Re-staining A Deck In-Depth Guide

brown wood, discolored deck

Woodwork is a unique form and expression of art inspired by a functional need, desire to create a new masterpiece, or revamping a dear old wooden ornament or furniture. It’s a vast realm of different activities and crafts, each of which is a different ball game and has its own chapter and verse. One such type of woodcraft is re-staining a deck or wooden structure that has formerly undergone a staining procedure. Staining wood and giving it a specific color may sometimes not be any different than coloring your hair. Sometimes you may believe that brunette should be your next look, but once you get it done, you may find out that it does not suit you, and you’d be desperate to go blonde right that moment. But for that transition, you’d have to go through a formal procedure to attain your desired look.

In a similar fashion, you may end up disliking a stain or finish on your wood, which you’d have thought to be its best match, and would rather want to give it a different look altogether. But just like you need to follow a certain game plan to get the desired color in your hair (say, from brunette to blonde), you must know and follow through the right steps to give your wood the color you want them to wear. In other words, you must know the ins and outs of re-staining wood and follow them carefully to bring about the transition in color as per your preference.

In this article, we’ll be shedding light on all those things you must know for re-staining a deck.

An In-Depth Guide To Re-Stain Wood Decks

Re-staining, also known as refinishing, wood decks demand a specific protocol that you must adhere to get the desired color and finish to your wood. Refinishing or re-staining comes with a more elaborate technique. Why? Because the challenge in such a project is to transform the look and color of a wooden structure when it already has a different color sitting all over it.

Here is a breakdown of the entire process to re-stain a deck. If even you’re novice or new to the trade, this guide will touch on all the basics and will be a useful resource for all till the end of your re-staining project:

1. Prep Your Wood

The first thing you need to do is to prepare your wood for the refinishing project. Just like you prep your skin before putting on makeup or any other skin treatment, you’d have to treat your wood decks somewhat similar to that. So here is how you’re going to make your wood ready for the job:

a. Remove All The Hardware

So obviously, when you want to go through the whole process smoothly, you want to make sure there’s no other object coming your way. For example, let’s say you’re working to re-stain your work desk. So to begin, you must relocate all your stuff, the PC, work stationery, and all other objects present on the prospective surface.

After that, you should take out all the drawers and all other separate attachments and place them separately on the ground or on any other support object in your worksite. When you detach other extensions from your wooden structures (drawers from the work desk in this case), you can lay them flat on the ground and do the staining /re-staining in a much convenient way. This also ensures that no parts or small sides are missed from getting a touch of the stain. Once your desk is disassembled, you can move to the next step.

b. Clean The Surfaces

When you have all the hardware removed and parts detached, it’s time to give them a nice clean-up. Before you jump on to the re-staining part, you want to make sure there is no dust, dirt, or other debris on the wooden surfaces because you don’t want paint on top of the dirt and leave it sitting under the stain. Do you? So to clean everything up nicely, take a soft cotton cloth with a standard wood cleaner or simply some water and soap to wipe clean the entire surface of the desk and other attachments. If your wooden structure had been left unattended for too long and got a bit too dirty during all that time, you may want to give it several wipes to ensure there’s no stubborn dirt left.

Once all your surfaces are clean, take another dry cotton cloth and dry all the places, ensuring that no spot remains damp.

c. Protect Your Worksite And Hands

Whether you’re performing the process inside a designated workshop, in the middle of the house, or outside in the garden, cover up the surrounding area with a cloth sheet because stains can be stubborn and may perpetually leave scars that will damage your lawn’s grass even. So, be sure that all other parts of your worksite are covered up well because wood staining is a messy job and can wreak many things during the process if you don’t protect them beforehand.

While you take care of protection all over, don’t forget your hands. If you handle the stains with bare hands, your hands are bound to get stained and may remain so days to come, and besides, stains may hurt your skin if you’re sensitive to chemicals or you’re using an intense formula. Hence, wear a pair of rubber gloves because they’ll protect your hands from staining and be a better option for handling wood comfortably.

Now that you, your wood, and the surrounding area all ready to enter the process and brace the transition, it’s time to move to the next step.

2. Remove The Existing Stain (Conditional: If you want to go from a dark tone to a lighter one)

You can skip this step if you’re going for a darker shade on your wood that already has a lighter stain on it. However, if it’s the other way around and you want to transition to a lighter shade, removing the previous stain is mandatory. This step may also become necessary when your old surface has a lacquer topcoat which you’d have to strip away first.

 You can remove the old stain in two ways. Either you can go about it by sanding the target surfaces or strip the old stains off using a chemical stripper, also known as a paint stripper. Remember, you need to pick one method only to get rid of the old stain. Again, either you sand it or strip it off.

