The Retiree


Everyone should know how to stain a deck. I did it, so anyone can. This was not my first attempt at staining a deck. I have three places that almost qualify as decks and they all need stain. I have ignored them for a long time, but I have messed with decks in homes in the past, and am no newcomer to these projects.
First, one has to be prompted to stain a deck, as most men love the look of weathered wood, which is a lot less labor-intensive than any sort of staining or painting. Wives are a tremendous help in determining the need for a stained deck. Mine has been persistent. The need is more apparent when visitors and animals break off pieces as they rot.
Check the deck's integrity. Look for little signs of wear, such as armies of carpenter ants, holes where people have fallen through, loose boards, snow and ice damage, places chewed off by squirrels, bullet holes, and drink stains. We had a bunch of people over once and the deck fell off the house the next day, so making sure things are solid could be important. Fix each fault with boards you hid away in your garage—we all do that. You may even need to buy a board or two. Don't try to save money by re-using the deck screws you take out of damaged boards. Most of them will be rusty or broken.
Once you have repaired the deck, pick out a stain. Do not believe can labels. Nothing is going to last more than a couple years. As for color, try for a match. Just try. All the colors on your house have faded, so give up and pick something you like. A rusty nail color could save you a lot of trouble in the future.
Slap on some waterproofing sealer. It's pretty cheap. Forget what the label says. The stuff may or may not do any good.
Use caulk wherever water could cause damage. Take a look at the bottom shelf in the store, where you may find some off-brand at two tubes for the price of one. Ignore the instructions about drying before painting. If the paint brush doesn't pick it up, it's dry enough.
Finally, apply the stain. Pick a day when it won't rain or snow. Forget about the future. This is Minnesota, after all, and you can't tell what will happen tomorrow. Use an old brush that is still fairly soft. Grab a dishtowel from the kitchen to soak up mistakes. Open the can and stir it with the screwdriver you used to open the can. Have at it.
You will drip stain where it shouldn't be. Brush it out, and change change your mind about where it should be. Wipe off excess with the dishtowel. Be careful when wiping your nose on the towel, so you don't stain your nose.
When finished, throw away the brush and the towel. Keep leftover stain under your workbench. You won't ever use it again.
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