When is the Best Time to Stain a Deck?

Your deck must be well-maintained and protected to withstand the harsh elements that Mother Nature throws at it. The sun, rain, snow, and even wind can cause the appearance of your deck to look old and worn. Staining your deck can make the structure look new again and help the deck stay in optimal condition longer. But is there a ‘best time’ to stain a deck?

According to the experts, the best time to stain your deck is when you have sufficient time and the right weather. The size of your deck is the primary factor for how long it will take you to complete the job, but in general, you want to set aside at least two days. If you need to power wash your deck or replace any boards, it may take you an extra day or two to complete the job.

The Weather Dictates When to Stain a Deck

Many people don’t realize that early spring and summer are not the best time to apply stain to a deck. Wood absorbs humidity and accepts new treatments best when it’s dry, so staining too early in the spring may lead to peeling or cracking. Because the wood pores are still saturated, it's difficult for the wood to fully absorb the treatment.

In the summer, high temperatures can cause the stain to evaporate before it can penetrate the wood sufficiently. Extreme heat or sun can work against you because sunlight can cause streaks and marks. If the weather is partly sunny, dry, and temperatures are expected to be warm, make a plan to stain your deck.

Tips From the Pros for Staining Your Deck

The best time to stain your deck is when air and wood surface temperatures are between 50°-90°F. Avoid applying stain in direct sunlight, and don’t apply if rain is in the forecast within the next 24-48 hours. Now that you know when to stain a deck, here's how to stain your deck like a pro.

Prep The Deck for Staining.

The wood must be dry, clean, and as smooth as possible for the stain to penetrate properly. Identify any splintered areas and sand them smooth. Nail or screw deck boards that are loose, cupping, or warped. Replace any boards that are damaged and beyond repair. Sweep the dirt and dust off the deck and use a putty knife to clean debris between deck boards. Clean the wood with a deck cleaning solution and rinse it thoroughly. A pressure washer is ideal for removing tough stains and buildup, but if you use one, it will take a few days for the deck to dry.

Pick The Best Brush or Roller for Professional Results.

Use high-quality synthetic brushes for an even finish if you're staining your deck with a water-based wood stain. Avoid brushes made with natural bristles because they wilt as they absorb moisture because the bristles are hollow. A roller can help do the job more quickly, but you'll still need to use a brush to get into certain spaces. Select a roller with ¼ inch or less nap (thickness) to prevent overstaining and pooling.

Choose The Ideal Stain for A Smooth Finish.

There are so many wood stain choices, choosing the best one for your deck can be challenging. The choice is easier if your deck already has a solid stain—you must use a solid stain to restain it. Transparent and semi-transparent stains can't soak into wood treated with a solid stain, but they work fine for restaining other finishes.

Use Thin Coats of Stain.

To ensure a consistent tint or color, begin the project by mixing individual cans of stain together. Apply a thin coat of stain to no more than three deck boards at a time using gentle, long strokes. A coat of solid stain should be light enough to just color the wood, while coats of transparent or semi-transparent stains should be as thin as possible. If the color looks like what you expected and want, continue to apply the stain to the rest of your deck. Allow the first coat to dry, and apply a thin second coat.

Deck Maintenance and Restaining Routine

Now that you know the best time to stain a deck, here are some tips on how to maintain your deck and how often you should restain it to ensure years of enjoyment. Protect your investment and keep your deck summer-ready with these annual maintenance tips.

  • Clean the deck with a deck cleaning solution that kills mold and bacteria.
  • Inspect the decking for soft spots and damaged areas and make necessary repairs.
  • Check for loose screws and nails in the decking, rails, and steps and correct any issues.
  • Apply a fresh coat of clear sealer or toner to protect against the elements.
  • Inspect the frame and foundation of the deck for loose bolts, damaged support beams, moisture problems, and cracked footers.

Yearly deck maintenance will keep your deck safe and looking its best, minimizing how often it will need restaining. Decks with transparent or semi-transparent stains will typically need a new coat of stain at least every three years. If your deck is treated with a solid stain, you can count on restaining about every five years.

Rather Skip the Work and Let Mr. Handyman® Tackle the Project?

If you'd rather take the weekend off and enjoy your deck rather than restain it, there's a Mr. Handyman near you ready to get the job done. From deck maintenance to home repairs, you can count on the reliable and trusted professionals at Mr. Handyman for residential handyman services backed by the Neighborly Done Right Promise™. Call your local Mr. Handyman or request service in your area today. Remember, DIY doesn't mean you must do it all by yourself!