reach – I may have to take it off to get it fully stained. That big huge job I was dreading, knocked off in time for grocery shopping and dinner! Except for the cleaning and waiting until the wood dried from that, I sanded and stained the deck, or most of it, in one day!
Now I just have to finish that last section – a chore for next weekend. After that, it’s time to add a skirt to the deck and railings. Originally I wanted the deck left open for the view of the lake, but since I have no control over what neighbors do on their own property the view is no more. Now I need railings to fully enclose the yard for the very big, very scary German Shepherd who lives here.
I may also have a little surprise up my sleeve if all goes according to plan. If it doesn’t come to fruition this year, it will next year.
Tools and supplies used to stain my deck
I used 60 grit sandpaper and my orbital palm-sander to sand the deck and a wide short-bristled stain brush for the staining. I also used a foam brush for any tight spaces and will probably go back over the ‘in between’ spaces with a foam brush to get better coverage on the sides of the deck boards. I worked the stairs from top to bottom. I worked the top one board at a time, staining the full length of each before working my way back to the other side. So from left to right on one board, and then from right to left on the next. Working it that way was a bit easier on the knees.
The stain I used is a semi-transparent Rona brand stain. The color is black onyx, it’s the same stain I used for my Fretwork Garden Fence. Somehow I got very lucky when I bought it, because someone had already had two 4 liter cans (close to two gallons) mixed and then reconsidered. At $20 each, I grabbed both of them. The completed part of the deck is 8′ by almost 16′ and it took the better part of one can for two coats. That wood was thirsty!
According to the recommendations on my stain, I will need to wait one or two days before moving my furniture and plants back to the deck. Mr. Toad is very anxious to have his hidey-holes back.
**Before sanding pressure treated wood, take the time to research all necessary safety pre-cautions. If you aren’t sure whether it’s pressure treated or not, play it safe and assume it is.
If you were adding a skirt to this deck, would you build it out even with the edges of the deck or would you recess it using the existing 4 x 4 support posts?