How to Paint a Deck

Painting a Deck
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Decks are a great addition to a home, providing extra space for barbecuing, entertaining, and relaxing. But like anything around the home, this expensive investment must be properly maintained for it 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 in the form of 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 starts to cup, bow, split, or exhibit a raised grain, the only solution is to replace individual deck boards.

Painted 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 whose wood is in urgent need of care, or for decks that simply need a colorful freshening up, painting the deck is the best solution.

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

Limitations to Painted Decks

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 exceedingly difficult to strip decks of the many layers of paint. Even if you do manage to strip off the paint, you may damage much of the wood in the process.

When to Paint Your Deck

Paint the deck in the driest season that your area annually experiences. The best relative humidity (RH) levels for any exterior painting tend to be 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.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 2 hours (for 200 square feet)
  • Total Time: 4 to 6 days
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Material Cost: $100 to $200

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 porches and patios
  • Multi-surface primer and sealer
  • Sponge

Instructions

  1. Find Out How Much Paint to Buy

    Measure your deck's area by multiplying the length by width. Use a paint calculator to determine how much paint you should buy for this project.

  2. Purchase the Paint

    Buy the correct amount of 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 2 to 10 years.

  3. Wash the Deck

    If the deck cleaner is a concentrate, mix it up with water in the bucket. The deck cleaner is necessary in order to remove stains caused by dirt, mildew or algae. Many cleaners attach directly to the end of a hose. Spray on the deck cleaner and allow it to penetrate the surface.

  4. Pressure Wash the Deck

    Attach the hose to the pressure washer. Attach a wide spray tip to the end of the spray gun. Power wash the deck thoroughly to remove debris that has been loosened by the deck cleaner. 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.

  5. 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 from the side. 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 dry for four hours.

  6. 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.

Tips for Painting a Deck

  • 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.
  • Anti-skid additives can be added to the paint while mixing to provide a better grip for walking.
  • If painting over a previously painted deck, it is usually not necessary to remove all of the old paint. Instead, scrape off peeling paint and sand down any glossy paint that remains.