Strip and Stain a Wood Deck Anew

8 Materials
5 Days

Get a comparably professional finish without the professional cost!
You finally get your fancy wood deck, right? Nice! You try a waterproofer but it doesn't seem to work so the next year you apply a stain. And then doh, your nightmares begin -- the stain flakes off in less than 2 months.

Tragedy. You panic. You fear you've ruined it. No worries, you can fix this!
Ugh, look at that flaking! How frustrating. If only it were so easy as applying another coat of stain but nope, if your base is flaking, anything above it will too. So go out and get yourself an eco-friendly outdoor deck stain stripper.

You may find the directions aren't always accurate. But follow them at first which entails coating the deck, letting it do its thing for 15-20 minutes, then scrub and/or rinse away.

Be sure to swing by my blog, Flipping the Flip, for more on this and all sorts of other great stuff!
But let me give you a hot tip here: don't power wash your wood deck. Ever. Especially if the wood is older. I know it's tempting, but don't. You'll cause splintering, it opens the wood pores, etches the wood, beats the pulp between the grain, raises wood fibers, and worst of all, causes premature aging.

No amount of cream will fix that premature aging.

Here above you can see how the wood cleaned up after a bit of scrubbing with a stiff brush and the stripper, followed by a rinse. Surprisingly good.
So stripping away I went. Then I ran out of stripper and ended up with a different kind, then accidentally mixed the two resulting in this splotchy mess. I ended up recoating the entire deck in stripper to make sure I got it all out.
Ta da! Here I was all ready to stain anew but ended up doing yet more research. I'm a research type see, I like to know everything I can about a project which I think is hugely important. The more you know, the better you are.
My research led me to a deck brightener. Now. I was pooped, I didn't want yet more chemicals in the yard, another step, more dry time but according to experts, you need to balance the acidity in the wood. Yeah, sounds fishy but better safe than sorry I guess.

Make sure the brightener has oxalic acid or a citric acid in it; don't buy it otherwise. Mix it with water, roll it on, try to keep it damp for about 10-15 minutes, rinse and dry 24-48 hours before staining.
After yet more research about the best stains, I picked up a Cabot semi-transparent (which is the type you should get if your deck is less than 5 years old) in a nice light gray color. Considering I couldn't stand the first color I picked, this adventure worked out for me.

Don't over saturate the wood and work quickly so it blends together with your brush without any streaking.
Day one complete -- obviously we needed to traverse the deck so I had to stop. Missed opportunity here to make the deck lively by staining the remainder in a different color! Ah well.
And woot! All done! Man that's a project. It's not hard mind you, just time consuming and labor intensive. But it's definitely a doable DIY for far less than paying a pro.

Be sure to read the whole story, all the details and many more fun stories by clicking the blog link below!
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Becky at Flipping the Flip

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 6 questions
  • Jim Cox
    Jim Cox
    on Jul 30, 2020

    Why do I need to look at your blog for the rest ?

  • Rosemary
    on Jul 30, 2020

    Is sanding a good alternative to stripping if my existing deck stain is not flaking, just wearing off? I could then use the deck brightener before staining? Also, is a deck brightener still advantageous if my new stain is slightly darker?

    Thanks for your help.

    • Becky at Flipping the Flip
      Becky at Flipping the Flip
      on Jul 30, 2020

      Yes, you can definitely sand the old stain off. Just make sure you get it all so it doesn't interfere with the new stain coating, meaning they may be two different types of stain (oil and water based for instance). Yes, use the brightener before staining as it's a cleaning step and preps the wood for stain. Yes too, it's advantageous and will help your new stain last longer, adhere better. Good luck, decks are a project! I'm sure it'll turn out fantastically.

  • Sandy
    on Jul 30, 2020

    Can you put tiles over the wood deck & how would you do it ?

Join the conversation

4 of 10 comments
  • Carol
    on Aug 30, 2018

    Thank you so much for all the wonderful information on decks! Now I feel we can tackle our deck and make it look good again. By tge way, beautiful job on your deck Becky!

  • Dee
    on Jul 30, 2020

    Planned on power washing my 2 week old deck before staining. Now I know not to. Thank you !!

    • Becky at Flipping the Flip
      Becky at Flipping the Flip
      on Jul 30, 2020

      Ooh! So glad you opted not to, whew!! I wish more people understood how damaging it is to wood to shoot water into it! You are so welcome!

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