Can You Paint Over Stained Deck?

Stained decks are often beautiful, but they aren’t right for every homeowner. Maybe the stain is getting old, causing it to look uneven or dull. Perhaps stained wood doesn’t match your aesthetic, and you’d prefer a more color or something that blends better with your home’s exterior. In those cases, finding the answer to the question, “Can you paint over a stained deck?” is potentially a priority.

You can paint over a stained deck, but you need to take the proper steps. Usually, you’ll want to sand to remove the stain before you paint. Priming is also wise, as it will help create a smoother surface and promote paint adhesion.

However, that’s just the basics of what it takes to paint over stained decking. To ensure you handle the project correctly, here’s what you need to know.

Can You Paint Over Stained Deck

Can You Paint Over Stained Deck?

Yes, you can paint over a stained deck, but you do need to prepare the decking correctly for the paint to last. Typically, that means starting with a thorough cleaning, allowing you to remove stuck-on dirt and grime before you move forward. After that, you’ll want to wait until the deck dries before sanding every surface of the board you want to paint.

Once the deck is sanded, you’ll need to clean it again to remove sawdust and newly accumulated debris. After the decking is once again dry, you can apply primer. Whether one or two coats is necessary depends on the primer you use, but it’s best to plan for two coats.

Finally, after the primer dries, you can apply paint. Again, whether you need multiple coats depends on the paint, but it’s typically better to plan for at least two coats. Once the paint is applied, add a coat of sealer to improve its durability before using your deck as intended.

What Happens If You Paint Over Stained Wood?

If you paint over stained wood without the required preparation, the surface will look fine initially. However, the remaining stain in the wood will lead to issues, often far quicker than you’d expect.

In some cases, stain impacts adhesion. That’s particularly true if the stain is oil-based and the paint is water-based. In that situation, the paint will usually start to bubble, chip, and flake in a surprisingly short amount of time.

Another issue that often occurs when painting directly over a stain is bleed-through. The stain may essentially leech into the paint, leading to discoloration. Usually, the stain results in brownish, reddish, or yellowish spots in the paint, though the exact hue varies depending on the paints and stains used.

Unlike many other types of discoloration, there’s little you can do to clean up staining caused by wood stains. Often, the only solution is refinishing the deck, typically by removing the paint, sanding away the primer, and refinishing using new stain or priming before repainting.

How to Paint Over Previously Stained Deck

Painting Over Stained Deck

Painting over a previously stained deck requires a multi-step process to ensure adhesion and prevent staining. Throughout the process, make sure to wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

Usually, you’ll want to wear gloves at all times. Goggles are also wise during the entire process, and using a breathing mask is smart while using strong cleaners, sanding, or when applying primer, paint, and sealant. You might want disposable coveralls, as well, particularly during the priming and painting phases.

Once you have your PPE, you can begin the process. However, it’s best to paint your stained deck when there’s a stretch of rain-free days and moderate temperatures. Usually, you want to choose days where the temperature falls between 60°F and 85°F, so keep that in mind.

Additionally, consider putting a drop cloth below your deck during the priming and painting phases to prevent those materials from contacting your lawn. You may also want a drop cloth during the cleaning steps if you’re using chemical cleaners.

After gathering your PPE, placing your drop cloths, and ensuring the weather is on your side, you can begin the process.

1. Clean the Surface

Should i pressure wash my deck

The first step you need to take is to clean the surface of your deck. Begin by sweeping off as much dust and debris as possible. Next, use a pressure washer to remove stuck-on dirt and grime.

When you pressure wash, you can rely solely on the stream or try a wash brush attachment. Additionally, if you have a reservoir for cleaner, you can select any solution designed for wood decking. Make sure you rinse thoroughly if you use cleaners to avoid issues with the primer and paint sticking down the line.

If you don’t own a pressure washer – and prefer not to rent one – you can clean the decking manually. Use plain water, a deck-safe cleaning solution, and a stiff-bristled push broom to handle the work. Apply the water or cleaner and then scrub, ensuring you go with the grain.

If you’re painting between the deck boards, clean those areas thoroughly, too. You can use a slim broom to sweep out dirt and debris. After that, you can use a thin sponge to apply water or cleaner to remove any stuck-on grime before rinsing.

2. Let the Deck Dry

After cleaning the deck, you want to give the surface time to dry completely. Precisely how long that takes usually depends on local weather conditions. In some cases, a couple of hours may be enough. However, if you’re in a humid area, it may take a day or more.

3. Sand the Deck

How To Sand Wood Deck

Once the deck is dry, it’s time to sand. You’re not necessarily trying to remove all of the stain. Instead, the goal is to rough the surface enough to allow the primer to adhere correctly.

