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How to Refinish a Wooden Deck

We love a wooden deck. They're timeless, functional, and provide homes with an outdoor space for relaxation and entertainment. However, over time, exposure to the elements can take a toll on wood, leaving your deck weathered and worn. Refinishing your wooden deck can feel like a significant undertaking. In reality, it's not that complicated. Still, to ensure a lasting investment, it's crucial to approach the process with care and consideration. Here's how to go about refinishing your wood deck.

The Importance of Refinishing

First, let's talk about why refinishing is important. Over time, weather and normal wear can compromise the integrity of any stain or sealant. Properly cared for, a wooden deck can endure for years, but neglecting regular maintenance can result in a worn-out appearance and structural issues. After a while, refinishing becomes a necessity to protect your investment, prevent deterioration, and extend the life of your deck.

wooden deck with rain covering it. wet wood. refinishing a deck

Technically speaking, the process of refinishing is not that, hard. And while the allure of a DIY project is undeniable, refinishing a wooden deck is not without its challenges. Many homeowners embark on the journey armed with good intentions but lack the expertise to navigate the nuances of the process. This often leads to subpar results, disappointment, and the need for more extensive repairs down the line.

If you're feeling nervous about your prospects, enlisting the expertise of a deck refinishing consultant can make a significant difference. These professionals offer objective insights without the pressure of selling specific products. A consultant can assess the current state of your deck, advise on the most suitable refinishing options, and guide you toward a cost-effective approach that aligns with your vision. That said, here's how to give it a go yourself if you're feeling handy.

1. Assess the Condition of Your Wooden Deck

Before diving into the refinishing process, it's essential to assess the current condition of your deck. Inspect for signs of rot, mold, loose boards, and protruding nails. Understanding the underlying issues will help you determine the scope of the project and whether any repairs are necessary before refinishing. If everything looks to be in good shape and there's no evidence of peeling or thinning stain or sealant, considering revisiting a refinish next season instead.

2. Choosing the Right Materials

Assuming refinishing is a go, it's time to choose your materials. Selecting the right refinishing gear is a critical step in ensuring the longevity of your deck. This could include renting or buying a power washer and sander, selecting the right sandpaper grit, and choosing your new wood finish. Consult with experts at your local home improvement store or a deck refinishing consultant to choose a high-quality deck stain or sealant that suits your deck's wood type and environmental conditions.

3. Do Your Prep Work

Preparation is key to a successful deck refinishing project. Begin by thoroughly cleaning the deck surface to remove dirt, mildew, and old finishes. Power washing is often recommended, but it's crucial to use the appropriate pressure to avoid damaging the wood. Allow the deck to dry completely before proceeding to the next steps.

4. Sanding

sanding a wooden deck

Sanding is an often overlooked but crucial step in the deck refinishing process. It helps smooth the surface, remove any remaining old finish, and open up the wood pores for better stain penetration. Use a power sander or sandpaper, starting with a coarse grit and gradually progressing to finer grits for a smooth finish. Different kinds of wood may require different sand paper grits. Your local hardware store should be able to help you decide what grit makes the most sense for your project.

5. Applying the Stain or Sealant

Once sanding is done and the wood is clean and free of any lingering debris or dust, it's time to seal in all your hard work. When refinishing a wooden deck, you have two main options to choose from–stain and sealant. Choosing between a deck stain and a sealant depends on your preferences and the level of protection your deck needs. A stain enhances the natural beauty of the wood while providing UV protection, while a sealant forms a protective barrier against moisture and the elements. Some products combine both stain and sealant properties for added convenience.

Applying the chosen deck finish requires attention to detail and adherence to proper techniques. Use a paintbrush, roller, or sprayer, depending on the product and your preferences. Ensure even coverage, and pay special attention to areas with heavy foot traffic and constant exposure to the elements.

6. Allow Time to Dry

refinishing a wooden deck

Now that you've gone through the effort to strip, sand, and stain/seal your deck, then last thing you want to do is ruin all your hard work. After applying finish, ensure that the deck has plenty of time to dry. Keep kids and pets away from the area, and try to time work in sunnier, dry windows. Rain can ruin a wet sealant as quickly as your kids' sneakers.

You'll Refinish Your Wood Deck Multiple Times

As much as we wish it was, refinishing your wooden deck is not a one-time task. Ongoing maintenance is crucial for preserving its beauty and structural integrity. Regularly inspect for signs of wear, reapply finish as needed, and address any issues promptly to prevent more extensive and costly repairs in the future. By understanding the importance of proper assessment, material selection, preparation, and ongoing maintenance, you can enjoy a beautifully refurbished wooden deck that stands the test of time.

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