Daly's Method of Deck Care

Deck care is the hot topic of discussion these days. Everybody wants a product that you apply once, forget about, and that will last forever. Unfortunately, these wants are pretty much impossible to meet. Proper deck care includes periodic re-application and maintenance. Without proper deck care, your expensive investment can end up looking shabby, turn gray, and you may have to replace it much sooner than expected!

Finishes Choices:

Semi-Transparent Deck Stains: A stain made specifically for a deck works best if it is semi-transparent, not solid. A solid coating, such as stain or paint, which sits too much on the surface, wears off in an unsightly manner, and is very prone to blistering and peeling. The deck stain penetrates the surface and doesn't build to a solid coating, therefore, it cannot peel or blister.

Typically, deck stains have various additives that give them superior performance to standard semi-transparent stains. One additive would include an alkyd resin base, which dries harder and is more scuff resistant than a standard linseed oil base. Ultra violet light absorbers are sometimes added to help maintain the integrity of the wood longer, because they act as a sunscreen to the wood. Also, water repellents, such as wax, are added to help water from destroying the wood, an important consideration for your deck which takes a beating from rain.

Daly's Deckstain is formulated utilizing the above additives, plus a mildewcide to help slow down the growth of those pesky black spots that appear on your deck. It is available in 8 popular colors plus Clear, and can be custom blended to meet virtually any color need. This product, which requires only 1 coat, is the superior deck stain on the market.

Floor Paints: The paints (in either oil or latex bases) are made specifically for walking surfaces. They usually have the added protection of urethane resins for maximum scuff resistance. Even though they're made to be walked on, they are not appropriate for decks! Unless you paint the deck boards on all sides, floor paints will surely peel. This is because moisture will come through the bottom and sides of the boards and actually push the paint off!

(We do think floor paints are very appropriate for FLOORS)

Solid Stains: While excellent for the siding of your home, a solid stain is not appropriate for decks! The product is quite soft, and will wear off quickly. Also, because it sits more on the surface, solid stains will peel in the same manner as floor paints.

Water Proofers: Slick national advertising campaigns makes these products look like the magical solution. However, they usually consist mainly of wax, with a very small amount of resin. Resin is the stuff that actually stays in the wood after the products have dried. Once the wax dissipates, your water proofer is gone in short order. The wood will also gray quickly, due to the lack of ultra violet light absorbers.

Surface Preparation Products

Commercially prepared deck cleaners can save you lots of back-aching labor. There are generally three types:

1) Strippers
2) Washes
3) Brighteners
  1. Strippers - If your deck was previously painted with either a floor paint or solid stain, you will need to strip it before you can use a deck stain. An excellent alternative to sanding with a cumbersome sander, a product such as Strip-X can save you a lot of time. This powerful gel dissolves old coatings which are then hosed off, and is biodegradable.

  2. Washes - For periodic cleaning, and to prepare the surface for a new coat of stain, commercially available washes can be economical and labor-saving. Daly's Deck and House Cleaner is an excellent choice. Washes are designed to remove dirt and mildew (prevalent in the Pacific Northwest) with regular maintenance, and also prepare the surface for recoating. Washes are not typically designed to remove coatings, but sometimes the old coating is in such bad shape they actually may be removed!

  3. Wood Brighteners - These products are designed to be used on old, weathered pieces that have gone gray with sunlight exposure. They also work well to remove water damage marks. Our Daly's Wood Brightener would be the product of choice. They only work on bare, weathered wood, or a freshly stripped piece. A deck wash should be used first, because the brighteners will not remove dirt.
Prepping The Surface

New Deck: The sooner that you treat your newly installed deck, the better it is for the wood. However, the wood must be "seasoned" to allow the Deck Stain to penetrate. New deck planks will have "mill-glazing," a shiny surface caused by planers that make the planks smooth. This "mill-glaze" will prevent a product from soaking into the wood. Sitting outside exposed to the elements for a few weeks will usually suffice, or using a product called Mill-Glaze Away will remove it. Sanding the deck will also work.

The way to test the deck to see if it's ready to accept a stain is to sprinkle a little bit of water on the surface. If it beads up like water on a freshly waxed car, it's not ready yet. If it tends to soak into the wood, then you're ready to proceed.

Pressure treated lumber should be treated with the deck stain, because the stain will help the plank from buckling and cupping. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for treatment.

