How to Paint Between Deck Boards Like a Pro: The Ultimate Guide

Bob Thomas

Introduction

As a seasoned painter and decorator, I've had my fair share of intricate painting tasks.

One such task that often puzzles many DIY enthusiasts is painting between deck boards.

It might appear daunting at first, but with the right tools, materials, and a dash of patience, you can achieve a beautifully painted deck that not only looks good but lasts for years.

Quick Summary

For those in a hurry, here's the skinny on how to paint between deck boards: 1) Gather your tools and materials. 2) Clean the deck thoroughly. 3) Choose the right paint and primer for outdoor use. 4) Use a deck painting tool or a small brush for those hard-to-reach places. 5) Apply primer. 6) Paint the deck. 7) Let it dry and apply a second coat if necessary. Now, let's delve into the specifics.

Gather Your Tools and Materials

To paint between your deck boards, you'll need some specific tools and materials.

Here's a handy table to guide you:

Tools
Materials

Small paint brush or deck painting tool

Outdoor Primer (e.g., Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer)

Protective gloves

Outdoor Paint (e.g., Behr Premium Porch and Patio Floor Paint or Behr Premium Advanced DeckOver is a high-quality paint)

Cleaning brush

Paint Tray

Safety goggles


Pro Tip: A deck painting tool, also known as a deck staining tool, is a long, thin, and flat painting tool designed specifically for painting between deck boards.

Clean the Deck

Start by giving your deck a thorough clean.

Remove any debris stuck between the boards using a putty knife or a similar tool.

Once the surface is clean, wash the deck with a mild detergent and a stiff brush. Rinse it thoroughly and let it dry completely before you proceed.

Choose the Right Paint and Primer

Selecting the right paint and primer is crucial for a durable and attractive finish.

For outdoor use, I recommend a high-quality primer like Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3.

When it comes to paint, choose an outdoor paint designed for decks, such as Behr Premium Porch and Patio Floor Paint.

Remember, your deck is exposed to all kinds of weather conditions, so pick a paint that's weather-resistant and durable.

Apply Primer

Once your deck is clean and dry, it's time to prime.

Priming helps the paint adhere better and last longer.

Pour some primer into your paint tray, dip your deck painting tool or small brush into it, and start priming between the boards.

Be patient, take your time, and ensure every nook and cranny is primed.

Paint the Deck

After the primer has dried, you can start painting.

Use the same technique you used for priming.

Start from one end of the board and work your way to the other end.

Apply the paint evenly and avoid any drips.

Pro Tip: If you're finding it tough to reach certain areas, consider using a smaller brush.

Let it Dry

Allow the paint to dry completely.

Check the paint can for the recommended drying time.

If the color seems uneven or too light, you can apply a second coat.

Remember to let the first coat dry completely before applying the second one.

Painting Between Deck Boards with a Spray Gun

Using a spray gun to paint between deck boards can make the process faster and more efficient, especially for larger decks.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Prepare your spray gun and paint: Fill your sprayer with the deck paint you have chosen. Make sure the paint is properly mixed and thinned if necessary according to the manufacturer's instructions. Some paints are ready to use with a sprayer, while others may need thinning.
  2. Test the spray pattern: Before you begin, test your spray pattern on a piece of cardboard or scrap wood to ensure it's the right thickness and spread.
  3. Spray the paint: Hold the spray gun about 12 inches from the deck surface, aiming it directly at the gaps between the boards. Move in a steady, back-and-forth motion, releasing the trigger at the end of each pass to prevent excessive paint build-up. Overlap each pass by about 50% to ensure even coverage.
  4. Avoid drips and runs: Using a spray gun can result in drips or runs if too much paint is applied at once. To avoid this, use a lower pressure setting on your sprayer and apply multiple thin coats rather than one thick one.
  5. Clean the spray gun: After you're done, clean the sprayer thoroughly according to the manufacturer's instructions. This will ensure it's ready for the next use and prolong its lifespan.
  6. Safety Measures: Always wear protective gear such as goggles, gloves, and a mask when using a paint sprayer. Also, make sure the area is well-ventilated.

Remember, while using a spray gun can speed up the process, it still requires careful attention to detail to ensure a smooth and even finish.

It's often a good idea to follow up with a brush to smooth out any drips or runs and ensure the paint has reached all the nooks and crannies of the deck boards.

