How to Stain a Deck and Fence (Without Losing Your Mind)

Staining a deck and fence can be an overwhelming job if you don’t have the proper tools. Learn how to stain a deck and fence, without losing your mind!

kids on deck

We’ve had this floating deck, and the fence for a few years now, and both were looking so sad. We installed the fence 4 years ago, stained it previously about 2 years ago.  Around 2 weeks after we stained it…  it started flaking off.  The deck we built about 3 years ago as well, and we sprayed it… and it peeled.

I swore off on any type of paint or staining anything out there, because the thought of redoing the whole project was so overwhelming.

The fate of my deck and fence were sealed with two fatal errors…

Spraying on a windy day. This caused the stain to float on the surface of the wood, so it wasn’t able to sink fully into the wood.

Not allowing the wood to fully dry. This is a no-brainer, BUT!  I promise you, we cleaned off the deck, and let it dry. It just wasn’t 100% dry.

How to Properly Stain a Deck and Fence

This post is brought to you by HomeRight. Visit my full disclosure here.

This time, we power washed the fence, deck, and steps, making sure to remove anything that was already loose, as well as some areas of obvious funk. Seeing how much stain came off after one pass, we decided to just give it a second pass, which actually took off the rest of the stain left from the original application.

We let it sit for weeks of rain, sunshine, more rain, more sun, windy days, and finally… almost 4 days straight of dry weather and sunshine. Praise be! You’d think the fence would be done, but noooooo. Only half was able to be sprayed because of winds and storms on the days I wanted to finish!

When we purchased this land, I literally thought the day of our walk through on lots, “it is so windy here, is it always this windy here!?” And the answer is…  yes. I will be spraying the fence this week and shall update you guys accordingly!

Here is a super quick video with Andrew and I (and a few kids thrown in there) working on this project – it’s sped up, and we look ridiculous.

Staining the Deck

This deck was truly horrible looking. Dead plants. Gross. The fence basically looked exactly like this. Pre-power washing. The after shot, you can see in the video – it looks brand new.

Gross deck before power washing

As Nina Garcia would say, “It’s saaaaaaad.”

Staining the deck was unbelievably simple because we have no railings, and used the Stain Stick with Gap Wheel from our loves at HomeRight. The stain pad is wonderfully soft and helps the stain go on ultra smooth. It’s very easy to use the stain stick with whatever stain you like – visit my expert page at HomeRight for all the specific details. It is as simple as using the EZTwist Paint Stick (which we used in the brick house, and painting our whole house).

staining a deck

The greatest thing about this tool, is the wheel that will drop down to fill the gaps in the deck boards.  This is a massive time saver – no brushing in between boards and getting an uneven application. The wheel pops up when it lays flat on the face of the board. It’s basically like mopping, just better!

Stained Deck

This (8’x12′) deck took 3 1/2 refills of the stain stick, and took me a bit over an hour to do the top, and about 30 minutes to go around the sides of the deck with a brush. A few days later, I also did the steps to match. We chose to go with Simply Cedar from Valspar, in a semi-transparent finish.

garden with stained deck and steps

We also decided to go all-in on the DIY landscaping by digging out the garden more, adding some mulch, more hostas (I have a hosta obsession), creeping jenny, an azalea, and little stepping stones.

Staining the Fence

Our fence is about 7-gallons-of-stain-long. The application this time around was amazing.  We noticed an immediate difference in how wet the stain was when it was on the fence; it sunk right in and it was very even. Such a huge difference! Don’t spray on ultra windy days… lesson learned.

This was the fence after a solid power washing. It basically looks brand new!

fence ready for stain

I have had dreams of a black fence for some time now, but didn’t want to go with black paint. I wanted to see the wood through the stain, so we chose Olympic Elite semi-transparent, in Black Oak (after an hour -literally- marinating on tiny squares of sample colors to find the perfect brown/black combo).

Staining a fence

We used the HomeRight Super Finish Max paint sprayer, and when I tell you I love this sprayer, I’m not kidding. This sprayer is like…  heaven sent. If you’d prefer to lose your marbles, though, I suppose you could grab a paint brush. I wouldn’t suggest it. There are full detailed directions for using this glorious sprayer over on my expert page at HomeRight! We have used the sprayer on my mom’s shed, our kitchen cabinets (and their follow up post), a fireplace, and some furniture.

stained fence

garden, stained fence and deck

This project doesn’t have to be intimidating, time consuming, or mind boggling, if you’re armed with proper prep and the right tools! Oh, and the proper amount of wind. Here are my favorite supplies for both these jobs:

deck stain farmhouse yard

After we finish the other half of the fence, we are going to be adding a canopy to the deck for some shade, as well as some mini outdoor globe lights. Annnnnnd those bald patches will get some TLC for sure!

What outdoor projects are YOU tackling this spring?


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