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Guys, my first big project at our Finn Fixer Upper is complete and I’m sooooo excited to share! We stained our deck and it’s now looking oh so good. This DIY project has been on our list since we first saw the home and noticed that the new deck (that the sellers put on last summer) hadn’t yet been stained. You’re not supposed to stain a new deck, so waiting is usually advised. But since it had been a full year, it was time to stain and seal those boards before they got damaged from another harsh winter.
Once we closed on the house, we said we would stain the deck sometime in May. Well, clearly that didn’t happen and it’s because of the crazy weather we’ve had here in Chicago. It rained continuously in May and into June and rarely were there any days without a scattered shower in the forecast. Not ideal for an outdoor DIY project where dry weather is a must!
Luckily, a few weeks ago the forecast looked good and we were FINALLY able to tackle this DIY project. Although, I did run into a few hiccups along the way (and I’m sharing them with hopes that you’ll learn from me!).
How to Prep and Clean your Deck
Just like any painting project, it’s all about the prep work. And even though our deck is only one year old, it was still pretty dirty and there were a few spots that were starting to mold. Gross.
Here’s the deck cleaner I used. It worked like a charm. I filled my Wagner Control Pro 130 sprayer with the solution and when I sprayed, it covered so quickly and evenly. I followed the directions, allowing it to saturate 10-20 square feet at a time and soaking it in for ten minutes.
I used a stiff bristle brush (as the directions recommend) to really move the solution around and make sure everything was coated.
I then hosed it off with the power washer to get things really squeaky clean.
I wanted to use the Wagner Control Pro 130 paint sprayer for the cleaning part of this project so I could master it before it was staining time. Luckily, the Wagner paint sprayer was incredibly easy to use. I just set it up, filled it with cleaning solution, and went to town. It especially came in handy on the posts and lattice on the sides of the deck. These vertical areas would have taken forever if I had manually applied the cleaner, but with this, I was able to apply the cleaner, let it dry, and power wash it off! Such a breeze.
The above photo shows the dirty and clean areas really well. The left portion is all cleaned and the right still needed to be sprayed and hosed down with the solution. Cleaning it made a world of difference.
I then let the deck dry out for a day so it was all ready for staining.
How to Stain Your Deck
Last year, I actually shared a post about staining our small balcony. That was a fairly quick and painless DIY project, but my balcony was also teeny tiny and there were no railings or spindles to do. Our new deck seems ginormous compared to that, plus add in the railings, spindles, and lattice and there is a lot of ground to cover. From the start, I knew I wanted to use a paint sprayer to get the job done faster.
- Wagner Control Pro 130 Paint Sprayer
- Stain (3 gallons)
- Deck Stain Brushes
- Outdoor Extension Cord
- Drop Cloths
- Painter’s Tape
- Stain Pad
Choosing a Deck Stain Color
I told you guys how I ran into a few hiccups with this project. Here is the first one…the deck stain color. I asked for your feedback on Instagram and after hearing your color suggestions, I ultimately decided to go with the color “Ferret” by Valspar in semi-transparent. I thought it was a good light brown with gray undertones.
They don’t do deck stain samples at Lowe’s (just paint samples), so I just had to go for it and I picked up two gallons of it. I tested it on the deck in an inconspicuous area and was not in love with the color (it’s the far left in the photo above). Not only did it look more like a solid stain than a semi-transparent, but it also looked super gray and almost lilac! I did not want a purple deck, so I headed to Benjamin Moore and got a few small stain samples (they do offer samples there!).
I ended up going with the color “Spanish Moss” as it was a nice light brown without any red or orangey undertones. The paint debacle set me back a couple of hours, but my intern, Liz, and I were ready to get started by around 11 am.
Using a Paint Sprayer
This was my first time using a paint sprayer, so I thought there might be a big learning curve setting it up. Luckily, it was easy to figure out right from the start and it came with super detailed instructions. I do recommend picking up an outdoor extension cord so you can easily move around your backyard with the sprayer and you have enough cord slack. I ended up watching this thorough tutorial to prime my sprayer and get it ready for paint. It just took a few minutes to get it all set up and the hose primed with water before it was staining time.
