How to Paint a Deck to Freshen It Up and Fight Off the Elements (2023)

  • Home Improvement Ideas
  • Decks

Protect your deck from rain, snow, and sun damage with a few new coats of paint. Here’s how to do it right.

ByTimothy Dale

Updated on April 19, 2023

Project Overview

  • Working Time:8 hours
  • Total Time:2 days
  • Skill Level:Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost:$50+
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Building a deck in the yard is a great way to dedicate an area of your home to party hosting or outdoor dining. It gives you a place to set up a grill, some chairs, a table, and possibly even a gazebo to protect you and your guests from rain or provide shade on a hot day. To continue enjoying your wood deck, you also need to paint or stain it to prevent moisture from seeping into the wood and causing the deck to rot.

Stain is a great option for sealing the deck against moisture, but it isn't as effective as paint against harmful UV radiation, which can damage the wood fibers and make the deck more prone to cracking and warping. Also, keep in mind that a deck can and should be refinished when you start to see signs of wear and tear, like chipped or peeling paint. Follow these steps to learn how to paint a deck the right way.

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How to Paint a Deck to Freshen It Up and Fight Off the Elements (1)

When to Paint a Deck

One of the drawbacks of trying to paint a deck is that you need to factor in the weather. If it rains in the middle of your painting project, you may have to deal with running paint, streaks, slow drying times, partial coverage, and an uneven finish once the paint does dry. To avoid these issues, check the weather ahead of time and plan to complete the job on a nice, sunny day within at least 24 hours without rain. This should give the paint and primer enough time to dry.

Also, it's essential to pay attention to the temperature and humidity. The best temperature for painting a deck typically ranges from about 50 to 90°F. Paint dries slowly in high humidity, too, so try to complete outdoor painting projects when the humidity is low to help speed up the drying time.

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The Best Time of Day to Paint a Deck

It may feel great to get to work when the sun is high overhead, but the best time to paint is when the deck is in the shade because this prevents the paint from drying too quickly. If the paint dries too fast, it can appear uneven and patchy, so for the best finish, get started early in the morning while the temperature is lower, then allow the entire deck to dry in the afternoon during the hottest hours of the day.

Working Safely

When working on an indoor painting project, ventilation is your most important safety concern, but outdoors you have the benefit of open air, so you won't need to worry about setting up fans to clear paint fumes. You should still wear closed-toe shoes, long pants, a long-sleeve shirt, gloves, safety glasses, and a mask. The mask isn't necessary for painting outdoors if you're working with a paintbrush and roller, but a mask is essential if you use a paint sprayer. (It can also help prevent inhaling sawdust and paint chips while preparing the deck.)

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Equipment / Tools

  • Broom
  • Paint scraper
  • Power sander (optional)
  • Hammer
  • Wire scrub brush
  • Drop cloth
  • Pressure washer
  • Paint roller
  • Paintbrush


  • Sandpaper or sanding block
  • Nails
  • Exterior wood putty
  • Warm soapy water
  • Mold deterrent
  • Painters tape
  • Exterior primer
  • Exterior paint


How to Paint a Deck

Learning how to paint a deck isn't difficult, but it does take time, so be prepared to spend several hours scraping, sanding, patching, cleaning, and painting. After painting, allow 24 to 48 hours before using the deck.

  1. Scrape off Old Paint

    Old chipped and peeling paint will prevent the new paint from bonding with the deck, so it's necessary to prepare the deck before you can start painting. You don't need to worry about this step if you're working on a new deck.

    Clear any objects off the deck and sweep to remove dust, dirt, and debris. After sweeping, use a paint scraper to remove paint remaining on the deck. Run the scraper over areas with flaking, chipped, or peeling paint. Apply pressure to the scraper so that it slides under and across the existing paint without damaging the wood underneath.

