How to Paint and Restore a Deck: A Comprehensive Guide from a Professional Painter

Bob Thomas


Your deck is more than just a simple outdoor structure; it's a place where you create cherished memories with family and friends.

Over time, however, exposure to the elements can take a toll on your deck's appearance and structural integrity.

But don't despair! With the right techniques and products, you can bring your deck back to life and ensure its longevity.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through the essential steps of deck restoration, from assessing the condition of your deck to selecting the right cleaning products, and even adding the final touches with stains and sealers.

So, let's dive in and discover how to make your deck look as good as new, just in time for the outdoor entertaining season.

Quick Summary

This guide will walk you through the process of painting and restoring a deck, including cleaning, repairing, sanding, and painting. We'll share expert advice, personal experiences, and recommendations for the best products to ensure your deck looks beautiful and lasts for years to come.

Assess the Deck's Condition

Begin by examining your deck closely to identify any damage or areas that need repair.

Look for:

  • Loose or damaged boards
  • Cracked or split wood
  • Rotting wood
  • Raised nails or screws
  • Mold or mildew

Make a note of any issues you find so you can address them during the restoration process.

Clean the Deck

Before starting any repairs or painting, give your deck a thorough cleaning to remove dirt, grime, and mildew.

Here's how:

  1. Sweep the deck to remove debris.
  2. Use a deck cleaner specifically formulated for wood surfaces. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for mixing and application.
  3. Apply the cleaner with a sprayer, brush, or mop, working in small sections.
  4. Scrub the deck using a stiff-bristle brush to remove dirt and stains.
  5. Rinse the deck thoroughly with a garden hose or pressure washer on a low setting.
  6. Allow the deck to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Pro Tip: I once had a deck cleaning project where the mold and mildew were particularly stubborn. In that case, I used a mixture of 1 part bleach to 4 parts water to tackle the problem. Just remember to wear protective gear and rinse thoroughly afterward.

Repair and Replace Damaged Boards

Now that your deck is clean, it's time to address any damage you found during your initial assessment.

  1. Replace any rotting or severely damaged boards.
  2. Hammer down or replace any raised nails or screws.
  3. Fill small cracks or splits in the wood with a high-quality wood filler, following the manufacturer's instructions for drying time.

Sand the Deck

Sanding the deck is crucial to achieving a smooth, even finish when painting. Here's how to sand your deck effectively:

  1. Use a power sander or sanding block with 80-grit sandpaper to remove old paint, stains, and rough spots.
  2. Sand the entire deck, paying special attention to handrails, steps, and other high-traffic areas.
  3. Once you've removed the majority of the old finish, switch to 120-grit sandpaper for a smoother finish.
  4. Wipe down the deck with a damp cloth to remove any sanding dust.

Choose the Right Paint or Stain

Selecting the right paint or stain for your deck is essential for long-lasting results.

Consider the following:

  • Choose a product specifically designed for decks.
  • Opt for a high-quality paint or stain that offers UV protection and water resistance.
  • Consider the desired color and finish. Do you want a solid color or a more natural wood look?

Personal Recommendation: I've found that using a high-quality deck paint or stain, like Behr Premium DeckOver, provides excellent coverage, durability, and protection against the elements.

Apply the Paint or Stain

Now that your deck is prepped, it's time to apply the paint or stain.

Follow these steps for the best results:

  1. Stir the paint or stain thoroughly before use.
  2. Apply a thin, even coat using a roller, brush, or sprayer, working in small sections.
  3. Pay attention to detail when painting edges, corners, and gaps between boards.
  4. Allow the first coat to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  1. Inspect the deck for any missed spots or uneven coverage. Touch up as needed.
  2. Apply a second coat of paint or stain, ensuring even coverage and allowing for proper drying time.
  3. If your chosen product recommends additional coats, follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Pro Tip: I always recommend using a high-quality paintbrush for cutting in around edges and railings. This helps to achieve a professional finish without drips or uneven lines.

Seal the Deck

Sealing your deck is the final step in the restoration process and is essential for protecting your deck from the elements.

Here's how:

  1. Choose a high-quality deck sealer that's compatible with your chosen paint or stain.
  2. Wait for the paint or stain to dry completely before applying the sealer.
  3. Apply the sealer with a brush, roller, or sprayer, following the manufacturer's instructions for coverage and drying time.
  4. Allow the sealer to cure fully before using your deck.

