How to Remove Paint From Deck

You may not have noticed your deck much during the cooler months of winter. But once the warmth and sunshine roll in, you’re likely to start spending your free time out on the deck. This is when it hits you; your deck isn’t looking so great anymore.

If the paint on your deck requires updating or you just want a whole new look, you need to remove the old paint so you can get a fresh start. But how do you remove that old paint?

The most effective way to remove paint from a deck is a combination of a paint stripper, pressure washer, and some good old fashioned elbow grease.

  1. Prep the deck and surrounding areas for paint removal
  2. Apply paint stripper to the deck
  3. Allow time for the paint stripper to work
  4. Use a pressure washer to remove the old paint once the stripper starts to lift it
  5. Sandpaper or a heat gun can get the paint off of stubborn areas
  6. Repeat the process if there’s still leftover paint

How to Remove Paint From Deck

Can You Paint Over Old Paint on Deck?

When you’re looking at your deck and all that old paint, the first question you’re likely to ask yourself is: do I need to remove all that old paint before I repaint it? Removing all that paint will be a lot of work and quite time-consuming. But is it necessary?

It depends on the state of your deck’s existing paint.

When you repaint your deck, what’s most important is that the new paint adheres to the deck for a long-lasting and permanent coat. Luckily, paint can adhere to paint just fine. But the caveat is that the paint you wish to cover needs to be in good shape.

If the existing paint is cracked, peeling, chipped, or has any other similar issues, then the new paint won’t adhere properly and you’ll end up with a new coat of paint with the same set of problems.

But that doesn’t mean you need to remove every inch of paint from your deck. If you’re planning to repaint, then you only need to remove the paint that is questionable. This includes any paint that’s peeling, chipping, cracking, etc.

To remove those areas of paint, you’ll want to follow the same instructions as we’re going to cover below for stripping paint from an entire deck. But you’ll only need to perform the paint removal on the areas where the existing paint is showing wear and will affect the new paint.

Best Way to Remove Paint From Wood Deck

When you’re ready to start stripping the paint from your wooden deck so you can give it a new life, you have two main methods of paint removal you can choose from. One method relies on chemicals and elbow grease; the other method relies mainly on mechanical tools like a pressure washer or sander with no chemicals. Either method will work. Which one you choose will depend on how you feel about the use of harsh chemical paint strippers.


If you don’t have a power sander or a pressure washer available, then chemical paint strippers offer an easy way to remove the old paint from your deck. These are easy to use, inexpensive, and available at home improvement and hardware stores everywhere.

To use a paint remover, you’ll need first to read the directions on the bottle. Following the directions closely, you’ll apply the stripper to the deck. Don’t be skimpy, but don’t flood the deck either.

After applying the paint stripper, you’ll need to give it some time to work and begin lifting the paint. Usually, 10-15 minutes should suffice, but the instructions on your paint remover will give you specific times to follow.

Once the stripper has had time to work, you’ll need to remove the paint. It should be soft and no longer bonded to the wood, so it won’t be too difficult. If you do have a pressure washer available, it can make short work of this. If not, you’ll need to use a hard-bristled scrub brush and scrub the loose paint from the deck.

Next, use your hose to thoroughly rinse the deck, taking care to spray off any particles of loose paint. At this point, you should be able to see all the grain of your wood clearly, but there may still be a tint of the old paint color left behind. To remove it completely, you’ll need to repeat the process.

Deck stripping

Paint Strippers

If you’re going the chemical route, you’ll quickly realize that there are many different paint remover chemicals on the market. It can seem overwhelming at first, but you can boil all the different strippers down to two main types: gel-based and liquid strippers.


Gel-based paint strippers can sometimes be easier to work with than liquids because they’re so much thicker and not as runny. This makes the gel easier to apply and allows it to remain moist longer so it can lift more paint layers in a single application. Gel-based strippers are the better bet for removing oil-based paints that are generally more difficult to remove than latex or water-based paints.

Liquid Paint Stripper

Liquid paint strippers can be a bit harder to apply then gel-based ones because they’re thin and runny. But they also clean up easier since they evaporate much faster. They’re the perfect solution for latex and water-based paints, though liquid strippers can generally only lift one to two layers of paint at a time.


