Looking for an Impactful Home Improvement Project to Tackle This Summer? Here's How to Paint a Wood Deck (2023)

painting wooden deck

Looking for an Impactful Home Improvement Project to Tackle This Summer? Here's How to Paint a Wood Deck (1)

Credit: Christopher Bernard / Getty Images

Anyone who is fortunate enough to have a deck can tell you that it becomes one of the most (if not the most) popular areas of the house once the warmer months roll around. (Relaxed barbecues? Happy hours al fresco? Afternoons spent with a good book? Your deck has seen it all.)

Since you spend so much time on your deck, it should be dressed to impress—just like the rest of your entertaining space. And, what better way to do so than with a fresh coat of paint? Whether you're replacing a peeled, outdated layer or giving a brand-new structure a dash of design drama, a punch of color is an effective way to transform your outdoor space.

Make no mistake: Painting a wood deck is a big undertaking—however, it's completely possible to do it on your own, so long as you have a few experts guiding you (we'll help with that!) and know when it's time to call a professional for help.

Related: How to Refinish the Stain on Your Wood Deck

Painting vs. Staining

Before you begin this project, it's important to determine whether or not it's best to stain or paint your wood deck. While some professional painters state that a few coats of exterior paint will get the job done, others firmly believe a stain is the safer choice. "You can do a lot of harm to a deck if you use an exterior paint," says Nick Slavik, proprietor of the Nick Slavik Painting & Restoration Co. "High-quality exterior house paints do not penetrate bare wood or create a waterproof shell, and tend to peel readily on decks."

Solid-Color Acrylic Stain

If you're looking for a more durable alternative to traditional exterior paint, Slavik recommends solid-color acrylic stain, which has more coverage than a sealer or transparent stain. "Solid-color acrylics penetrate, allow the wood to breath, and have less of a tendency to peel," he says.

Acrylic-Based Paint

Or, if you're really set on incorporating a fresh pop of color, Andre Kazimierski, the CEO of Improovy Painters Plano, recommends an acrylic-based paint. "[It's] recommended by most experts because of its sleek look and weatherproof capabilities," he says. "Just make sure you wait a week in between coats, since acrylic paint takes much longer to dry than other paints."

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How to Decide

The good news is painting and staining generally require the same steps and materials—though, we always recommend consulting your exact formula's directions—so you can still follow our how-to steps below. All you need to do is decide between paint or a solid-color stain.

"My recommendation would depend on what the deck owner is looking for," Kazimierski says. "Both exterior paint and acrylic stain will provide protection against the elements, but paint will cover up some of the natural wood grain, while staining enhances [the species]. It depends on what look you're going for—but both are good options."

What You'll Need

Once you've decided between stain or paint, it's time to pick up the rest of your materials. While the exact tools you use will depend on the size and scope of your deck, here are a few essentials to get you started:

  • Power washer
  • Deck brightener or cleaning chemical (oxalic acid or sodium hypochlorite brightener)
  • Sander and sand paper
  • Drop cloth
  • Angled paint brush
  • Paint roller
  • Paint tray
  • Ladder

pressure washing deck

Looking for an Impactful Home Improvement Project to Tackle This Summer? Here's How to Paint a Wood Deck (2)

Credit: filmstudio / Getty Images

(Video) Prepping, staining and refreshing your outdoor deck

How to Prepare Your Deck

Though prepping your deck might seem tedious, it's an important step to ensure your paint glides on easily and stays there.

Check the Weather

Before you get started, take a look at your forecast. Extreme temperatures (hot or cold) and excess moisture can negatively affect dry time and penetration, so you'll want to pencil in your painting session for a dry, mild day. Keep in mind that both paints and stains can take a few days to fully dry, so avoid times of the year with drastic fluctuations in temperature, rain fall, and humidity.

Prepare the Surrounding Area

Once you've marked your calendar, it's time to remove your furniture and prepare your backyard. "When using chemicals, it's recommended you water down the surrounding grass to avoid chemical burns on your plants or lawn," says George Crew, founder of Chicago Paint Crew.

Clean Your Deck

Next, it's time to give your deck the thorough clean it needs—there's likely to be a lot of pollen and dirt. "Soak the deck with a garden hose, apply a cleaning chemical (either oxalic acid or sodium hypochlorite brightener), scrub the wood surface if needed, [and] then use a pressure washer to remove dirt and chemicals," Slavik says. Keep in mind that paints don't adhere well to wet surfaces, so make sure your deck has had enough time to fully dry

Repair and Sand Your Deck

Before you move onto application, give your deck a once-over and repair any wear and tear. Pound in loose nails, remove (and replace) rotted planks, and sand the floor to promote proper stain or paint absorption. Getting your deck into tip-top shape will ensure that the final product truly shines.

