GIMME SHELTER- Deck make-over: Scrub, slosh, dry, and seal

John Flevarakis, J&A Painting & Home Improvement Inc.

Q: Structurally, my deck is in good shape, but it looks terrible. Can I get some tips for refinishing it?

A: Refinishing your worn-out looking deck can be one of the easiest and fastest ways to improve the look and value of your home. Over time, its direct exposure to sun and weather can really make it look old and tired. Fortunately, a makeover is not all that hard to accomplish if you follow a few simple steps.

First, you'll want to make sure your deck is clean and free of dirt, mold, and mildew. Refinishing a deck with moisture or dirt on it can be a disaster and a waste of time. The deck might look beautiful after you've stained it, but in a matter of months the stain will begin to flake off. Within a year, your deck could look worse than it did before it was refinished! 

 Next, you'll want to power-wash the deck (if you don't own one, you can rent one at a local equipment rental store), but be careful not to hold the nozzle too close to the deck or you'll splinter the wood. Hold it about 8 to 12 inches away from the wood. If you still have unsightly stains on the wood after you've power washed it, try using a little bleach to remove them. 

After the deck has been cleaned and rinsed you'll need to let it dry. Typically this takes two or three days in dry weather. If you've had two or three days of dry, hot weather, that should be sufficient.

 Now your deck is ready to be stained and sealed. Deck stains have sealer it so don't worry about buying two products. Depending on what kind of stain you're going to use, you can either brush it on or spray it on. If it's a clear stain, you can rent or buy a sprayer and spray it on. If it's a solid stain, we recommend using a standard china bristle paint brush. If you do decide to spray, be careful. We've seen people get it all over their house, or put it on so thick it drips on everything below the deck. If you're using a clear stain, one coat will do. If you're using a solid stain, you'll want to put two coats on the decking.  

After applying the final coat of stain, let it dry for at least 24 hours before you start walking on it. 

John Flevarakis