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  2. Sand Rough Edges for a Smooth Finish

    The next step in this process is to sand the deck. If the deck is in relatively good shape, you can use sandpaper or a sanding block to manually smooth rough edges. However, if you're working on an older deck known for splinters, renting a power sander from your local home improvement store may be better to sand the entire deck surface. Not only will this remove the rough edges, but it can also help to get rid of old paint or stain so that the new paint bonds to the deck.

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  3. Repair Loose or Damaged Boards

    Inspect the deck for any signs of loose deck boards, protruding nails, chips, divots, or cracks in the existing deck. Use a hammer and nails to fix loose deck boards and level out any nails that are sticking up. Exterior wood putty can be used to fill chips, divots, and small cracks, though if any of the boards are badly damaged, you should replace the entire board to prevent future issues.

  4. Wash the Deck

    Whether painting a new deck or revitalizing an old one, washing any dust, dirt, and debris off the deck before painting is important. Use a broom to sweep away the paint chips and sawdust you created while scraping, sanding, and patching the deck. Next, decide if you want to wash the deck with a wire scrub brush and warm soapy water or if you have enough experience to clean the desk with a pressure washer.

    Remember that a pressure washer sprays water at a high enough pressure to damage the wood if it isn't handled correctly, so if you haven't used a pressure washer before, it's best to stick with the bucket of warm water and a wire scrub brush. After washing the deck, treat the wood with a mold deterrent spray, then allow the deck to dry before moving on to the next step.

  5. Prepare to Paint

    Painters tape and drop cloths can be used to protect the areas of the deck and yard that you don't want to paint, like walls, doors, windows, metal railings, flowers, or shrubs. Apply painters tape around the borders of the deck to avoid accidentally painting adjacent surfaces, and use one or more drop cloths to cover vegetation, yard ornaments, and any other objects you want to protect.

  6. Apply Paint

    For best results, you'll usually want to apply a coat of primer before painting. Use a paintbrush and paint roller to apply the primer, then allow it to dry for about 1 to 4 hours. Always check the manufacturer's recommendations for drying time to ensure you give the primer enough time to dry before painting.

    Once the primer is dry, you can start to paint. Paintbrushes are great for narrow spaces between balustrades and in the corners, but for the rest of the deck, you'll want to use a paint roller. Consider investing in an extension pole for your paint roller to paint the deck quickly and effectively without squatting or kneeling for an extended period. After the first coat, let the paint dry for 1 to 2 hours, then add a second coat if necessary.

    Whether you need one, two, or three coats of paint typically depends on the color of the paint and the coverage. If the old paint or the exterior wood putty is showing through, you'll need another coat of paint for complete coverage. Allow the paint to dry for 24 to 48 hours before resuming regular deck use.

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How do I protect my deck from elements? ›

The best preventative measure you can take to protect your wooden deck is to use wood sealant. Clear wood sealants are a great way to maintain the natural beauty and wood grain while still preventing damage from rot, mold, and other weathering.

Can you paint over old deck paint? ›

Yes, as long as the old deck paint is still in good condition, you should be able to paint right over it. But if the old paint is cracking, peeling, or otherwise damaged, give it a light sanding to even the surface before you paint.

How do you make an old wood deck look new? ›

How To Prep Deck Surface
  1. Clean the deck and remove any peeling or chipping stain. ...
  2. Remove mildew and gray wood, if necessary. ...
  3. For weathered wood with lots of cracks and splinters, I recommend a product like Behr Deckover to fill those cracks and resurface the deck.
Sep 6, 2021

How do you restore an old painted deck? ›

How to Refinish a Painted Deck
  1. Sand down rough spots, especially where there are large amounts of peeling paint.
  2. Fill in any huge gaps where your wood has cracked with wood putty. ...
  3. Scrub the deck with a heavy duty cleaner (TSP in this case) and rinse it off completely.
Jan 29, 2021

Is it better to paint or stain an old deck? ›

Is it better to stain or paint your deck? It is better to stain your deck if you want a natural look and paint your deck if you want to add color. Stain is easier to apply and easier on the wood, but painting gives a more protective barrier and lasts longer.

