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Deck Stain kit on deck floor

Homeowner's Guide

Deck Staining

Staining, similar to sealing, is a maintenance service that prevents moisture from entering the wood. Excess moisture can cause warping, rotting, and algae growth. Staining also enhances the appearance of your deck and can be done with a variety of types and transparencies of stain to get you the exact look and level of protection you are looking for. In this article, we will go through why you need your deck stained, how often to stain your deck, how we do our deck staining service, and what we use to do the project right.












Why You Need Your Deck Stained

Wood decks are typically built with pine lumber. This lumber is well suited for an outdoor environment but it will rot and deteriorate if not maintained correctly. Some decks are built with cedar or other types of wood. If this is the case for you, you still need to be concerned about rotting but you may be able to get away with less regular maintenance.









You may ask, why do decks rot? Rotting occurs due to excess moisture and fungi growth eating the wood. Pine has a lifespan of about 3-10 years if left untouched. Cedar has a lifespan of up to 15 years if left untouched. Cedar is more rot resistant than pine due to natural chemicals in the lumber that resists fungal growth. Both pine and cedar benefit from staining as it prevents water from entering the wood and creates the ideal environment for fungal growth.


Staining is an effective and affordable way to prevent rotting. If any wood rots on your deck you will eventually need to get it replaced. There are options such as wood hardener and wood filler that work in very specific circumstances to alleviate rotting issues but they only delay replacement. To prevent replacing your rotting wood you should have staining services done regularly. 


Not only does staining prevent rotting, but it also makes your deck look beautiful. When you are deciding with a professional what type of stain to use, take into consideration how transparent you want the stain to be and the colors that you think will look best on your deck. For a personalized consultation on your deck project reach out to EcoWash.


Why is rotting so bad? Not only does rotting lumber pose a safety concern- imagine you or a loved one falling through your deck- but it also costs a pretty penny to get replaced. According to Remodeling Magazine, the average deck replacement will cost $14,360. If you have a deck that is larger than average you should expect that price to double or even triple for some decks. 











Solid Stain

Our pick for the best possible protection would be a light-colored solid transparency water-based stain. The light color prevents excess heat on your deck and prevents warping and the premature deterioration of the stain. The solid transparency looks like paint and provides a thick barrier to keep moisture out of your wood. The biggest downside to a solid stain is that when it eventually weathers it will peel like paint. 




If you are looking for the most beautiful stain that will enhance the natural look of your deck we would recommend a semi-transparent water-based stain in any color of your choosing. This does not provide as much protection as a solid stain and will not cover any imperfections on your wood as thoroughly. We again recommend staying away from darker colors as they lead to your deck becoming much hotter in the summer which can lead to damage. 


How Often To Get Your Deck Stained

Every deck is different and will require different levels of maintenance. The factors that affect how often you need to stain your deck are the type of lumber, how old your deck is, the climate you live in, the tree cover around your deck, and how often maintenance has been performed in the past.


We see a lot of rotten old decks and usually can get them to look dramatically better and last longer than before. However, no deck will last forever. If your deck is old, or is beginning to show signs of rotting, you should get two coats of stain on there as quickly as possible and try to get another coat on every year. This will prevent any further rotting and can prolong the life of your deck by over a decade.


If your deck is newer, you may think you have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately for you, that is not the case. After the deck has sat for a month or two months it is a good idea to get some stain on there to avoid moisture buildup and fungal growth. 


Why wait 2 months for a new deck to be stained? If the deck was built with treated pine lumber, as many decks are, the chemicals and moisture in that lumber need to evaporate a bit before they will properly accept stain. By waiting you ensure the surface is dry and porous, which are two prerequisites to staining. 


If your deck is built with cedar, you can begin staining immediately after it is built and will likely require less regular maintenance to prevent rotting due to the fungal resistant chemicals found naturally in the wood.


If you live in a wet or shady area, you will likely need to stain your deck far more often than someone in a dry and sunny location. Shade and moisture go hand in hand as evaporation from the sun is one of the few ways that moisture gets out of your wood. If you have a lot of shade, you will need extremely regular maintenance on your deck to prevent rotting.


If you have delayed staining your deck for multiple years, or just pushed it off another season to save some money, you may end up costing yourself a lot more than you ever saved. One of the most common reasons we have to charge extra for a deck staining service is because old stain is peeling up and needs to be sanded down or scraped off for a smooth surface. This is an extreme scenario, but in the past we have seen projects double or triple in price due to this reason. If you take care of your deck you can prevent thousands of dollars and dozens of hours worth of work. 


All in all, we recommend getting your deck stained every 1-5 years. If you have an older deck, or live in a shady area, you should get the service done every 1-3 years, with every year being the safest option. If you live in an environment with less shade and your deck is newer, plan for every 2-5 years. Again, and we can’t say this enough, more regular maintenance will pay dividends in the long run. Paying $15,000 to get a deck replaced is far more expensive than regular maintenance. 


