Now that your deck is nice and clean, does it look shiny and new? When wooden decks lose their luster and become faded and dull, it's time to re-stain.
Before you re-stain, make sure you have proper safety equipment, including goggles and gloves. It's also a good idea to wear sneakers to avoid slipping.
Clean Up Your Act
First things first: is your deck still clean? Stain doesn't adhere well to dirt, so if grime has returned, it's time for a re-wash. You don't have to power wash again — detergent and a hose will do the trick.
If you're washing your deck again, you'll have to wait for it to thoroughly dry before you can start staining. Typical wait time is two to three days, but some cleaning products also contain wood sealers — that means they may need as little as two hours to dry. Read all manufacturers' labels thoroughly.
Rain, Rain, Go Away
Rain and wet stain are not a good combo, so check the weather report and pick a day that's sandwiched between at least 48 hours of dry weather.
Stain looks great on your deck but not on your plants and adjacent objects, so cover them up before you start staining. Use drop cloths to cover landscaping and deck railings, and combinations of plastic sheeting and painter's tape to protect light fixtures and door hardware. If the deck is right next to your house, tape off the bottom two or three feet of siding to protect that, too.
When protecting landscaping, never use plastic sheeting on shrubs and plants — it can create a deadly ''greenhouse effect'' and burn them.
Remove drop cloths from your foliage as soon as your project is complete so they don't suffocate.
What kind of deck stain should you buy? To enhance the color of the wood, use ''tinted'' stain. If you'd prefer to darken the wood or even mask the grain, use one labeled ''semi-transparent.'' By the way, these are the most durable formulas (they'll last about two or three years). Most stains are already combined with a sealer, allowing you to stain and seal in one step. If yours doesn't contain a sealer, you'll have to seal the deck after the stain dries — and do it again each year.
You can also buy a stain that contains an ultra violet (UV) protecting chemical that will keep your deck from turning gray from the sun.
To make sure your deck is dry enough, trickle small droplets of water on its surface in several places — if the water stays put, you're not quite ready, but if it soaks right in, your deck's properly parched.
To begin staining, use a two inch brush to dab stain into the corners, rail spindles, rail caps and step rails. Once you're done with the corners, stain the rest of the deck with a roller or four inch brush, starting at one end and concentrating on two or three boards at a time, depending on their width.
Apply the stain with a back-and-forth motion, making sure it applies evenly and soaks into the wood. Move along the entire length of the deck, and when you get to the end, return to where you started and do the next set of boards the same way. When you're finished with the boards, use a brush to stain the step treads, using the same back-and-forth technique.
As you apply the stain keep a small piece of cardboard nearby to catch any drips on nearby railings or posts — otherwise, you risk dark spots. If you later find you've missed any, wipe them away with mineral spirits as soon as possible.
Oil-based stains are the go-to choice because of their durability and attractive finishes, but water-based products work well, too.
If you're not sure what kind of bristles to use, remember that natural bristles are used for oil-based stains and latex bristles for water-based stains.