How to Stain a New Deck: 9 Helpful Tips to Get It Done Right

brown wooden terrace outside clear glass door

After building a beautiful new deck, you’re faced with a new concern: how to stain a new deck. Without the stain, the wood won’t last and you’ll lose out on getting to use your outdoor living space.

But if you’re not sure where to start, don’t panic. Staining a new deck is easier than it seems. You just need to follow a few easy steps, after you learn all you need to know about deck stain.

How to Stain a New Deck: What You Need To Do

Staining a new deck is a simple step-by-step process. It will take a few days, but as long as you follow these steps, your deck will look great.

1. Know your options

The key in how to stain a new deck is to choose the right stain for your wood. And there are tons to choose from. Each type of stain offers different benefits and the only way to know what will work best for you is to familiarize yourself with the options.

Clear stains

Clear stains allow you to highlight the natural color of the wood and the unique texture of the wood grain. They’re best for owners that are willing to put in the work of ongoing maintenance as they provide the least amount of protection against sun damage and drying.

Toner stains

Toner stains darken the wood slightly but still highlight the natural color and texture of the planks. They do tend to provide a bit more protection from sun damage and last longer between applications.

Semi-translucent stains

Semi-translucent stains give you the chance to choose the color you want for your deck. They come in varying shades from light to nearly black but still allow the wood grain to show through.

Solid stains

Solid stains are ideal for homeowners who want to hide the wood grain or want complete protection against the elements. They’re also perfect for families worried about splinters as they completely cover the wood.

There is no right answer here. Think about how you plan to use your deck and how much maintenance you’re willing to put in before choosing the best stain for a new deck.

2. Create a solid foundation

Even brand new decks need proper preparation before you can start spreading the stain. Otherwise, you’ll end up with uneven colors and will create more work for yourself in the future.

Get rid of all furniture, grills, outdoor rugs, and supplies sitting on the deck.

Sweep the deck thoroughly and sand away any rough patches with a sheet of fine-grain sandpaper. You should be able to do this by hand.

Use a leaf blower to remove the sawdust and bits of dirt you’ve loosened in the process.

man in black jacket and pants standing on stairs

If there are still a few stains or patches of stubborn dirt, you may want to clean the wood with an approved wood cleaner. You should be able to buy a cleaner at your local hardware store or lumber supply center. Just make sure to thoroughly rinse the cleaner off the deck after use.

Leaving even a small amount of cleaner on the wood will keep the stain from soaking into the wood correctly.

Once it’s clean, make sure the deck is completely dry before you apply any stain. This can take up to three days. If the wood isn’t dry, the stain won’t stick and you’ll have to start the process over again.

3. Look to the skies

One of the most important things to remember when learning how to stain a new deck is to pay attention to the weather.

You want to apply the stain when the weather is warm and humidity is low. Avoid staining the wood if rain is in the forecast for the next few days.

If possible, choose to start your project on a slightly overcast day or wait until the deck isn’t in direct sunlight. Remember, the sun is what helps the stain dry, but if it dries too fast, the stain won’t soak into the wood.

Staining a deck protects the wood from the elements and slows down the natural decomposition of the wood itself. It needs to soak into the top layer of each plank to work its magic.

4. Don’t start empty-handed

Without the right tools, staining your deck will be nearly impossible. To get the job done right, you’ll need:

  • Natural-fiber paintbrush
  • Paint roller with a long handle
  • Paint tray
  • Stir stick
  • Disposable gloves
  • Goggles
  • Clothes you don’t mind getting dirty
  • Clear plastic sheets or tarps
  • Your chosen stain

These are just suggestions. If you feel that you need anything else to stay comfortable while working outside, grab those items, too.

Place them where they’re accessible and easy to reach at all times.

If you’re staining your deck during the summer, make sure you have water on-hand. Staining a new deck can take several hours, depending on the size of the deck. Staying hydrated will keep you safe and help you stay cool even in warmer weather.

5. Make sure you’re happy with the color

Before you get to work staining the entire deck, you’ll need to test the color.

Person Holding Paintbrush

Grab your paintbrush and spread two thin layers of stain on a less noticeable part of the deck. If you have leftover wood from the build, use a scrap piece instead. Let the stain dry and check the color.

If you’re happy with the way it looks, get ready to stain the rest of the deck. If not, head back to the store and pick up another color.

Repeat the process until you find the shade you like.

6. Protect your landscaping

Deck stains are runny and have the tendency to go everywhere while you’re working. Protect your landscaping and walkways by covering them with the clear plastic sheets or by draping a tarp over them.

Just make sure to secure the tarps loosely. Tying them down too tight can break limbs and damage the growth.

If you have planter boxes or potted plants, move them away from the deck and to a protected area. Hanging plants should also be moved.

Accidents will happen, even if you’re careful. If the deck stain gets on your plants or your lawn, rinse it off immediately.

7. Don’t neglect your siding

When thinking about how to stain a new deck, remember that you also need to protect your siding from the stain. Otherwise, you’ll end up ruining the color you love and will have to spend more money and time repainting the damage.

Use masking tape or painter’s tape to cover the siding that comes into contact with your deck. If you’re really worried about splatter, you can spread plastic sheeting up the siding and secure it with the tape.

Avoid using nails, tacks, or staples as these can damage your siding. Worse, they make it difficult to remove the sheeting when you’re done.

8. Follow the instructions

After learning how to stain a new deck, it’s tempting to start working as soon as you open the can of stain, but that doesn’t mean you should.

Instead, take a minute to spread a small drop cloth on the deck. That will protect the wood from splatter as you work with the stain.

Then, stir the deck stain with your stir stick. If you don’t have one, use a clean piece of wood or stick from the yard.

Make sure to mix the stain thoroughly, just like you would with a can of paint. The color tends to sink to the bottom of the can and needs to get mixed in to provide the uniform color change you’re looking for.

Don’t shake the can. This will add bubbles to the stain and can end up leading to uneven coats and bare spots as you paint.

Once mixed, pour a small amount of stain into your paint tray and set the tray to the side. And remember, you’ll want to stir the can again anytime you’re refilling the paint tray or you notice a change in the color or texture of the stain in the can.

9. Start staining

Put your gloves and safety goggles on, grab your paintbrush, and get started.

You’ll want to start applying the stain along the edges of your deck and work your way in towards the center. Feel free to dip the brush directly into the can of stain if you don’t feel like moving the paint tray.

As a general rule, it’s best to stain only a few feet at a time. Use the brush just around the edges and close to the siding of your house. And use the roller to apply stain on the interior of the deck.

This allows you to cover the most area in the least amount of time.

Bonus Advice

The above steps will help you stain your deck properly, but there’s always more you can do to get the job done perfectly.

Always give yourself an out

The last thing you want to after learning how to stain a new deck is to get stuck in the middle of the deck because you applied the stain in a circle. Always leave a way to exit the deck and coat that area last.

Walking over the wet stain will create uneven coat and can ruin the finish.

Let it dry between coats

When learning how to stain a new deck, it’s important to remember that the stain must dry completely between every coat. Unfortunately, every stain is different and that means the drying times will depend on the type of stain you use.

Check the recommended drying times on the back of the can and follow them.

Final Thoughts on How to Stain a New Deck

If you’re worried about how to stain a new deck, take a deep breath and give yourself the time you need to do things right. Follow these tips to help you get the even stain and color you’ve been hoping for.

Should things go wrong, you can always remove the stain with a pressure washer and start the process over again.

Have you stained a deck in the past? Comment below with any tips and tricks we missed!

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