Applying a Clear Deck Finish

This story takes you through the process of preparing your deck for a clear finish and applying the finish.

Home centers offer a wide array of deck cleaners, sealers, and finishes. Check with deck owners in your area to see which products work best and how often they need to be applied. If the deck is exposed to hot sun for extended periods, you may need to apply a fresh coat of sealer every year.

A deck that has turned gray can usually be made to look like new if you wash it and apply a protective finish. Even grayish-green pressure-treated wood can be stained to resemble cedar or redwood.

It may be worth the cost to hire a professional to finish or refinish your deck. Look through your phone directory for companies that restore, finish, and maintain a deck's appearance. Check out their prices and examine some of the decks they have worked on. Compare the cost with the time and expense it will take you to do it yourself.

Prestart Checklist

Several hours to clean, and several hours to apply a finish the next day

Scrub brush, power washer, pole sander, pump sprayer, paintbrush

Attention to detail, applying a smooth coat of finish

Ask a supplier about the best products for your wood and your climate

Deck cleaner, deck sealer, and/or finish

Preparing the surface: Step 1

Lightly sand the deck using a pole sander, then sweep it thoroughly. Mix a batch of deck cleaner according to manufacturer's directions, apply it, and scrub with a stiff brush.

Preparing the surface: Step 2

Use a garden hose or a power washer to rinse the cleaner completely from the deck. If you use a power washer, use a fan or 40-degree nozzle. Be careful not to hold the nozzle too close to the wood; the pressure of the spray can tear the fibers.

Applying the finish: Step 1

Allow the deck to dry completely. Use a pump sprayer to spread sealer/stain onto the deck. Cover a strip about 3 feet wide -- an easy reach for brushing.

Applying the finish: Step 2

Immediately backbrush the surface with a 5- to 6-inch brush to spread out any puddles. Move the brush in one direction only, always with the grain.

Applying the finish: Step 3

For detail work, use a smaller brush. Pay attention to the edges of boards, so you don't end up with brush strokes that run across the grain.

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