So when is it better to sand and when to strip off the stains?

Sanding Vs. Paint Strippers

Sanding is a good option only when:

  • You’re working on smaller surface areas.
  • You’re working on a medium-sized surface with no details.
  • You know how to do it properly.
  • You possess the required equipment.
  • You’re using a belt or disk sander as they remove the stains quickly. However, using an orbital sander or just your hand to remove the stain will drain you from the core. Make sure you don’t exert too much force, lest the wooden piece is ruined.
  • You want to remove a top coat done by lacquer.
  • You’re not sanding to remove varnish from designed curved and round areas like turned table legs.
  • You want to avoid chemicals for personal reasons.

In contrast to sanding, reasons to use a chemical/paint stripper to remove the previous stain would be:

  • To work with large surface areas.
  • For surfaces that are too sensitive to bear a rough slide from sanding.
  • It’s the quickest, most effective, and convenient way to remove old finishes and stains.
  • To remove a varnish stain.
  • To preserve details on the wood because sanding will take them off.

However, experts recommend a round of sanding after using a chemical stripper to achieve the best results to get the best results.

Now that you know when you must use either of the two methods to remove an old stain, here is the best way to perform them:

a. Sanding To Remove Old Stains

Begin with a rough sandpaper piece like 80 grit and use it for the first slide over the wood. Then for the second pass over the same surface, go with a relatively coarse grit, such as a 150 grit paper. Finally, if you want to give a more refined look and are sure of not having the wood hurt, you can proceed by passing a fine, more coarse grit over the surfaces, such as p220 grit. Increasing the coarseness gradually will prevent you from scuffing the wood surface way too much.

Whether you’re using a sanding block, a piece of sandpaper, or an electric sander, place it flat on the wood surface while you’re working. This technique will help you make a smooth, even surface. In any other way, sanding can wear and tear the wood, creating a mild depression that would sneak through the stain.

Try using a dust mask while you sand your wood. Although it’s not that you’ll be working with intoxicating fumes while you’re at the job, but sanding blows a lot of dust with small irritating particles in the air that will bother your lungs when you breathe in that air. A dust mask will keep you focused on your work without facing breathing issues.

Once you’re done with sanding your surfaces and don’t feel the need to pass the grit over the surfaces anymore and the old stain is gone for good, it’s time to wrap up. For the wrap, you need to ensure there are no dust or sandpaper residue left on the wood surfaces by cleaning them nicely with a damp cloth. Otherwise, if the dust is left and takes up the stain later in the process, you’ll end up with a gritty, uneven, and untidy finish.  

b. Using A Chemical Stripper To Remove Old Stain

Sanding a wood surface with delicate details will ruin the integrity of the wooden piece as sandpapers often have carved and sharp edges. Here is when a chemical wood stripper saves the day by preserving the wood’s integrity and removing the stain safely from surfaces.

The chemical or paint strippers are made with harsh, unfriendly chemicals. Despite getting a top brand’s stripper that smells pleasant, it’s always better and safe not to inhale them. So, it’s safer to work outdoors with strippers, or if you’re unable to, at least open all the doors and windows to maximize ventilation of the area and let fresh air come in. If you choose a day to work when there isn’t enough wind, you should try to set up portable fans to ensure that air keeps circulating.

As discussed above, in the prepping part, make sure you have a tarp, a thick cloth sheet, or a towel placed on your working base/ground, as chemical strippers can easily spill and ruin other structures in your vicinity. Moreover, the chemical stripper contains highly reactive ingredients that are very dangerous and may irritate your skin and eyes. So, you want to make sure you’re well-protected. For that, wear protective gear that at least includes eyewear and thick gloves so that you can protect yourself in case there’s an accident, a splash, or a minor spill.

Also, try wearing an apron to protect your clothes because if the paint stripper spills on your clothes, it will irritate your skin and may leave a painful rash. Lastly, wear a face mask to avoid direct inhalation of fumes that will come out while you’re using the product.  

Now here’s how you use a chemical stripper:

Start by pouring a modest amount of the stripper on a piece of fine steel wool. You can use a #00, #000, or a #0000 graded steel wool for this. Although there are plenty of other methods to use a paint stripper, this fine steel wool option is the simplest as you don’t need many other supplies to work with it. A few things to bear in mind for a better job:

  • You can this very fine steel wool and the stripper from any home improvement store.
  • Steel wool is sold in packs of six. The required quantity of steel wood depends on the magnitude of your project, and you may require several packs of it.
  • The finer the steel wool, the more even the wood surface will be at the end of your projects. However, the process will take longer.

