Spraying Wood Deck Stain

A sprayer is a useful tool for any DIYer. Its main advantage is that it can help you finish a paint or stain job very quickly- within a few hours, instead of an entire day or weekend. If you’re thinking about applying wood deck stain with a sprayer, it’s important to understand the limitations of these types of tools.

Controlling Over-spray

The biggest problem with sprayers is over-spray. While choosing appropriate tools and using the right pressure can minimize this problem, you’ll still need to move automobiles out of the way, mask siding, fixtures, and planters, and generally protect anything you don’t want stained.

Wear eye protection and a respirator or mask. Inhaling droplets of stain can be very dangerous. Avoid spraying on windy days; not only will airborne droplets get everywhere, but unpredictable gusts can blow stain right into your face.

Choosing the Right Tools

Pump Type Deck Sprayer
Both airless sprayers and pump-type deck sprayers are appropriate. Whether you’re using an airless sprayer or pump-type sprayer, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for filling, using, and cleaning the tool.

Airless Sprayer

Choose appropriately sized tips. Small tips offer the best control. A 411 tip with a fan width of eight inches is best for the deck floor; on more detailed areas, like the handrails, cutouts and lattice use a 211 tip. This produces a fan width of four inches.

Pump Type Deck Sprayer

These are very inexpensive ($30-$50) and do a good job. A regular garden sprayer doesn’t work as well because it isn’t capable of the right pressures needed to produce a good fan. Plus a deck sprayer comes with different nozzles that act like spray tips, different fan widths.

You’ll also need a brush to even out any puddles and to get into any hard-to-reach places.

Applying the Stain

Airless Sprayer

Start with 800-1000 psi, and decrease or increase the pressure until you achieve a spray pattern you’re happy with. Lower pressure means less over-spray and better control. Keep the gun moving at all times to avoid concentrated splotches of stain.

Pump Type Stain Sprayer

Choose the most appropriate nozzle for what you are doing. This type of sprayer is best used with toners (tinted clear stain) and semi-transparent. Make sure to pump the sprayer often to maintain a good fan.

Spraying Tips

  • It’s important to apply the stain liberally. Too-thin coats won’t penetrate effectively, and the color and protective qualities of the stain will be diminished. At the same time, the stain should be thin enough that it can be absorbed by the wood. Sheets or puddles of color sitting on top of the deck are a sign that you’re too heavy-handed. Maintain a wet edge, and be prepared to work until the project is done. Allowing stain to dry, then applying a coat to an adjacent section will create ugly lap marks.
  • Start with the railings then finish with the floor. Work in sections, and complete work in a logical order to avoid painting yourself into a corner or missing spots. Click here to read our suggested deck stain sequence and more deck staining tips.
  • Back-brush each section immediately after staining, while the product is still wet. Using a brush or lambswool pad, even out any drips, splatters, or puddles to create a uniformly colored surface.
  • Finally, use a brush for touch-ups, railings, and elaborately carved areas.




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