Deck staining

First of all, happy late new year! I know it’s been a while, but I needed some major down-time to recover from a crazy holiday season. We went out of town 4 times in late Nov/December to visit family, attended multiple Christmas parties and holiday events, celebrated Andrew’s birthday, and hosted out-of-town guests for a few days, not to mention Andrew’s business trip in the middle of it all and the seemingly endless Christmas shopping and wrapping.

So now that things have calmed down a bit, I have a few posts I need to catch up on. Obviously, we’re not staining our deck in frigid January, but with our busy schedule I just never managed to share pictures of the deck…that we completed in September. Oops. Here’s what it looked like pre-staining.


We finished building the deck in mid July, but had to wait a few months for the new lumber to dry out before we could stain it. We chose Behr semi-transparent stain in Cordovan Brown. We opted for this instead of an ordinary stain primarily because it’s supposed to last 5-7 years as opposed to 2-3 for regular stain.

After installing the planks in July, we sanded off all the stamps and cleaned the surface using Behr All-in-one Wood Cleaner. Then we realized we had to wait anyway, so we bought a moisture meter to test the moisture in the wood. I think we probably tested it every week! I saw several different opinions ranging from 13% to 19%, so probably if humidity is low, you’re good to go when it’s under 19%. We rinsed and scrubbed it again the day before we were planning to stain to make sure we had a really clean surface. Then we taped along the house so we wouldn’t stain our siding…


We decided not to spray or use a stain applicator pad/roller after looking at pictures. We felt the stain looked less consistent than with a paintbrush. Many people still recommend you back brush (which is exactly what it sounds like: brushing back over a section you’ve already coated with stain until pools/lines are eliminated) after using a pad or roller anyway, which takes almost as long as just using a brush to begin with. It also requires you work in bigger sections, and we thought it was probably too hot that day to back brush an entire rolled section before it would start drying.

Instead, I used a small brush to apply stain in between the planks, and then Andrew came along behind me to apply the stain to the top of the planks with a bigger brush. (For the first coat, we put a piece of tape along the plank that runs the opposite way so we wouldn’t get lap marks on it. We did the main section, then the one plank, the smaller section, and lastly the edges.)


No matter what method you choose, you should back-brush in order to avoid obvious brush marks. Despite using brand new lumber, allowing it to dry out for so long, cleaning it really well, sanding the entire surface, applying a thick coat of stain, AND back brushing, the first coat still looked like this.


After the first coat had dried, we were pretty nervous about the splotchy, uneven finish. It was not what we had expected. The color wasn’t a rich brown, but instead looked like an already weathered deck. We were planning to do 2 coats all along, but we weren’t sure if another coat would really solve the problem.


After giving the first coat ample time to dry (and having too much time to fret over how terrible it looked), we started the second coat and our hope was restored!


The second coat really evened out the splotches and deepened the color into a nice rich brown.


It took forever, but we’re so happy with how it turned it! We’re both really glad we were able to buy new planks and stain the deck instead of having to repaint the old pieces. And now that we’re in the midst of winter, we’re pretty glad our new wood planks are protected. Can’t say the same for the railing, but I’m sure it will hold up fine until the weather warms up and we can paint it.

Let’s take a look at what used to be here. We hated our previous deck so much, apparently, that we decided we’d rather be without a deck at all for 2 whole years than have to look at this thing. No, not really…I mean we did hate it, but that timeline was never part of the plan!


Here was the in between phase (of 2 years) where we had a 3 foot drop-off out our back door.


More in between phase, but after painting the house, replacing windows and gutters, and replacing the slider with a hinged patio door. Best upgrade ever!


And now that we have a real deck again! And a bigger, more functional, and much prettier deck than before!


I just can’t help myself. One more time for comparison. Old…


And new.


It’s been done for a while, but looking at these pictures makes me giddy! If it weren’t so cold outside, I’d go run around on my deck or stand in the yard and stare at it. I LOVE being able to walk into my backyard instead of “jump down” into it. I mean, who wouldn’t?

Here are the rest of our deck posts, if you want all the details!

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2 Responses to Deck staining

  1. EmilyB July 6, 2016 at 6:39 am #

    What a great transformation! All the inspiration I needed to get the ball rolling on my own deck transformation— cordovan brown it is!

    • Simple House Expressions July 27, 2016 at 9:33 am #

      Hey Emily! Happy to provide some inspiration. 😉 I do feel the need to share, though, that certain parts of our deck started peeling within 6 months. Very disappointing after putting in all that effort (especially knowing we did everything right – i.e. monitoring moisture content of the wood with a moisture meter, sanding, cleaning, application, etc.). Unfortunately, even though my husband actually works for the company that owns Behr, we cannot recommend their line of outdoor stains! Love their paints, but the outdoor deck stain, not so much. From what I hear, though, due to environmental regulations, most other outdoor stain products aren’t any better. Here’s hoping you have better luck than we did!

      – Arielle