As we look forward to a summer filled with backyard barbeques and family get-togethers, it’s probably time to take a little time to evaluate your deck. Are your deck boards greying, washed out or covered in moss and leaf debris? If your deck looks like it took a beating last winter, don’t worry—there’s still time to get it looking great in time for company. Just follow these simple steps for cleaning and re-staining your deck and get ready to show it off! 1. Learn the differences between transparent and opaque deck stain. The first thing to realize when it comes to deck stain is that there is no perfect solution; every type of stain has pros and cons, so you just have to pick the one that’s best for you. Deck stains are available on a spectrum, from totally transparent to completely opaque. Transparent deck stains are best for showing off the natural beauty of your wood, so they’re best used on fresh, new boards. There’s a catch though, as these stains let in more UV light and degrade faster than opaque stains. If you don’t mind having to re-stain your deck more often (about every 6 to 24 months), then transparent stain might be for you. Opaque deck stains are best in terms of longevity; use this and you won’t have to re-stain for about four years. The downside? Since it’s opaque, it completely covers the wood grain, which some people think isn’t as aesthetically pleasing. Opaque stain also doesn’t absorb into the wood, rather leaving a film on top of deck boards that’s subject to chipping and cracking over time. You can also opt for a semi-transparent stain to ride the line between product life and aesthetics. Semi-transparent stains absorb into wood like transparent ones do, but they also impart a color to wood that helps decrease UV damage. With a semi-transparent stain, you can expect to re-stain your deck about every three years. 2. Wash and scrub your deck. First, you’ll want to wait for a day that’s largely overcast—less sun means slower evaporation and easier work. Next, remove furniture and tie back any plants or tree branches that are touching the deck. Brush the deck to remove any leaves or large debris, then get out the power washer. Use a 40-degree fan nozzle (usually this one will be white) and set the washer to 3000 psi, then spray and wet all surfaces from a distance of about 18 inches. While the deck is still wet, it’s time to bring out the deck scrub. Deck wash solutions can be found at any home improvement store, or you can try making your own with a solution of one gallon of water, 1 cup powdered laundry detergent (without bleach) and an optional ¾ cup oxygen bleach. Make sure you’re using oxygen bleach (safe to use around plants), not regular bleach (definitely not safe to use around plants). Using a long-handled scrub brush, dip the bristles in your solution and scrub the deck from top to bottom working in the direction of the wood grain. Start with the top rail, working down to the balusters, posts, bottom rail and then the deck boards. 3. Power rinse and let it dry. Let the solution set for about 15 minutes, then go over the deck again with the power washer, again working from top to bottom. You’ll want to make sure you’re rinsing the solution off completely, working on one board at a time from a distance no closer than 8 inches (put the nozzle any closer and you risk making marks in the boards that are impossible to remove). Once all the solution has been rinsed off, it’s time to play the waiting game. It can take three or four days for your deck to dry completely, and if it rains you’ll have to start the countdown clock over. If this seems like a hassle, there’s actually a very good reason you want to give your deck plenty of time to dry. If you don’t, the water that’s still in the deck boards will want to come up through your fresh stain job, creating bubbles and cracks. You’re probably not going to like that look, so it’s best to make sure everything’s completely dry so you don’t waste your effort. 4. Stain the deck from top to bottom. Now that it’s time to stain, there are a few things to remember. One, use a synthetic bristle brush that’s just a little wider than one of your deck boards. Two, work in the same order you cleaned the deck—top rail, balusters, posts, bottom rail, deck boards. Three, make sure you’re stirring the stain frequently so the color looks even across the deck. If the stain runs or drips, brush them out immediately to keep the final job from looking spotty. Once you’re ready to hit the deck boards, brush one at a time with long, even strokes while keeping a wet edge. This will help prevent lines from forming. Once you’re done, let the deck dry for two full days before you walk on it. Call National Property Inspections for a report on your home today. Our NPI inspectors can assess your roof, foundation, electrical system, plumbing and more and prepare a full report on their condition. Find an inspector near you today!