How to Stain Your Deck

Stain is the loving, finishing touch to a newly built or freshly cleaned wood deck. If you can paint, then you can stain.


A coat of the right stain beautifies the wood and provides years of protection against damage from moisture and sunlight. All you need is some free time, simple tools, good quality stain and pleasant weather. If you're thinking about how to stain your deck as a DIY project, this step-by-step guide will get you rolling.

Task Overview

Estimated time: 6-8 hours
Estimated cost: under $150
Skill level: Beginner
Number of people required: 1

Tools & Materials:

Steps to Staining Your Deck

  1. Choose a deck stain
    Wood deck stains are either oil-based or water-based. They range in transparency from clear to tinted and semi-transparent to solid. The right choice for your deck depends on how much of the wood’s natural character you want to shine through. A water-resistant, clear wood stain lets the grain show but needs recoating after a year or two. Tinted, semi-transparent and solid stains add colour and protect longer. You might want to pick a shade that complements the paint colours of your house. If your goal is to hide imperfections in aging deck wood or tiles, a semi-transparent, solid stain or wood paint might be a better option.
  2. Prepare your deck
    Before starting, ensure the surface is clean and dry. Deck cleaning usually involves pressure washing to remove layered-on dirt and worn-out finishes. You may need to apply a deck wash or deck stripper. Remove all outdoor furniture. Repair or replace any weak or damaged boards, railings and posts. Rough spots should be sanded smooth. Sink any protruding nail or screw heads. Painter’s tape protects your house where the base of the wall meets the deck floor.
  3. Getting started
    Pick a dry, warm day with indirect sunlight. Give your stain a good stir. Use a China bristle brush for oil-based stain or a synthetic brush for water-based product.
  4. Handrails, posts and balusters
    Begin applying stain on the highest point of the deck, usually the handrail. This part of the job takes longest because you want to be sure to stain the top and bottom of the handrail, reaching all the corners and crevices. Next, stain all around any vertical surfaces such as posts, balusters or spindles.
  5. Deck floor
    Place a paint tray loaded with stain on a heavy drop cloth. Attach a foam-pad applicator or roller to a paint extension pole. Begin applying stain in a corner closest to the house and work your way out toward the exit area. Spread the stain in the direction of the wood grain in even strokes, with a slight overlap from dry area to wet. Reload your pad or roller as needed to ensure full coverage.
  6. Cleanup
    When finished, let your deck dry for at least 24 hours before permitting foot traffic and replacing outdoor furniture. If you used an alkyd (oil-based) stain, clean your brushes with solvent.

Deck Staining Tips:

• Test a coloured stain on a less visible part of the deck to make sure you like it
• Oil-based stains last longer and penetrate deeper into the wood
• Water-based stains offer more colour selection
• Use paint thinner for cleanup of oil-based stains
• A foam-pad applicator creates less splatter than a paint roller
• Stain handrails and posts first to avoid spray and drips on your newly stained floor
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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