A fresh coat of stain helps restore and improve the look of your deck. Staining protects the deck from sun and water damage. It also enhances the natural beauty of the wood, showing off the wood’s grain and unique characteristics.
Staining a deck is a fairly time-consuming process: It requires sanding the deck, sweeping it, covering nearby plants and shrubs, cleaning the deck, applying one to three coats of stain and waiting for the deck to dry. Staining can certainly be a DIY job, but you can hire a professional if you don’t want to deal with the hassle.
How Much Does Deck Staining Cost?
Most professionals charge $2 to $3 per square foot to stain a deck. That includes the cost of labor and materials. However, if you have features like decorative railings that need special attention, or if your deck is very old and weathered, the total cost could reach $5 per square foot or more.
As a do-it-yourself project, staining a deck is relatively inexpensive. Budget about $25 to $30 for each gallon of stain. If you don’t already own one, plan to spend up to $200 to rent a power washer. Supplies such as brushes, rollers and tape will add $25 to $75 to the total price.
Deck Staining Pros
- Moisture barrier – Stain acts as a sealant that prevents moisture from penetrating and rotting your deck. It provides better moisture protection than paint.
- Easy application – Staining a deck is a faster and simpler project than painting one. There’s less prep work to do, and fewer coats are required. However, you will need to clean the deck and, in some cases, strip or sand it.
- Natural look – Staining highlights the natural qualities and characteristics of the wood, while paint masks them. It’s the better choice if you prefer a natural look.
Deck Staining Cons
- High maintenance – Decks need to be re-stained about every other year. A good coat of paint many lasts years longer.
- Won’t hide everything – Re-staining doesn’t work miracles, particularly if your deck is old and weathered. Stain doesn’t hide flaws as well as paint.
Choosing a Stain
Selecting a stain isn’t as simple as walking into a home improvement store and grabbing the first product you see – or at least it shouldn’t be. There are many types of stains, each producing a different look, and each with its pros and cons.
- Clear water repellants, or sealers, provide waterproofing but no color. They protect your deck from rotting but not fading. Sealers offer very little UV protection, and they should be reapplied annually or biannually.
- Clear wood preservatives are similar, but they have less wax, no resin and an added fungicide. Some clear wood preservatives contain UV protection to prevent graying. UV preservatives are ideal for cedar or redwood decks because they preserve the rich, natural color without covering it up.
- Semitransparent stains are just as the name suggests – they contain some color while allowing the natural grain and pattern of the wood to show through. Semitransparent stains also provide weatherproofing and UV protection. For best results, go with one that is oil-based. These last three to five years.
- Solid stains result in a darker, more uniform look. However, they are not ideal for high-traffic areas because the color will wear away quickly. Solid stains are more suitable for benches and rails, where they can last up to five years.
Painting is another option for improving the look of an old deck and preserving your investment. A quality paint job can restore even a weathered deck to like-new condition. Unlike stain, paint masks the natural qualities of the wood, creating a uniform look. Some people like that; others do not.
Painting a deck requires a bit more time and effort than staining a deck, but the results last longer. If the job is done correctly, it could be 10 years before your deck needs to be painted again. Painting also offers better weather protection.
How Much Does Deck Painting Cost?
Having your deck painted costs about the same as having it stained – $2 to $3 per square foot, on average. If your deck has lots of details or is very rough shape, the cost could be $5 per square foot or more.
As a do-it-yourself project, painting is also relatively inexpensive. Budget just a few hundred dollars for paint and supplies.
Deck Painting Pros
- Easier to maintain – A quality paint job can last many years, while a stained deck needs to be re-stained about every one to three years. Paint stands up to the elements better than stain.
- More color options – With paint, the color possibilities are endless. You can opt for white, gray, brown or black – even pink, if that’s your style. You can match the color of the deck to your house.
- Hides flaws – Paint is better at masking flaws in the wood. If your deck is weathered, corroded or near the end of its usable life, you’ll have better results with paint.
Deck Painting Cons
- Harder to apply – Painting a deck is a major undertaking, and lots of prep work is required. You need to clean the deck thoroughly and then apply two coats of primer before the first coat of paint. You may also have to sand or strip the deck.
- Not as moisture resistant – Paint doesn’t seal out moisture as well as stain. If you live in a harsh or rainy climate, it may not be the best choice.
Choosing a Paint
There are two types of paint you can use: oil or latex. Oil tends to last longer, and it does a better job repelling moisture. But it doesn’t stand up well in extreme heat, and a glossy finish is your only option. Latex is generally not as resilient, but it holds up better in hot climates. It also comes in a variety of sheens, not just glossy.
No matter which you choose, be sure to purchase a high-quality paint. Otherwise, you might be painting again in two years.