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Deck staining secrets for success

After one of the toughest winters on record, your backyard deck may be looking worse for wear. And spring showers will just bring more potential damage to unprotected wood. Water is your deck’s worst enemy. It causes ugly and expensive cracking and splitting.

Luckily, restoring your deck’s beauty and protecting it from further damage can be relatively easy and affordable. HGTV/DIY Network star and seasoned deck builder Jeff Wilson shares his six essential tips for success for this popular project.

Coming clean

“Cleaning the deck first is critical - even new wood,” says Wilson. “You wouldn’t wax a dirty car, so don’t stain a dirty deck. Good prep means a better finished look and can help the stain last longer.” The new line of Thompson’s WaterSeal Waterproofing Stain, available exclusively at The Home Depot, can be applied to damp wood, so application of the stain can start just hours after cleaning.

Take the temperature

Apply stain when the thermometer reads 50 to 90 degrees. Make sure there is no rain in the forecast for 24 to 48 hours and do not apply the stain in direct sunlight if it can be avoided.

Choose the right color and look

Homeowners have a few options when it comes to choosing the right color for their deck. A clear coating is best to show off wood’s natural beauty. Transparent stain shows the most wood grain with minimum color. Semi-transparent stain shows medium wood grain with more color. Solid stain shows the least wood grain with the most color. (Every can of Thompson’s WaterSeal Waterproofing Stain has a sliding scale to show you exactly which look you’re getting.) “When applying waterproofing stain, always test the stain first in an inconspicuous corner to be sure you like the color,” advises Wilson.

More is not always better

When it’s time to stain, use a paint pad on a long pole for application. This will ensure an even distribution of the stain and a smooth finish - and it’s easier on your back. One coat is enough to get the job done and the stain dries to the touch in a few hours.

Set boundaries

Many homeowners find themselves staining more than just their deck. Be sure to add painter’s tape where the top of the deck and the exterior wall meet. This ensures the deck stain stays on the deck. Work from top to bottom or side to side in areas small enough to allow the leading edge to remain wet at all times during application. Use natural breaks, such as windows and doors, as boundaries to divide large areas into more manageable work areas.

Protect from water damage

Many people ask if they need to put a clear waterproofer on top of a deck stain for added protection. “Definitely not,” says Wilson “An exterior stain will provide color and waterproofing protection, all in one coat.”

“Tackle your deck makeover project at the beginning of the season, and you can enjoy the deck worry-free for the rest of the year,” says Wilson. Watch step-by-step videos demonstrating deck cleaning and staining that can be seen at or

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