Refinish Your Wood Deck in 7 Easy Steps

Do you have a wood deck that hasn’t felt the love in a long time? Is it peeling or a dull grey? Do you have a big social to-do planned at the house and want the deck to look its best? Then this is where you want to be!
In this series of tutorials, we'll show you in step-by-step detail and in clear photos what is involved in a professional looking deck refinishing job that you will be able to complete yourself. In a weekend or two, you can transform a drab tired old wood deck into a vibrant beautiful entertainment area.

  • 01 of 07

    Inspecting the Deck Surface

    sunny wooden deck with furniture
    Wooden deck. Chuck Schmidt/E+/Getty Images

    The first step in your deck restoration is to clean the deck of debris with a broom or power blower and visually check for any severely cupped, split or any rotting wood deck boards. If you find any, then these boards need to be replaced before the deck is refinished. It’s important to have a good solid surface and replacing a damaged deck board is pretty easy as I show you in the tutorial below.

  • 02 of 07

    Light Cleaning of the Deck Surface

    deck cleaner
    Oxugen based wood cleaner. © 2014

    If your deck is not painted but has a clear finish or transparent / semi-transparent wood stain, then you just need to clean it with a wood deck cleaner. The best cleaners are oxygen based wood cleaners effective in removing mildew stains and ultra-violet caused bleaching of the wood deck. These cleaner/brighteners will also clean the wood of dirt and deposits. In the following tutorial, we will show you how to use a wood deck cleaner for light duty cleaning.

  • 03 of 07

    Deep Cleaning by Power Washing

    deck cleaning
    Deck being cleaned with power washer. © 2014

    If your deck needs a deeper cleaning than a surface brightener, then the next step is using a power washer. These are great versatile tools that can be used for stripping the loose paint to etching bricks. It all depends on the pressure and tip you use.

    For deck cleaning, the pressure will vary depending on the deck board wood. You want to use as low a pressure as possible while still being effective. We recommend a fan-tip and pressure of about 500 psi to 600 psi for soft wood like cedar or pine. Harder woods may be able to handle higher pressure but no more that 1200-1500 psi. Even then be very careful. You can learn how to safely power-wash your wood deck in the tutorial below.

  • 04 of 07

    Sanding the Deck After Power Washing

    sanding a wood deck
    Sanding a Wood Deck is Usually Required After a Deep Power Washing. © 2014

    Once the deck boards are power washed the wood fibers will raise as they expand with water. After drying, wood fibers can often remain raised and may cause splinters. For a professional job, you need to plan on sanding your wood deck before staining and final finishing. We explain how to sand the deck in the following tutorial. In the tutorial, we’ll describe what you need to know to properly sand your wood deck and rails after power washing including what grit of sandpaper to use for best results.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Selecting the Stain and Deck Finish

    sikkens deck stain
    Sikkens deck stain.

    With the deck cleaned and sanded the pores of the wood are ready to receive their protective finish coat. This can be a stain and separate water repellent finish or a combination product.

    We recommend the use of a quality oil based penetrating exterior semi-transparent stain such as Sikkens. Make sure to confirm how the stain will look with your wood species before you buy since the actual color of the stain once applied may be different than the color product brochure or the can's label.

    In the following tutorial, we’ll explain how to pick the right brush such as natural china bristle brushes for staining the small areas like handrails and trim boards. The wood deck boards are best stained with a flat paint pad applicator which I’ll discuss in the next step.

  • 06 of 07

    Deck Stain Application

    deck being stained
    Deck stain application. © 2014

    You have sweated through the preparation and now can enjoy the satisfaction of seeing the deck take on new life as you apply the stain and finish. Some tips we can summarize here include:

    • It is very important to make sure the deck is dry for about 2 days without any rain on it before you proceed to stain the deck. Water in the pores of the wood will prevent proper absorption of the oil stain into the wood.
    • Select a quality penetrating oil based semi-transparent stain if you want the grain of the wood to show through.
    • Buy a solid opaque stain if you want the finish to look like paint. Just don't use paint.
    • DO: Make sure the stain or sealer is water repellent
    • DO NOT: Use clear finishes such as polyurethane or varnish as they will degrade under the sun's UV rays.

    The following tutorial will explain what tips and techniques for easily stain your wood deck and rails after power washing and sanding your deck.

  • 07 of 07

    Finished Deck

    finished wood deck
    Finished deck refinishing. © 2014

    Now that your deck refinishing project is successfully complete, al that is left before the party is the cleanup.


    One key area to responsibly manage is the disposal of flammable/oily rags used in the project.

    In the following tutorial, we will explain an easy technique of how to handle this issue.