Previously Treated Deck: It's imperative that the deck stain be allowed to soak into the wood. If the surface has any type of previous coating such as paint or solid stain, or a fresh coat of deck stain, the coating must be removed prior to the application of the deck stain. This can involve either drum sanding or the use of a deck stripper. We suggest you use the stripper first because it can potentially be less laborious, and it won't remove a significant layer of your deck! Follow the manufacturer's directions for the stripper.

If the deck has a previous coating of a deck stain that has been weathered, and it's time for a new coat, usually just cleaning the surface with a deck wash will usually suffice. Follow the manufacturer's directions for the wash. However, the more coats of deck stain that are on the surface, the less time each successive coat will ultimately last. That's because the new coats won't penetrate the surface properly. Stripping the deck bare with a gel stripper prior to a new coat is the ideal solution.

If it has been years since anything has been done to your deck, and it's just a mildewy, gray mess, a thorough washing and then a treatment of the deck brightener will usually prepare the deck properly.

Applying The Deckstain

Once your deck has thoroughly dried from the battery of washes and brighteners (usually 1-2 dry, sunny days), you should give it a coat of Deck Stain as soon as possible. This will maintain the integrity of the wood longer, and slow down the natural graying process.

The best way to apply the deck stain is to brush it on. Brushing the stain helps work the stain into the fibers of the wood, and also with uniformity of color. If you want to spray or roll it on for speed, we highly recommend that you then "back-brush" the stain in for penetration and to avoid puddles.

As you're applying the stain, work the lengths of the planks, not across. If you don't, it's highly likely you will end up with lap marks. Try to avoid applying the stain in direct sunlight. If you do, the stain will dry much faster than normal, and not penetrate properly. In fact, the ideal weather to apply the stain is a cool, overcast day. Watch out for rain, though! If you can't apply the stain in shade, work by "following the sun." After the sun has passed by and the surface has cooled down a bit, then apply the stain. Touch your hand to the surface of the wood. If it feels too hot to touch, it's too hot to stain!

If you have multiple cans on the same color, even off-the-shelf stock colors, be sure to mix them together first, before you apply the stain. This ensures you will have a uniform colored stain job.

Because deck stains are thin by nature, they must be stirred often to keep the pigment suspended. If you don't stir it often enough, you're sure to end up with a non-uniform look.
The best time of year to apply a stain is of course late spring or early summer. If, however, your deck was installed late in the year you can still apply the stain, but caution must be used here. You will need a stretch of about 4-5 days of dry weather. After the deck has seen 3 or so consecutive dry days, the deck should be ready to stain. It will then need a day or two before it can get wet again. If the stain is applied over a damp surface or it gets rained on before fully dry, it won't dry properly and won't last nearly as long.

Daly's Deck Stain requires only one coat. If you attempt to put on two coats, the second coat very well may come out shiny, because it won't penetrate the surface. Also, there's a great chance that the coat may peel or blister. If you feel you must put on a second coat, let the first coat weather for three months or so.

Color Choices In Deckstain

Many people, rightfully so, want their deck to look exactly like it did when installed for years to come. Their first idea would be to just use a clear deck stain or sealer to treat it. Clear products, even if they contain an ultra violet light absorber, cannot prevent the wood from graying over time. The clears with an ultra violet light absorber will, however, slow the graying process.

To maintain the color of the wood for the longest period of time, choose a stain color that is most similar to the raw color of the wood. The pigment in the stain helps 'lock' in the color over time by acting as a sun screen. At Daly's, we can even custom blend a color for your deck that is the color of your wood. Just bring in a scrap piece of your decking material so we can test samples on it.

After you decide what color you want, be sure to test it in a small area first. Making the wrong color choice can be a costly mistake for you if you want to change the color later!


As stated in the first paragraph, maintenance is the key to success for your deck. Because decks are situated horizontally, they are among the toughest surfaces to maintain. This is because they receive a greater amount of damaging direct sunlight, standing water, dirt, mildew, and foot traffic!

Mildew is a common problem here in the Pacific Northwest. Most deck stains contain a mildewcide to help prevent this, but it will more than likely occur, especially in shaded areas. This is because of our overcast, dank, damp, unending gray, depressing days.

To help maintain the deck, simply washing it occasionally is key. Use a dilute solution of your deck wash, so as not to damage the deck stain. Too strong of a solution can potentially remove your stain.

After prolonged exposure, even the best stain will begin to break down. When this begins to happen, it's time for a new coat of stain. Follow the procedures under Prepping the Surface. Expect a high quality deck stain to last one to two years, perhaps even longer if you maintain it.

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