More is not always better when it comes to deck stain. While you should use a sufficient amount, and not skimp, too much stain leads to a buildup of material, forming a film which can ultimately peel or crack. Most deck finishes are designed to penetrate the surface of the wood, so you do not have to put it on until you can see it on top, you just have to make sure the wood is soaking it up well. Some stains are water repellant, and over-application can result in an overly waxy, sticky, or slick surface. So first thing to know when you use a stain is when you have enough, and what is too much. A good thing would be to test your staining product to see.
The next thing you need to know when it comes to deck stain is for the best results you need to have good surface preparation. Like painting your walls inside, no matter how good the paint, if the walls are dirty it will not adhere well, thus proper surface preparation is an important factor in the ultimate performance of coatings. This is especially true for pressure-treated wood or any wood surface. Make sure that whatever surfaces you are staining are clean, dry, and free of mildew or mold.
After the surface is properly prepared it is time to apply, so for whatever stain you use you will get a set of instructions. It is important to know what the manufacturer recommends. For the most part, clear coatings can be applied by a variety of methods including brush, spray, roller and pad; although all said methods work, brushing is considered to be the best technique for detail work such as spindles and railings, and a roller or spray application is considered best for large horizontal surfaces (such as your deck).
When staining it is important to consider the effects of how you stain. For example, individual boards should be coated along their entire length to prevent lap marking.
Another factor to consider with deck stain is doing it under proper weather conditions. While some solvents are more lenient, water-based staining products should not usually be applied if outside temperatures will fall below 50°F within 24 hours after application. Also, you want to give your deck stain proper drying time before too much moisture or precipitation, so staining in the morning to allow time to dry before the night time dew is wise.
Also, staining should be done safely. You will not want irritations due to the staining product, so try to use proper clothing and eye protection. Basically in order to protect against skin irritation, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and goggles is your best bet. Also It would be wise to use a mask to protect against inhalation of vapors if using solvent based products, as these can be harsh and often cause headaches.
If you go about staining your deck the right way, you should not have to do it again for at least 2 years, but if you have poor application, or poor surface preparation, or do not allow enough dry time, you may see signs of wear, or spot cracking and peeling sooner, so safe yourself time and money and do it right the first time.
Written by: Dan Calderwood
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