How to Properly Refinish a Wood Deck

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refinish a wood deck

Posted: 7 December 2017

Is your wood deck starting to show signs of aging?

Once the piece de resistance of your home, wear has become noticeable and you’re no longer as eager to invite your guests into the garden. Hey, it happens.

Don’t worry; it’s not too late to reinstate your wood deck back to its former glory. You’ll be glad you did. Refinish a wood deck and you’ll be rewarded with:

  • A dazzling garden showpiece
  • A longer-lasting deck
  • Increased property value

Sounds good, right? Better yet, you can get in done in just two weekends. This article shows you how.

Follow our six-step process and turn your deck back into a food and entertainment hotspot that all the family can enjoy.

First things first…

1. Inspect & Repair

Before any hands-on work, you’ll need to inspect your deck. Choose a bright day and brush down your decking beforehand to clear debris.

Start by inspecting surfaces in contact with the ground. These are the most likely to become rotten. Next, check decking rails at hand-level, where splintering wood is the most dangerous.

Here’s what you should keep an eye out for:

  • Splitting wood
  • Rotten boards
  • Loose joints & nuts

Screwdriver Checks

Joints that connect to your property are also prone to rot. Our advice is to check these with a screwdriver. If you can fit a screwdriver into the tip of a post, there’s a good chance that it’s rotten.

Loose Nails

‘Nail pop’ is one of the most common signs of an aging deck. Usually, the fix is simple. You can rehammer the nails, or better yet, replace with screws to make things tighter.

Replace Wood

It’s always tricky to get an exact color match when you combine new and old wood. If you do need to partially replace your deck, consider specialty lumber or pressure-treated woods. You can learn more here about natural decking options that are built to last.

2. Strip

Next, it’s time to strip!

If you’re planning to repaint an existing paint job, there’s no need for this step. For every other combination of paint and stain, you’ll want to strip your deck down first.

Use a paint scraper to remove the existing finish. Occasionally, paint scrapers can remove nails, so re-check and make sure they’re firmly in place.

Then, use dedicated deck stain remover to take off the existing finish. 1 gallon of product covers approximately 100 sq. ft of decking, so calculate appropriately for your deck size.

3. Apply Cleaning Product

If you’ve been diligent with your deck cleaning, this stage should be reasonably simple.

For a painted or varnished surface, use a deck cleaner. For a stain finish, use an oxygen-based wood cleaner. Scrub your decking thoroughly with your chosen product, then move onto the next stage.

Remember, deck cleaners can be pretty heavy duty so wear gloves and eye protection.

It’s also a good idea to cover surrounding foliage. If that’s not an option, spray water over your plants. It should provide them with increased resistance against any chemical damage.

4. Deep Clean

To remove the dirt from your decking, rinse the cleaning product with a deep pressure cleaner. If there’s not one in your toolshed, you should be able to find one locally, at a daily hire rate.

If you can’t get your hands on a pressure cleaner, a stiff bristled push cleaner is a valid alternative. Be ready to sweat, though!

A deep pressure cleaner is a serious piece of kit. Too much pressure can damage your deck, affecting the appearance and making it less hardy.

To avoid wood damage:

  • Start at a low pressure and gradually increase
  • Use the fan-style nozzle for less concentrated force
  • Spray from a moderate distance
  • Keep the spray in motion at all times

After a thorough cleaning, assess your wood. If it’s up to your standards, move on. If not, repeat this step until satisfied.

5. Sand

The water from the deep clean will make your deck’s wood fibers raise and splinter. To make sure the surface remains smooth, you now need to sand.

We suggest using a random orbital sander, but be conscious of how coarse the sandpaper is. Use a grit below 100, at all times. Any higher and you risk reduced absorption of stainer, during the next stage of refinishing. Start rough and gradually get finer until you’re happy with the finish.

Tip: pay particular attention to your decking handles. They get touched the most frequently and are how most people will judge your sanding skills!

6. Staining

Choose Your Product

Staining products absorb into the wood rather than sitting on the surface, as paint does. Over time this means staining products are much less susceptible to peeling or chipping.

However, there is a massive difference in the available quality. You can’t refinish a wood deck properly if you skimp on staining product. It’s worth forking out the cash for a finish that will last.

For an older wood, a semi-transparent stain will help give a more uniform color. For new woods that still look dazzling, a clear stain is more than sufficient. To reduce maintenance, opt for a solid stain product – they last longer.

Once you’ve decided on stain transparency, the next decision is a water vs. oil-based product. We suggest oil. While messier to apply, oils stain the wood deeper, and color beyond just the surface level.

Choose Your Tools

Keep it simple and use a paint roller on large surfaces. You’ll get the job done quickly, but be warned that it can be tricky to apply evenly.

If you hate rollers, you can use a sprayer. However, sprayers aren’t suitable for every stain type. Check your product instructions before you go this route.

For tricker spots, use a brush. To refinish a wood deck, a natural bristle brush is best, as they give the stain a better flow.

Applying the Stain

It all comes down to this! Applying the stain can get messy, but follow the steps below and you’ll be done in no time…

  • Wait 48 hours after cleaning, for your deck to dry
  • Patch test color first, appearance may vary when applied
  • Work from top to bottom, starting with handrails
  • Apply several coatings in succession for full absorption
  • Apply a water repellent between layers
  • Leave space for an exit

Refinish a Wood Deck


Once you refinish a wood deck, you’ll still have to maintain it to ensure pristine condition. The good news is that with sufficient care, it should last well over a decade.

Now you’ve got a feel for DIY maintenance, why not check out our compilation of Home & Garden giveaways from around the web.

Any top tips we missed? Let us know in the comment section below.

refinish a wood deck



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