Refinish Your Wood Deck in 7 Easy Steps

Lounge chairs on a wooden deck by the ocean
Getty Images

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 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.


Watch Now: Watch Now: Easy Tips for Sanding a Wood Deck Before Refinishing

  • 01 of 07

    Inspecting the Deck Surface

    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.

  • 02 of 07

    Light Cleaning of the Deck Surface

    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.

  • 03 of 07

    Deep Cleaning by Power Washing

    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 than 1200-1500 psi. Even then be very careful.

  • 04 of 07

    Sanding the Deck After Power Washing

    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.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Selecting the Stain and Deck Finish

    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 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.

  • 06 of 07

    Deck Stain Application

    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 two 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.
  • 07 of 07

    Finished Deck

    Now that your deck refinishing project is successfully completed, 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.