As Colorado’s custom deck builders, we have a lot of experience helping homeowners in the Frontage area achieve their home’s landscape potential with gorgeous, custom-built decks. Decks in the area are naturally exposed to the harsh Colorado elements, from blazing sun to wind, hail, and snow.

Such conditions could naturally hasten the wear and tear on whatever lumber you choose for your deck. However, regular staining will lengthen its lifespan. Follow these tips for great-looking, long-lasting stain results to keep your deck looking and functioning as good as new.

Staining Deck

(sweetlouise / pixabay)


Materials List

Safety Mask Palm sander and 80 grit sandpaper
Oxygen bleach wood cleaner Wood brightener
Stain stripper Stain
Deck sprayer Synthetic bristle paint brush
Scrub brush Painters tape
Mop and bucket Paint bucket and stir stick

Tip #1: Wait

It seems like a silly tip, but waiting could make the difference in a job well done versus a futile attempt. If your lumber is new, we recommend waiting a few months to allow the wood to dry out and weather a bit. If the forecast is a bit unpredictable or unfavorable for the next few days, wait for the right conditions. We recommend waiting for at least two days of dry weather between 50-90° F. Wait for indirect sunlight before staining. Direct sunlight will dry the stain faster than the wood can absorb it. Finally, wait long enough for a stain stripper to break down old finishes before rinsing it off.

Tip #2: Clean

New and old wood alike need cleaning before stain is applied. New lumber will likely have something called “mill scale” that needs removing before color can set it. Mill scale is the by-product of the milling process created when wood grain is crushed. If left on, it can prevent stain from properly permeating the wood. An older deck will need dirt, mildew, and stains removed to ensure proper staining. After sweeping away dry debris, there’s typically a three-step cleaning process:

Step 1: Use an oxygen bleach wood cleaner (also called sodium percarbonate). This type of cleaner is gentle on the environment but effectively kills mold, mildew, bacteria, fungi, and algae. Your mop, scrub brush, and bucket will come in handy here. Mix the granules with warm water according to package directions and mop the solution onto the surface of your deck. After a 15-30 minute wait time, scrub with a brush or broom and then rinse off with your water hose, mopping up excess water. We recommend a scrub brush that can be attached to a 4-foot pole.

Step 2: Use a stain stripper to remove stubborn, leftover stains after cleaning. Stain strippers are corrosive, so please carefully follow product instructions and precautions. Wear a mask to avoid inhaling potentially harmful fumes.

Step 3: After the deck has dried, sanding is the final step to remove any leftover stains and smooth down any splintered areas. A motorized palm sander will do the trick, but one word of caution: Call a professional to do this part for you if your deck was built before 2004. Decks built before this year could have been treated with a chemical that could release toxic arsenic into the air and surrounding soil.

Tip #3: Brighten

Often unknown to the deck-staining do-it-yourselfer, a wood brightener is quite possibly the easiest step and gives you the most bang for your buck. A deck sprayer allows for easy application. Follow the instructions on the packaging, but you basically spray on, wait 10-20 minutes, and then rinse off with clean water from your garden hose for 15-30 minutes. Brightening is a step that you definitely should not skip because it neutralizes stain strippers allowing the stain to soak in better. It also opens up wood pores, further improving penetration power and restores the youthful appearance of old, weathered wood.

Tip #4: Choose your stain

Choose from water-based stains or oil-based stains, solid stains or semi-transparent stains. Whatever stain you choose, carefully read and follow the instructions for best results. The instructions will educate you on critical steps regarding the number of coats to apply and the amount of time to wait in between coats. Failure to follow these could result in your stain pooling and then peeling after it dries, which will leave you with a mess and wasted time. We recommend using your painter’s tape to tape around the edge of the house or anywhere where the deck meets an area that should not receive stain.

Tip #5: Keep a paintbrush handy

Stain can be applied in more than one way. The most popular ways include using a roller or a pump-up garden sprayer, which allows for quicker application. However, the friction of a brush actually drives stain deeper into the wood’s pores, giving it more staying power. Regardless of how you lay the stain on, make sure you go over it with a brush at some point while wet to really work the color in. For a less back-breaking application, buy a synthetic-bristle brush that can attach to a 4-foot pole to work in stain.

Tip #6: Cure

Allow at least 24 hours before using or arranging furniture on your deck so that the stain has a proper amount of time to set in.

Tip #7: Maintain

At least annually, you will want to remove all furniture and plants from your deck and give it a good sweep and wash to remove dirt and debris that may damage the finish. Also, apply a sealant annually, or when you see your deck no longer repels water, to prevent damage from moisture. To wash, a water hose with a jet setting may be all that is necessary. It is not required to power wash your deck, but any power washing should be done using the lowest setting.


Even the newest decks with the heartiest of woods are subject to weathering. However, these tips on proper, routine maintenance and staining every two to three years can keep yours looking as good as new for decades to come.