Sunday, December 4

Weather Proofing the Deck

Last winter my deck was left vulnerable to our harsh weather. We didn't finish construction before winter hit and staining before the construction was finished didn't seem to make sense. However, since we are done with the structure of the deck and quickly moving into the winter season I decided it was time to hurry up and weather-proof the deck.

Cleaning the Deck
Because the wood has been exposed to rain, snow, dirt and pet debris for over a year I needed to clean the deck before beginning to stain it. So my dad brought over his power washer and we got some deck detergent.

In theory the tube in the deck detergent container is supposed to add detergent to the power washer spray for easy deck cleaning. We started running into trouble though. First the spray wasn't nearly powerful enough. Then, after Dad fixed that, I realized that the detergent container didn't seem to be getting any emptier. So we went old school with Dad spraying the deck while I splashed the detergent around.

Unfortunately I didn't consider that the detergent might have bleach and I didn't change out of my nice yoga pants. Now they look like this:
Bummer! I may try to re-dye them.
Once we finished cleaning the deck I had to wait for it to dry before beginning with the stain. Since I expected this to be a two-day project I started over a weekend. Saturday we power washed the deck and the staining began on Sunday afternoon.

Staining the Deck
I shouldn't have painted part of the decking like this,
it may cause brush marks or uneven coloring.
However, when I painted the outside there were drips
that I was trying to smooth out.
With no rain on the horizon I started staining the deck. The stain needs about 24 hours to dry, which means I'd been checking the weather forecast more often in one day than I normally do in an entire month.

I chose to start staining in the least visible area I could find. I'd never stained anything before and didn't want to experiment in an area that would be immediately noticeable in case I messed up.

The instructions said to paint each
piece of decking all the way across
before moving on to the next.

I only finished part of the deck before the sun went down that Sunday. If I had gotten started earlier I might have finished, but the sun setting before six worked against me. The railing on the deck made things difficult since I couldn't paint the crevices around the lattice without getting stain on the lattice. Plus as the sun started to set the railing shaded the deck, shadowing the areas where I needed light the most. 

Despite the complications, I got most of the railing done and started on the decking as you can see in the pics.

I really like the color I chose (see the picture to the left for a closer view), which is great because a downside of stain (as opposed to paint which wasn't really an option here) is that you only get one shot. 

With my bathroom I got samples of about five different colors. Then I painted a section of the wall with each color and waited a few days before deciding which color was my favorite. But with stain, if I decided I didn't like the color after I started, I couldn't just paint over it with a different stain. I could have tested the stain on some scrap wood first, but I wasn't overly concerned about liking the color. I knew I wanted the stain to match the lattice as closely as possible so I took a piece of the lattice with me when I went to Lowe's to buy my stain.

Because it gets dark so early at this time of year I wasn't able to get home early enough to work on the deck on a normal work day. The weather forecast predicted rain for the entire weekend, but I really wanted to finish before going out of town for Thanksgiving. So I skipped lunch a couple of days and left work early one day to get home before dark. After another two hours in the 40 degree weather I managed to finish all but the stairs. I finished those that weekend since the rain never did come.

Here's the finished product!
The built in bench will be against the back. I also plan
to build some flower boxes to hang off the side.

I need to buy the post caps, but otherwise it looks great!

Things I Would Do Differently:
  • The stain didn't brush on very evenly and if there were any drips it changes the coloring. I would make sure to have a rag handy to wipe up drips and a roller brush instead of just paintbrushes might help. Having a really small paintbrush would have been helpful too.
  • Painting the crevices around the lattice and in between the decking was tricky. Around the lattice it might have been better to stain before putting the lattice in place.
  • If I had done this earlier in the year the sun would have stayed up later, the weather would have been nicer and the chance of rain would have decreased. (Plus I wouldn't have become a human popsicle.)
  • I shouldn't have rushed toward the end, some of the decking has obvious brush strokes since I was trying to finish before dark. I also should have painted each piece of decking instead of doing about 6 inches of several and coming back later (see the picture from the end of Day 1).

Any other tips for future staining jobs? Great stories of mistakes made during big projects?

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