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My Deck is a Royal Pain!

We live in a wooded area and that is tough on our deck. About every other year, I scream “the deck looks terrible.” Now we don’t actually do anything about the deck each time I make this observation, we do treat our deck every few years. Over the years, we have tried a variety of products, some good, some not so good. After many attempts, I THINK we’ve found the best solution, at least for us.

There are 3 types of stains: transparent, semi-transparent and solid. There are also refinishing products that say they put a coating over your deck so you can walk barefooted without getting splinters. We've tried all of them. Here's what we've learned over the last 11 years:

  1. Unless you get composite decking like Trex, you should do some type of maintenance every year no matter what the advertisements say.

  2. On the “other years” you will have to do a good cleaning.

  3. When you are ready to apply the finish or refinish, preparation is key. As with most things, this is the hardest part. Prepare for at least 3 days for cleaning, drying, repairing and staining. (See the end of this blog for a great resource for prepping your deck.)

Option #1:

Transparent stain, such as Thompson’s Water Sealer will repel water off of your wood deck. Water beads up which lessens damage that will occur with untreated wood. This can be a good choice if you want to keep your wood natural or add just a bit of color. Transparent stains come in both water and oil-based options so you can do what suits you. I hate to say it, but the oil-based stain works better. Clean-up is a PITA, but… there you go. Some companies like Olympic have toners with a hint of color. These are great options if you want your deck color to go with your overall house décor.

Before (technically, this part of our deck still looks like this - we are making slow progress)

Before deck

Option #2:

You can use semi-transparent stains. Cabot, Behr, and Olympic all have options. These products provide more coverage, but you still need a ton of prep work for a good finish. It’s totally worth it.

Option #3:

After trying both the transparent and semi-transparent options, last year we tried a solid stain. The solid stain gets my vote. It requires the same prep as the others, but the coverage is better. Also, it is easy to do touch-ups without starting all over. In fact, we did part of our deck last year, the weather turned and we never got back to it. This year we stained the verticals, a seating area and touched up some worn spots – bingo! It turned out great.

After (this is a year old)

Solid stain deck

Stay away from any of the “miracle” resurfacing options such as Behr Deckover, Olympic Rescue-It, and Rust-Oleum Restore. I've seen a couple of decks where resurfacing products were used and the results were not good. These products are suppose to last for years but started peeling before the 6 month mark. Resurfacing products are still being sold, but there have been class action lawsuits over at least one of them.

Decks are great, but they do require maintenance. Kind of like spouses ;) Plan for 3 days of hell and then enjoy your outdoor living space.

The Spruce is a great resource about prepping and keeping your deck healthy.


"Believe you can and you're halfway there." - Theodore Roosevelt
"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." - C.S. Lewis

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." - Helen Keller

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