A Comprehensive DIY Guide on How to Restore a Deck

A brown wooden deck surrounded by trees

Outdoor living has become one of the most popular trends for home developers. Decks are a great way to expand your living space and increase the value of your home. They can also help you hold great outdoor barbeque parties! It can take a bit of practice to learn how to restore a deck, but it can save you a ton of time and money.

You don’t need to be a DIY guru to spruce up your deck. All you need is the right safety and restoration equipment and a desire to revive your old deck.

We have provided a complete DIY guide on how to restore a deck in this article to help you properly care for your property. We recommend that the first things you assemble are the safety equipment such as gloves, masks or respirators and water-proof high-boots. This guide involves working with potentially harmful chemicals, so we need to take the proper precautions. Here are the steps you need to follow to get your deck back in shape:

Step 1: Examine Your Deck

The first step in our guide on how to restore a deck is to take a detailed look around your deck and identify areas that need work. The most vulnerable parts of a deck are those that touch the ground. These can include stair stringers, posts, or joists.

Decks built with good-quality lumber, which is pressure-treated for ground contact, will have strong rot-resistance. Light-colored sapwood or redwood that is untreated has a higher chance of suffering from rot.

Check for rot by inserting a screwdriver into the wood. If it sinks, you have a case of rot on your hands. Rot that is less than half an inch does not need treatment.

If your deck is looking dirty and run down, you’ll need to deep clean and a good stain finish.

Step 2: Get it Ready for Restoration

Prepare to spruce up your old deck! Cover any areas or walls that aren’t a part of your deck to prevent them from being damaged by your cleaning solutions.

Remove anything that you have stored beneath your deck and cover any plants as well.

Step 3: Make Necessary Repairs

Replace any floorboards that have been ruined by rot. Use a flat pry bar to remove rotten wood boards and replace them with pressure-treated wood resistant to rot. Make sure to use the same colored wood as your deck and leave the same amount of space as there is between the original wood boards.

Avoid hammering down on any nails that are coming loose. Take them out safely and replace them with long, special decking nails.

The fasteners that attach the deck to your house can become loose  over time. Tighten them and check the flashing for any rust or dents. Make sure that damp isn’t creeping into your house.

If you have damaged joists, cover them with a thick coat of transparent sealer. Do this twice while leaving time in between for the first coating to dry. Then cut out the reinforcement joist from the rot-proof wood. Coat the reinforcing joist with sealer and let it dry out. Tightly attach the reinforcement joist onto the damaged joist using long deck nails.

Step 4: Deep Clean Your Deck

The next step in our guide on how to restore a deck is to clean it thoroughly. Use a leaf blower and a broom to get rid of dirt and leaves from your deck.

Now that you’ve cleared away the larger debris, there are 2 paths that you can take depending on your situation:

Stained Decks

If your deck was previously stained, you will need to remove the stain to clean it deeply.

Put on your gloves, rubber boots and goggles. Fill a pump sprayer with your stripping agent of choice and spray it generously on to your deck. Let it sit for around 15 minutes before using a hard-bristled broom to scrub the stripper into the deck. Once you are satisfied that the stain has been removed, rinse the deck.

Rent or buy a power washer. Set the pressure at 800 to 1,200 psi and blast it onto the deck. Make sure the nozzle is at an arc of around 45 degrees. Keep rinsing until you wash off the solution.

Unstained Decks

If your deck has not been stained, you will need to scrub it thoroughly. There are lots of cleaning agents available on the market or you can opt for a DIY solution! Please remember to take the right safety measures when handling these chemicals as they can be harmful to your health. With that being said, here are some options:

  • Oxalic acid: This is usually used after a bleach-based cleanser as it is ineffective against mildew. It can work well against tannins and iron stains.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: Add sodium percarbonate to water to create a solution that is effective as a detergent to clean dirt and mildew.
  • Chlorine bleach: Mix chlorine bleach with an ammonia-free detergent for a solution that can clean dirt, mildew and other stains. Deep rinse the deck after using this as it can be potentially damaging if left on the wood.
  • DIY solution: Add 1 qt. of household bleach and 1/3 cup of powdered ammonia-free detergent to water in a 5-gallon bucket. You can use a brush to scrub this solution onto your deck.

Rinse using a power washer with 800 to 1,200 psi of pressure. Leave the deck to dry overnight.

Optional Step: Sand the Deck

If you notice that your deck isn’t as smooth as you want, sanding would be the next step. You can use a floor sander machine or a sanding pole with low-grit sandpaper to sand the entire deck.

Look at which way the grain of your deck goes and follow it. Sanding against the grain can cause ugly scratches. Once this is done, brush the dust away using a broom.

Step 5: Choose the Appropriate Stain

Our next step is to choose the right stain to finish your deck. We would recommend that you avoid using paint on decks as they tend to peel and flake. Stains are made explicitly for decks and are a lot more durable.

There are three different types of stains you can choose from:

Transparent Stains

Transparent stains provide the most beautiful finish out of all the stains as they are able to show off every detail and grain of your wood. However, they also have the shortest lifespan out of the three types. Transparent stains are perfect for new decks that have great looking wood.

Semi-transparent stains

Semi-transparent stains contain a higher concentration of solids, so they can haze out your wood grain. However, they provide better protection and last a longer time than transparent stains. We recommend you use these when restoring an old deck.

Solid stains

Solid stains resemble paints because it completely covers the wood of your deck. They have the most extended lifespan out of the three types of stains. However, we don’t recommend it because they can ruin the authentic look of your deck.

Within these types, there are both oil-based and water-based options to choose from. We recommend oil-based stains as they absorb well and are generally known to have better results.

Step 6: Apply the Stain

This is the final step in our guide on how to restore a deck. Begin this process after 3 or 4 days after the cleaning process to allow any remaining water to dry. Sweep the deck with a brush or use a leaf blower before staining.

One optional step is to use a sprayer to spread the stain onto your deck. This method is fast as you can then move your roller and brush faster to cover for any cracks or spread puddles. Start spraying on an inside corner and working out from there.

The more traditional method involves using a roller and paintbrush. Pour the mixture out into a paint tray. Apply your first coat of stain using a roller across the whole deck. Use the brush to reach areas where the roller is unable to spread the stain. Make sure that you keep the edge of your brush wet. You can apply as many coats as you wish but apply them while the stain is wet.

Lastly, you can choose to apply a transparent water repellant once the stain has dried.

While you’re restoring your deck, we recommend that you also consider refurbishing your old furniture as decoration. Now that you know how to restore a deck, put your DIY hat on and breathe life into your worn-down deck to return it to its former glory!


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