If your deck is showing wear and tear from weather and foot traffic, you may be thinking it is time to stain it. We want to warn you…don’t jump the gun and start in on the project just yet. Having a successful staining job means that you get it done properly at the right time of the year. The time of year that you stain a deck can mean the difference between a beautiful refinishing that lasts a few years and a cruddy job that never looks good. It’s important to maintain your deck with stain in order to prolong the life of the wood and enhance the value of your home. But, many people do this job at the wrong time of the year and that beautiful deck isn’t achieved. In this article, we try to answer most of your questions about deck staining – we explain when the best time is to stain and why, as well as how to know it is time to stain, and more.


Deck staining outside of home

When Is the Best Time to Stain Your Deck and Why?

The absolute best time of the year to stain a deck is in the fall. The main reason for this is because moisture is your enemy when applying stain to wood, and the driest season is the fall. Most people think that, as the weather gets warmer during the spring and into the summer, it’s a good time to stain. This is not true!

The spring and summer bring dew in the mornings and more precipitation, both of which are bad for your stain job. Stain requires a dry deck for a secure application, but too much heat and direct sunlight can cause the deck to dry too quickly, which messes up the end result. When the days are humid, the wood absorbs the moisture and this causes cracking and peeling.

The fall offers prolonged dry periods and cooler temperatures that are perfect for applying stain. If the weather is forecasting no rain, low humidity, and the air and deck wood temperatures are holding between 85 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it is the right time to stain your deck.

How Long Will it Take?

The amount of time to allow for staining and drying depends on the size of the deck, of course. There is the time for the actual application of the stain and there is the time for the stain to dry. A good rule of thumb is about 20 hours per 500 square feet. That includes 3 to 5 hours for cleaning, prepping, and applying the stain. If your deck has chipped paint, you might need to sand and strip the wood. This will add time to the project. Depending on the weather, the typical drying time is about a day or two. 

What Is Involved in Preparing the Deck?

Preparing the wood to optimally receive the stain is important. Be sure to inspect the condition of the wood first. If you apply stain onto damaged wood, you will defeat the purpose of improving the appearance and protecting the deck from the elements. In your inspection you may find popping nails or broken screws, broken or warped deck boards, and rotting wood. You will need to repair these.

Next, test the stain. If you already know what type of stain was used on your deck, proceed to cleaning. But, if you have no idea if the stain on your deck is water-based or oil-based, you need to perform a quick test. Water-based stain needs to be stripped off before you apply a new finish, while oil-based stain can be recoated after cleaning. To test the stain, apply a small amount of deck stripper to a small area on your deck and let it sit for 15 minutes. Wipe it off with a cleaning rag. If the stain comes off, it is water-based. If the stain does not come off, the stain is oil-based.

For most wooden surfaces, pressure or power washing is enough to prepare the wood. You can also apply cleaner to the wood using a roller or sprayer. If you have old lumber that has chipped paint, you may need to sand or strip the wood. 


After cleaning the deck, removing mold and mildew as well as previous coatings, you can apply the stain. It’s best to use a natural bristle brush rather than a roller. Brushing helps to force the stain into open grain and pores. After the stain dries, apply a transparent stain sealer and allow it to cure before replacing furniture.

What Are Alternative Deck Materials That Don’t Need Staining?

If you aren’t a fan of the time required staining to keep up a deck’s appearance, you might want to check out alternative deck materials like Trex. The core product for the Trex company is a composite that is virtually maintenance-free and environmentally friendly. It is a wood fiber-polymer composite that you can use for the surface and structural components for the construction of your deck. This product never requires refinishing. It doesn’t rot, splinter, or twist with aging and it resists insect damage. It is also impervious to wear, fading, and the growth of mold and mildew. There are other composite materials that can be used as well as Trex. Most of these are more expensive than wood, but you may decide that the benefits outweigh the additional expense.

Contact Osborne Painting

Osborne Painting has a long history of experience in staining decks in the Raleigh-Durham area. We can take the headache away from you by making it a smooth and quick process. To get started with a free estimate, call us at 919-878-6611 or fill out our online contact form below.