How to Paint a Deck

Painting a Deck
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Overview
  • Working Time: 3 hrs
  • Total Time: 6 days - 1 wk
  • Yield: 200 square feet
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $100 to $200

Decks are a great addition to a home, providing extra space for barbecuing, entertaining, and relaxing. But like anything around the house, you must adequately maintain this expensive investment to last for the long term. Outdoor items such as siding, fences, and decks need an annual or bi-annual application of protective coatings since they bear the brunt of weathering by precipitation, wind, and sun. Missing one or two of these maintenance procedures can start a domino effect of deterioration that can be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse. Once the wood begins to cup, bow, split, or exhibit a raised grain, the only solution is to replace individual deck boards.

Preparation

Planning the days that you will be painting is essential. The best time of year to do the painting is before it gets too hot or too cold. Paint the deck in the driest season that your area annually experiences, and look at your weather forecast. The best relative humidity levels for any exterior painting are in the 40 to 50 percent range. Start early in the day, but not so early that the deck is still covered with dew. Avoid hot, direct sun as this causes the paint to dry too quickly. Measure the deck to calculate how much paint you'll need. And clean the deck surfaces before you start painting. A deck cleaner will remove stains caused by dirt, mildew, or algae.

Tip

If painting over a previously painted deck, it is usually unnecessary to remove all of the old paint. Instead, scrape off peeling paint and sand down any glossy paint that remains.

Safety Considerations

Since you're outdoors in a well-ventilated area, you won't need to wear a face mask, but to protect your eyes and skin from paint splatter, consider wearing goggles and gloves.

Regarding deck safety, since it is a walking surface, you might want to think about using an anti-skid additive. It is mixed into the deck paint to provide a better grip for walking.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Paintbrush
  • Roller
  • Roller cover
  • Water hose attached to a working faucet
  • Pressure washer
  • Deck cleaner
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Bucket screen
  • Extension pole
  • Extra clean bucket

Materials

  • Exterior paint specified for decks, porches, and patios
  • Multi-surface primer and sealer
  • Sponge

Instructions

  1. Calculate and Purchase the Paint You Need

    Measure your deck's area by multiplying the length by width. You can use our paint calculator to determine how much paint you should buy for this project. Buy paint based on the paint calculator's recommendation. If you already have paint on hand, make sure that it is still in good shape. Well-maintained acrylic latex paint can last between two and 10 years.

  2. Wash the Deck

    If the deck cleaner is a concentrate, mix it with water in the bucket according to the packaging directions. Many cleaners attach directly to the end of a hose. Spray on the deck cleaner and allow it to penetrate the surface.

  3. Pressure Wash the Deck

    Power wash the deck thoroughly to remove debris that the deck cleaner has loosened. Attach the hose to the pressure washer. Attach a wide spray tip to the end of the spray gun. Keep the end of the spray gun at least 18 inches away from the deck to avoid gouging the wood. Be sure to clean between the boards. Let the deck dry for at least two full days in warm, dry conditions.

  4. Apply Primer to the Deck

    It is necessary, not optional, to apply primer to the raw wood of a deck that you intend to paint. Begin with the brushwork. Dab the brush into the primer and force the brush between the deck boards. Work your way down the entire length of the deck, priming every seam between boards. Also, prime the sides of the deck boards and any areas that the roller cannot reach.

    Pour the primer into the 5-gallon bucket and hang the screen inside of it. With the telescoping rod attached to a roller fitted with a roller cover, lightly press the roller several times into the primer. Roll it out on the screen. Move the roller to the deck, covering the deck boards with primer and working backward. Let it dry for four hours.

  5. Apply Paint to the Deck

    Apply paint to the deck in the same way that you applied the primer. Apply two to three coats to the deck, leaving at least two days between each coat.

    Tip

    Because paint is about color, not just protection, you need to ensure color consistency. Use the paint-boxing technique for this. Pour several cans of paint into a clean 5-gallon bucket to achieve an average color between all cans.


Painted Decks vs. Sealed Decks

Applying penetrating stains and sealers is one way to protect the wood while displaying the wood's natural grain. But for decks with dingy wood or decks that need a colorful freshening up, painting the deck is the best solution. Painting can restore an old deck to like-new condition.

Paint lays down a thick, tough coat that penetrates the wood's underlying cellular structure. Plus, since you can mix paint into any color you choose, it is a highly flexible design element that can match your house or yard in many ways.

Once you paint your deck, you are more or less bound to this decision. If you later decide that you want the look of the natural grain back, it is difficult to strip a deck of many layers of paint. Even if you manage to strip off the paint, you may damage too much of the wood in the process.

How to Keep Paint Looking Fresh

It would be best to refinish decks every two to three years. Keep the paint you used for touch-ups throughout the years.