Should you prime an old deck before painting? ›

Priming the Deck

As with any painting job, it is also very important to prime the surface before applying paint or stain. Your deck boards need to be properly primed because they are constantly exposed to varying temperatures, moisture, humidity, and lots of foot traffic.

Do I need to remove old paint before repainting deck? ›

All loose and peeling paint must be removed before repainting a deck. For the best results, rough surfaces should also be sanded smooth. Start with a wire brush: Use light sweeping strokes over the painted decking to dislodge loose paint.

Is it better to seal or stain a deck? ›

Stain offers little to no moisture protection, while sealant offers tremendous moisture protection. Conversely, clear sealants offer little to no UV resistance, while the pigment in many stains can act as a UV barrier for the wood.

Should you seal a painted deck? ›

Once painted, the surface must be sealed with a clear polyurethane sealer.

Does painting a deck protect it? ›

With a new deck, you get to choose your finish. Paint has the advantage of offering more color options than stain. Additionally, it forms a water-resistant film on the surface, filling small gaps and cracks. This helps to protect wood from water intrusion.

When should you not paint a deck? ›

When the bottom sides of the deck boards are not protected, such in most cases, moisture is still able to penetrate the wood. A heavy pigmented paint or stain traps the moisture in the wood, unlike a more breathable deck stain. This phenomenon causes the paint to crack, flake, and peel.

What is the best temperature to paint a deck? ›

Consumer Reports notes the best time to paint or stain a deck is late spring when temperatures are between 60 and 85°F and the nights are cool. You'll need four dry days for preparation, for application, and for a finish to completely dry.

Should I sand an old deck before painting? ›

Sand the Deck

If you plan to stain (or restain) the deck, sand the surface before application to make the wood better absorb the coating. Remember, water-based stains will need to be stripped off before you apply a new finish, while oil-based stains can be recoated after using a deck cleaner.

How do you prepare an old wood deck for painting? ›

Applying a deck wash product to completely clean all wood surfaces. Allow to dry thoroughly, at least 48 hours. Sanding any ridges or lifted grain with 80-grit sandpaper; cleaning up any dust. Protecting adjacent surfaces, such as siding, with painter's tape and plastic sheeting.

How do you refinish a deck without sanding it? ›

How to deck stain without sanding? Sanding is usually unnecessary to prep a wood deck for a new coat of deck stain. The best way to apply new deck stain without sanding is to clean the deck, strip the old deck stain, and apply a wood brightener. A final rinse should be done on the deck before applying the new stain.

What is deck brightener? ›

Wood deck brightener, also called deck neutralizer, is an acid-based product that simply neutralizes the caustic cleaners and helps lower the pH level making the wood more acidic. This opens up the wood pores and brightens the wood bringing out the grain's natural beauty.

How long does Rust Oleum deck restore last? ›

Rust-Oleum Restore is a revolutionary, easy-to-apply repair coating that's 10 times thicker than paint. And it's proven to last over 10 years.

Is it better to sand or strip wood deck? ›

Sanding is preferable where less penetration is required and the deck is flat, but the process requires additional labor and time to achieve consistent results. A stripper can often be the best option for larger decks, even though the cost will be significantly higher.

Should I use a roller or paint brush to stain my deck? ›

The first and most obvious reason to roll on deck stain as opposed to brushing it on is that the former allows you to cover a much larger surface area in less time. Rollers are wider, more efficient, and easier to operate. Additionally, using a roller helps you achieve a smoother finish.

Can I paint over stain without sanding? ›

If you properly clean the surface and use the correct primer, you can avoid sanding altogether. I promise! It's time to tackle painting that stained piece you have been avoiding because you thought you had to sand or even strip off the finish first!