Generally, using sandpaper that’s around 80 to 150-grit should do the trick. As you sand, go with the grain of wood for the best result.

If you want to speed up the process, you can use an orbital sander for the walking surface of the boards. Between the deck boards, you might need a sanding sponge or a fine sanding stick that’s slim enough to fit in the gap.

4. Clean the Deck Again

When the sanding is finished, you’ll need to clean the deck again. This time, the goal is primarily to remove sawdust, though you should also tackle any other debris accumulated on your deck since you began the project.

In most cases, you won’t need any cleaners at this phase, as there shouldn’t be any stuck-on grime. Instead, you can rely solely on the water in most cases. Pressure washing or using a hose and a scrub brush is typically enough to handle the sawdust, so use whichever method is most convenient.

5. Allow the Deck to Dry

After the second cleaning, you’ll need to let the deck dry again. Ensuring all moisture is off the surface and out of the boards is essential. Otherwise, it might affect primer adhesion or could lead to other issues.

How long you’ll need to wait depends on the weather conditions in our area. In warm, dry climates, a few hours is potentially enough. If you live in a humid zone with cooler temperatures, particularly if it’s overcast, you might need to wait a day or more before moving forward.

6. Apply Primer

Once the deck is dry, it’s time to apply primer. Choose an exterior primer, either going with a product designed specifically for going over a stain or a bonding primer that offers exceptional adhesion and strong stain blocking.

Review the manufacturer’s instructions to see how many coats are recommended. Begin by applying primer between the deck boards. A foam brush is potentially a strong choice. Just make sure it fits comfortably in the gap without much force.

Then, apply the first coat to the surface using a paint sprayer, if available, to get even results. You can also try a foam roller or paint brush if you don’t have access to a sprayer.

Refer to the manufacturer’s directions regarding how long to wait before applying any additional coats. Once the last coat is in place, wait the recommended amount of time to ensure the primer is dry before moving on to the next step.

7. Paint the Deck

Paint Deck

After the primer is dry enough for painting, you’ll use a process similar to what’s outlined above to apply the coats of paint. Choose an exterior paint designed for decking or high-traffic, high-contact surfaces. Begin with the areas between the deck boards before moving onto the surface of the boards.

In most cases, using a paint sprayer for the surface is preferred, as it results in an even, thin coat and is quicker than most alternatives. However, you can also use a clean roller or paintbrush.

Refer to the paint manufacturer’s instructions regarding the number of coats and wait times between each one. Then, apply the additional coats using the same process. At that point, you can wait for the paint to dry completely.

8. Seal the Deck

Once the paint is dry, you can seal the deck. Sealing lets you apply a protective, durable coating to the top, which helps keep your paint in the best possible shape.

Select a sealer designed for decking and compatible with a painted surface. Review the manufacturer’s directions regarding preparation and application steps, as they can vary depending on the sealer you’re using.

Just make sure that you seal between your deck boards and on the surface. Additionally, apply the recommended number of coats to achieve the best possible protection.

Can You Paint Over Stain Without Sanding?

Generally, it’s ill-advised to paint over stain without sanding. The sanding part of the process slightly roughs up the surface, which helps primer and paint adhere. As a result, sand is wise if you want the best results.

However, you can potentially skip the sanding phase if you use the correct primer. Some bonding primers may adhere well without sanding. Still, most manufacturers recommend sanding first for a reason, so keep that in mind.

What Kind of Paint to Use on a Wood Deck?

When painting a deck, you want to choose an exterior paint designed for high-traffic surfaces. Many brands have paint lines specifically for surfaces like porches, patios, and decks, making them an excellent place to start. There are water- and oil-based products on the market, so choose the one most compatible with the stain and primer you’re using.

Best Way to Remove Old Stain from a Deck Before Painting

If you need to remove the old stain from a deck, you must adjust your approach depending on the type of stain. For solid wood stain, using a deck stripper is potentially enough. Solid deck stain is non-penetrating, so deck strippers can break down the materials in stain, making it easier to remove.

With semi-transparent or transparent deck stain, you can also use a deck stripper. However, sanding afterward is often necessary, as not all color may come out if you use a deck stripper alone.

Even if all of the stain comes up after using a deck stripper, that doesn’t mean sanding isn’t a smart move. Sanding ensures that primer and paint can adhere strongly to the surface, which leads to greater longevity. As a result, it’s always a wise idea to sand, regardless of whether all the stain comes off after applying the deck stripper.

Is Painting a Deck a Good Idea?

Painting a deck is a potentially good idea. Paint offers better protection in some cases, as it completely covers the wood. Plus, it can fill gaps and thin cracks, allowing you to hide flaws. You also get far more color options, which is appealing to many. Make sure you prepare the surface and apply the primer, paint, and sealer correctly, leading to even, long-lasting results.

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