The elements do a number on unprotected wood. Rain and other wet weather can cause shrinking and swelling, which results in warping and cracking. Dry weather also does harm, fading the natural color of the wood and breaking it down. And damaged wood rolls out the red carpet for rot-causing fungi. Protect your wood by staining or painting it and perform other maintenance to keep it looking like new.
Staining vs. Painting Wood Decks
Each method has its considerations. For example, stain allows the grain and texture of wood to remain visible, how much is dependent upon the type you choose. You might choose a clear stain for new, attractive wood but a solid-color stain for older wood with blemishes and unsightly grain.
Staining a deck is easier work than painting, but you will need to reapply more frequently than with paint, every year as opposed to several. Also, depending on where you live you might need the additional protection paint offers from the elements.
Paint does require additional work to apply, as the wood must be properly prepped and sealed to get the longest-lasting results; you can often skip sealing with stain if you choose a weatherproofed product. Paint offers more color options than stain, though.
No matter which method you choose, be sure to use a stain or paint made specifically for wood decks.
The combined number of stain and paint colors available through Behr, Sherwin-Williams, Glidden and Benjamin Moore can be overwhelming, with stains available in nearly 300 different colors and paint in just about any color that a company offers for use elsewhere on the home. Check out this recent post on 2014 Stain Colors for leads to the best colors of the year.
Start by deciding between stain vs. paint, then consider your existing exterior paint colors and the architecture of your home. What color will work with both? Pick up as many examples as you need to at a local paint store or consult your professional painter, who can help narrow your choices to the perfect one as well as the right product for your environment. If you would like the stain or paint to last as long as possible, invest in high-quality products from these companies: WoodSmart by Behr, Deckscapes by Sherwin-Williams, Arborcoat by Benjamin Moore and Glidden Porch & Floor Paint are all good options.
Deck maintenance does not stop with a fresh coat of stain or paint. Actually, it starts before you apply a protectant and continues throughout the year. Start your maintenance year in the spring with a complete inspection. Look for nail pops, rough surfaces in need of sanding, damaged wood that requires replacement and loose railings. Make any necessary repairs before moving on to the next item on your to-do list: cleaning.
Cleaners made specifically for wood decks are available at your local home improvement store. You will find products from the likes of Benjamin Moore, Behr, and Sherwin-Williams for every stage of the project, from stripping to cleaning to restoring. While there, rent a pressure washer if you don’t own one and prefer not to scrub by hand. Be sure to follow the instructions provided to avoid damaging the wood, which can happen if you use the wrong nozzle size and settings.
As with any home improvement job of this scale, hiring a professional not only saves you time but money. Unless you have previous experience with this type of work, a professional painter can do the prep, application, and cleanup at a higher level of quality, resulting in restaining or repainting needing to be done less frequently.