The sprayer holds a ton of stain (1.5 gallons!) which was nice because I could pour a bunch in and get right to work.
Here’s another hiccup I ran into…
The sprayer comes with a paint sprayer tip, but if you’re using semi-transparent stain (as I was) then be sure to buy the appropriate tip (this chart has more scoop on what kind of tip to use for each project). I didn’t realize that I was using the paint tip instead of the stain tip, so when I first started out the stain was coming out a little too thick. This made my first area of the deck a little heavy on the product and I had to get in there with a brush to control a few drips.
Note: The Control Pro 130 comes with a 515 spray tip that is great for latex paint. If you’re applying a stain, you’ll need a 313 HEA spray tip for stains (sold separately) or 211 HEA spray tip for sealers (sold separately)
Once I bought the right tip, it was a lot easier!
Spraying Lattice, Railings, & Spindles
The paint sprayer was a lifesaver for the lattice. Instead of using a brush to get into every nook and cranny (which would have taken a lifetime!), I could quickly get it coated with stain.
My technique improved as I went. At first, I was spraying waaaay too much stain onto the lattice and railings. I think I was spraying a little too close to the wood and going over the same area back and forth.
I quickly realized that the best technique is to start sweeping your arm to the right, then pull the trigger, let go of the trigger, and keep your arm sweeping across. I was just going back and forth in a zig-zag pattern and the parts in the middle were getting hit twice with stain. It was no bueno and I had some areas that were looking way darker than others.
Once I nailed down the right technique, it was so much easier. Learn from my mistakes, friends!
Rookie Tip: Be sure to use plastic, painter’s tape, and drop cloths on any areas that you don’t want to get hit with stain. We took some time to prep the space before we started spraying to ensure everything would stay clean. I also saw a tip that suggested putting cardboard on the other side of the deck (behind the spindles) so no overspray would go onto the flat deck boards. I wish I would have done that to keep those areas protected!
I also recommend having a deck brush handy just in case there are any wetter areas to back brush. You don’t want the stain to sit on the surface of the wood or it will dry shiny and dark (as it did in a few spots for me). Keep that brush on hand so you can check your work as you go!
We ended up getting the spindles, railings, and lattice all done that day (the stain color snafu set us back a few hours) and I’m soooo happy we waited to do the floor of the deck. Here’s why…
As you can imagine, having dry weather is KEY when staining a deck. The forecast was clear and dry the day we started to stain the deck. But OUT OF NOWHERE storms rolled in that night. Holy smokes. Here was hiccup #3.
I laid in bed that night unable to sleep because I was imagining all of the stain dripping off our deck and coming back to a big ol’ mess. The next morning I visited the house and thankfully there were only a few water spots on the horizontal planks. I dried everything up and then let the deck dry out for two more days before attempting to stain the floorboards.
Staining the Deck
I returned to a dry deck, ready to finish up this project. I ended up using a stain pad to quickly get the floor of the deck done. I didn’t realize that Wagner sells this handy tool that is a stain pad and applicator in one, or else I would have used it! I simply dipped the pad in the stain, got rid of any excess, and slowly dragged it along 2 boards at a time. This worked wonderfully to coat the boards evenly and quickly.
With this technique, I was able to get the floor of the deck done in about two hours!
I’m really happy I went with semi-transparent stain. It shows a bit of the wood grain and I’m hopeful that it won’t peel like solid stains sometimes do.
Before & After
Here’s the big before and after of the deck. While the color is a bit darker than I originally wanted, I think it looks pretty darn amazing!
Now, it’s time to think about patio furniture, flowers, and all the plants! I can’t wait until it’s time to really make this space shine.
Wagner Paint Sprayer Giveaway
If you have a staining or painting project on your to-do list, then I have the BEST giveaway for you! I’m giving away a Wagner Control Pro 130 Power Tank Sprayer to one lucky reader here on the blog, and another one tonight on Instagram. Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below and comment, letting me know what project you would tackle with your new sprayer. Trust me guys, it’s a game changer!