How to Restain a Deck + Beginners Guide and Helpful Tips

How to restain a deck. Beginners guide and helpful tips. Plus Q&A- oil based stain vs. water based and pressure washing tips to preserve your boards.

how to re stain a deck

Our deck isn’t just for looks. We use this outdoor space as an extended living room. BBQ dinners, movie nights, art projects, gardening and so much more.

So when the deck stain started to come off in the high traffic areas, it was more than just an eye sore. It was a problem.

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Table of Contents:

This is our own personal experience. Be sure to seek professional advice.

The deck was originally stained with Behr premium transparent waterproofing finish in Cedar Naturaltone. The color was gorgeous! But after a couple of years it was started to chip off in the high traffic areas.

Chipped and worn areas of deck before staining.


Wood Stain and Finish Stripper

Start by taking all the furnishing off the deck. Give it a good sweep and decide how you’ll be cleaning the deck. You can either use a hose or pressure washer but a pressure washer will need to be used with caution. (See pressure washing tips below)

If you have darker stain in the less traffic areas you will need to use some sort of wood stain and finish stripper before applying new stain to the deck.

Behr wood stain and finish stripper

For this project we used BEHR Premium wood stain and finish stripper. Use according to the directions.


Yes, but you need to be carful. Use a fan tip at no more that 600psi, 4-6 inches away from the deck boards. Any closer and you risk damaging the deck boards.

Can I use a surface cleaner on my deck?

No! Do not use a surface cleaner to pressure wash your deck. A surface cleaner can make for quick work but it will come at a high price. The high pressure of water so close to the deck boards will damage the deck boards leaving them scratched and torn up.


If your deck is a little older you may want to sand down the high traffic areas or areas that might cause splinters.

Splinter in wood

Our high traffic area had a lot of scratches from the dogs nails, along with a couple of places kids could get slivers. We decided to take the time and sand our entire deck with two handheld random orbital sanders using 80 grit sandpaper.

However, if you properly remove any remaining old stain using a wood stripper, and clean it following the hose or pressure water guidelines, you most likely will not have to sand the deck before applying the new stain.

How long does it take to sand a 25×14 foot deck with two handheld random orbital sanders?

Using a stain remover before sanding made for quick work once we began. With two people using sanders, it took approximately 4 hours to sand a 25×14 foot deck. Be sure the deck is completely dry before you sand.

Sanded deck before applying stain

Sanding our entire deck was a lot of work, but I’m so glad we did it! It looks completely brand new and helped the small area where we had damaged wood.

Do not rinse off the deck once fully sanded. Instead, take a broom or leaf blower to brush off any remaining dust.


After- restaining a deck

After prepping the deck, allow to dry completely for 24-48 hours. Make sure there is no rain in the forecast for at least two days after applying the stain.


Water based stain- Allows for easy clean up. Fairly fast drying. May chip in high traffic areas over time.

Oil based stain- More durable than water based. Penetrates the wood deeper. May dry slower. Designed to fade over time.


Transparent- Allows for the natural pattern of the wood to show through with hints of subtle color.

Semi-Transparent- Allows for wood grain and texture to show through with added subtle color to enhance the woods pattern.

When we stained our newly built deck a few years ago, we used water based BEHR Premium Transparent Waterproofing finish in Cedar Naturaltone. It was easy to apply and clean up but after 2.5 years the heavy traffic areas were beginning to chip off.

This time when restaining our deck we used BEHR Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Stain and Sealer Penetrating Oil in Cedar Naturaltone #4633.


Start by thinking about where you’ll be exiting the deck. If you also plan on staining the railings, start with the railing and work your way down.

Using a paint pad applicator, stain one or two deck boards at a time going the entire length of the board. Use a paint brush or foam brush to get into any cracks or grooves.

Tip- Having two people helps this process move more smoothly as one person can apply the stain with the paint pad applicator over length of the boards, and the other person can get in between the boards with a paint brush before moving on to the next two deck boards.

To avoid lap marks it’s important to paint the entire length of the board and not repeat over any areas that might already be dry.

Allow deck to fully dry before walking or placing furniture.

Restaining our deck was a fair bit of work and took a few extra days to account for weather. Now that it’s done it was completely worth the little bit of hassle and rain delays we faced.

Since we used an oil based stain and sealer, the idea is that we’ll be able to stain directly over it instead of having to strip and or sand again. With our harsh southern sun I’m sure this oil based stain and sealer will hold up much nicer.


Update- The oil based stain and sealer did in fact hold up better for use than the water based sealer. Over time the oil base stain did fade and was easy to reapply without having to strip or sand our deck as before.

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