  • The chemicals do most of the work for you
  • Doesn’t require any special tools
  • Inexpensive


  • You’ll still have to scrub the loose paint
  • Exposure to harsh chemicals


Not everyone likes the idea of being exposed to the harsh chemicals that make up effective paint removers. If you’re in this boat, don’t worry. You can still remove the paint from your deck without those harsh chemicals by enlisting the help of some power tools, namely a pressure washer or an electric sander.

When opting for a mechanical method of paint removal instead of using paint strippers, you’ll be replacing the work of the stripper with some old fashioned hard labor. Luckily, the power tools should do most of the work for you, so it won’t be too difficult. Let’s take a look at each of the methods of mechanical paint removal.

Pressure Washer

Removing paint from deck

Pressure washers are great for taking the top layer off of just about anything, but you need to be careful when using them on wood. The amount of water pressure used by a pressure washer can easily damage the wood of your deck.

Likewise, it can force water into the wood, which can later cause rot, mold, mildew, or other issues. To prevent this, you’ll want to limit the amount of pressure you use. Generally speaking, you won’t want to go over 1,000 PSI when using your pressure washer on your deck.


  • Requires very little physical labor
  • Doesn’t require any harsh chemicals


  • Can be expensive if you don’t already have a pressure washer
  • Can damage your deck if you’re not careful


Stripping a deck

Not everyone has access to a pressure washer but many people do have access to an electric sander. If you don’t, they’re much more affordable than a pressure washer.

A sander will take a bit more physical work on your part than a pressure washer. You’ll have to get down on your hands and knees and physically sand every inch of the deck that you want paint removed from. But you won’t have to push hard; just let the sander do all the hard work.

On the bright side, there’s no chance of water damage when using a sander. But you could easily sand all the texture off of your decking boards, which can make for a slick surface once you repaint!


  • Sanders are inexpensive
  • Many people have access to a sander already
  • No harsh chemicals required


  • Might remove the texture from your decking boards
  • Requires more physical effort

How to Remove Paint From Wooden Deck

How to remove paint from decking

So far, we’ve discussed mechanical and chemical methods for removing paint from your deck. While both are effective, the truth is, your best results will likely come from combining both methods.

So, how are we going to do this? It’s quite simple.

We’re going to use the paint stripper to soften and lift the old paint. Then, we’re going to use the pressure washer to help remove all the loose, old paint in the fastest and most efficient way possible. Then, we’re going to tackle any stubborn, leftover spots of old paint with some additional tips that will ensure you’re able to remove every speck of old paint from your deck.

What You Will Need

The first step is to gather all of your materials and tools. Here’s the basic list of all the items you’ll require:

Deck Preparation

Before you can apply any stripper, you need to prep your deck. The most important part of prepping your deck is covering any surfaces you don’t want the stripper to come in contact with.

Make sure to cover railings, nearby walls, doors, glass windows, and even plants. Cover them with a tarp and ensure that the stripper won’t get on them even when you spray off the old paint with a pressure washer.

Apply Paint Stripper

Once the deck is prepped and all surfaces you don’t want to be exposed to the paint stripper are covered, you’re ready to start using the stripper.

If using a liquid stripper, you can use it in a pressurized sprayer for fast, easy application. Gel strippers are usually too thick for a sprayer though, so you’ll have to apply them by hand.

Apply the stripper evenly to the entire deck. Following the directions on the bottle, allow ample time for the stripper to begin lifting off the old paint. This usually takes about 10-15 minutes.

Remove Paint From Deck With Pressure Washer

removing paint from deckingAfter the stripper has had some time to work its magic, you should notice that the paint looks soft and likely is starting to bubble up. This means it’s ripe for removal.

Using your pressure washer, spray off the old paint. Be careful not to use too much pressure when you’re doing this. At most, you want to use 1,000 PSI. Higher pressure can damage your decking boards and force water inside of them, which can cause rot down the line.

Use the 15-degree (yellow-colored) or the 25-degree (green-colored) nozzle and keep the tip 16 inches away from the wood.

Be methodical as you move across the deck. Start in one area, being sure to spray off every bit of loose paint before moving onto the next area. You should be spraying an area that’s about 4’x4’ before moving onto the next area.


