If you follow us on Instagram, you may have seen that this past weekend I tackled my last big outdoor project of the year: staining our new deck!
As you’ll recall, we had a new deck built this past spring on top of our old brick patio (and we hired a pro to do it rather than doing it ourselves, as we wanted to spend the summer doing other outdoor projects not laboring over this one).
Then I built some screening around the concrete foundation and AC unit, and a large planter to block the crawlspace doors (which we don’t need to be able to access, as there’s another set on the other side).
I stained them all a very dark black/brown, as I knew that I also planned to stain the deck a dark color. However, it’s important to wait before staining a new pressure treated deck to allow the boards to fully dry out. Everything I read suggested I wait 6 months or even a full year. I knew I didn’t want to wait through the winter because I thought that would require a lot more prep by then to deal with winter wear-and-tear, but I was patient and waited until as late in the fall as I thought was safe (because you don’t want to stain in cold weather either, and the end of October into November can get dicey in New England).
This past weekend we had really nice weather and a decent window without rain, so I knew it was time to get to work! I was nervous because I wasn’t sure how much of an undertaking it might be, and I was also having trouble picking out a stain and color. Fortunately it turned out to be pretty straightforward, and I picked a product that got pretty good reviews.
I thought about a solid finish as it tends to last a bit longer (the clearer the stain, the faster it succumbs to the elements), but I do like the idea of a little wood grain showing through. Ultimately it only took me a few hours to stain our deck because it’s so small (and there are no railings), so I don’t mind the idea of restaining it in a few years and I’m glad I went for semi-transparent (we’ll see how I’m feeling when the day comes that I actually have to redo it…).
Picking a color was the next hurdle. A lot of decks seem to be done in a lighter color, either wood-toned or something different like gray. However, I’d always imagined our deck as a dark brown/black, because I thought that would contrast nicely against our gray/tan house and be a nice backdrop for colorful outdoor furniture and accessories. It was so hard to tell from the swatches how the color would actually turn out on wood, though. Here are just a few of the options, and you can see that it’s tough to visualize how it will look with wood grain showing through.
I finally decided to go with Black Oak, which is in the middle row in the grid above. I hoped it would be a dark color that pulled more black than medium brown. My deck is about 300 square feet, so I bought a single gallon hoping that would be enough based on the coverage specs on the can (which says it covers 250 – 350 square feet).
Other than the stain, my only other necessary supplies were a paint roller pole (which screws onto the end of a standard paint roller to make it easier to paint low/high spots), a roller with a 3/4″ nap (for rough surfaces), and a 2.5″ angled brush (to get into the cracks between boards).
The prep was pretty straightforward. First I cleaned the furniture and planter off the deck, and I also removed the bottom row of boards along the back screening so that I could reach all the way to the back edge of the deck easily.
I just piled everything on the lawn for the time being.
Next I gave the deck a good sweeping. The cleaning step would have been more involved if the deck were older or if I were restaining it (pressure washing, stripping old stain, sanding, etc), but since the deck is just 6 months old, it’s still quite clean and most of the grime you see in the above photo come off with a good sweeping (though the outline from where the rug prevented the wood from fading didn’t go away completely — but I knew the stain would even things out).
Then I got to work! It was pretty straightforward — I just rolled on a thin and even coat, working just a few boards at a time.
I found that it worked best for me to roll three boards at a time. Then I had to do what’s called “back brushing,” which involved using my angled paintbrush to do two things: 1) go back over the rolled portions to even out and brush away any pooling (you don’t want to leave pools of stain on the surface), and 2) get the cracks between the boards.
You can see how the cracks were super visible until I brushed between the boards — this photo shows where I’d already gone back through with my brush (bottom few boards) and where I hadn’t (middle few boards).
The reason for only rolling 3 boards at a time before back brushing was to ensure the stain hadn’t yet started to dry, and because it would have been hard to reach much further (because I was standing on the unstained deck reaching over the stained board, and I could only comfortably reach across 3 of them).
The rolling was really fast and easy, but the back brushing definitely took some effort and wasn’t so kind to my back and knees. Fortunately this part will be a lot easier if we need to restain in the future, because the cracks are unlikely to get too weathered and need as much thorough attention as this first time.
The whole thing took me about 3.5 hours.
I let it dry for 24 hours (per product recommendations), and then put the screening boards, planter, and furniture back. Before I show you how it looks now, let’s just remember what this space looked like when we bought the house:
And here’s how it’s looking now!
I do want to paint the concrete footings that the deck rests on and obviously there’s a lot more to do with landscaping (filling the planter, etc) and furniture/accessories, but I’m considering this space done for the season! With these structural elements taken care of, I’m excited for more decorating to brighten up the space come next spring.
And since this is the last outside project of the year, here’s a recap of everything else we took on:
- Our awesome landscape architect friend created a five-year plan for us to fix up our outdoor spaces
- We had a small deck built on top of our tiny brick patio
- We painted our dilapidated shed
- We added metal edging to our lawn to define our future planting beds
- I built trellises on the shed
- I built screening for the house foundation and AC unit
- I built a large planter for the deck
- We planted a hydrangea hedge along the fence and in front of the shed
- We had a dogwood tree planted next to the shed and then did a ton of mulching