How To Stain A Deck? (5-Step Guide)

Last Updated On July 16, 2021

Wondering how to stain a deck to perfection? We've got all the tips for staining your deck right here. 

Read about how easy DIY deck staining is by taking it step by step. We've got your outdoor space covered.

How To Stain A Deck

In this guide you'll learn:

  • What you need to know about how to stain a deck
  • Supplies you'll need for staining a deck
  • The step-by-step process for how to stain a deck

And much more!

So, before you do stain your deck, I recommend you read this quick 5-step guide on how to do it right.

What Do You Need To Know About Staining A Deck?

There are plenty of ways to apply stain onto a deck, but regardless of your chosen method, the first step is identifying the wood type you're working with.

Direct sunlight and water will cause your wooden deck to quickly deteriorate and form mildew if left untreated.

So ultimately, making sure you take the time to apply a high quality wood stain to your deck can extend it's lifespan and keep it looking gorgeous!

What Supplies Will You Need For Staining A Deck?

Before you get started on any project, it helps to gather all the supplies you'll need so you don't have to run back and forth to the hardware store to buy things you've forgotten.

Let's go over some of the key supplies you'll need to stain your deck properly.

Your stain of choice

Do some research to find the best stain for your project. We've done some research for you to find some of the best stains on the market. Check out our articles below to determine what stain you should use for your unique project.

Pressure Washer

Power washers easily connect to the garden hose providing the necessary pressure to thoroughly clean the deck before staining.

Paintbrush/Bristle Brush

A paintbrush is optional if you are using a paint sprayer, but using a brush might be the ideal tool for staining smaller projects.


Use sandpaper to remove old stain and paint before applying a new coat. Sanding the deck surface may or may not be necessary depending on the condition of the deck.

Painter's Tape

Painter's tape will help you cover up areas that won't be stained. 

Paint Masker

For larger jobs, you might want to consider using a paint masker to help you get the job done.

Nitrile Gloves

Nitrile gloves will protect your hands from the stain.

Protective Glasses

Protect your eyes by using safety glasses when staining.

Cotton Mask/Respirator

We recommend that you protect your respiratory system by using a cotton mask when staining and painting and especially if you are spraying.

Did you know: Staining wood can actually increase its lifespan.  This is because the stain prevents splintering, rot, and rain from destroying the wood's surface.

How To Stain A Deck (5-Step Guide)

Now that you know what supplies you'll need to get the job done, let's dive into the step-by-step process.

(Psst! You can click on any of the links below to jump ahead to that step.)

  1. Select the right stain for the job
  2. Powerwash/sand, clean and mask the surface of the deck
  3. Apply the stain using the best possible method
  4. Apply a second coat of stain if necessary
  5. Inspect the results and polish (optional)

Step 1 - Select the right stain for the job

There are so many different products that you could use to protect your deck from the elements. In fact, we have an article reviewing the best stains for your deck. So how do you know which stain to use on your project? You can start by identifying the type of wood.

Identifying wood

The first step in selecting the right stain for the job is identifying the type of wood. For example, if you are staining a pine deck, you might want to opt for a pine stain. 

Do some research specific to your project to find the right stain for the job. There are a few different types of stains, including gel stains, water-based stains, oil-based stainsdeck sealant, etc., and each type of stains has its pros and cons in comparison to the other.

Some decks are made from synthetic materials and plastics. Do some research specific to the type of deck to make sure you are applying the right product.

Step 2 - Pressure wash/sand, clean and mask the surface of the deck/power wash

First, start by cleaning your deck with a pressure washer. Pressure washing will get rid of any loose paint and wood chips that might cause uncovered spots in the stain job later on.

Sanding the deck beforehand is sometimes necessary for a smooth finish.

A new deck won't need much prepping. If you are standing the wood for the first time, it might take just a small amount of sanding to get the job.

Are you re-staining? 

You'll want to sand as much of the old stain as possible for maximum adhesion when refinishing your deck. 

Masking the surface

You'll want to cover up any objects that won't be stained. The best way to mask a painting project is by using a paint masker and masking film/paper.

Step 3 - Apply the stain using the best possible method 

Applying the stain can be done using various methods. Here are a few:

Staining with a paint sprayer

Using a paint sprayer is the most effective way to stain your deck in a short period of time. Be sure to read the manufacturer's directions on your paint sprayer to avoid damaging it in the painting process.

Staining with a paintbrush/Roller

 A paintbrush or paint roller isn't the most ideal method for applying stain to a deck, but it will work in a pinch.

Staining with a rag/Microfiber towel

Stain can also be simply applied by using a rag. Simply dip the rag in the stain, and wipe it across the wood grains. Just remember to use nitrile gloves to avoid damaging your skin.

Step 4 - Apply a second coat of stain if necessary

You might notice that the first coat of stain absorbed into some parts of the wood grain leaving dry spots.

Because wood grains inconsistently absorb paint and stain, it's not uncommon to spray 2-3 coats of paint on the decking for the stain to disperse evenly throughout the wood.

Let the deck dry for the amount of time recommended on the container of your specific stain product, and evaluate whether or not additional coats are necessary.

Be sure to wait the full amount of drying time before allowing foot traffic on the wood surface.

Step 5 - Inspect results and polish (optional)

Stained wood can be polished with wax just like a car. In fact, car wax is a perfectly good solution for shining up your deck.

You could even take an electric buffer at slow RPM and really spiff up your deck to make it look wonderful.

You could also apply a polyurethane sealer that will lock the stain in and further protect the deck boards from water and UV damage.

After you are satisfied with the results of your staining job, it's time to clean up. Feel free to lightly sand areas where the stain is thicker than necessary.

Other Valuable Resources on How To Stain A Deck

Find painters in your area

Use our tool to find the best painters in your area. We also have reviews on some of the best painters nearby.

Do you need a ladder?

We've already done our research on which are the best ladders. Check out our page.

Read More >> What Are The Best Multi-Position Ladders?

Any questions?

Homeowners! Ask us all of your home improvement questions by clicking on our home page.

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

Got A Paint Question? Ask Your Pro Painter!

Learn More Expert Paint Tips

Painting shouldn’t be this hard. Check out some of these other helpful guides to help you nail the perfect paint job!

How To Remove Hard Water Spots From Car Paint? (5-Step Guide)

Does your car have hard water spots that don’t come out in the car wash?

Read More »
How To Stain A Fence? (5-Step Guide)

Are you wondering how to stain a wood fence? So, before you do stain your fence,

Read More »
How To Apply Stain? (5-Step Guide)

 Want to know how to stain wood or another surface?  We have all the tips on

Read More »
How To Remove Stain From Wood?

 Want to know how to remove stain from wood? Removing stain from wood is easy, and

Read More »

Got Paint Questions? Search For In-Depth Answers Below!

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

About Pro Paint Corner

You’ve got painting questions. We’ve got the best painting answers from a network of seasoned painting pros.

Recently Published Guides