Remove Deck Paint With Sander

sanding paint off wood deckIf you have some stubborn areas of old paint that don’t seem to want to come off with the pressure washer, you can usually get them pretty easily with an electric belt sander. You could also use in place of the pressure washer since the sander is more affordable and will work nearly as effectively.

While there are many types of electric sanders, belt sander like Skil Sandcat is the best option. They can hit a large area at once and they work very quickly, allowing you to make a lot of progress in a short time. This sander even has pressure control technology to prevent you from pressing too hard and damaging your decking boards. Plus, it’s got a dust canister to collect the mess and an auto-track system that ensures the sanding belt always stays centered.

Heat Gun

Even after applying a paint stripper, pressure washing off the old paint, and using a belt sander on the stubborn spots, you could still have some areas of old paint that simply refuse to be eradicated. So, what do you do about these diehard paint spots? You bring in the big guns; a heat gun.

remove deck paintOk, so they’re not very big. But they are effective! Of course, you certainly wouldn’t want to use a heat gun to attempt paint removal for your entire deck. But if you’re just trying to get off the final stubborn spots of old paint, a heat gun can be the magic wand you need to finally break the paint’s bond and banish it forever.

Heat gun from SEEKONE is a great choice. It uses an impressive 1800 watts to reach temperatures of up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit! Also included are several different nozzles that will allow you to customize the way you’re using the heat.

This makes it easy to concentrate your efforts on a small area, heating the paint until it no longer adheres to your decking boards, and then scraping it off with a brush or putty knife. It’s affordable, easy to use, and might be the only solution for the most stubborn flecks of old paint.

Apply a Brightener or Neutralizer

After using all those harsh chemicals on your decking boards, their pH levels will be all over the place. By neutralizing the pH of the boards with a deck brightener or neutralizer, you’ll be protecting your decking from future issues of rot, mold, and worse.

Plus, these chemicals can also bring back a lot of the wood’s natural color, brightening it up and making natural wood finishes look much richer. This step isn’t necessary, but it can go a long way towards protecting your deck and making your new deck finish look as luxurious as possible.

Best Paint Remover for Wood Deck

If you check your local home improvement store or just do a quick internet search for paint removers, you’ll see that there are tons of options available. But this can make things a bit overwhelming. Which product is best?

For a complete breakdown of the best paint removers for wood decks, check out my article that goes in-depth on the subject. But if you don’t want to read another entire article and just want to know which stripper is going to serve you well, I’m going to quickly share two of my favorites. I’ve had great luck with both of these products and I’m confident that you will too.

Citristrip Paint and Varnish Stripping Gel

best way to remove paint from wood deckWhile most paint strippers smell like the harsh chemicals they’re made of, the Citristrip paint and varnish stripping gel is an exception. Instead, it produces a pleasant citrus scent with no harmful fumes. It’s free of harsh chemicals such as methylene chloride, so it’s entirely safe for indoor use.

This stripper is excellent when used on wood surfaces, but it can also be used on metal and masonry just as effectively. The gel formula allows this stripper to remain active for a full day, which means it can continue stripping until many layers of paint have been lifted. This reduces the number of applications necessary, making it much faster to remove the paint from your deck.

SmartStrip Advanced Paint Remover

removing paint from deckingThe SmartStrip Advanced Paint Remover is another highly-effective paint stripper. It’s non-carcinogenic, free of harsh chemicals such as methylene chloride, and is even safe for the environment with an entirely biodegradable formula. Since it’s water-based, SmartStrip is completely odor-free; one of the only paint strippers without a detectable scent.

Entirely free of VOCs, SmartStrip is safe for indoor use. But that doesn’t mean it’s not strong! This stripper can remove as many as 15 coats of paint in a single application, making it one of the toughest, hardest-working paint removers on the market.


Though it seems like a daunting task on the surface, removing the old paint from your deck doesn’t have to be as difficult as it first appears. By enlisting the help of some powerful allies such as paint strippers, pressure washers, and even belt sanders, you can make the job much easier and you’ll have a new-looking deck in no time. Just remember to be patient, allow the stripper plenty of time to soften the old paint, and don’t go too heavy with the water pressure.

If this article provided you with useful information, please consider sharing it so that others can find this information as well. For questions and comments left in the comments box below, I’ll do my best to respond to them as quickly as possible.

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