The deck we were staining on the right was is in pretty rough condition. There is some flaking, chipping, some mildew, large cracks on the deck boards, and on some of the railings.
You'll first want to remove all furniture, hoses, plants, and electrical cords. Secure all pets and kids! You don't want them getting into the stain ;)
7 steps to staining your deck
1. Pressure Wash
You will want to first pressure-wash your deck to remove as much dirt, debris, and flaking paint as possible.
*Note* if you have mold or mildew you will want to pick up a mold/mildew cleaner such as ZEP cleaning solution; if you'd like to use it directly in your pressure washer, be sure to dilute it otherwise you can treat the mildew/mold with a pump sprayer (like for weed treatment) prior to pressure-washing.
2. Clean the remaining leaves and debris from the center of the deck boards
The easiest way I've found is to use a paint scraper and then to sweep the remaining debris off the deck.
3. Sink exposed screw/nail heads
Heres a great video on how to do that: https://youtu.be/u1dpO55wRsw
4. Wood putty large cracks & sand rough wood
Here I filled a large crack on a railing post using ZAR wood patch (my go-to wood putty for decks).
I would recommend getting at least two different grits of sandpaper:
The 60 grit will be used for heavy peeling/flaking areas, it will save you some time & elbow grease :)
The 120 grit will be used to smooth areas out and will leave the wood with a much smoother finish than the 60 grit will.
*Note* For semi-transparent and transparent stains, be sure to sand excess wood putty off so that only the cracks remain filled. Multiple coats may be necessary for the semi-transparent stain *wood putty absorbs pigment different than the wood*
5. Prep for stain
The next thing you're going to want to do is tape-off any areas that could potentially get stain on them/are nearby the deck boards. *Note* If you did some heavy sanding you may want to sweep the deck or even rinse it off before taping -- it will make it easier for the tape to stick.
WHICH TYPE OF TAPE SHOULD YOU USE?
*Note* There is a generic tape that's an off-white color (masking tape); I don't personally like it because it leaves behind a sticky residue if any of the tape sees sunlight and we're out here in Texas... so there's always plenty of sunlight. :)
You will also want to lay some drops down to protect any bushes or walkways from any stain drips. Plastic works too -- I prefer the drops because they can be re-used and are much more eco friendly.
6. Brush & roll the stain on
WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIAL TOOLS?
Well, I will tell you why each of the tools listed above are "recommended" and you can decide which is deemed essential for your project (some will just save you some time).
The 2 gal bucket and the 2 gal grid will be used with the 4" roller and can be used for smaller areas that are easy to roll out. This will save you time on handrails, the sides of the deck, and some smaller areas the 9" roller can't fit.
A 9" roller, cover, 5 gal bucket, 5 gal grid, and the extension pole can be used to roll out the tops of the deck boards. *Your body will thank you*
A brush can be used for hard to reach areas and to thin out a heavy application of the stain (preventing drips).
The deck stain pads are useful to get into those areas between the deck boards that can be an awful eyesore.
*Note* you will want a thicker nap such as a 1/2" because it will allow you to load up more paint and fill small hairline cracks in your deck boards. The paint roller extension pole can be used with the 4" roller or the 9" roller. I would recommend using a paint grid in a bucket over the trays because they are less accident-prone than the trays and when working outside it will limit the amount of dust, leaves, and debris getting into the stain.
WHAT IS THE BEST METHOD TO APPROACH APPLYING THE STAIN?
I would recommend starting with handrails, balusters, deck board gaps, posts, or the outside facia of the deck. Once the smaller intricate work has been completed, I would then recommend you roll the tops of the deck boards (this will save you a ton of time!) It is kind of like when you mop your kitchen, but... just painting! The reason I recommend to finish the intricate work first is so that you don't have to walk over the already completed deck boards.
7. CLEAN UP
*Note* I would recommend letting your deck stain cure for at least 24hrs before placing furniture, plants, or anything back onto the deck (just to be safe) *stain products have varying dry times*. I would also recommend keeping kids and pets off of the deck for 24hrs as well.
Consolidate your stain into 1 container and then properly dispose of the used stain containers (check with your local municipal for proper recycling requirements).
Cleaning brushes, rollers & buckets: If you would like to save and re-use some of your project tools be sure you clean them within 30 minutes of finishing your project. When rinsing the tools with water, be sure to heavily dilute the paint. I would also recommend getting a wire brush to clean your brushes.
Lastly, remove your tape, complete a walkthrough, and finishing touches (if necessary).
For touch-up tips, paint removal/clean-up tips, and tool cleaning tips, check those out here.