How to Paint a Wood Deck

While you should always follow your specific paint can's directions, most DIYers start the porch painting process with a thin coat of primer to create a smooth, professional finish. (If you're using a stain, which is designed to show off your grain, you can usually skip the primer—especially if you're utilizing a solid-color acrylic formula.) Then, follow these steps.

  1. First, tackle smaller areas like your railings and spindles. Dip an angled paint brush into your solution and move your applicator in the same direction as the grain.
  2. Next, pour your paint into a tray, dip your roller in, and roll the flatter areas of your deck. "If you are rolling out the deck floor, use an extension pole to evenly apply stain [or paint] on each floor board," Sharp says. "This will save your back from hours of bent-over work."
  3. Then, check to see if you need a second coat. According to Slavik, transparent and semi-transparent stains typically get one coat, while solid-color acrylics and paints often get two. Check your stain or paint's manufacturer for information on number of coats and re-coat timing. You might need to wait a week before you apply the second layer.
  4. Once you've applied all your necessary coats, let everything dry. Wait a few days before you walk on your deck or replace furniture.

Pro Tip: While there's no denying that painting a deck can require time and muscle, it's important to stick with it. "Keep a wet edge [and] don't start and stop part-way through boards," Slavik adds. "It leads to lap marks and an uneven finish."

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Related: Make the Most of Your Home's Deck with These Expert-Approved Outdoor Living Ideaså

Tips to Remember

Though wooden furniture might be available in a breadth of different species, most decks are typically made with one of two types: Cedar and pressured-treated wood. Fortunately, the process of painting or staining your deck does not vary by species. Instead, it comes down to the aesthetic you want to achieve.

Consider the Opacity of Stains

"You have semi-transparent and semi-opaque options, which will stain the wood and show all the wood graining," says Geoff Sharp, president of Sharper Impressions Painting. "It will appear like natural wood with a tint of the color you like. If you want a more 'painted' look, you can go with solid stain. This will look like a paint and be a solid color."

Swatch Carefully

Whether you select a solid-body acrylic stain or durable paint, it's important to visualize what the final product will actually look like before you commit. (As Sharp puts it, a swatch can look very different from the final result.) "Purchasing a small [sample] can and trying it on your deck will let you see the actual paint before you make your final decision," he says. "Give yourself time to see the color in different lights of day and ask friends and family what they think."

Related: How to Choose Between a Deck or a Patio

When to Call a Professional

Though painting and staining your wooden deck is a fairly easy process, it's not for the faint of heart. That's exactly why Slavik recommends hiring a professional if your deck is large, raised high off the ground, or has a previously failed coating. And, if you can't find the time to paint your deck properly, it's time to hand off this project to the professionals. "It takes time to do it right," he says. "For a professional company like ours to restore a deck it could take 20-plus hours of labor—and we have all of the training and the good tools." Sharp adds that an expert can offer a turnkey experience, from prepping your deck to helping you pick out the right solid-color stain or paint for your desired style.

So, how do you find the right expert for the job? He recommends tapping into your network. "The best way to find a pro is through a referral from your family, friend, or co-workers," Sharp says, noting that a reputable deck painting professional should also never ask for a deposit. Whether you do it yourself or enlist a professional, one thing's for sure: You're just a few coats away from giving your deck the refresh it deserves.

FAQs

Should you paint wood deck? ›

Paint allows you more color options, as where stain is limited to shades of brown. Because paint fills gaps and cracks, it hides the flaws of a weathered or old deck much better than stain does. It's easier to clean a painted deck rather than a stained one.

How do you paint a wooden deck? ›

Cover any plants in close proximity to your deck with plastic sheeting to protect them from damage

Can I paint my deck with exterior paint? ›

What kind of paint do you use on a deck? You must use an exterior paint that is made for high-traffic areas and wood, concrete, or metal surfaces. Paint specifically made for decks also has mildew and mold resistance, UV ray protection, and defenses against weather extremes, whereas interior paint does not.

What kind of paint do you use on a wood deck? ›

Deck paint can be either oil-based or acrylic — both are good products. Oil-based paint has the advantage of being slower-drying, which makes outdoor application easier and more mistake-free. Acrylic paints have less harsh-smelling VOCs and clean up easier. Another option is solid color stains.

Should you prime deck before painting? ›

As with any painting job, it is also very important to prime the surface before applying paint or stain. Your deck boards need to be properly primed because they are constantly exposed to varying temperatures, moisture, humidity, and lots of foot traffic.

Do you need to sand deck before painting? ›

Don't skip the sanding: Scraping rarely removes all the paint from the existing deck, and it's not meant to. After scraping away loose paint, it's likely the wood will still have large areas of stuck-on paint, and that's okay because if it's not peeling, the new paint will still adhere.

How many coats of paint does a deck need? ›

Apply paint to the deck in the same way that you applied the primer. Apply two to three coats to the deck, leaving at least two days between each coat.

Is it better to stain or seal a deck? ›

Sealing a deck is best for cedar, teak, mahogany, or other quality woods as it enhances the wood grain and natural color. What is this? Staining a deck protects the wood from mold, mildew, moisture, and rot, and UV rays and sun damage.

