Deck Finishes: Get your Deck Surface Ready!

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Preparing your deck surface properly can make all the difference when applying a coating to your deck. In order to insure a durable and uniform finish on your wood deck you need to make sure your deck’s surface is ready to receive the coating.



Preparation is an integral factor in the process of refinishing your deck. Within a few weeks of having your deck installed, it is important to have your deck finish applied in order to prevent the damaging effects of UV radiation. In the case of older decks, the wood will most likely require the use of a cleaning agent in combination with a pressure wash before it is ready to be refinished.


Timing is a key factor in the finishing of your deck. If you leave your deck exposed to the sun for too long before you apply a finishing coat, your wood will be highly susceptible to UV damage. UV radiation results in many adverse effects for your deck and one primary effect is its destruction of your wood’s lignin. Lignin is an essential binder found in the wood’s fibers and when it is exposed to UV radiation it immediately begins to break down, which turns the surface of your deck gray as well as more porous. The problem with increasing the porosity of your deck is that it allows oils and alkyd finishes to be absorbed more easily, making it more difficult for an acrylic finish to bond properly with the wood. This can ultimately result in a significant shortening of the life of your paint film.

If you have selected an acrylic finish for your deck, it is extremely important to apply the finish right away to ensure your deck is not subjected to any weathering. In the case of oil finishes, you can wait a little longer to apply your finish because weathering effects can actually make the surface of your deck more porous, allowing your deck to better absorb the oil finish.

When applying maintenance coats, the process can be much different so it is important to read the manufacturer’s application directions carefully. In some cases, you may need to strip your deck back nearly to new wood before you can apply a maintenance coat. If using a clear alkyd finish less maintenance will be required before applying the finish versus a more heavily pigmented deck finish where a lot of the pigment will have worn away.


deck_stainsIn regards to cleaning your deck, there are a variety of deck cleaners on the market that will remove both dirt and mold. Another useful tool for cleaning your deck is a power washer, however be careful when using it not to abrade your deck surface. It is also important to remember that before applying your finish your deck needs to dry out for at least a day or two after washing.

Beyond clear finishes, there are finishes called toners or semitransparents that are available to finish your deck with without increasing the opacity of your deck too much. They contain most of the same light blocking pigments and offer advantages as well. They protect your deck from UV radiation while also allowing some of the natural wood grain to show through the finish. You can count on these types of finishes to last about two to three years before you need to recoat again.

The most opaque types of deck finishes that are available are called semisolid stains. They are heavily concentrated with pigment, which is what enables them to offer better long-term protection for harmful UV rays as well as weathering. Those who have a clear redwood or cedar deck may not be attracted to the idea of a more opaque deck finish, however there are a variety of semisolid stains that are available to compliment your deck’s colour. More importantly, these stains last the longest of all type of staining products-up to five years. As far as the downside to semisolid finishes, they do require more preparation work before recoating, but the fact that they offer greater protection for longer periods of time makes them a very time and cost effective finish.

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