Ask Angi: How should I stain and seal my deck?

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Your deck represents a sizable investment in your home, so regular maintenance is essential to keep it in good repair. If your deck is made from composite materials, it should last decades with basic cleaning, but if your deck is built from wood, it needs to be stained and sealed every few years for optimal long-term performance.

Even the best-quality stain and sealant will eventually wear away under outdoor conditions, and once sealant wears away, your wood is at the mercy of the elements. Resealing solves this problem and, as a bonus, re-staining can make it look like new!

In most cases, this should be performed every two to four years. If you live in a humid climate or an area with heavy rainfall, you might want to consider doing it annually.

You can stain and seal the deck yourself or hire a pro. If you go with a pro, the average cost to stain a deck is around $875. If you decide to DIY, follow these steps to stain your deck for summer:

Inspect and thoroughly sweep the deck so you have a clear surface. For best results, deep clean it with a mixture of bleach and warm water.

Thoroughly inspect all aspects of the deck. This should be done every spring, so you’re also checking something off your maintenance to-do’s. Check all the nails and screws for loose or damaged fasteners, make sure the railings and banisters are stable and check the boards for weakness or decay. Repair any problems you find before moving on.

Sprinkle some water on a dry deck. If the water beads up, your sealant is still effective and you can leave it be for another season. If it seeps into the wood, you need to reseal the deck.

If the water seeped into your wood, your next step is to pressure wash the deck to remove any remaining sealant. (This is a great time to call in a pro. If you rent a washer yourself, take care to use deck-specific cleaner and the lowest setting. Pressure washing can easily and permanently scar deck materials.)

Choose your stain and sealant. You’ll want a water-soluble or oil-based stain — and remember, you get what you pay for! Low-quality stain will fade quickly, and cheaper sealant will strip away faster. If the deck wood is new or in good shape, consider a transparent stain that celebrates the grain. A semitransparent stain will reveal less grain and a solid color will cover it completely. Solid stain is recommended if wood is splintering or showing other signs of damage.

Apply two coats of stain. Let it dry thoroughly between coats and keep an eye out for drips, especially on vertical surfaces. Back brush as you go along to ensure it fully absorbs into any cracks.

Let the deck dry completely, then apply two coats of sealant, following the same rules as with stain. Once you’re done, bring out your furniture and fire up the grill — it’s time to enjoy your beautiful, like-new deck!

Tweet your home care questions with #AskAngi and we’ll try to answer them in a future column.

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