16 Aug Painting vs. Staining Your Deck
In the summertime, nothing is better than hanging out on the deck — the fresh air, beautiful views and sunshine are at their peak. Often in the warmer months, we treat our decks more like outdoor living rooms and dining rooms, so it’s natural to want to take care of these living spaces and ensure they look their best, lasting for years to come. If the deck is wood, you should protect and maintain it using some type of paint or stain every few years. But you may still be asking yourself, “Should I paint or stain my deck?” Both have some definite advantages and disadvantages.
Benefits of Painting a Deck
One option to protect and beautify your deck is with versatile, colorful paint. When is paint the best choice for your deck? If you’re interested in a bold look for your deck or a unique color, paint could be an answer. Some homeowners even elect to paint their deck at the same time as the exterior of the house, completing two upgrades at once. Paint will give your deck an opaque covering and comes in a limitless array of colors. For a show-stopping shade on your deck, or to match a unique color combination on your home, paint is the answer. Just be careful, because some consider the multitude of colors a downside. The choices can be overwhelming, and the wrong color choice can end up looking garish and be expensive to redo.
Another case where paint may be the better option is for homes with older decks that are already weathered or flawed. Paint is opaque and goes on thicker than stain, so it is ideal for filling in cracks and hiding blemishes, flaws or stains. Also, if your deck is already painted, it is best to use paint again to refresh your deck’s look. Stain doesn’t work over an existing coat of paint, so you’d need to strip the painted deck. Stripping the deck is not an easy process — it is usually difficult, expensive and time-consuming. For this reason, if you’re painting your deck, plan on keeping up the paint job for its entire lifespan and not going back to stain.
However, it’s good to keep in mind that paint will trap moisture inside of the wood, and allow water to pool on the horizontal surfaces of your deck. This moisture can quickly damage the wood under the paint, leading to unsightly chipping and peeling of the paint and rotting wood. Paint also scratches easily from deck furniture and foot traffic.
With its thick coating and sheen, paint can easily create a slippery surface on your deck — an especially important consideration for families with small children or elderly family members. Paint will also hide any wood grain and natural beauty present in the wood, so be sure you want a painted deck before jumping in with this project.
We generally do not recommend paint for horizontal surfaces unless they have been previously painted. There are some specialty porch paint enamels that hold up better with the elements but a solid stain would be ideal if you are wanting an opaque finish on an unpainted deck. Painting a deck can be a good fit in the right situation but stain is the preferred method of professionals.
Benefits of Staining a Deck
The other option for protecting and refreshing your deck is stain — a popular choice for those who want to protect and enhance the natural beauty of their wood decks. Because stain can be a semi-transparent and doesn’t go on as thickly as paint, you’ll be able to see the wood grain and character of the wood more easily. You can even choose the level of opacity you want with the type of stain you use and the number of coats spread over the wood. There are 3 options Solid (resembles paint), Semi Transparent or Transparent. It’s a truly customizable look where you control how much of the wood you see through the stain.
Just as stain allows the wood grain to shine through, don’t expect stain’s thinner consistency to hide flaws or fill in cracks in the wood. If your deck is already in rough shape, this can be something to consider, and paint may be a better choice in this instance. If you go with stain, your deck will also generally need re-staining more often than with paint. However, the benefits of staining a deck with a professional can stretch the time to three to five years between staining jobs.
If your deck is constructed from particularly beautiful or colorful wood, like redwood, cedar or cypress, you may want to showcase the natural wood colors and stain allows them to show through. Staining can also offer better protection of the wood than paint. A quality stain will penetrate and seal the wood grain, while allowing moisture to escape out, protecting the wood from moisture and rot.
If safety is of particular concern, stain offers a less slick surface on your deck than paint, so you won’t have to worry as much about slippery surfaces. Use stain over paint to reduce the chances of slips and falls for your family and guests on your deck, especially if you live in an area with a wet or rainy climate.
Stain can also be a little easier to work with and more forgiving than paint. It tends to be easier to spread and is much more forgiving if you miss a spot. With paint, a missed spot is more visible and you must be more careful to get even, flawless coverage. For some situations, paint can be a better choice, but for most decks, we recommend staining done by a professional.
How to Choose a Stain Color
Arguably the most fun part of any painting or staining job is choosing the color, although for some, the extensive variety of choices can be overwhelming. Where should you start? How do you know if you’ve picked a good color? Let us help you choose.
First, there are some things to consider when selecting a color for your deck stain. Most importantly, you’ll want your deck to look like it fits in with the rest of your house. Take into account the exterior colors of your house, including trim, roofing and any other elements of the structure of your home. Consider your home’s architectural style, and the color palette of the surrounding landscape and any other nearby homes. Your deck color will look best if it makes sense with all of the surrounding colors of your neighborhood. Stick with colors and tones that will complement your home’s exterior colors.
