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How to paint, stain or oil your decking

Keep your decking in tip top condition

Decking can look amazing in your garden, and gives you and your family the perfect space to dine, relax and play. To make sure your decking stays in tip top condition there's a couple of ways you can care for it, and we're here to give you all the advice you need.

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What is the condition of your decking?

Before you begin, it’s important to assess the condition of your decking.

If your decking is newly laid, we recommend leaving it to weather naturally for about six months before being stained or oiled. This helps to make sure that any existing treatment has eroded, allowing the new paint or stain to properly sink in and stick to the deck.

If it’s untreated, over six months old or previously stained or painted, we’ll take you through how to do get treating in the step-by-step instructions below.

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Choose what paint, stain or oil to use

Selecting a finish for your decking can be as much about style as it is about protecting your timber.

Paints offer a fantastic range of colours – from natural looking, subtle shades to bright and bold hues, allowing you to make a big style statement and stay on-trend with the latest seasonal looks. Specialist decking paints fill in small cracks and lock down splinters as well as colouring and protecting weathered wood, helping to give your decking an instantly dramatic makeover.

Deck stains are available in a variety of rich colours and deliver a semi-opaque finish while protecting and weatherproofing the deck.

Decking oils penetrate the timber, waterproofing and replacing natural oils and resins that are lost over time. Oils leave a subtle colour that enhances the beauty of the wood, and they don’t crack as the deck expands and contracts.

If you’re happy with how your deck looks and just want a basic level of protection to keep it from getting grey and weathered, consider a decking protector. It’ll protect your decking from sunlight and rain, as well as resisting damage from foot-traffic, and being translucent it won’t change the appearance of the wood.

Stains and oils will require regular re-application to keep your decking looking its best. Your chosen product will determine how often you’ll need to re-treat, as the level of protection, as well as the look they provide, varies.Once you’ve made your choice, be sure to read the instructions properly. Every product is slightly different, and it only takes a few minutes to check that you have all of the right information before you start.

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When to care for your decking

Get the best out of your decking by caring for it twice a year - in spring to prepare for the summer months and in autumn to prepare for the winter ahead.

When looking for the best time, keep a close watch on the weather forecast. Don’t apply product in damp conditions or when rain is likely before the product has dried. And avoid treating your deck during very hot weather as the intense sunshine may cause the product to dry too quickly and not be fully absorbed into the wood.

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How to prepare and clean decking

One of the quickest ways to refresh your deck is to give it a good clean. A decking cleaner and reviver is specially formulated to restore the wood back to its natural colour, reinvigorating the appearance of your deck. It also removes moss, mould and algae, and helps make it easier to apply deck paint, stains and oils.

One of the quickest ways to refresh your deck is to give it a good clean. A decking cleaner and reviver is specially formulated to restore the wood back to its natural colour, reinvigorating the appearance of your deck. It also removes moss, mould and algae, and helps make it easier to apply deck paint, stains and oils.

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Safety first

If you’re working on a deck that is above a usable area, such as a balcony deck, protect the area below it with plastic sheeting or drop cloths. Wear suitable protective gloves and goggles when applying cleaning chemicals. Wear safety goggles when using a pressure washer to protect your eyes from flying debris.

Step 1

Remove all garden furniture, storage or other items from the decking so that the entire surface to be treated is clear.

Use a stiff broom to give your decking a good sweep. This will get rid of any dirt or loose bits of wood and general debris from the decking.

Check the surface of the deck for any loose boards or raised screws. And use a screwdriver to secure them more tightly.

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Step 2

If your decking has layers of previous paint and you want to go back to a more natural wood look, sand them down using a belt or palm sander. This only works for smooth boards and not grooved ones. Always sand in the direction of the grain/ deck board. Once sanded, clean the area and you’re now ready to start painting or staining your decking.

If you decide against sanding your decking, pour decking cleaner directly onto the deck (or follow the recommended product instructions). Applying it to small, manageable areas such as three to four deck boards at a time. This ensures that you can quickly complete this part of the process.

As soon as the cleaner has been applied, start scrubbing it with a scrubbing brush. If it comes into contact with surrounding grass or plants rinse thoroughly with water. Leave for 15 to 20 minutes.

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Step 3

Rinse off thoroughly with clean water working from one end of the decking to the other. For the best results, wash off with a pressure washer or use a hose with a jet spray setting.

A high-powered pressure washer can rough up the timber of your decking and make it even harder to clean or treat. Set the pressure to the minimum level and don’t use the lance too close to the deck surface. Alternatively, use an attachment especially designed for cleaning decks.

Be careful as the surface may become slippery during cleaning.

Allow the deck boards to dry for at least 24 hours before applying any paint or stain.

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Step 4

If traces of any previous finishes, such as oil and stain, still show, consider using a decking stripper. Apply as per product instructions.