Once you saturate the steel wool nicely with the stripping chemical, begin with buffing the small sections of the wood. Proceed by going in circular motions to wipe the surface. If you’ve been following through correctly, you should now be seeing the stain strip off onto the steel wool instantly. Change the steel wool piece as soon as you stain build-up on the first wool piece.

Repeat the above process until you the stain is gone for good. In case there are tricky and narrow spaces where the stain won’t come off, use a piece of sandpaper or a wire brush to finish the remaining job.

Lastly, don’t forget to leave the wood to dry nicely before you begin the re-staining process.

3. Re-stain/Refinish The Wood

Here is the part you’ve been waiting for. Once your wooden desk has its old stain stripped off and is clean and dry, it’s time to re-stain it. Here is how you’re supposed to go about it, based on the kind of stain you want to use:

Water-Based Stain

If you wish to achieve a darker finish, we recommend choosing a glaze, gel-stain, or water-based stain, as all these kinds of stains pay off a darker color. However, you need to be a little careful while choosing the right shade as a darker one is very likely to blur the wood grain and conceal the wood’s natural appeal.

The difference between these various kinds of stains comes because of the texture. If you’re new to stain formulas, it’s best to ask your local store’s associate for a sample of each kind which you may take home, and do small patch tests on remote areas of your structure.

Oil-Based Stain

If you prefer a more subtle and less intense color transition, it’s best to choose an oil-based stain such as Varathane. The quality of oil-based stains is that they deliver a more transparent finish. Hence, that makes these stains a more befitting option if your aim is to change the shade without altering the original grain of the wood much. If you’re up for darkening the old stain, you can use an oil-based stain for that too (without stripping off the old stain offcourse).

  • As far as the application is concerned, the best way is to apply a thick, generous coat of this oil-based stain using a cloth or foam brush. Using either of these tools will help you reduce brush strokes that appear in the stain. Moreover, using these tools will also make it easier for you to get thinner coats of the stain, allowing it to soak into the wood better. The better the absorption of the stain into the wood, the more accentuated wood grain will be in the final look and finish.
  • Then, once the product has nicely absorbed in the wood surface of your desk, use pads to wipe away extra product off the surface. To get an even, tidy, and uniform finish of the stain, you may have to pass the pads over the surface multiple times until you achieve the desired look.

These staining pads are designed particularly for this job and can be bought from a local store where you get your wood chemicals from. Manufacturers design these pads in a specific texture that is friendly to the stained surfaces and ensures no streaks form in the stain.

The point to note here is that leaving some excess stain may help you get a darker shade. However, this trick might not always work to get an even color tone.

  • Once you’re done with re-staining and wiping off the excess product, it’s time to leave the stain alone to cure for at least 18 to 24 hours. This drying time may vary depending on the stain product you’re using, so you might want to give a read to the manufacturer’s instructions to know how long will you need to wait for them to dry. But experts agree upon the 18-24-hour as an average drying time to ensure the stain has cured as it should. If you don’t allow it to dry properly, you won’t get the desired, smooth and flawless coat when finishing the job by applying the sealer.
  • If you want to jump up a notch in color depth, you may want to give it a second coat. Too many coats dilute the look of the wood’s natural grain indeed, but a second coat won’t be that intense and will only press the wood texture down a little if that’s an acceptable trade-off for you. However, the catch here is to apply the second coat only when the first one has dried up completely. Because a shade you may see while the stain is wet may turn out entirely different once it dries.

If your choice of changing the color aims at only a subtle adjustment to the existing tone, we recommend choosing a dye toner instead of a second coat of the stain.

  • Once the curing period is over, and your wood has the stain dried upon it, nice and good – it’s time to lock everything in. As a topcoat, use an oil or water-based sealer to lock the stain in the wood surface and give it a luxurious, glossy finish. You can apply the sealer the same way as you applied the stain. A benefit of using a sealer on your refinished surface will protect your wooden structure and resist stains and spills.

Are you done with sealing the stain? Yes?

Voila! You’re done!

Wrapping It All Up

Re-staining a wooden piece can turn out to be a very rewarding task if you prep your wood and your worksite properly, take the necessary precautions, use the right kind of product for a given surface and follow through with the stripping and refinishing process correctly. Moreover, it’s essential to understand your wooden structures’ condition for any kind of woodwork, have general know-how of the concerned products, and always keep an eye on the manufacturer’s guide for better guidance.

For more information and help regarding your re-staining projects, turn to no one other than The Period House Guru.

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