How We Stain Decks

Our deck staining process begins with a pressure wash, then we do prep work, and then we stain every surface.


Pressure washing is an essential preparation step in the deck washing process. It brightens the wood, removes flaking stain, and removes debris from the surface. Pressure washing can be avoided if you choose to use deck cleaning chemicals, although those products are largely inferior as they cannot remove dirt from within the wood. After a pressure wash, the deck should be allowed to dry for at least a day.


To prepare the deck for staining, we need to put tarps below the surfaces we are staining and tape up the siding and any area where we do not want stain to get. This step is necessary as stain drips and accidents are practically unavoidable. We do our best to keep our job sites clean and that is not a step that should be forgotten, no matter how confident you are in your skills.


After taping up the surfaces and putting down tarps, we can begin to scrape and sand. Scraping involves using a blade tool, similar in appearance to a putty knife, to remove any remaining flaking stain. Not all old stain needs to be removed as the stain that is still stuck to the wood will continue to provide protection. After we remove any flaking stain from the surface, we sand any areas that require sanding. Not many decks need to be sanded as the surfaces are generally smooth . If we notice any rough areas we will even it out. Sanding and scraping both create dust and residue. This must be swept off the surface to prevent it from incorporating into the new stain. After this is done, the deck is ready for stain.


The first part of the deck to stain is the railings. This is because if you do the floor first, it will be wet while you attempt to work on the railings. Railings take far longer to stain than a deck floor as it requires much more detailed work. Once the railings are completed, we can begin the floor. Locate the steps and begin working on the opposite side. If you do this correctly, you will be able to stain the entire floor and work your way down the steps to avoid staining yourself into a corner. If this is unavoidable for some reason, be very careful to step on the fresh stain as little as possible, and remember to touch up those areas later once it is safe to walk on. We recommend waiting until the stain is dry to the touch to walk on the surface, but putting furniture, or any other items, should be delayed for 24 hours if possible.


If you decide to do a second coat, which is always a good idea, you can begin working on that coat immediately after the first coat dries. A second coat will provide additional protection against the elements and prolong the lifespan of the stain. 


If you plan on staining your deck by yourself, set aside a full weekend or two for the project. These projects can be very labor intensive and require attention to details that many homeowners may miss. We recommend hiring a professional to do this service for you as they have valuable knowledge and insurance in case anything goes wrong. 


What We Use To Do Our Deck Staining Service

Staining can be done with a variety of tools and there is not necessarily one right way to do it. Here is what we use on many of our deck staining projects and why:


  • 4 inch deck brush for the floors

  • 2.5 inch angled brush for the railings

  • Painters tape

  • Tarps

  • Rags

  • 5-in-1 scraper

  • 80 grit sandpaper


First, let's take a look at our choices for brushes. The 4 inch deck brush is a fantastic tool for covering deck boards efficiently while still having to pay attention to all the details while the 2.5 inch angled brush works very nicely for fitting in small spaces, especially corners, on the railings. These two brushes will be extremely efficient at getting the job done right.


Painters tape, tarps, and rags are all used for preventing stain from getting places where it shouldn’t be. We mask siding and cover any concrete or rocks beneath the decks we are working on. We also keep a wet rag around our necks or in our pockets just in case we get stain on something that shouldn't have stain on it. A wet rag can clean up virtually any surface if stain gets on it for just a moment. For more extreme situations there are a variety of chemicals to clean up wood stain that dries on surfaces like concrete or vinyl. In our opinion, just keeping a wet rag on you will prevent the majority of these issues from arising.


Lastly, the 5-in-1 scraper and 80 grit sandpaper. The scraper is useful for opening and closing stain cans as well as scraping flaking stain off the deck. 80 grit sandpaper is our recommended grit as it removes imperfections quickly and leaves the deck board smooth enough that it looks right. If you use a grit higher than 80 you may smooth out some portions of your deck out much more than others which can lead to an inconsistent look. After any sanding or scraping you must sweep the surface to avoid incorporating the dust in your new coat of stain.


Deck staining is a necessary maintenance task that can be quite overwhelming. Hopefully this article has been helpful in explaining why to stain your deck, the staining process, how often to stain, and what is required for staining. If you need to get your deck stained, please schedule a quote with one of our Division Managers. They can meet you at your home and provide a personalized consultation for your exact needs.

Deck Floor
Deck Staining
Composite Decking
Stained Deck
Deck on the back of a three story home in the woods
Rotting Diagram

1 year

3 years

6 years


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Sun Prairie, Wisconsin

Brookfield, Wisconsin

Stain Color Diagram
Stain Color Diagram
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Paint Brush Cheap

4 inch deck brush

2.5 inch angled brush

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