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Deck Makeover, Part I – Prepping a Pressure-Treated Deck for Stain

Today I’m sharing my steps for prepping a pressure-treated deck for stain.  I had grand plans for the lakehouse exterior this summer: paint the exterior house doors and the garage doors aqua, paint the house exterior and garage exterior nearly-black, paint the guesthouse door and trim, stain the main deck, stain the guesthouse deck, and avoid gardening at all cost.

I think that I was most successful at avoiding gardening.  I did, however, also manage to slap a coat of grey stain on the deck just before the cold weather set in.  Whew – just under the wire!  It proved surprisingly tricky to find a suitably sunny stretch of days in which to stain the deck.  You never realize how much rain you’re getting until you need a minimum of three sunny days in a row.  I naively thought the deck might take a couple of days to prep and stain, but in the end our schedule looked more like this:

Day One: Prep the deck (instructions below) – Hubby and I worked together.
Days Two-Six: Wait for the weather to clear up.
Day Seven: Sunny day! Stain the railings, part of the stairs, part of one bench – Hubby and I worked together but got so little done.
Days Eight-Twelve: Vacation (poorly planned).
Day Nineteen: Finally, another sunny day! Stain the main area of the deck – Me alone, sigh.
Day Twenty: Finish up the other bench and stairs – Mom took Hubby’s place on deck duty with me.
Days Twenty One-Twenty Two: Soak my finger in epsom salt to help release a super deep, super large splinter.
Day Twenty-Three: It worked!!  The epsom salt was incredibly stingy, but softened the skin and brought the sliver to the surface for removal.  Oh yeah, and the deck looks okay too.

Currently I still need to touch up a few areas but it’s been so cold at night that I’m worried it won’t dry properly.  All in all, it took four days of actual labour to prep and stain the deck – three of those days required two hands on deck (sorry, couldn’t resist).  I really think the deck could use a second coat, but I can always add another coat in the spring.  I’ll show you the finished deck soon, but first we need to mow the lawn because we’ve “forgotten” to do that for the past four weeks and it’s looking really disheveled.  After what we did to the front yard, I can’t show you the back yard in its current state.  I just can’t.  In the meantime, here are the details on prepping a pressure-treated deck for stain.  And hey, dragging out the deck staining story will really help draw you, the reader, in and recreate the frustrating, delayed gratification I experienced as this task dragged on and on.  This is an advanced creative writing technique, I’m sure of it.

Before we did any type of surface prep, we removed the step leading from the house to the deck.  When the railing had been added for the elderly former occupant, the stairs had been cut to accommodate it.  The railing was a hassle and an eyesore for us, but to remove it we had to jettison the entire step.  We plan to re-build it and will stain it to match the deck (if possible).

In the photo above, and the truly incriminating photo below (I stopped feeding them last year, I promise), you can also see how weathered and sad the deck was.

Our deck is pressure-treated wood that was installed about 13 years ago.  New pressure treated wood can have a high moisture content and needs to dry out properly before staining/painting, but because ours was so old that wasn’t a concern.  It was treated with some kind of clear finish, but had really taken a beaten and much of the finish had worn off.  The wood was very dry and weathered, with some discoloration.  Pressure-treated wood can have a green tint, but it also seemed like we also had some mildew.  It was advised that we sand the whole thing by the pros at Canadian Tire but that seemed like soooo much work, so we made the executive decision to skip sanding.  Instead, we scrubbed extra thoroughly using the deck cleaner they recommended.

After the step was removed, I swept the deck really well but because our deck was built with the boards rammed up against each other (dude who built this house did not understand wood expansion), a lot of debris was stuck in the crevice between the boards.  After my best sweeping attempt, I used Rez Deck Cleaner to clean and prepare the deck for staining.  This deck cleaner cleans, brightens, and restores weathered wood surfaces.  I learned that the grey tinge of weathered wood is actually a layer of dead wood fibers that need to be removed, which this cleaner does.  If our deck had previously been stained a different colour, I could have used Rez Deck Stripper instead (but I probably wouldn’t have been so glib about skipping sanding).  The type of wood, its condition, whether it’s been stained/treated before, if it’s weathered, etc., all impact the best course of action for prepping a deck so make sure to chat with a pro at your local paint department for advice tailored to your deck if refinishing it is on your to-do list.

