Here’s How Often You Should Stain Your Deck

Kate Erker
Written by Kate Erker
Updated June 9, 2022
Stain Your Deck
Photo: Mint Images / Mint Images RF / Getty Images

Here’s why a deck should be restained every two to three years (plus tips on how to maintain all that hard work)

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Staining your deck can improve its appearance, protect it from the elements, and keep it looking sharp. It’s an excellent alternative to painting your deck, but it does require some work and regular maintenance. Generally, you can expect to stain a deck every two to three years. Luckily, you can make your hard work last longer with a few tips.

When to Stain Your Deck

There are certain signs that indicate you should stain your deck. Here are some guidelines on when should plan to do it. 

Signs It’s Time to Re-Stain Your Deck

If your deck surface looks thin, worn, or patchy, that’s a good indicator it’s time to restain. Wood damage like warping and splintering is also a sign that staining is needed. If you see this, however, it’s probably a good bet to replace some boards before getting down to work. 

You can also do a simple water check to see if re-staining is needed. To do this, just pour a little water on your deck. If it beads up and rolls away, your deck is in good condition. If the water starts to absorb, maintenance is needed. 

When Is the Best Time of Year to Stain a Deck

Restaining a deck requires a dried out work surface. Because of this, fall is the ideal time to stain your deck. Spring and summer can get wet and humid, and winter brings temperatures too chilly for applying a stain. Aim for a few days of dry weather between 50° F and 90° F, and try not to stain in direct sunlight. It will make the stain dry before the wood can absorb it. 

Staining New Construction 

If your deck is brand new, you’ll want to stain it relatively quickly, but not right away. A new deck should cure about 30 days before staining, but that timeframe can vary based on materials used. Pressure-treated lumber should have at least six months to dry before a stain is applied. Kiln-dried lumber (most common) needs one to two months, and green lumber (wood that has just been cut) needs to dry out for one year per every inch of thickness before being stained.

How to Prep Your Deck for Staining

Table and chairs on deck
Photo: David Papazian / The Image Bank / Getty Images

If you don’t prep before you stain, you risk uneven coating and a stain that doesn’t protect as well as it should. Make sure your efforts pay off with a little groundwork before you get down to business. 

  • Wash your deck using a pressure washer or hose before staining to remove any existing debris.

  • Choose the right stain for your deck’s unique location.

  • Fill small holes and grooves with paint to eliminate cracks and splinters. Stains are very thin, so they won’t fill in or cover damage.

  • Consider shading your deck. Horizontal surfaces receive more sun exposure than vertical ones. If your deck sits in nearly full sun, you can extend the life of your stain (and further your deck’s protection) by adding shade from a large umbrella or pergola.

Tips to Maintain a Stained Deck

It’s hard work to stain a deck, so naturally you’ll want to preserve that smooth, even finish for as long as possible. Maintain your stain by inspecting your deck yearly, and following these three simple steps:

  1. Clear it: Shovel off snow, sweep away leaves, and remove debris on a regular basis. Build up could damage your deck’s surface.

  2. Clean it: Pressure wash your deck at least once a year, or use a hose and stiff-bristle brush to deep clean the wood, and watch out for mold and mildew.

  3. Cut it: Remove leaning plants, growing vines, lingering tree branches from the deck to avoid moisture traps. 

It’s also a good idea to protect your natural wood surface from the effects of outdoor furniture. Use recycled plastic rugs, relocate wet outdoor furniture covers, and wipe away wet spots or puddles on your deck regularly to reduce moss, rot, mold, or mildew.

Is Staining My Deck Worth It?

The short answer is yes. There are plenty of benefits to staining your deck and continuing to restain it every two to three years. 

  • Stain extends your deck’s lifespan. Whether your deck is newly installed or a little bit older, adding a stain can add years to its life. 

  • Stain preserves your deck’s look and feel. A stain can add color and life to your outdoor space.

  • Stain improves the function of your deck. Deck stains protect against water damage, rotting, and mold that can lead to loose and dangerous wood boards.   

  • Stain saves money in the long run. You can stain your deck yourself or you hire a deck staining pro near you. The average cost to stain a deck is around $700 and will vary based on the size of your deck, the stain you choose, and whether cleaning or other prep work is involved.

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