Fix-It Chick: Tips for protecting a wood deck or fence using stain, finish

Wooden decks and fences last longer if they are protected with a stain or oil finish. Pressure treated lumber should not be treated with anything until after it has aged a full year. Cedar wood does not need to be treated at all. Regular maintenance of wooden decks and fences is the best way to prolong the life of your investment.

Step 1: Choose the best product for the job. Clear waterproofing products are less expensive but need to be reapplied yearly. Exterior wood stains offer great protection for the wood and come in a wide variety of colors. Penetrating oil treatments such as Cabot Timber Oil or Penofin are easiest to apply and offer superior protection.

Step 2: Thoroughly clean the deck or fence with an appropriate wood cleaner. Pressure washing the surface will not remove mildew stains. Scrubbing with a long-handled brush and an environmentally friendly cleaner works best. Previously stained wood may need to be treated with an exterior wood-stripping product. If possible, sand the wood surface with 80-grit paper to open the wood pores before applying any product.

Step 3: Be sure the wood is thoroughly dry before proceeding. Wait at least four days after washing it before applying product. Test the porosity of the deck by sprinkling a drop of water onto it. If the water absorbs into the wood, it is time to apply a protective finish.

Step 4: Use a long handled paint roller with a thick nap or a 4″ wide deck stain brush to apply the stain or oil. Finishes can also be applied with a tank sprayer and then worked into the wood with a roller or brush.

Step 5: Stir the product thoroughly before and during application. If the product has been shaken, allow air bubbles to dissipate before applying.

Step 6: Apply a thin coat of product to a 2 or 3 foot section. Do not allow the product to puddle.

Step 7: Let the product soak in briefly and then apply a second coat of finish over the first.

Step 8: Wipe away any excess product and move on to the next section.

Step 9: Continue to apply the finish in 2 to 3 foot sections until the entire deck or fence has been covered with two coats of product.

Step 10: Avoid touching the finish until the product has dried completely.

— Have a home improvement question for Fix-It Chick? Email it to Linda Cottin at


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