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Can Deck Stain Be Sprayed On?

Deck stain can be sprayed on in some limited circumstances but should generally be avoided. In this article, we will cover the reasons why you may want to avoid spraying deck stain, situations where it can be a good idea, and our general recommendations for stain application.

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EcoWash Project In Mequon, WI

Why Not To Spray Deck Stain

Spraying deck stain should be avoided due to adherence issues, flashing, overspray, and wastefulness.

  1. Adherence issues: Sprayers atomize stain and spray a fine mist onto an area. This is extremely efficient from a time perspective but limits the amount of stain being applied. When staining a deck, getting as much stain to absorb as possible into the wood grain is ideal, especially on the deck floor, which tolerates the most weathering. A deck floor typically requires much more stain than the sprayer's normal output. If you want to use a sprayer on a deck floor, do the first coat by hand and do the second coat with a sprayer to ensure that at least one coat gets full penetration and will adhere over the long term.

  2. Flashing: Flashing refers to uneven distribution of paint or stain resulting in patchy or inconsistent coverage. It occurs when the sprayer is not held at a consistent distance from the surface or when improper technique is used. This can lead to areas appearing lighter or darker than others, creating an unsightly appearance at certain angles. To avoid flashing, you must maintain a steady hand and ensure even coverage by overlapping each sprayer pass. Proper technique and attention to detail are needed when spraying a deck, and this can be impossible when a deck floor requires the user to bend over to get a consistent distance from the surface.

  3. Overspray: Overspray is exactly what you think it is, atomized stain getting sprayed where it is not supposed to be. Frankly, this is impossible to avoid when working outside unless masking is done to an extreme degree. As decks are an exterior surface, wind will never be fully out of the equation and deck stain can easily get blown into windows, doors, and siding in the area. 

  4. Read this article to learn how to remove deck stain from siding.

  5. Wastefulness: Spraying railings can be extremely wasteful as there are large openings between spindles and the stain will end up on the ground in the surrounding area. While spraying can be efficient on railings, it is hardly worth it as deck stain is not cheap.

Situations Where Spraying Deck Stain Can Work

Spraying is fine in a couple of limited situations. These are spraying vertical surfaces, intricate surfaces, and second coats.

  1. Vertical Surfaces: Spraying is useful for vertical surfaces on a deck such as gates, pergolas, benches, and small fence sections. Spraying is good for these tasks as they will not get as much wear as the horizontal surfaces (they cannot be walked on and will not have snow on them in winter) so the amount of stain penetrating the wood is less important.

  2. Intricate Surfaces: Simply put, staining a lattice by hand is a fool's errand. It takes a long time and will never look right unless careful detail is taken to every nook and cranny. Spraying a lattice is the only practical solution. Other intricate designs in a deck are likely similar and a sprayer can be a useful tool for these tasks.

  3. Second Coats: On a deck floor, a sprayer should never be used for a first coat. It is just not enough stain to get proper adherence and to saturate the wood and soak in. But on a second coat, it is a different situation. The first coat should have fully absorbed and mostly sealed the surface so a second, lighter coat, will provide surface protection. This second coat can be much thinner without any negative consequences.

Our Advice

In general, sprayers and decks do not often mix. They can be fine in some cases, a waste of time or resources in others, and a total disaster in some as well. As a professional and experienced deck staining contractor, we only use sprayers for intricate railings or lattices and on the occasional deck floor second coat. 

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EcoWash Deck Staining Project In Muskego, WI

If you are a homeowner in the Upper Midwest searching for high-quality deck staining or pressure washing services, reach out to EcoWash today.


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