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How To Clean And Stain Redwood Decks

Mar 21, 2008
Redwood decks are beautiful and durable as long as they are properly cared for. A decade ago, we could buy Redwood for a song, but now it's rather expensive so if you have Redwood decks, you might want to take good care of them.

The idea about any outside decking material is to protect it from the elements so the wood doesn't sustain damage. If water gets beneath the surface of decking material, it can cause cracks. These cracks are a part of the natural breakdown process of wood, but it's not a good thing. Cracks cause rot, and rot causes replacements and aching pocketbooks.

There are many good quality stains that act as sealants to prevent moisture from breaking down wood fibers. Local climates determine how long your decks can go before the next sealant application. I live in severe cold and snow. The summers are quite gentle so the wood surfaces don't sustain much damage from heat or sun, but the rain and snow really wreak havoc on softwood materials.

I try to clean and apply sealant to my decks every other year. I know of some sealants that claim to last up to five years, but I wouldn't let any decks go longer than three years without another application.

The first part of the process is to clean the old stain off the decks. You will also want to spot treat anything like oil or paint spots. You can spot clean them with deck stain remover or deck cleaner in its concentrated form.

Once the spot treatment is done you will want to get the deck wet with a garden hose to let the surface become porous and more receptive to the cleaner. You can use just about any deck cleaner mixed with dish soap or mild detergent. Pour a good amount of cleaner onto the deck and sweep it vigorously with a stiff brush to clean away the top layer of deteriorated wood.

Be sure to wash away the cleaner frequently. It's better to apply the deck cleaner in small areas so you can scrub it, clean it, and then wash away the cleaner. Once the deck has been cleaned, try to keep the dirt and dust off it until you stain it. You should let the deck dry completely before applying the stain. This will usually take about three days.

There are a lot of people that hear about deck stains and deck sealants and they get confused between the two. Most of the quality deck stains available are both stain and sealant in one, so you don't need to worry about which one to use. I prefer a deck stain from Sherwin Williams called "DeckScapes". It is about the best quality I have seen, but it costs a little more than some of the others. I also like Cabot, but I won't use Behr.

You will want to apply the deck stain in the morning when the sun isn't hot. The deck needs to be cool and the temperature needs to stay above fifty degrees until the stain completely dries to make a good seal. Apply a generous amount of stain because it is two-fold in purpose. It is making the deck look nice and it is protecting it from the weather. I mention this because I have received letters from homeowners that apply only enough stain to their decks to look nice, but they have to apply it every year.

You most likely won't be able to stain the underside of the deck, but it doesn't matter. If you can't see it, the sun probably can't get to it either. When the deck is wet from the stain, it will be very susceptible to dust and footprints so try to keep the kids off of it for at least two days if this is possible.

I used to use power washers on my Redwood decks, but I was young and dumb back then. Now, I just use the cleaner and a stiff deck brush or broom. Some power washers can damage and splinter softwoods like Redwood, Cedar, Pine, and Fir. If you're in a super hurry then go ahead and use a power washer, but if you love your decks like I do, then be gentle and give them the TLC they need.

If you want to experiment with different shades of stain, then you'll have many options to choose from. The most important part of the stain is to slow down the deterioration process of the wood, so regardless of color, be sure that is a good sealant stain.

That's all there is to maintaining your Redwood decks. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of new decking materials. I hope you enjoy your decks as much as I do.
About the Author
Larry Angell is the author of "Sweat Equity, building a house at half cost". He runs an information website that teaches how to build homes that are strong financial tools, not financial burdens. www.make-my-own-house.com
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