Enjoy Your Beautifully Restored Deck

Now that your deck is restored, it's time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Take pride in your work and enjoy your outdoor living space with family and friends.

Frequently Asked Questions Section (FAQs) 

Q. How often should I restore my deck?

  A: The frequency of deck restoration depends on factors such as the type of wood, the climate in your area, and the quality of the products used.

Generally, it is recommended to inspect your deck annually and perform maintenance as needed.

Full restoration, including cleaning, sanding, and refinishing, may be required every 3-5 years or as signs of wear and damage become apparent.

Q. Can I change the color of my deck during the restoration process?

  A: Yes, you can change the color of your deck by choosing a different shade of stain or paint.

Keep in mind that going from a darker to a lighter color may require additional sanding or priming to ensure a clean and even finish.

Q. How long should I wait before using my deck after restoration?

  A: It's important to allow enough time for the paint, stain, and sealer to dry and cure fully.

This timeframe can vary depending on the products used and weather conditions.

Generally, you should wait at least 24-48 hours before placing furniture or walking on the deck, but always follow the manufacturer's recommendations.

Q. What can I do to maintain my deck between restorations?

  A: Regular maintenance is key to preserving the life of your deck. Sweep away leaves, dirt, and debris frequently, and clean the deck with a mild cleaner at least once a year.

Inspect the deck for signs of wear, such as loose or damaged boards, and address any issues promptly. Applying a water-repellent sealer annually can also help prolong the life of your deck.

Q. Can I restore my deck if it has composite or vinyl decking material?

  A: While this guide focuses on wood decks, composite and vinyl decking materials can also be restored, but the process may differ.

Consult the manufacturer's recommendations for specific care and maintenance instructions.

In some cases, simply cleaning and sealing the surface may be sufficient to restore the appearance and functionality of a composite or vinyl deck.


In conclusion, restoring a deck is a straightforward process that requires time, patience, and attention to detail.

By following these steps and using high-quality products, you can ensure your deck will not only look beautiful but also withstand the test of time.

As a professional painter, I've seen firsthand the transformative power of a well-restored deck, and I hope this guide helps you achieve the same results for your outdoor space.

Suggested Products:

DEFY Wood Cleaner: This powerful, oxygen-based cleaner effectively removes dirt, grime, mold, and mildew, preparing your deck for restoration. It is environmentally friendly and helps maintain the wood's natural color, ensuring a thorough clean while maintaining the appearance of your deck.

OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover: This versatile stain remover also acts as a wood brightener, neutralizing the wood's pH levels after using a deck cleaner. It helps to open up the wood pores, making it easier to absorb stains and sealers, ultimately enhancing the effectiveness of your deck restoration.

Ready Seal Ultimate Stain & Sealer: This oil-based stain and sealer combination provides excellent protection against water, UV rays, and mildew. It penetrates deep into the wood fibers, enhancing the wood's natural beauty and ensuring long-lasting protection for your deck.

Thompson's WaterSeal Advanced Natural Wood Protector: This advanced wood protector offers superior water repellency and protection from the elements. It is easy to apply and dries quickly, providing a durable and long-lasting finish that keeps your deck looking great and prolongs its life.

KILZ Over Armor Textured Wood/Concrete Coating: This versatile paint is designed for wood and concrete surfaces, providing a slip-resistant and durable finish that can withstand harsh weather conditions. It helps to conceal imperfections and splinters, giving your deck a refreshed and renewed appearance.

3M Pro Grade Precision Sanding Sheets: These high-quality sanding sheets come in a range of grits to suit your deck restoration needs. They are durable and long-lasting, ensuring a smooth and even surface that is essential for the proper application of stains, sealers, or paint.

Mr. LongArm Soft Flow-Thru Brush: This soft, flow-through brush is designed for cleaning and scrubbing large surfaces, making it perfect for deck restoration. The long handle allows for easy reach, and the gentle bristles ensure that the wood is effectively cleaned without causing any damage.

About the author 

Bob Thomas

A fully certified interior decorator and house painter , Bob Thomas brings immense expertise and knowledge amassed from many years of hands-on experience with residential, commercial and specialty painting and decorating projects of all sizes and scopes.

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