Refinishing a Deck

Tips on How to Refinish Your Deck and having it Look Like New Again

By Mark J. Donovan

Mother Nature can be extremely tough on deck surfaces, however in many cases the damage can be corrected with a bit of TLC. By refinishing a deck you can often restore the deck to its original beauty. Most decking surfaces are quite resilient and resistant to insect and water damage, be it Mahogany, Redwood, Cedar or even Pressure Treated Pine deck boards. Consequently, in many cases they simply need to be cleaned and sealed or painted to have them looking like new again.

Depending upon the extent of the damage, deck refinishing can vary from having to replace some of the decking boards to simply applying a fresh coat of deck sealer.

Refinishing a deck begins with inspecting the deck for the extent of weather damage. Decking boards that are showing signs of rot should be replaced. If nails are popping out of deck boards they should be re-hammered back down. In some cases you may need to replace the popped nails with slightly larger ones to ensure the deck board(s) stays firmly secured. Just make sure to use non-corrosive nails or screws.

Deck Cleaning

If the deck surface has been bleached out from the sun’s ultraviolet rays or there are black splotches due to mold and mildew growth, then as with any refinishing a deck project, a good cleaning is the first course of action. Use a high pressure water hose, stiff brush or broom and a commercial deck cleaner to scrub the decking surface. Also, if necessary, use a putty knife to scrape out any debris wedged in between the decking boards. Trapped debris can allow water to sit on the deck which can lead to mold and mildew growth.

 Sand your deck and restore it to looking like new!

If you elect to use a pressure washer use a low pressure nozzle and keep the end of the pressure wand one to two feet away from the decking surface. If used improperly a pressure washer can permanently damage the grain of the wood decking.

If after allowing the deck to fully dry, you still see discolorations on the deck surface try one of the many deck cleaning solutions that can eliminate decking discolorations and staining.

There are powder and liquid deck cleaning products on the market that contain either oxalic acid or non-chlorinated bleach that can help eliminate discolorations and staining. Just make sure to test hidden or small areas of the deck with these products first, prior to using them on the entire deck. Also, always read the instructions carefully when using these products, never mix solutions, and wear skin and eye protection.

For tough mold and mildew stains test the removal of them with a small amount of bleach. If it is effective in removing the stain, then use a diluted bleach/water solution (1:4 ratio) to remove the mold and mildew.

You may also want to try using TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) to remove the mold and mildew.

Deck Installation Bid Sheet

Sanding a Deck

If the deck shows signs of peeling then sanding maybe required for refinishing your deck. A floor sander works great for this type of work, however it is tedious and will require some brawn. A palm sander will also be required to get around deck posts and into corners.

Paint, Staining or Sealing a Deck

Once the decking has been fully cleaned, and sanded if necessary, and has had time to fully dry out, then its time apply a new coating of paint, stain and/or deck sealer. It’s important when refinishing a deck to apply the deck stain/paint or sealer in perfect weather conditions. The weather should be warm, but not hot, the humidity low, and little to no wind. Also, the weather forecast should be clear of any rain for 24 to 48 hours after refinishing the deck. Use either a roller or brush to work the paint, stain, or deck sealer into the decking.

When applying a deck sealer make sure not to apply it too thick. Otherwise it will remain tacky for weeks and months ahead.

If you plan on refinishing your deck with a deck stain use a penetrating deck stain that will soak into the wood rather than a solid stain. Solid stains tend to peel and show wear patterns. If you choose to paint your deck surface make sure to first apply a stain blocking oil or alkyd primer. Also, if mildew is a major concern, then use a deck finish that includes a mildewcide.

Finally, understand that refinishing a deck is not a one-time event. Expect to have to refinish your deck every 1 to 4 years depending upon Mother Nature and the type of deck finishing product you apply to the deck boards.

For help on building a deck, see’s Deck Installation Bid Sheet. The Deck Installation Bid Sheet will teach your how to hire the right deck contractor, and help to ensure that your deck project is completed on time and budget.

Related Information

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