Tips for Staining a Wood Deck

By Larry Bilotti

A wood deck is certainly a thing of beauty, but only if it is well-maintained from year to year. If your deck is showing signs of weather and wear, some simple maintenance and a fresh coat of stain or sealer could make it look new again. And the job is one that can easily be accomplished by a do-it-yourselfer in a weekend or two.

Before you begin, remove everything from the deck. You’ll want to sweep the entire surface to remove any leaves, twigs, needles or branches, plus debris lodged between boards. Wash the deck thoroughly with a deck detergent (available at most home centers and hardware stores) and follow manufacturer instructions on best use. Make sure the cleaner you use is specified for your type of deck. A stiff bristle broom will come in handy to remove mildew stains, stubborn dirt and grime.

Once the deck is clean and dry, examine the condition of the wood. Are there any boards that are splintered, loose or raised? If so, they will need to be repaired. Does the wood appear to be highly worn? A light sanding will help revive the wood and raise the grain for better stain absorption.

Tools and materials

  • Stain/sealer
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paintbrush
  • Roller with extension pole
  • Goggles
  • Rags and drop cloth


1.  Choose a weekend that does not have rain in the forecast, and if possible, avoid applying the stain in direct sunlight. (Always test the stain on a small area and let it dry to make certain the color is the one you want.)

2. Using a bristle brush, start by heavily coating the open-end grain of the boards. Then brush two to three boards from one end to the other in long, smooth strokes. To avoid lap marks, make sure that the leading edge remains wet and that wet stain is brushed into wet stain.

3. Apply one coat of stain and wait for it to dry. Remember more stain is not necessarily better. If you over-apply, stain may peel or crack when exposed to moisture, or it may not dry properly. Let the stain dry for at least three days before returning patio furniture to the surface and putting the deck into service.

Seasonal maintenance will continue to keep your wood deck in peak condition. As a general rule of thumb, if your deck repels water, the existing stain or sealer is still performing.


Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.