Deck Staining & Repair
Pressure Washing, Mold & Mildew Removal, Stain Removal, Repairs & Replacements, Staining, Sealing, Painting, Maintenance, and Composite Deck Care in Lincoln, Nebraska
All hands on deck!
As a professional painter and contractor, I have been staining decks since 1997. After relocating to Lincoln, Nebraska, in 2010, deck staining has inadvertently become the central part of my business. Today I offer complete deck cleaning, restoration, repair, and modification services, including maintenance of exotic hardwood and composite decks. In addition to decks, I restore and maintain other types of exterior wood structures like arbors, fences, gazebos, lattices, patio furniture, pergolas, play sets, and trellises in the greater Lincoln area.
Deck staining is simple, but...
More often than not, deck staining is a tedious, labor-intensive process. Generalities aside, I would like to share my experiences with these three particular projects in Lincoln as an example of my approach to staining decks. They are the most representative of the methods I employ.
How to tell if it’s time to stain your deck?
Nebraska's climate is harsh on decks. The main reason to seal or stain your deck is to protect it from the damaging effects of water (mold, mildew, and rot), sun (UV radiation), and insects. Aesthetics is a bonus. You can check if your deck needs protection by simply sprinkling some water on it. If the water beads up on the surface, your deck is in good shape, and the wood needs to be allowed to weather longer. On the other hand, if the water quickly absorbs into the wood, it is time to start planning for staining.
The best method to prepare and stain your deck
I firmly adhere to the "if it ain't broke - don't fix it" principle, so you can be assured that I will recommend only the repairs and treatments that your deck needs. Your expectations will determine the exact methods and materials used for staining your deck. Here is what my most demanding Lincoln projects include overall:
I remove all furniture, decorations, plants, and appliances from the deck, protect surrounding vegetation, cover patios, mask and shield siding, and other exterior elements as necessary to make sure not to cause any damage. In addition, if your deck was constructed out of pressure-treated lumber before 2004, it is likely to contain arsenic. Although there are no restrictions for working with CCA-treated lumber imposed by the EPA, I take every measure to prevent potential contamination of your property. You can find more information here.
Cleaning and Preparation:
The quality of cleaning and preparation directly affects the longevity of the finished product, making this step the most important. As a minimum, all surfaces must be free of dirt. In addition, weathered wood cells and existing peeling coating must be removed from the surface before staining. To ensure that this critical phase is done correctly and efficiently, I employ the following procedures:
It is an ongoing debate whether or not to use a pressure washer for cleaning decks. Opponents of the pressure cleaning method emphasize that it is easy to accidentally damage the wood or to remove more earlywood cells than necessary. I agree. I have seen plenty of decks around Lincoln scarred by the incorrect use of pressure washers. Significant damage to the surface is usually caused by attempts to remove stains with a pressure washer alone. That's why I think of a pressure washer as a rinsing tool. The correct pressure and proper techniques, combined with chemical treatment and mechanical agitation (a good scrub with a stiff-bristled brush), make pressure washing an efficient deck cleaning method. This saves time, water, and overall cleaning and preparation costs. That said, I don't insist on using a pressure washer, but cleaning or removing stains without it requires significantly more time.
Mildew and Mold Removal:
To effectively control mold and mildew, I use deck cleaners containing either chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) or oxygen bleach (sodium percarbonate). Chlorine bleach has been the first choice of deck maintenance contractors for years. It works fast. Oxygen bleach is safer on wood and the environment. The type of cleaner for your deck will be based on your preferences.
Stain manufacturers generally recommend removing old stains before the new finish to prevent peeling and ensure consistent appearance and lasting results. Also, if you are planning on switching from a waterborne to an oil-based stain, lowering the opacity, or lightening the color of the finish, then the existing stain will have to be removed. In such cases, I rely on the help of stain removers. Stain removers soften deck stains and make them possible to be removed by scrubbing and rinsing or by pressure washing. A typical deck stain remover consists of sodium hydroxide, water, and surfactants. It is a caustic mixture, so I take all possible measures to protect plants and other elements of the exterior from damage.
Neutralizing and Brightening:
While being a great assistant in removing deck stains, sodium hydroxide turns the wood dark. It also raises the pH level of the wood surface. Therefore, a neutralizing process is necessary to lower the wood's pH to a more acidic level, so the sealer will adhere properly. I apply an oxalic or oxalic/citric acid solution to neutralize the timber treated with sodium hydroxide. As an added benefit, oxalic acid brightens the surface and removes rust and tannin stains.
Repairs and Modifications:
If your deck needs repairs, there is no need to call another contractor. I am fully equipped and capable of implementing any type of repairs, replacements, or modifications to your deck. For example, I can replace decking boards, shaky staircases, and railings, tighten up screws and hammer down protruding nails. Usually, those problems are discovered during an initial inspection and don't come as surprises.
During refinishing process, most decks require some amount of sanding. Splinters, scratches, and other surface irregularities should be sanded for best results. On a newly built deck, it is crucial to ensure all the mill glaze is removed before staining. I use a variety of random orbit and detail sanders to perfect the surfaces. Once the sanding is completed, I remove all the dust with a leaf blower or a vacuum.
The Best Application Method:
Brush, brush, and once again - brush! I firmly believe that regardless of how the stain is delivered to the surface, it must be back-brushed to achieve the best result. I may use a sprayer or roller to speed up the process, but I always work the material into the surface with a brush. This method is the industry standard and is strongly recommended by every stain manufacturer. Every other way, in my opinion, would be a compromise.
