Sunday, February 19, 2017

Proper expectations for your deck staining

 Deck staining Understanding what you can expect after you have your painting contractor stain or re-stain a deck can resolve many issues before that first complaint calls comes in. Trust me every contractor wants to offer a lifelong job but that expectation for the contractor and the customer is not possible especially for surfaces such as decks where moisture, weather, ice and daily abuse take a toll on the surface. We at Amato Painting like to be upfront with every customer and let them know like almost anything on your home a deck will require the utmost care and yearly maintenance. If you use a solid acrylic stain you can rest assured most likely you will be recoating the floor boards and the rails every year.
Decks in Harsh Climates such as ours in the Northeast require constant on-going Maintenance and will often have to be re-done on a yearly or bi-yearly basis depending on elevation, exposure, previous condition, prep and type of Coating applied.
Preparing the surfaceLet’s examine the challenges facing all Contractors when looking to Refurbish or Re-coat a Deck. The biggest challenge of all is trying to meet elevated expectations that homeowners often have as to final finish appearance and ongoing durability of their newly coated Deck. Very often, the larger task of painting the actual home itself will be overridden by scrutiny to an attached deck project.
1) What type of Coating is on the Deck now?
If you have a Semi-trans Oil Toner Base product on a Deck now where you have a basic wood tone type color, like redwood to cedar, stick with it. If you have a Solid color or Semi-Solid Oil Stain on the Deck where the Color is more solid in nature but grain of the wood still is quite prevalent, stick with that as well. Why? Oil Products will more so fade and chalk and will just require less maintenance in regards to peeling. They just naturally wear better in my opinion and keep wood “oiled”, preserving it better in this dry climate. If you have a Solid Color Acrylic Stain on a Deck, you will need to re-coat the Deck with the same as sanding this coating out of the Grain of the Wood is effectively really difficult in order to convert it to the Semi-trans. Oil. You could also have issues with proper penetration and compatibility of Coating as you attempt to apply the Oil over any measure of residual acrylic coating that may still exist. If the existing Deck has a had a oil product on it previously & have turned black due to years of neglect and effectively sanding the horizontals and the pickets would be difficult to do consistently, the Acrylic Stain option may be viable to achieve a better cosmetic final product. Once the oil has evaporated out of the wood thru the years you will not have a compatibility issue here in that regard. If Acrylic Paint has been applied to the deck it will need to be scraped and sanded off as paint is not designed for decks and lacks proper penetration and will most often peel off in sheets and be an ongoing nightmare to deal with. NEVER apply Paint to a Deck especially to the bottom Support Structure. Paint is intended and designed to adhere to a primed and sealed surface. It is NOT DESIGNED TO BE A PENETRATOR like an acrylic or oil stain! This is less critical with Hand Rails as they are principally vertical in nature but make sure primer is applied first under the Paint. Regardless, top horizontal hand rail surfaces will peel and require regular maintenance whether paint is applied or acrylic stain. They cannot and will not withstand harsh weather conditions.
2) Pre-existing Condition of the Deck- How old is the Deck? When was it last Coated? What Elevation does it face? South and West Exposures are brutal on Deck Life. They are super hot & lend themselves to more fractured and cracked horizontal surfaces. They allow more natural penetration of moisture which makes these cracks larger providing for constant expansion and contraction and ongoing peeling as moisture/vapor moves out of the wood into the atmosphere. The older the deck, the more you will have to simply maintain it. Typically, areas of the deck, especially hi traffic areas, will need to be re-rolled or brushed every spring for sure. This goes for either a Semi-trans oil product or a Solid Color acrylic product. Areas of Dry Rot where a Fungus has set in and is eroding the surface of the Wood or to some depth of the Wood need to be removed. Not to do so would only make these areas worse and coatings do not adhere or penetrate into dry rot appropriately.
3) Shiners- Let’s talk about what to expect once a coating is applied, especially a Wood Toner oil based Semi-Trans. type product. Wood, especially weathered wood, has different grains, existing cracking/fissures and absorption rates. No particular area on a horizontal deck or a vertical hand rail corner to corner will absorb a coating exactly the same. This is just the nature of wood, period. In arid climates like Colorado most often a 2 coat application of a Semi-trans. or a Solid Color Stain will be needed to properly protect the Deck. The 1st Coat will seal the porosity and left alone will not typically be cosmetically pleasing to the eye and will not weather well. The 2nd Coat will effectively seal the deck; provide better water resistance and longer life. The second coat is typically back brushed or rolled out to areas that will pool up due to these different absorption rates of wood mentioned above. The end result typically will be what can best be described as areas of variable look or sheen or better described as “Shiners. This is just the consequences of sealing most any deck with most any coating. To expect a uniform look corner to corner is going to be unrealistic and unfair to your Contractor as is expecting these same horizontal surfaces not to have some sort of failure or maintenance even within the 1st year. Intense moisture in the form of ice, snow, sleet, hail & rain along with 80-100 degree Sun, heat and UV is simply not going to allow a protective liquid to not have issues sooner than later. However, these “Shiners” will settle down as the UV and sun starts the natural weathering process.
4) Sand or not to Sand? For Acrylic Coated Decks Scraping and Power washing loose coating is usually sufficient. If the Deck has been painted inappropriately, then it will need to be sanded off as much as is possible followed behind with a quality penetrating ACRYLIC STAIN, again NOT PAINT! Once you have an acrylic stain product on your deck, you are pretty committed to it. Again, really tough and expensive to convert to oil and you will experience varied results for sure. In regards to the Wood Toner base Stains and products better overall results can be achieved with Sanding. This also assists in removing Blemishes and Circle patterns due to Umbrella Stands, etc. Once again, it may not eliminate the blemishes completely but will improve overall appearance. Keep in mind that as these Horizontal Surfaces are sanded that it may open up the grain differently from plank to plank or area to area again affecting absorption rates and final finish as described above. Areas of the Deck that have more protection than others will also likely sand differently and provide for varied finish as well. Understanding the varied and different nature of wood will assist you in accepting more so that decks are just going to lend themselves to a improved, pretty but overall varied and sometimes rugged final appearance. Sanding is less critical with Solid or Semi-Solid(Sometimes described as Semi-Trans in Product Lit.- talk to the Paint store personnel to seek clarification as to final finish and look ), as they will be more solid in nature when re-applied. Vertical Hand Rails, posts and Pickets typically do not need to be sanded. However, once sanding to a vertical picket or post is started, it must be done so top to bottom as it will surely stain differently to the sanded area vs. an un-sanded area.
In the End, A deck takes a ton of abuse just from everyday life, from walking on it, shoveling it in winter, dogs nails. You cannot expect a coating to survive this type of abuse, wood is always contracting and expanding as well as the coating. Guess what will give first? Yes the coating, the stain

Have legitimate expectations you will be coating it every year,
anyone who says otherwise is not being honest


  1. If you set out to make me think today; mission accomplished! I really like your writing style and how you express your ideas. Thank you.

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  2. Thank you Robert, I appreciate those nice words!