When you’ve narrowed your color choices to those that fit in with your home, there are a few other things to consider. The factors that influence your deck stain color ideas include the following.
- Color and texture of the wood: The existing surface and color of your wood will affect the tinting of the stain. If you have a darker wood deck, the stain on your deck may be darker than the sample chips you see in the store. More porous woods will absorb more of the stain, allowing the grain to show through even more.
- Lighting: Keep in mind how the stain color will look in different lighting situations. The morning sun casts a different light than in the afternoon or evening, and bright sunny days will make the colors look different from cloudy days. Get a sample of the colors you like and observe them outside under different lighting conditions, including different weather conditions and times of day.
- Number of coats of stain: Remember the first coat of stain will be significantly lighter than the final coat, and the final color will depend on the number of coats you use. Don’t be disappointed in the color of the first coat — it can change and darken quite a bit by the time you complete the job.
There are also several finishes to choose from when shopping for paint. There may be variations by brand, but in general, the categories are as follows.
- Transparent or clear stain: These stains are clear or very lightly tinted and allow the grain of the wood to shine through. This stain gives a very natural look and is best on decks that are newer and have little wearing or aging.
- Semi-transparent stain: This type of stain is very similar to transparent, in that a lot of the natural wood grain shows through. However, semi-transparent stains have more pigment, giving you more color options and slightly more coverage to hide minor blemishes or signs of aging.
- Solid-color sealant: Offering the most color and coverage, solid-color sealants are a perfect compromise if you want the coverage of a paint, but the protection of a stain. This type of stain hides more weathering, aging and imperfections in the wood, much like a coat of paint would. Very little of the wood texture will show through, but you can have a bolder, more colorful look to your deck. This option has the same level of moisture resistance as other stains.
If you’re still not sure what color or finish is best for your deck, contact a professional for help. Neighborhood Painting offers free color consultation services to assist you in finding the perfect color for your project. We will help you successfully match the style of your home with your new deck color, while creating the atmosphere and mood you want for your living space.
How to Stain a Deck
While it may seem fairly straightforward, staining your deck can be involved and complicated. If you plan on DIY-ing the staining process, here are the steps you should follow.
- Clean and prep the deck: Start by moving any outdoor furniture out of the way, and clearing up any other belongings or clutter from the deck. Move potted plants to another location during the staining process. Clear up any yard debris on or around the deck. Cover and protect any vegetation around the deck before starting.
- Make any necessary repairs: After clearing off the deck, scrutinize it for any loose boards or rotted pieces of wood. Now is the time to replace or fix any boards that need it, so your stain job is consistent and your deck is in good shape. Find any protruding nails and pound them in, and sand down any splinters or rough spots on the deck. You want a smooth surface for the stain to adhere to.
- Use a deck cleaner or power washer: A deck cleaner is a solution applied with a large brush or broom, then washed off with a regular garden hose. A power washer uses high-powered water sprays to wash away extra dirt, grime or previous layers of stain. Unless you have experience with this step, you should consider hiring a professional for the power washing. If the deck doesn’t get clean enough, the stain will not adhere as well and will not look as nice. And if the power washing is too overzealous, the wood of the deck can splinter even more, causing rough spots and further damage to the deck.
- Wait for the deck to dry completely: For the stain to work properly, the surface must be completely dry before starting. Check the weather forecasts and plan accordingly to have ample drying time between washing and staining.
- Carefully apply the stain: Prep the stain according to the package directions to ensure a consistent color application. Carefully spread the stain over a small area of the deck with a large roller, watching for any drips or areas of pooling or puddling. Go back over the same area, or have a second person do so, with a smaller brush. This step makes sure the stain spreads evenly. Repeat this process until you have covered the whole deck with stain. Use smaller brushes for corners and railings.
- Apply a second coat and let dry: Depending on your stain and the state of your deck, you may need a full second coat, or another coat only in certain areas. Carefully apply another thin layer for a second coat as needed and wait for everything to dry completely. When the stain is fully dry, remove any protective sheets from surrounding vegetation and rinse off.
The deck staining process can be complicated, especially for the inexperienced. A simple mistake or step missed could mean an unprofessional look or extra money spent on fixing problems or redoing the entire deck. If you don’t know what stain to use on a deck, or you want a clean look and the job done right the first time, we highly recommend hiring a professional deck stainer. Save your back, eliminate the extra stress and let the pros handle everything for you.
Professional Painting and Staining in Kansas City
Neighborhood Painting has provided the Kansas City metro area with professional painting and staining services since 2002. As one of the best painting contractors in the city, we are full-service and family-owned. We’ll help you through every step of the process, from a color consultation to completion of your deck project. Our experienced staff and quality products ensure you get the professional look you’ve always dreamed of. Contact us to get started on a color consult or no-obligation estimate today!