Should I power wash deck before painting? ›

Yes, pressure washing your deck before applying a new stain is a good idea. This will provide a much cleaner surface to work with, which should prolong the life of the stain.

How many coats of paint on deck? ›

Apply 1-3 coats of paint.

Paint the floor of the deck a few boards at a time, making sure you have a clear path on and off the deck so you do not paint yourself into a corner. Applying 3 coats will ensure the paint is durable and make the paint easier to maintain.

Why is my paint peeling off my deck? ›

'Peeling deck paint is usually caused by poor quality paint, incorrect application, or inadequate surface preparation,' says Charlie Tack of ADA Fastfix. 'Luckily, there are things you can do to fix this and stop it happening again.

Why does paint keep peeling off deck? ›

One of the most common reasons that the paint peels off from your deck is because you've got moisture trapped in your decking boards… You get moisture trapped in your deck board in two ways… When you painted your deck, your boards weren't completely dry so the paint couldn't adhere to your decking boards properly…

Will rain ruin my freshly painted deck? ›

You want to be sure there won't be any rain for at least a week. Your deck needs at least 72 hours to dry completely after prepping it. That is because wet lumber does not stain easily due to moisture clogging up its pores. A newly-stained deck requires 48-72 hours for the stain to set in properly.

What is the most popular stain for a deck? ›

Cedar is by far one of the most popular deck colors and will fit on any deck and in any garden. As a rule, it is wise to take the most dominant color in your yard and work from there but with cedar, it is hard to go wrong. The color is not too dark for warm summer days and is perfect for those cozy winter evenings.

What happens if you don't seal a deck? ›

If your deck sealant has worn off, the wood underneath can fade rapidly due to UV rays. Rain: Excess moisture is the enemy of decks everywhere. As rain penetrates small cracks in the wood, decks can start to rot. Mold and mildew issues are common results of leaving a deck without a dependable wood sealer.

How many coats of stain should you put on a deck? ›

Whatever type of stain you use, apply two coats to ensure there are no missed spots and to get a more uniform finish.

What is the best way to protect wood from the elements? ›

Paint is an excellent way to provide strong protection from the elements for your beloved wood furniture. Paint can prevent sunlight from penetrating the wood's surface. Paint can also block UV rays and protect the wood beneath from discolouration and a variety of other issues.

How long does a painted deck last? ›

Deck Painting

Paint doesn't require frequent refinishing. A quality paint job can last for up to 10 years when it's done right.

Is it better to spray a deck or paint a deck? ›

So, after looking at the list above, is it better to stain or paint a deck? Make the smarter choice by choosing to stain your wood deck. It provides more protection against the elements while preserving any wood material's natural beauty and elegance, giving you a timeless look that doesn't fade.

What kind of paint do you use on a deck? ›

Deck paints are either acrylic (water-based) or oil-based. Acrylic paints stay on the surface and act as a protective shield or coating. Oil-based paints sink into wood and protect from within, but they are also good for metals. Acrylics tend to be more flexible, easier to clean and simple to remove.

What are the cons of painting a deck? ›

The cons of painting your deck include: Painting traps moisture in the wood. Decks are horizontal, so the paint simply lies on it, which leads to water pooling in certain areas. Over time, this traps moisture in the wood.

What are the disadvantages of painting wood? ›

Once a wood surface has been painted, it can be incredibly difficult, time consuming, and expensive to remove the paint and restore the wood's natural beauty. Painting a wooden surface with a darker colour can also result in the paint fading faster, which means that you will need to recoat the surface more often.

Can I paint deck in fall? ›

Of course, you can also get good results by doing any exterior painting or staining in the fall. The key is to do the work when the temperatures are moderate. Other painting veterans and paint companies recommend painting between 50° to 85° F for latex paints, as one example.

