If your deck looks a little dingy, cleaning it can help. But to really get your deck in shape, you also need to seal it. Constant exposure to UV rays and rain can cause neglected decks to fade, crack, split and warp. Not only does a properly-maintained deck look better, but it also lasts longer. This is a multi-day project, because there is waiting time between the cleaning and the sealing. You can do it by yourself, but using a GenTex Painting professional will make life much easier for you.
A water test is the easiest way to ensure that the wood can absorb sealer or finish. Sprinkle water on the deck. If it soaks in immediately, the deck needs to be sealed. If the water beads up or stands on the deck your deck may not need sealing yet. However, you may need to apply a new wood treatment. Contact us for a free deck evaluation.
Choosing a Stain or Sealer for Your Deck
Make sure to choose a deck stain or sealer that will repel water, resist mildew, and prevent fading in high traffic areas. Sealers and stains are either water-based or oil based. Oil-based finishes tend to hold their color a bit longer, but water-based finishes tend to be more durable and last longer. There are four major categories of sealants and stains, listed in order below. Each contains increasing amounts of pigment. The more pigment you apply, the less wood grain and texture are visible, but the better protection you are providing for your wood.
Clear water repellent often provides basic protection, including waterproofing, minimal UV protection, and sometime mildew growth prevention. Because these are clear or natural-look finishes, there is minimal amount of UV protection and the underlying wood will begin to gray within a few months. Performance ranges from six months to up to two years.
Toner or tinted water repellent is very similar to a clear sealant, except that additional pigment or color is added. This provides greater protection against sun damage, further delaying the graying of the wood. In addition, the color can help to restore the original look of the wood even if a small amount of fading has occurred.
Semi-transparent stains contain additional pigment, providing subtle color while still showing the grain and texture of wood. These provide additional protection against water and sun damage, usually lasting for three or four years. When choosing a stain, remember that the finished color varies based on the wood itself. If you are applying a new stain over an old one, choose a color that is similar to or darker than the original. To allow the new coating to penetrate into the wood, the old coating should be adequately worn or thoroughly stripped. Try a small test-patch of the stain in an inconspicuous area to ensure the proper color and appearance.
Redwood and cedar contain naturally occurring pigments called tannins that may bleed to the surface. On these woods, either use a dark-colored stain that helps to hide the tannin or use a wood cleaner that is specifically formulated to remove tannin stains. To maintain a fresh look, re-coating may be done every two to three years.
Solid stains provide the most amount of pigment or color, and therefore the best protection for wood. However, it also hides the wood grain, only allowing some of the texture of the wood to show through. Because of the excellent hiding properties, solid color stain is often used for heavily-weathered wood, covering up damaged wood fibers. There are often more color choices with this category, so an attractive alternative would be to select complimentary colors for the horizontal boards or railings and the vertical balusters or spindles. Performance is often five years or more, depending on the level of direct exposure to sun and weather, and the amount of foot traffic encountered.
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