Choosing the best stain or sealer for your deck
I can help you select the best stain or sealer to fit your purpose, appearance, and performance expectations.
With the evolution of deck stains and sealers, products considered performance leaders just a few years ago may no longer hold that position. Recently developed stains featuring infrared reflective pigments, synthetic resins, and nanotechnology are good alternatives to conventional deck stains.
In my quest for finding the best deck finishing products, I sift through a fair amount of often conflicting information. I participate in deck contractors' forums, read obscure technology research papers and purchase independent test results. In addition, I check the latest reviews from Consumer Reports, PCA, MPI, and other sources. However, stains that perform great in other regions may not do so well in Nebraska's climate, so I find the data from my Lincoln projects invaluable.
The difference between deck sealers and deck stains:
Sealers are products intended to protect wood from damage caused by water. Most sealers have no added color. While making the wood look natural, clear sealers work only as water repellents. They offer little to no protection from UV radiation, which damages wood cells and causes the wood to gray. Mildew resistance of clear sealers is often poor as well. However, if you want to achieve a rustic appearance of weathered wood, then a clear sealer is the option. If you choose this option, expect your deck to be maintained frequently and the wood to gray out naturally. The advantage of using sealers is that most sealers can be re-applied with only minimum preparation, as they do not require the removal of the previously applied coats.
Stains are primarily intended to change the color of the wood. The color in stains comes from pigments - tiny solid particles. These particles provide protection from the damaging effects of UV radiation. The more opaque the stain is, the more UV protection it provides. Also, deck stains contain chemicals that inhibit the growth of mold and mildew. Most modern deck stains serve as an all-in-one solution. With rare exceptions, there is no need to use a sealer over a deck stain.
Semi-Transparent Stains - This is the most common finish. It provides good protection from the elements while allowing the wood grains to show through. There are many color options to choose from. I recommend this type of stain for decks in good shape.
Semi-Solid or Semi-Opaque Stains - The qualities of these stains filter sun rays while still allowing some of the wood grain to show. Color choices are similar to the ones of semi-transparent stains. These stains are best for weathered decks in fair condition.
Solid Color Stains - Although hiding the wood grains completely, technically, this finish would give your deck the best protection. UV and fade resistance are excellent. Color options are unlimited. I recommend this finish for decks that have been previously finished with a solid color stain, severely weathered decks, and problem surfaces. These stains often require fewer preparation steps, making the process the most economical overall. Solid color stains also work on composite decking materials.
Depending on the type and brand, most stains vary between matte and satin finishes.
Oil-based vs. Waterborne stains:
Unlike in states with stricter VOC compliance laws, oil-based deck stains and sealers are currently available in Nebraska. Sealers, transparent, semi-transparent, and semi-solid stains are available in oil-based and waterborne versions. Most solid color deck stains are waterborne. According to the Consumer Reports Wood stain buying guide, neither oil nor waterborne treatments have shown any advantage in their durability tests. It is worth noting that Consumer Reports no longer tests oil-based deck stains. Instead, they limit their tests to products emphasizing ease of use and those sold in big box stores.
Below are some observations I made while working on decks in Lincoln with regards to the pros and cons of both types of stains:
You may consider an elastomeric coating if you have an older deck with prominent cracks in wood, but you are not ready to replace it.
Elastomeric coatings are waterborne. Initially designed for masonry and stucco, this material was reformulated by several manufacturers to fit the purpose of restoring older decks and docks. Dense and flexible, rubber-like coating fills in sizable cracks, locks in splinters, smooths rough surfaces, waterproofs, and provides maximum protection from the elements. In addition, a slip-resistant surface can be created by mixing in an additive.
I have personally seen some successful and disastrous results involving some of the elastomeric deck products. So, to say the least, elastomeric coatings must be applied following the manufacturer's recommended preparation and application procedures to the letter to avoid costly problems.
Synthetic Polymer Resurfacers:
Like elastomeric coatings, synthetic polymer resurfacers are the latest industry response to consumer demands for finding a permanent solution to deck maintenance. The principal difference between these products from elastomeric coatings is that they allow water vapors to escape, making the coat "breathable." This quality is supposed to prevent peeling and cracking of the coating. Accelerated laboratory tests claimed some advantages over elastomeric products, but I am unaware of real-world data reports.
How long will your sealer or stain last:
The average life of a clear sealer in the Lincoln area is from three months to 1 year. On decking and rail caps, deck stains usually last between 2-3 years on average and may last up to 6 years in some cases. Stains typically last longer on vertical surfaces.
Maintaining your deck
Regular maintenance can significantly prolong the life of the stain. I recommend rinsing your deck at least once a year with the help of some soap and gentle scrubbing with a stiff-bristled brush if needed. Avoid placing planters, umbrella stands, and other flat and heavy objects directly on the deck. They most certainly will leave a water stain and eventually will cause the wood underneath them to decay. Instead, consider elevating the pots by placing them on less obstructive stands. Also, I suggest keeping debris from accumulating between boards to prevent water entrapment and subsequent rot. Occasionally touching up some spots may also be a good idea.
In the winter, snow should be kept from accumulating. Besides being a hazard, compacted snow and ice act as an abrasive against the finish. A rubber shovel is an ideal tool for snow removal from your deck, as it is unlikely to scratch the surface. I recommend pushing it along the length of the boards. Ice can be removed with the help of rock salt.
A three-year warranty comes standard with my premium deck services. If you are not satisfied with my work, please let me know, and I will make it right. Guaranteed.