How To Prep A Deck For Painting

Painting your deck is a surefire way to extend the life of your deck as well as show off your personality. While it will obscure the wood grain of your deck boards, painting your deck means the sky is the limit to the creative possibilities! You could make it a life-sized checker or chess board. You could paint your own “rug” under your deck table. You could even paint each board of the entire deck a different color for a really wild look!

No matter what direction you go, the single most important step of the painting process is knowing how to prep a deck for painting. If you don’t spend the time and energy to thoroughly prepare your deck before painting, you’ll be wasting your time because your paint job will be messed up before you know it.

How to prep a deck for painting: power washing

It may sound like an intimidating process, but it doesn’t have to be! Read on for all the tips and tricks you need to prepare your deck for painting like a pro!

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Items Needed:

  • Broom or leaf blower
  • Sander
  • 60-grit, 80-grit, and 100- grit sandpaper
  • Deck Cleaner
  • Garden hose or pressure washer
  • Safety goggles
  • Dust mask
  • Hard-bristled scrub brush

How to Prepare a Deck in Good Shape

There’s a pretty sizable difference in the work it takes to get a newer deck ready to paint versus an older deck that needs a little more love. We’ll start with looking at the simplest option and then cover the more in-depth option later on.

1. Clear Your Deck

Begin by clearing any and all grills, plant, furniture, etc. off of your deck and sweep it well. You can use a leaf blower to get off any stubborn leaves still hanging around. This is also the time to drape any surrounding bushes, trees, or plants with plastic drop cloth to protect them from the chemicals you’ll use later in the cleaning process and the paint later on.

2. Sand Your Deck Boards

Sanding a Deck

This step seems tedious, but it’s so necessary. You’ve got to create a surface to which the primer and paint can adhere well.

You’ll want to use a random orbit sander or belt sander to smooth our any rough areas and clear off any old gloss on your decking boards. A sanding sponge will be easier to use on things like railings or balustrades.

For your main deck boards, use 60- or 80- grit sandpaper. For the handrails and balustrades, use 80- or 100- grit sandpaper.

Do your best to sand all six sides of your deck boards. Leaving the underneath exposed to the elements can make your boards expand and contract, wearing dow the paint faster. If you can’t get underneath, that ok. You can still paint and get a great result, just know it will wear quicker than it would if the wood was protected on all sides.

3. Wash Your Deck

First, you need to make sure you’re getting the right cleaner for your deck’s situation.

Choosing the Right Cleaner

There are a ton of deck-cleaning products on the market, but most contain one of the following for chemicals as their main ingredient. Each works well on a different type of stain.

Sodium Percarbonate

After being mixed with water, this chemical forms hydrogen peroxide, which is essentially an oxygen-based bleach, and sodium carbonate, which acts as a detergent. It’s a great choice for removing dirt and mildew.

Oxalic Acid

This ingredient is effective in removing iron stains and the dark tannins typically found with cedar and redwood decks. This ingredient is usually found in deck brighteners. Oxalic acid isn’t effective against mildew, so you may want to use it after cleaning your deck with a bleach-based cleaner first.

Sodium Hypochlorite

This chemical, which is simply chlorine bleach, is good for removing mildew, but doesn’t work very well on dirt or other stains. To make more effective, you’ll need to mix it with an ammonia-free detergent. Rinse your deck thoroughly after using this chemical because it can eat away at the wood, resulting in premature praying and fuzzing.

Sodium Hydroxide

Also known as lye, this chemical is the key ingredient in most finish removers or lifters. Make sure to not leave it on too long or it can eat away at the wood.

DIY Cleaner

If you want to go the DIY route, here is a deck cleaner you can make yourself. Simply mix the follow ingredients in a 5 gallon plastic bucket. Caution: Do not use a detergent that contains ammonia. Ammonia and bleach react to make a poisonous gas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory recommends it for use against mildew and dirt.

  • 1 quart sodium hypochlorite solution (household bleach)
  • ? cup powdered laundry detergent
  • 3 quarts warm water

Whatever cleaner you choose to use, please be very careful, especially when the commercial options are in their most concentrated (premixed) form. Wear the proper safety equipment, read the manufacturer’s instructions, and follow them to the letter.

How to Wash Your Deck

The basic steps to washing your deck are:

1. Apply the cleaner.

2. Scrub the deck.

3. Rinse the cleaner away.

How you apply the cleaner depends on the cleaner product you choose. Some products need to be mixed in a big bucket and then applied to the deck. Others come in containers with integral applicators that you hood up to a garden hose. Whichever method you use, make sure to thoroughly cover your deck boards, rails, and balustrades with cleaner.

Once the cleaner has been applied, you’re going to need to put in some elbow grease. No matter how effective they claim to be, most cleaners still require a stiff-bristle brush and a lot of effort to work the mixture all the way into the wood.

If you find yourself facing an extra-tough stain, a power washer could come in handy. Be careful to not use one with too strong of a PSI or else it could gouge pieces out of your deck. To reduce that risk, use a fan-type nozzle instead of a pinpoint nozzle. Go over scrub-resistant stains until they’re finally gone.

Once you’ve applied the cleaner, scrubbed it into the surface and battled the stains, it’s time to rinse.

Using a garden hose or a power washer, thoroughly rinse all cleaner and residue off of the deck. Don’t skip this step and just let it dry on there because it will do major damage to the wood fibers of your deck and compromise all your hard work of preparing and painting.

4. Let Your Deck Dry Completely

Don’t rush the drying process. Any water beads left after you’ve rinsed it that are still there when you paint will wreak havoc to your first coat of paint. Give your deck a full 24 hours to completely dry out before moving on to the priming and painting.

How to Prepare a Deck in Rough Shape

Deck Boards in Rough Shape
Weathered Stained Wood Deck Planks

1. Inspect your Deck

Before committing to this whole process, take the time to really inspect your deck. If it looks like it may be too far gone, get a professional opinion on if you can save your deck as a DIYer. They’d be able to tell you if it needs to be completely replaced or just shown some TLC and restored and painted.

Before buying anything or jumping right into repair mode, evaluate deck boards, posts, stairs, joists, handrails, and balusters for damage. Note any wood rot because it will need to be replaced. Also notice any word-dow nails or screws because they’ll need to be replaced as well.

Pay special attention to any part of the deck that is in direct contact with the ground. If you can sink the tip of a screwdriver into a post or joist, that means you’ve got significant rot and it’s time for a major renovation.

Also look closely at the deck-to-house connection. Since screws and bolts can loosen, moisture can cause your band joist to rot. Take time to tighten the fasteners that attach the deck to your house. Look for ay missing, bent, or rusted flashing.

Take a minute to look for loose wood pieces to make sure nobody is getting a 2 inch long splinter in their hand or foot!

2. Make Repairs

Take the time to make the repairs that you can handle yourself and bring in a professional for the ones that are above your head. Replace damaged boards and deck screws. Fill in any gouges with wood filler. Make sure all big splinters are loosened and removed. Do what it takes your deck ready for the rest of the process!

3. Pick Up at Step 2 of How to Prepare a Deck in Good Shape

Now you’re ready to pick up at step 2 since you’ve already cleaned off your deck to repair it.

Wrapping up How to Prep A Deck For Painting

Hopefully by now, you’ve got the confidence you need to get your deck fully prepared for painting. This post is full of tips and tricks to make it as easy as possible.

Want to let the pros handle the painting of your deck? Schedule a free estimate with Minneapolis Painting Company today.