Deck staining mistakes – and how to avoid them (as seen in Cottage Life)

Between the BBQ, the patio furniture and family get-togethers, decks have to handle more traffic than any other wood surface around your house. Your deck is the centerpiece of your outdoor entertaining space, but it’s easy to make mistakes that can keep it from standing up to the summer sun, weather and foot traffic. Sansin – a company that has exclusively focused on eco-friendly wood protection solutions for 30+ years – offers these tips for ensuring your wooden deck is properly designed and protected so you can focus on relaxing with friends and family.

  • Making bad deck design decisions. Excessive moisture is much more problematic for a deck than UV exposure. Wetting causes the wood to swell and then shrink while drying. From this natural expansion and retraction, little cracks will form as the wood cycles through these extreme conditions. This can cause the wood to discolor and the coatings to wear prematurely. Designing your landscape, sprinklers and roof drainage to avoid excessive wetting on your deck can help reduce these extremes and extend maintenance cycles.
  • Choosing the wrong finish. Where many deck coatings easily peel and scratch, water-borne finishes (like Sansin’s Dec) penetrate wood tissue, protecting the wood from deep within, repelling water, while allowing the wood to “breathe“ naturally and not trap moisture.
  • Applying product at the wrong time of day. Do your deck maintenance in the morning, out of direct sunlight. A deck that is exposed to sun or has been in the sun all day will be too warm. This can cause your product to dry too quickly on the surface.
  • Not properly prepping the wood surface. Preparation is key to a successful deck project. First, apply a biodegradable deck cleaner (like Sansin Multi-Wash) to remove buildup, mold and mildew. Rinse with a hose, and let it dry thoroughly. Next, use an orbital sander with 60-80 grit paper to create a level, consistently porous surface. This will ensure the wood will accept the right amount of stain. Now, apply the stain using a garden sprayer and back brush any puddles of product, but let the stain soak into the wood. Allow the first coat to dry completely before applying subsequent coats.
  • Not being proactive about maintenance. “Early bird gets the worm” is an appropriate saying for decks. Doing deck maintenance before visible wear and tear leads to a much easier and enjoyable experience. It’s important to inspect the surface carefully from time to time and look for even the smallest signs that maintenance is needed. It’s easier to put a maintenance coat on then have to redo a deck. Pro tip: do a simple water bead test to show if it’s time for maintenance. Apply a few drops of water to the wood. If it beads, your deck is protected. If the water soaks into the wood, it’s time for restoration.
  • Assuming your deck will wear evenly. A deck may have a high traffic area that leads from the back door to a pool or a much-used lawn area. Alternatively, you may have a couple of areas that get sprayed by sprinklers or design issues such as downspouts or a clogged evestrough (gutter) can cause water to pummel parts of the deck during rainstorms.

In the case of uneven wear, putting a maintenance coat over the entire surface may not work to address specific, more acute wear issues. Instead, you may need to treat specific spots by sanding them and applying a first coat of stain directly to the bare wood. In the case of excessive wear, you might need to redo entire boards by sanding them down to bare wood and then refinishing them with a first coat before applying a second maintenance coat.

By remembering these common mistakes and avoiding them when you’re working on your DIY deck project, you will be one step closer to enjoying fun in the sun this summer without worrying about the condition of your deck.