How To Stain Your Wood Deck – The Right Way

Properly finishing your wood deck with stain does more than make the structure beautiful. A proper refinishing job provides protection against the elements. That helps your deck last longer.

Both new and existing decks need to be clean and in good condition before you can stain. Except on newly constructed decks, you should first thoroughly wash the structure with a pressure washer to remove the old finish and any accumulated grime. Most deck stains are easily removed this way. A clean surface makes it easy to identify damaged areas.

After cleaning is the time to do any deck repairs. These articles on power washing, deck refinishing, and deck sanding will help you with the preparation phase.

If you want to stain your deck, and it has been previously sealed with paint, solid color deck stain, or varnish, you’ll need to completely remove all traces of the previous finish.

Deck Staining Sequence

The most efficient deck staining sequence will allow you to color the entire structure without being painted into a corner or having to revisit areas. In general, this means starting at the house wall and working towards the stairs.

Another principle that professional painters always use is this. Work from top to bottom. This prevents spatters and drips from ruining a previously finished surface. In general, we at Crowder Painting use the following sequence when finishing decks:

  1. Stain lattice.
  2. Stain handrails and pickets.
  3. Stain any benches and planters.
  4. Stain the floor. (Make sure you work towards the stairs, so that you don’t have to walk over freshly stained wood to leave the deck!)
  5. Stain the stairs.
  6. Stain any exposed framing.


Wood stains are very forgiving finishes and can be applied using a number of different tools, depending on the type of stain and the way the deck is constructed. There are three common methods for applying stain.

  1. You can apply the stain using a roller or lambswool pad. This is an efficient method for larger areas.
  2. You can apply the stain using a brush. This is better for upright posts.
  3. You can use a sprayer. Coverage is quick and it is easy to get the stain into cracks and crevices using this method. Just be prepared to spend significant time masking the surrounding area.


A deck that is stained properly and maintained properly will look attractive for years or even decades. Apply a fresh coat of stain every one to two years using this sequence and you will ensure lush color and protection from wind, sun, and precipitation.

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