When it comes to natural beauty, there’s nothing quite like a wood deck. To the eye, it’s stately, harkening back to older, calmer times; underfoot, it’s sturdy and comforting. If you’re the proud owner of a wood deck, you’ll certainly know what we mean!
To keep your wood deck looking its best, however, you’ll need to refinish it regularly. Just like with hardwood flooring, your wood deck’s original finish will wear down over time with foot traffic, weather, and exposure to sunlight. But how do you know if it’s time for a refinish or if your wood deck is just aging gracefully, as it should?
Also called “resurfacing,” refinishing is an awesome way to restore a wood deck to its former good looks if it seems a little drab. Simply put, it’s the application of a clear, non-slip layer of liquid that dries to protect your deck from rain, wind, snow, and foot traffic. You can buy different deck refinishing products to suit certain needs; some, for example, come with extra mildew protection, while others might work to fill in small cracks or holes.
It’s important to note what separates stains, paints, and resurfacers. Though these three products may look similar on the shelves, they serve very different purposes! Deck stains seep down into the wood, often changing its shade in addition to providing protection. Paints sit on top of your wood deck, giving it a whole new hue in addition to a smooth finish. Refinishers are heavy-duty products that tackle jobs that the other two can’t.
For the purposes of this blog, we’ll focus on refinishers only.
For relatively young decks that just need a face-lift, a stain or paint will suffice. These products are often easier to apply, and generally are more affordable than refinishers. For the big jobs, though, only a refinisher will do. Consider using it for the following:
If your boards are looking worse for wear prematurely, perhaps it’s time for a refinisher. Though simple things like neglecting to clean your deck properly before applying paint can cause it to flake and appear blotchy, chances are something strong is now needed to protect your investment.
However, refinishing cannot fix moldy boards. In fact, no product can. If your boards’ speckles are caused by mildew, you’ll need to replace them before you apply a refinisher.
Provided the damage isn’t dire (IE, you’ve got a board that’s split almost entirely through), a good refinisher can fill small cracks and gaps that paint or stain fails to cover. If your deck is particularly beat-up, though, keep in mind that you may need multiple coats to properly protect it: one to hide the imperfections and another to give comprehensive protection.
Make no mistake: when it comes to durability, a good refinisher beats out a stain or paint any day. If your deck is a popular family gathering space or just generally is subjected to a lot of use, a refinisher might be the best choice if it begins to look a smidgen worn-down. Just know that refinishers tend to have long dry times, so make sure your whole family knows that their favorite place is going to be off limits for a bit until renovations are complete.
You’ve determined your deck installation needs refinishing—so where do you go from there? If you’re willing to go the DIY route, it’s a manageable task if you’re ready for a bit of elbow grease.
You must begin with a clean and relatively level deck in order to get the most out of your refinishing job. First, remove any old paint or finish with a chemical stripper and a chisel if necessary on the heavier areas. Then, powerwash your deck using the lowest setting possible to blast away dirt and grime, or use a scrub brush and a garden hose to accomplish the same thing.
If your deck is sun-bleached or cracking, sand down offending areas, paying attention to any wood deck railings you may have. You don’t want to deal with splinters!
We highly recommend you also use a store-bought deck cleaner before progressing. These either remove the gray tones from your wood or take care of minor cases of mildew, leaving the deck below gleaming and ready for refinishing.
Finally, get rid of any moldy or unstable boards and replace them.
Once everything is clean, sanded, and dry, it’s refinishing time. Follow the directions on the store-bought tin and you’re good as golden! The most convenient tool to use for this task is a hand-sprayer, but make sure you’ve got a roller on hand to deal with any puddling. You’ll also want a paintbrush to carefully smooth away drip-marks on vertical surfaces like railings.