How to Re-stain a Deck

Can you believe it? It’s already time to re-stain your deck. Even though part of you wants to push the job aside and head for the hammock, part of you understands that a deck needs new stain as soon as the old one wears off to ensure its longevity.

Unlike staining a new deck, re-staining a deck is not as straightforward. For instance, you may wonder what you’re supposed to do with the existing stain. Do you have to strip it before re-staining? If so, how?

We’re going to answer that question and more in this guide on how to re-stain your deck.

Step 1: Apply Wood Stain Stripper

In most cases, you would remove the old stain before re-staining. The problem with putting stain over stain is that the new stain won’t adhere or penetrate properly. That’s because stains have a unique mix of ingredients that simply don’t mix well with each other.

The only time you don’t have to remove the old stain is when you’re applying the exact same product to your deck. If that’s you, skip to step 2. But if you’re going to use a different product, then start by getting some wood stain stripper to remove the old stain.

Chapin International 20075 Sprayer
Apply the stripper generously to your deck with a pump sprayer.

Wood stain stripper chemically reacts with wood and turns it almost black. You would let the stripper sit for about 20 to 30 minutes, and during this time if dry spots develop, you would apply more stripper. Then you would rinse everything off with a pressure washer.

Step 2: Pressure Wash

Your deck needs to be clean to take on stain, and pressure washing is the first step to cleaning your deck. You can think of cleaning a deck like washing dishes. First, you would rinse off debris from the dishes, then you would scrub them with soap, and finally you would rinse off the soap and any remaining dirt.

With a deck, it’s the same process. First, you would pressure wash your deck to get rid of most of the debris. A pressure washer can get at tough stains and do so quickly.

But you want to be careful not to damage the wood. So never use more than 1,000 psi of pressure (when in doubt, use the lowest setting and if it cleans, there’s no reason to go higher), always use a wide-angle tip (40° or more), always go along the grain of the wood in a single direction instead of back and forth, and always hold the wand at least 5 inches away from the wood.

Sun Joe SPX3000 Electric Pressure Washer
This pressure washer is great for cleaning decks, fences, patios, driveways, cars, and more.

Step 3: Apply Deck Cleaner

Your deck should be fairly clean and stain-free after pressure washing. But the next step is to hit it with some deck cleaner to neutralize the stripper, brighten the wood, and get at the dirt that’s below the surface. This is an important step. It will greatly influence how well your new stain will adhere and last.

Deck cleaner is the soap for your deck. You want to apply it using a pump sprayer and give your deck a good scrub using a synthetic bristle broom. Leave the solution on your deck for about 10 to 15 minutes. After that, you can simply rinse the cleaner off with a garden hose.

You’re done with all the washing! Now you would wait 48 hours for your deck to dry before moving on to the next step.

Step 4: Make Repairs

Once your deck is dry, it’s time to examine it for repairs. Check for loose screws and rotten boards and replace as necessary.

Optional: This is also the time to sand down your deck with some 120-grit sandpaper and a simple pole sander, if necessary. This will knock down any wood grain that was raised from all the washing.

You should take special care to sand down handrails. The last thing you want is an injury from a splinter. You may be able to skip sanding if your deck is splinter-free and smooth enough.

Use a broom or blower to sweep away the dust after sanding.

Step 5: Apply Stain

And finally, it’s time to apply the stain! Check the forecast and if the weather looks dry for the next two days, and the temperature looks to be above 50°F and below 90°F, you’re good to go!

If you’re on the fence about what stain to use, we’re going to say go with a semi-transparent stain. Compared to transparent stains (and sealers), it will offer UV protection and last longer. And unlike solid stains, it will allow the beautiful wood grain to show and not peel or crack.

Comparison between clear, semi-transparent, and solid wood stain.

Stain can harm your plants and grass so it’s important to cover them with a drop cloth or tarp before you start staining.

The best way to stain a deck is to use a stain applicator pad for the surface, and a stain brush for the crooks and nannies. The applicator pad will soak up just enough stain without being overloaded and allow you to get in between the boards.

Most products say you can walk on your deck within hours of staining. But we suggest waiting 24 to 48 hours, especially before putting furniture back on. After a few days, if your deck still looks wet, it means it’s absorbed all the product it can. You can use a rag and some mineral spirits (if you used an oil-based stain like Ready Seal) to wipe off the excess.

You’re Ready to Hit the Deck

And that’s all there is to re-staining a wood deck! In total, it should take no more than a couple of hours on two separate days to clean and stain your deck. And a lot less if you don’t have to strip the existing stain.

Now go grab a cold drink and enjoy your brand-new-looking deck!

Have Fun Out There!