Step 9: Staining the Deck

Go to Step 10: Put Up, Touch Up, and Clean Up→

Time required:

5 to 8 hours for an average size deck, including railing. (Does not include pressure-washing.)

Equipment list:


  • High quality deck stain. What type of stain you use will depend on what’s already on there and the condition of the deck. I generally go with a transparent or semi-transparent oil-based natural stain on new wood if it’s nice cedar or redwood. On pine you might want to use a solid color deck stain. Solid color deck stain (either oil or latex) might also be a good option if the deck is 20+ years old and starting to wear, because the solid stain provides an extra layer of protection—it’s almost like paint.
    The amount of stain you need will depend on what kind it is. Transparent or semi-transparent oil stains can cover 400+ square feet per gallon. Solid color stain might cover as little as 200 square feet, especially the latex variety.
  • Paint thinner will be needed if you’re using oil stain.

Staining the deck is a standard component of a good paint job. Staining the deck takes something that is already impossibly beautiful—your newly painted house—and somehow manages to double the effect. It is also important because decks take a lot of abuse from the sun and the rain and the wood needs to be protected.


A deck can rot right off a house if it’s not maintained every two to five years with a good stain job—believe me, I’ve seen it happen. Staining a deck is usually not particularly difficult, but because it has to be done more often than painting, some people put it off. Listening to the radio and staining the deck is actually a pretty pleasant way to spend a day.

Let’s assume your deck is clean and any mold or mildew has been removed (see the video on pressure-washing). If you’re painting your house in your spare time, weeks might have passed since you pressure-washed the deck. That’s okay. Provided nobody’s been tramping mud on it, the deck is still clean. Just give it a good sweeping before you start.

Then get your brush and roller set up. If you’re using oil stain, you’ll want a China bristle brush made specifically for oil paint and stain; if you’re using latex stain, you can use the same 3-inch nylon brush you’ve been using to paint the house. You’ll also need a roller and roller cover on a 2-4 foot extendable roller pole. Have the brush in a 1-gallon cutting pot and the roller in a 5-gallon bucket with a roller grid. The brush will be used to cut in the edges and corners; the roller will be used on the main deck floor.

As for the thickness of your roller nap, it will depend on the surface of the deck and what type of stain you are putting on. Transparent or semi-transparent oil stain require a less thick nap, maybe 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch. Solid latex stain, on the other hand, is almost like paint, and will likely require a 3/4-inch or 1 1/4-inch nap. Whatever size you use, have two or three on hand because decks tend to wear out roller naps in quick order.

The biggest problem most people face when they stain their own deck is “flashing” because they stop staining in the middle of a board and allow it to dry. This is easy to avoid if you paint 4 or 5 boards at a time from end to end, all the way across, and keep a “wet edge” the entire length. It also helps to “lay off” all final roller strokes back into the wet edge and gently lift the roller off like a plane taking flight. This gets rid of roller “start marks,” which are ugly. The video shows how to do this.

Again, always roll in the same direction as the boards. Do 4 or 5 all the way across, then do the next 4 or 5 going back the other direction.

If your deck has a lot of railing with spindles, a mini-roller can help. Use it in conjunction with the brush. Be wary of leaving “thick edges” around the corners on intricate railing and square spindles. Always take one last look at all sides of a spindle or rail to make sure you didn’t leave a big drool running down an edge.

Some people simply spray “water seal” on a deck with a garden sprayer. I personally think any stain or sealer is going to be more effective if it’s worked into the grain with a roller and brush. I’ve never sprayed on one of those water seals, though, so I can’t say for sure if I’m right.

Go back to Exterior Painting Videos     Go on to Step 1o: Put Up, Touch Up, and Clean Up