What Sheen should I paint my deck? ›

Satin deck paint – You'll get a slightly higher sheen here than you would with eggshell, but it's still low-luster. This means that it will still hide imperfections but it's also easy to clean and less prone to showing dirt than eggshell paint. Semi-gloss deck paint – For a bit more reflectivity, opt for a semi-gloss.

Which deck paint lasts longest? ›

The best overall deck paint is Behr Premium Advanced Deckover (view at Home Depot). It makes your wood splinter proof, is easy to clean, and comes in 50 colors. If you prefer a budget-friendly option, KILZ Interior/Exterior Patio Latex Floor Paint (view at Amazon) is long-lasting, mildew-resistant, and user friendly.

How do you prep a deck for painting? ›

  1. PREP - Sweep away any leaves or other debris.
  2. WATER DROP TEST - Deck is ready when droplets are absorbed.
  3. CLEAN - Apply with pump sprayer or watering can. Wait 15 minutes. Mist cleaner with garden hose to keep wet. ...
  4. STAIN - Apply even coat with wood grain. Work in with brush. Wait 4 hours between coats.

How long does deck over paint last? ›

When you opt to paint your deck, you won't have to refinish it anytime soon. A quality paint job, finished by a trusted professional, can last for ten years before needing repainting. Conversely, stains need reapplied every few years because they don't offer the same protection against outdoor elements.

How long should a deck dry before painting? ›

The deck must be dried for at least twenty-four hours before painting or staining; forty-eight hours is ideal. Do not paint or stain a deck if there is high humidity or the temperature is above seventy-nine degrees. Be sure to stir the paint or stain before applying and follow the directions on the can.

What is the best primer for a wood deck? ›

A slow-drying oil-based primer is best on bare wood as it takes a long time to dry, and sticks better than any other type of primer. This usually takes at least 24 hours to dry. If you don't mind waiting then an oil-based wood primer is still best, but if not, then a quality latex primer will still work.

Do I need to power wash my deck before painting? ›

If you decide not to power wash beforehand, not only will your new paint not stay for very long, but your old paint will still be underneath. Pressure washing will not only remove the dirt and grime, but it can also remove old, chipped paint that may cause discrepancies in you new paint job.

Do you need to remove old paint before painting deck? ›

You don't need to remove old paint before painting a deck. You only need to remove old paint if it's blistering, cracking, or peeling. Otherwise, the new layer will bubble and peel soon after. If the old paint is still in good shape, paint over it.

Why does my deck paint keep peeling? ›

Common reasons that you may have peeling paint on deck surfaces include: Quality - Expired or poor-quality paint can lack the properties necessary to create a tight bond, and are more prone to problems which can include inadequate coverage or peeling.

Do I need to wash deck after sanding? ›

After sanding, power-wash the deck and allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before staining. Sanding exposes porous wood that's ready to soak up the stain, but this isn't possible if the wood is full of water.

Is it better to sand or strip wood deck? ›

Sanding is preferable where less penetration is required and the deck is flat, but the process requires additional labor and time to achieve consistent results. A stripper can often be the best option for larger decks, even though the cost will be significantly higher.

Should I power wash or sand deck first? ›

Make sure your deck is thoroughly dry before you sand. If there has been recent rainfall or if you have power washed, wait several days before sanding.

What is the best temperature to paint a deck? ›

Consumer Reports notes the best time to paint or stain a deck is late spring when temperatures are between 60 and 85°F and the nights are cool. You'll need four dry days for preparation, for application, and for a finish to completely dry.

How do you restore a weathered deck? ›

How to Restore a Weathered Deck Video - YouTube

Does second coat use less paint? ›

It took us half the time to do the second coat. The decorator thinks a tin will be 80% empty after a first coat. Whereas a tin would only be 10% empty if a new one is opened for a second coat.

Can I use exterior paint on wood? ›

According to Benjamin Moore Paints, most exterior acrylic latex paint will work on various exterior surfaces, including stucco, wood siding, fiber cement and brick.

Can you use exterior paint on a porch floor? ›

Yes. Porch and floor paint can be used on interior or exterior floors.

Can you use house paint on porch? ›

Wondering can you use interior paint outside? Although the short answer is yes, it's not recommended. Interior paint isn't designed to withstand rain, snow, wind, UV, mildew, or temperature extremes. It has less pigment and binding resins than outdoor paints, and the finish is too porous .

How do you prepare a painted deck for painting? ›

  1. PREP - Sweep away any leaves or other debris.
  2. WATER DROP TEST - Deck is ready when droplets are absorbed.
  3. CLEAN - Apply with pump sprayer or watering can. Wait 15 minutes. Mist cleaner with garden hose to keep wet. ...
  4. STAIN - Apply even coat with wood grain. Work in with brush. Wait 4 hours between coats.

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