If using a deck cleaner like this one is part of the preparation system recommended for you, here’s my experience for prepping a pressure-treated deck for stain:

Steps for Prepping a Pressure-Treated Deck for Stain:

  • Put on thick rubber gloves, rubber boots, and eye protection
  • Protect vegetation by hosing it down with water (keep pets away)
  • Wet the deck with a hose
  • Dilute the deck cleaner, as per the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Using a mop, broom, or paint roller, slop on the cleaner evenly and let it sit for 15 minutes
  • [Optional, but I did this] re-apply the deck cleaner to keep the deck wet
  • After another 15 minutes, scrub with a rough bristled brush
  • My tip: keep a bucket of water nearby to clean your bristle brush of goo
  • Rinse thoroughly with a hose
  • Allow to dry for at least 24 hours before applying stain

At first it didn’t seem like it was working, but when I started scrubbing with my brush I realized that a lot of grey goo and film was coming off.  My water bucket was immediately filthy so I kept re filling it to make cleaning off the brush easier.  I scrubbed and scrubbed and rinsed and rinsed (the 3.78 L jug was more than enough for our deck).  I didn’t use a pressure washer because I was advised that it could soak the wood too much, so I just used a garden hose.  It worked out well because I initially tried to stealthily steal my Dad’s pressure washer but his theft-deterrent practice is to store pieces of his tools and equipment elsewhere, and without the missing piece we couldn’t use it so stealing it seemed futile.  We were actually looking for the piece for so long, that he came home and caught us red-handed so we politely hauled it back to the garage and added a pressure washer to our sale watch list at Canadian Tire.

After cleaning, the deck did look much brighter and much less grey.  Not that Szuka gives a damn.  She gets a little peeved anytime we have the gall to go outside without her.

The deck definitely absorbed the stain nicely, so I think the cleaning process was a success – although only time will tell how the stain holds up and whether or not it begins to peel.  I’ll share the completed deck makeover soon (you caught a sneak peek on Instagram).  Provided we don’t get snow this week, I may have an aqua patio chair makeover to go with it.

Disclosure:  I partnered with Canadian Tire for this project.  I was not asked or prompted to provide a positive review of any products used for preparing or staining the deck.



  1. Rick
    September 18, 2014 / 5:47 pm

    That is one beautiful deck!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      September 19, 2014 / 7:06 pm

      Awww, thanks! Wait until you see it stained! I just wish it was constructed differently because with the boards rammed together the water really sits and pools on the surface, which won't help us avoid wood rot. I'll have to be diligent about protecting the wood annually. Already the water beads up much more thanks to the coat of stain.

  2. Haley
    September 18, 2014 / 6:16 pm

    I love that picture of the fox with the lake in the background. It's always surprising how long a DIY project takes when I think it will only take a day.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      September 19, 2014 / 7:09 pm

      I really think that all reno supplies should come with a warning: This will take at least BLANK days. You've been warned.

  3. Mark G
    September 19, 2014 / 9:50 am

    You have a beautiful house. I really love to have a house near the lake 🙂

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      September 19, 2014 / 7:10 pm

      Thank you. We really enjoy living on the lake, although there are some drawbacks we didn't think about. I'm also becoming a bit reclusive – I hate leaving!

  4. cred
    September 19, 2014 / 3:54 pm

    Wow, that's a big job. We have to do the same but we need a new nozzle for our pressure washer. We have algae on ours that has to come off and then, yes, days of sun to dry out before staining. We used the pressure washer on the weathered deck of our old house and ther wasn't a problem with moisture in the wood- just let it dry well. I've never used the Rez deck wash but we used Rez stain on the decks and had a problem with it (although it was on the new deck on the front not the pressure washed old deck). The stain wore right off of the high traffic areas in the first season. I could tell it wasn't the best quality stain as I applied it but we were going with the stain on sale. It was fine on the fence, I just wouldn't recommend it for foot traffic. Looking forward to seeing the finished deck.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      September 19, 2014 / 7:11 pm

      That's terrible about the Rez stain! I'm using a different brand of stain, but I was pleased with the cleaner. I'm learning that with paint and stain it does pay to purchase a more expensive brand – normally the price correlates with quality. Thanks for sharing your review of the stain – that's great to know!

  5. Dora C
    September 19, 2014 / 4:31 pm

    Your deck looks amazing Tanya!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      September 19, 2014 / 7:12 pm

      Thanks. It's so fun having a deck – we had concrete stones in the townhouse and they were so wibbly wobbly. A deck is awesome. But we're also learning that a deck means more work!

  6. Jen's Farmily
    September 21, 2014 / 7:25 pm

    We stained our lakehouse deck a couple years ago but I did a horrible job. I didn't get in between the boards so our deck looked striped. Seeing how much work you put into it makes me realize we, uh, probably took several shortcuts! (Which is probably why our white paint on the railing started to peel almost immediately!)

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      September 21, 2014 / 8:54 pm

      Oh, that's terrible! I am an awful short-cut taker but I'm learning (slowly, and the hard way) that prep work really pays off. Can you add another coat to the stain? Another coat might help even it out.

  7. Meagan Claire
    September 23, 2014 / 3:53 am

    The deck looks awesome! Good job.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      September 24, 2014 / 1:28 am

      Aww, thanks!

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