Wood Staining Tips for Decks, Fences, Gates & Arbors

July 02, 2015 2 min read

Wood Staining Tips for Decks, Fences, Gates & Arbors

After your wood deck, fence, gate or pergola is built, you need to protect the wood from weathering and aging. Most homeowners choose to apply either stain or paint to ensure the project has a long life. Staining lets you see the wood grain and preserve or alter the color of the wood, while paint hides both the grain and color. 

Be aware of potential dilemmas you may run into if the wood is not prepared and maintained properly. From oil-based vs. water-based (latex; acrylic) stains, to deck stain color ideas, all these wood staining tips should be taken into consideration before you start your project to achieve a perfectly stained finish.

Choosing the Correct Stain: Is the wood new or existing? What level of protection does the wood need from outdoor elements (UV, rain, etc.)? Do I want a color or clear stain? Has the wood been treated previously (how will this interfere/effect the stain)? Choosing the right stain is a vital part of the process.

Varnished Surface: If wood already has varnish on it, sand it before you apply the new stain. Whenever sanding wood before treatment, always sand with the grain.

Types of Wood:  Apply a quality base primer to prepare the wood for application. This will create a consistent base so that the wood reacts positively to the stain and does not appear blotchy and uneven. Test your stain on scrap wood to ensure it’s ready to apply.

Humidity and Moisture: Make sure the wood has dried inside and outside before staining. One deck-staining tip is to wait six weeks to allow for a thorough dehydration of the wood. It is also recommended to stain on a warm, dry day.

Stain is Too Thick: One way to avoid this issue is to add a compatible thinner to the stain in order to get a product that will supply a smooth application.

Sawdust Layer: Wipe the wood down thoroughly. For large projects, you can use a power washer. Give the surface a full day of sun to dry before treating it. If this is not done, sawdust will result in an appearance that is uneven and blotchy.

Oil-Based vs. Water-Based Stains (Latex/Acrylic): Water-based color stains provide a richer color than oil based stains. Oil-based stains provide a thicker seal, offering more protection, and they do not need to be maintained as much as water-based stains. 

Saw Cuts: Once the wood has completely dried, a sealer should be applied to the saw cuts and also the backside of the wood to ensure all surfaces are protected.

Using Multiple Buckets: Mixing all stain buckets together will prevent uneven color appearance over the entire area.

How to Fix/Prevent Blotchy Patches: Apply stain while making sure to wipe away any excess stain and only apply in light coats. Wipe away excess stain immediately.