How long should deck dry after painting? ›

In most cases a full body stain or acrylic deck finish will be dry to touch within an hour in dry, hot weather. After two hours you could take a chance and walk on it with shoes, though I'd recommend barefoot. After about 4 hours you should be able to safely walk on your deck.

What is the best time of year to stain a deck? ›

Because you want to wait for days that aren't excessively hot or humid, the best times to apply deck stains are in the late spring and early fall, when the weather is moderately warm and dry. Check the weather and find a time when it's not expected to rain for two days before and following the deck treatment.

How long after painting deck before rain? ›

Most oil-based stains must dry for at least 12 hours before they are exposed to any moisture/rain; however, Ready Seal, if properly applied to prepped and dried wood, can get wet within a couple of hours, and it won't wash away. Oil-based stains will generally take 24-72 hours to fully cure.

How do I prepare my deck for new paint? ›

  1. PREP - Sweep away any leaves or other debris.
  2. WATER DROP TEST - Deck is ready when droplets are absorbed.
  3. CLEAN - Apply with pump sprayer or watering can. Wait 15 minutes. Mist cleaner with garden hose to keep wet. ...
  4. STAIN - Apply even coat with wood grain. Work in with brush. Wait 4 hours between coats.

How do you get GREY off a wood deck? ›

Overall, a wash with a cleaner, a light scrubbing, and a pressure wash afterward is the best way to remove gray, he says. A third kind of bleach, chlorine bleach, is not as effective or gentle as its cousins, says Juhn.

How do you clean weathered wood before staining? ›

Weathered wood must be cleaned with a bleach-and-water solution to remove any mold and mildew present prior to application. It is not necessary to rinse the bleach solution after the cleaning process on a vertical surface like a fence.

Do you sand or clean deck before staining? ›

Sand the Deck

If you plan to stain (or restain) the deck, sand the surface before application to make the wood better absorb the coating. Remember, water-based stains will need to be stripped off before you apply a new finish, while oil-based stains can be recoated after using a deck cleaner.

Should you paint an old deck? ›

Paint allows you more color options, as where stain is limited to shades of brown. Because paint fills gaps and cracks, it hides the flaws of a weathered or old deck much better than stain does. It's easier to clean a painted deck rather than a stained one.

Why does weathered wood turn grey? ›

Radiation from the sun's ultraviolet rays breaks down the lignin in the cellulose causing photo chemical degradation, and it occurs in any wood exposed to sunlight. The result is a change in the wood's appearance from it's original color to a gradual silvery gray sheen.

How do you remove oxidation from a deck? ›

Spray Deck and Wipe

To remove rust stains, spray a 50-50 solution of water and distilled white vinegar on the stain and let sit for about 10 minutes before wiping clean with a cloth. For stubborn stains, try using an oxalic acid cleaner ($10, The Home Depot) following the manufacturer's instructions.

Can you paint over grey decking? ›

If your deck is looking a bit worse for wear, you don't need to replace it. Rescue it! Our Decking Paint fills in small cracks and covers grey wood, making your deck look as good as new. A good clean and a couple coats of paint is all it takes to give your deck a new look.

How do you treat greyed wood? ›

To use, first wet the surface then apply the Wood Reviver Power Gel with a brush in the direction of the grain on to the greyed areas. Wait for about 20 minutes for the gel to penetrate the surface. Depending on the extent of the greying, you may need to use a stiff scrubbing brush to remove the grey wood fibres.

What is the best stain for a weathered deck? ›

The best deck stain is the Benjamin Moore ARBORCOAT Exterior Stain because of its high quality and protection against natural elements. For a more eco-friendly choice, we also love the Vermont Natural Coatings PolyWhey Exterior Penetrating Wood Stain, which is non-toxic and made from renewable resources.

Should you power wash a wood deck before staining? ›

Should I Pressure Wash My Deck Before Staining? Yes, pressure washing your deck before applying a new stain is a good idea. This will provide a much cleaner surface to work with, which should prolong the life of the stain.


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