Staining Previously Painted Deck


The previous owners of my house apparently used a latex paint on the deck. The deck is about 600 sq feet, maybe 70 feet of railing, including stairs, and 6′ off the ground. The floor is badly weathered; portions of the railing are peeling but some of the trim is in good shape (e.g. some of the balusters, the support beams and trim below the deck). The wood is in OK shape, but there is some cupping. I had planned to use a semi-solid stain on the floor and a solid on the trim.

I want to do a quality job, but I also need to get this done within the next 4 weeks! I’m power washing now which seems to be doing a good job on the floor, but not so much on the railings. I tried the Cabot stripper with mixed results (problem most likely in the execution, not the product, but regardless it’s expensive and the outer portion of the railing will be a bear). In the interest of expedience, do I need to remove all the paint on the railings before applying the solid stain? If so, what technique would you recommend? If I am able to leave the paint where it is in good condition, can I change the color? The paint is off-white.

It seems I will need to sand. What type of sander would you recommend I use for the floor and the railings? I’m a DIY novice; I don’t have a huge amount of upper body strength; and, of course, I’d like it to get it done quickly. 🙂 Unfortunately, I will not be hiring a contractor.

Any and all suggestions appreciated.

2 Responses

  1. WOW! For a novice you have chosen a big job as your first. You ask very good questions and seem to have done some homework for the project.

    I will begin by answering a question you know the answer to, but did not want to hear. Yes, if you wish to stain you must remove ALL residual paint.

    To accomplish this, you are beginning at the correct spot with the pressure washer. What you will find is the areas in direct sun will come clean (easiest) and those in the constant shade will be the most difficult. The sun pulling the moisture out of the wood is what makes the paint peel in the first pace. The only way to "change color" without removing all the paint is to paint the wood again. Trouble is, if you paint, you will have the same results later… Peeling Paint.

    Yes, sanding after using the pressure washer is the next step. You should be able to rent a floor sander for the large areas. One large item of concern here is the nails or screws will rip apart the sandpaper on the drum of the sander. If the fasteners are too many to sink, you have an even bigger job ahead of you. All hand sanding.

    As for the rails and spindles, you can buy a "random orbit" sander with either stick on discs or velcro disks. This item will help you make an easier job of the non-flat areas.

    To make your task more manageable, there is no rule which requires you to get all the paint off the entire deck before staining. To what I refer is, work a section of handrail, get it to bare wood and stain. Work a section of floor to bare wood and stain. If you do this, try to stay working on the boards from one end to the other to stay away from start/stop marks on the floorboards. You will end up with just as much work, but you will have several small rewards for your efforts.

    One other thing, be a little more realistic on the time frame and give yourself 4 months not 4 weeks.

  2. I had to deal with a badly peeling deck years ago, but didn't have the time to completely strip the old paint (it was on my Father's house). I just striped off what could be easily removed, then put latex stain on the remaining mess. The latex stain adhered to the paint as well as the exposed wood, but, of course, it didn't stop the paint from peeling. Every year I touched up any places where the remaining paint had peeled. Eventually, the peeling stopped and the deck only needed a occasional touch-up work. This is a viable solution for anyone who is reasonably handy and doesn't demand immediate perfection. It won't work for someone who is having all of the work done and doesn't want any part of the maintenance effort.

    PS: One of the reasons this approach worked so well for me was that everything was gray, the paint, the stain and the bare wood. The slow peeing process might be harder to tolerate if the stain were a different color, though the paint color wouldn't likely matter.

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