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Debunking Myths About Deck Staining

Posted by: Heidi Nyline

When we finished our course to become Benjamin Moore Certified Stain Applicators, the first thing Warren said was,

"I feel sorry for the next person that asks Heidi about their deck".

Warren is my business partner, as well as my husband so he can get away with the occasional comment like this.

So maybe I like to talk. But I also love to share good information and I got a ton of good information from this course.

For example just how many misconceptions there are when it comes to staining and maintaining decks. Here are the three common myths homeowners in Vancouver have heard about taking care of their decks.

Myth Number 1 - Pressure treated wood needs to breathe for at least three months before it is stained

How many times have you heard this? It's advice given all over the internet. The staff in Home Depot say it all the time. And it's wrong. The truth is as soon as the wood is dry enough, it is ready to be stained. There is no waiting period for today's pressure treated wood to let chemicals leach out. Waiting too long to stain and protect your deck means the wood loses more of its ability let the stain adhere. That means you will have more steps in prepping the deck for staining.

The exception to this is wood that comes pre-treated with a wax finish or sealer. In that case you are going to need to follow the instructions by the company treating the wood.

Myth Number 2 - New wood is ready to be stained

You have a brand new deck built. It looks gorgeous. The moisture content is at 15%. The only thing left is to apply your stain. Right? Not so fast. I learned a fancy new term at this course - mill glaze. Mill glaze happens during the milling process and it refers to the shine that can occur on the planed surfaces of wood. It's caused by the combination of the heat and pressure against the wood.

It's pretty easy to test if you have mill glaze. Just place a few drops of water on the surface of the wood. If the water beads and resists soaking into the wood, you probably have mill glaze. A light sanding will remove this or using a neutralizer will remove mill glaze.

Myth Number 3 - You have to use an oil stain to get the best finish

This is old school thinking and I'm sure there are still plenty of painters and carpenters that will tell you that oil is best. Not today though. The developments in waterborne technologies have produced a number stain products that are outperforming traditional oil stains. Benjamin Moore's line of Arborcoat offers aklyd/acrylic emulsions as well as 100% acrylic coatings. They also provide the added advantages of being easy to apply, easy to clean up and being easy on the environment.

So there you go. Three myths about decks that will put you on the right track for getting the best possible finish on your deck.

Don't forget if you have a deck that needs refinishing, you can call us to set up an appointment. We're pretty confident we can take the hate out of your love/hate relationship with your deck.

Posted by: Jennifer Sheppard
Thank you so much for this! I have painted pressure treated wood plenty of times before and today was the first day in my life that I actually got in an argument with the paint counter rep at Home Depot. My carpenter hubby and I just built a new deck and I told the rep that my hubby was a carpenter and he said it would be fine to paint as soon as it's dry and clean - this rep replied with Well, your husband is wrong! At which point I was so frustrated I left. I'm thankful to know I'm certainl

Good old advice from Home Depot.

Posted by: Jacqueline Vandenberg
I have a treated deck where the wood is still a little green, do I need to wait until all the green comes out before staining?

A quick sanding should take care of this Jacqueline but do know that the green is part of the pressure treatment and is always going to skew the colour of the wood.

Posted by: Andrea
Myth #1: Question: The truth is as soon as the wood is dry enough, it is ready to be stained... How do I know if the wood is dry enough?

You definitely need a moisture reader. You can pick one up at the hardware store for about $20.

Posted by: Rick
I have a question. I see a few suppliers now have pressure treated pre stained wood. Does this wood require re staining later on in its lifetime? In the care and maintenance, all it says is cleaning is required.

There is an old saying that nothing lasts forever. I would bet it will require re-staining in the future. 

Posted by: Tom Struble
actually 'mill glaze' may be the myth.

Hi Tom.

Thanks for chiming in. Your comment is interesting because I have been doing reading on mill glaze and whether it is myth or reality. The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) has conducted testing and can't reproduce mill glaze in the lab, yet most industry manufacturers consider it to be a very real issue. I think the bottom line is whether it is mill glaze, dirt or exposure, all wood needs at least a light sanding before any type of product is applied. I would love your thoughts on this.

Posted by: Tracey
Oh my goodness, thanks for clearing that up about the myth of not painted pressure treated wood. There are so many people out there that stand by this and would fight to make their point. My husband and I are in the midst of building our deck and so many times that has come up when trying to make the decision in what wood to use.

Thanks Tracey. I think it goes back to the old days when the chemicals that they used were way more harmful and the myth stuck. Thanks for stopping by.

Posted by: Jean Molesworth Kee
Thanks so much for sharing this, Heidi. I really think there is a big black hole of mis-informaton re deck coatings. Would LOVE to do a blog post on this. There are so many color options out there but sounds like prep is still hugely important. I had a big ''ole mess on my hands at my own house with a Sikkens product. : (

Thanks Jean. I will be writing a lot more about decks over the coming months. What I have come to understand is that most failures are a result of a construction problem or a prep problem more often than an problem with the stain. When I am done there, hopefully I'll get a chance to talk about colours.

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