Safety, Risks, and Considerations

When painting between deck boards, there are several safety considerations and potential risks to keep in mind.

  1. Safety Gear: Always wear appropriate safety gear including goggles, a mask, and gloves. Spray paint can be harmful if inhaled and can irritate your eyes and skin.
  2. Ventilation: Make sure to work in a well-ventilated area. If you're using a spray gun, the paint particles can become airborne and might be harmful if inhaled.
  3. Proper Handling of the Spray Gun: Improper handling of the spray gun can lead to accidents. Make sure to read and understand the manufacturer's instructions before starting. Never point the spray gun at yourself or anyone else.
  4. Surrounding Areas: Protect the surrounding areas from overspray. Cover any nearby plants, furniture, or walls that you don't want to get paint on.
  5. Weather Conditions: Weather can significantly affect your project. Avoid painting on windy days to prevent paint from spreading to unintended areas. Also, don't paint if rain is expected within 24 hours.
  6. Fire Hazard: Remember that many paints and solvents are flammable. Keep them away from open flames or sparks, and do not smoke while you are painting.
  7. Disposal of Materials: Dispose of any leftover paint and other materials properly. Many communities have special facilities for disposing of home improvement waste.
  8. Consider the Gap Size: If the gaps between your deck boards are very small, using a spray gun might not be the most efficient method. The paint may not reach these tight spaces, potentially leading to an uneven finish and vulnerable, unprotected wood.
  9. Potential Health Risks: Some paints and primers contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can have adverse health effects. Always use paint in a well-ventilated area and consider using low- or no-VOC products.
  10. Lead-Based Paint: If your deck was previously painted with lead-based paint, there are serious safety risks associated with removal. In many regions, it's illegal to remove lead-based paint without professional help. If you suspect your deck might have lead-based paint, have it tested and, if necessary, hire a professional for removal.

Remember, preparation is key to a safe and successful painting project.

Take your time to set up your workspace properly and follow all safety precautions.

Troubleshooting

Paint Brush Method:
  1. Uneven Paint Application: If the paint is uneven, it might be due to the paint being too thick or the brush not being suited for this type of work. You could try thinning the paint or using a different brush.
  2. Poor Coverage: If the paint isn't covering the wood well, it might be too thin, or the wood could be absorbing it too quickly. Try applying a second coat or using a primer first.
  3. Paint Bubbling or Peeling: This can be a sign of moisture in the wood. Make sure the deck is completely dry before painting, and consider using a paint that's specifically designed to handle moisture.
  4. Difficulty Reaching Between Boards: If you're having trouble painting between the boards, try using a smaller brush or a brush with a longer handle for better reach.
  5. Paint Won't Dry: If the paint isn't drying, it could be due to high humidity, cold temperatures, or applying too thick a coat. Check the paint can for recommended drying conditions and times.
  6. Paint Has a Rough Texture: This could be due to dirt or dust on the brush or deck. Make sure both are clean before starting.
Spray Gun Method:
  1. Uneven Paint Application: This could be due to the paint being too thick or the spray gun nozzle being clogged. Try thinning the paint or cleaning the nozzle.
  2. Overspray: If paint is landing outside your intended area, you may need to adjust the spray gun settings or use more masking or shielding to protect adjacent areas.
  3. Poor Coverage: If the paint isn't covering the wood well, it might be too thin, or the wood could be absorbing it quickly. Try applying a second coat or using a primer first for better coverage.
  4. Paint Bubbling or Peeling: This can be a sign of moisture in the wood. Make sure the deck is completely dry before painting, and consider using a paint that is specifically designed to handle moisture.
  5. Streaks or Runs in the Paint: This is often caused by moving the spray gun too slowly or holding it too close to the surface. Try moving the gun faster or holding it further from the surface.
  6. Difficulty Reaching Between Boards: If the spray gun isn't reaching between the boards well, try adjusting the angle of the spray or using a smaller tip.
  7. Paint Won't Dry: High humidity, cold temperatures, or applying too thick a coat can cause paint to dry slowly. Check the paint can for recommended drying conditions and times.
  8. Paint Has a Rough Texture: This could be due to the paint drying too quickly or overspray. Try adjusting the spray gun settings or working in more favorable conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions Section (FAQs)

Q. What is the best type of paint to use between deck boards?

  A: For deck boards, a durable outdoor paint specifically designed for wood decks is recommended. These paints are typically more resistant to the elements and wear from foot traffic.

