A garden deck is probably the most economical way to increase the usable living space of a home, and the perfect place to entertain guests in fine weather. A well-designed deck also enhances the property and increases the resale value of the house.
A well-designed and constructed deck creates a wow factor for any home. This article explains why using a heavy-duty deck stain is the best way to protect the decks you build for clients.
Why Do Decks Go Bad?
Because decks are exposed to the elements year-round, the natural timbers used for framing and surfacing the deck can get damaged by seasonal extremes of heat, rain and cold. Bugs will chew and nest in timber-framed constructions, and moss, mold and fungus also love to feed and grow on deck timbers.
Over time, these environmental factors diminish the appearance of the deck and even shorten its lifespan by compromising the structural integrity of the timbers. For these reasons, protective coatings and regular preventative maintenance are a must for all-natural timber decking.
How Does Stain Protect Deck Timbers?
Timber stains work differently on paints, varnishes and other liquid or spray finishes that create an exterior seal on the timber. Sealers can give timber an attractive finish color and texture, but they have limited UV protection and will age and crack over time. Once the exterior seal has cracked and chipped, the protection is lost, and it will need to be stripped and re-applied.
Sealing products require a smooth sanded surface for a clean application, so you will need to spend more time on prep. Stains are designed to penetrate the timber fibers and protect the timber from the inside. The preservative blend in a stain product is formulated to give good UV protection, repel moisture and drive away bugs.
Despite the name, not all stain products need to change the color of the timber — clear stains are available, although stains with more of a color tint provide better UV protection. Stains are also helpful when you need to use two different types of timber on one product, like a table with solid timber legs and a plywood top with veneered edges. The stain can give a uniform color that makes the finished table appear to be the same type of timber.
Stain products generally don’t give a satin or gloss surface finish to timber, so you don’t need to highly sand the timber before application. This can be a benefit for larger framing timbers and timber poles used on outdoor constructions like gazebos and pergolas.
It’s also great for decks, where the finished surface needs to have some grip for traction. For decorative high-finished timbers and high-touch areas like handrails and tabletops, it’s recommended to stain and seal the timber for ultimate protection and a finish that feels great to touch.
What to Consider Before Selecting a Timber Deck Stain
Guidance for staining decks varies widely because of the range of different timbers with different physical properties, and the industrial treatments used to process and protect commercial timbers.
Before selecting a deck stain, you need to assess its suitability for your selected timbers:
“Wet-treated wood” can have too high of moisture content to absorb stain — further air drying is needed in this case.
Kiln-dried (KD) timber can be stained immediately. If there will be a delay before use, this timber should be protected from exposure to rain and moisture.
Some pressure-treated timbers contain water-repellent chemicals that can prevent the stain from being absorbed. Speak to your lumber yard manager or test a sample piece before selecting timber.
In general, your deck timber must have a moisture content below 20% or the stain will not absorb.
Test with a moisture meter or by a trial application of your selected stain on a test piece of timber from the same job lot purchased for the deck construction. The stain should absorb within 10 minutes. If the timber is an engineered grade that has been pre-coated or pressure-treated by the supplier, the chemicals used may react with your selected stain and cause discoloration or prevent absorption. Again, a trial application is needed.
Once you’ve selected and tested your stain, it’s time to get to work on applying it for maximum protection.
How To Stain a High-Traffic Deck
New Deck Construction
A brand new deck requires less need for initial surface cleaning and preparation.
Ensure the finished deck surfaces are smooth and do not have sharp edges or any discoloration — sand as necessary.
Protect house siding with tarpaulins or temporary plastic sheeting to prevent splash damage to paint or other finishes.
Choose a dry, cool day to apply the stain — do not apply in direct sunlight.
Dry brush the wood to remove dust, leaves and debris — you can also use a leaf blower. Use shoe/boot covers to avoid leaving footprints on the deck.
Apply stain to the tread surface with a paint pad or roller applicator on a long handle. You may need to use a brush or small sponge applicator for smaller areas and gaps around the deck posts and handrails.
Allow to dry for 24 hours before recoating if necessary — check the manufacturer’s instructions for your stain.
Existing Deck Refurbishment
Inspect deck framing, posts, handrails and tread surface for rot and other physical damage, and repair or replace any damaged timbers.
Clean the deck surface with a pressure washer, deck cleaning detergent and bristle brushes. Rinse and allow to dry for 24 hours.
Use a sander to resurface any areas that have been roughened by moisture penetration, have sharp edges or discoloration.
Apply the stain just as you would for a new deck (see above).
ZAR® Deck & Siding Semi-Transparent Stain — The First Choice Of Professionals
ZAR® Deck & Siding Semi-Transparent Stain is an easy-application, fast-dry, all-in-one stain and sealer that protects new and renovated timbers of all kinds.
Suitable for heavy-duty exterior use in all climates in the continental U.S., ZAR® Deck & Siding Semi-Transparent Stain has an attractive low-sheen finish that is durable enough for high traffic decks and docks, sidings, shakes and shingles, fences, log homes, railings, posts, sheds and more.
A three-hour recoating time and 24-hour curing time make ZAR® Deck & Siding Semi-Transparent Stain perfect for contractors who need to work fast and deliver a finished project on deadline.
With regular cleaning and maintenance, ZAR® Deck & Siding Semi-Transparent Stain is warrantied not to fade or discolor for five years, and the finish is warrantied against peeling, blistering and erosion for up to 15 years, giving you and your clients peace of mind.