Q. Do I need to use a primer before painting between deck boards?

  A: A primer can help the paint adhere better and increase its durability, especially if the wood is old or weathered.

It's not always necessary, especially if the paint you're using is a paint and primer in one.

Q. How can I make sure I'm getting paint in the entire space between the deck boards?

  A: A good technique is to use a narrow brush or a spray gun with a smaller tip. Both options allow you to reach the narrow spaces between the boards effectively.

Q. How long should I wait for the paint to dry between coats?

  A: This can vary depending on the specific paint you're using and the environmental conditions, but generally, it's a good idea to wait at least 24 hours between coats.

Q. What is the best way to protect my plants and home siding from paint splatters when painting my deck?

  A: Before you start painting, cover any plants or siding with a drop cloth or plastic sheeting. This will help protect these areas from any paint that may splatter or drip.

Q. What should I do if the old paint or stain is peeling off my deck boards?

  A: If the old paint or stain is peeling, it will need to be removed before you can paint the deck. This can be done using a paint scraper, a pressure washer, or a deck stripping product.

Q. What should I do if my deck boards are warped or damaged?

  A: If your deck boards are warped, cracked, or have other significant damage, it's best to replace them before painting.

Painting over damaged wood won't hide the problems and can lead to further issues down the line.

Q. What is the best time of year to paint a deck?

  A: The best time to paint a deck is usually in the spring or fall when temperatures are moderate.

Avoid painting in extreme heat, cold, or high humidity, as these conditions can affect how the paint dries and adheres.

Q. Can I paint my deck if it's made of a composite material, not wood?

  A: Yes, but it's important to check the manufacturer's instructions first.

Some composite materials can be painted, while others should not be.

If painting is allowed, be sure to use a primer and paint suitable for composite materials.

Q. How often should I repaint my deck?

  A: The frequency of repainting depends on the type of paint used, the local weather conditions, and the amount of foot traffic the deck gets. However, most decks need to be repainted every 2-5 years.

Conclusion

In conclusion, painting between deck boards can indeed be a challenging task, but with the right tools, paint, and patience, it's definitely achievable.

Be sure to prepare the deck properly by cleaning and sanding, then apply a suitable primer to ensure the paint adheres well.

When selecting paint, opt for a product specifically designed for decks to ensure durability and weather resistance.

Use a long-handled brush or a paint sprayer to get between the boards, taking care not to oversaturate the area to avoid puddling and uneven application.

Remember, a well-maintained and properly painted deck not only enhances the beauty of your outdoor space but also extends the lifespan of the deck itself.

With time and effort, you can transform your deck into a beautiful and inviting outdoor living space.

Suggested Products:

  1. Outdoor Deck Paint: Behr Premium Advanced DeckOver is a high-quality paint designed for outdoor decks. It provides a smooth, durable finish and is resistant to weathering, making it perfect for painting between deck boards.
  2. Primer: Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer is a versatile, water-based primer suitable for all surfaces. It offers excellent adhesion and stain blocking properties, preparing your deck boards perfectly for the paint application.
  3. Narrow Brush: Wooster Shortcut Angle Sash Brush is a handy tool for detailed painting work. With its short, flexible handle and angled bristles, it helps to get paint into those tight spaces between deck boards.
  4. Spray Gun: Graco Magnum X5 Stand Airless Paint Sprayer is an excellent choice for deck painting. Its adjustable pressure and spray tip allow for precise application, making it easier to paint between deck boards.
  5. Paint Scraper: Warner ProGrip Stainless Steel Paint Scraper is a sturdy tool to remove peeling paint or stain from your deck boards before repainting, ensuring a smooth and even finish.
  6. Deck Stripping Product: Dumond Chemicals Smart Strip Advanced Paint Remover is a safe, effective solution for stripping old paint or stain from your deck. It's essential for preparing your deck boards for a new paint job.
  7. Drop Cloth: CCS CHICAGO CANVAS & Supply All Purpose Canvas Cotton Drop Cloth is a great tool to protect your plants and home siding from paint splatters while painting your deck.

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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