How to prepare to paint, stain or oil decking

There are a few options when it comes to applying your decking paint or stain. Choose from a timber brush, a roller set (some include brushes), a paint pad or a paint sprayer. Not every stain or paint will work with every roller, paint pad or sprayer available, so always check the product instructions for both the product and the tool before you start to ensure they’re compatible.

So, how to choose which one to use?

Brushes are great for fiddly areas, such as between expansion gaps, and so can be a helpful addition to other tools. However by themselves, they can take a long time to get the job done.

To work more quickly, consider a roller. These allow for greater coverage in one application than a brush and can be fitted with extension poles for greater comfort when working. We recommend a thicker pile for a coloured stain or paint, rather than for clearer finishes.

Like a roller, a paint pad can also be used with a pole and works well applying stain to both grooved or smooth decking.

The premium choice is the paint sprayer. These use less product than brushes or rollers and provide the quickest results.

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How to paint, stain or oil decking with a paint brush

Follow the steps below for help on using a paint brush to finish your decking.

Step 1

Once you’ve cleaned your decking thoroughly and allowed it to dry, give your chosen deck paint or stain a really good stir, before applying to make sure you get a consistent colour. Don't shake it otherwise bubbles will form in the finish. Alternatively, if using an oil or a protector, this should be shaken or stirred thoroughly.

Find a hidden area of deck you can test the colour on to make sure that you're completely happy with it - remembering to let it dry fully.

Step 2

Start in the furthest corner to ensure you have an exit path and work your way back from the painted deck.

Work along the length of the boards with a generous coating on your brush (this is known as a flood coat). Paint three to four boards at a time from one end of a deck board all the way down to the other end. This avoids overlap marks by keeping a ‘wet edge’.

If applying a stain, only apply as much as the wood can easily absorb.

Put some extra paint over any splits or cracks to help fill them in.

Step 3

Leave to dry and then apply further coats as necessary.

Step 4

When finished, remove as much of the product as possible from the brushes before cleaning them with water and a paint brush cleaner.

How to paint, stain or oil decking with a roller

Follow the steps below for help on using a roller to finish your decking.

Step 1

Ensure the area is prepared and dry before painting.

Rollers are more prone to splashing than brushes, so cover any nearby surfaces with dust sheets in case of overspray or drips.

Step 2

Give your chosen deck paint or stain a really good stir, before applying to make sure you get a consistent colour. Don't shake it otherwise bubbles will form in the finish. Alternatively, if using an oil or a protector, this should be shaken or stirred thoroughly.

Find a hidden area of deck you can test the colour on to make sure that you're completely happy with it - remembering to let it dry fully.

Pour the product into the tray provided or roller bucket.

Step 3

Start in the furthest corner to ensure you have an exit path and work your way back from the painted deck.

Dip the roller in the tray or bucket and twist it while still in the roller or tray to remove any excess drips. Be careful not to overload the roller.

Roll the paint or stain on, turning the roller as you apply it. Go over it again for a consistent finish and to prevent paint pooling in puddles. Work along the length of the boards painting three to four boards at a time from one end of a deck board all the way down to the other end. This avoids overlap marks by keeping a ‘wet edge’.

Step 4

Get into tight spots, such as between expansion gaps, by swapping the roller for a paint brush and applying the paint.

Step 5

Leave to dry and for the best results, apply further coats as necessary.

Step 6

When finished, pour any remaining paint in the tray or bucket back into the paint vessel. Remove as much of the product as possible from the roller before cleaning it and the tray or bucket.

Wait until the paint has completely dried before removing any dust sheets.

How to paint, stain or oil decking with a paint pad

Follow the steps below for help on using a paint pad to finish your decking.

Step 1

Ensure the area is prepared and dry before painting.

Protect any nearby surfaces by covering with dust sheets.

Step 2

Give your chosen deck paint or stain a really good stir, before applying to make sure you get a consistent colour. Don't shake it otherwise bubbles will form in the finish. Alternatively, if using an oil or a protector, this should be shaken or stirred thoroughly.

Find a hidden area of deck you can test the colour on to make sure that you're completely happy with it - remembering to let it dry fully.

Give the paint or stain a good stir and pour it into the tray provided or roller bucket.

Assemble the pole and pad as per the product instructions.

Step 3

Start in the furthest corner to ensure you have an exit path and work your way back from the painted deck.

Dip the pad base into the paint and push or pull in long strokes along the length of the boards. Paint three to four boards at a time from one end of a deck board all the way down to the other end. This avoids overlap marks by keeping a ‘wet edge’.

Step 4

Leave to dry and for the best results, apply further coats as necessary.

Step 5

When finished, pour any remaining paint in the tray or bucket back into the paint vessel. Remove as much of the product as possible from the paint pad before cleaning it and the tray or bucket.

Wait until the paint has completely dried before removing any dust sheets.

How to paint, stain or oil decking with a paint sprayer

Follow the steps below for help on using a paint sprayer to finish your decking.

Step 1

Ensure the area is prepared and dry before painting.

Sprayers are prone to overspray, so protect any nearby surfaces by covering with dust sheets.

Step 2

Give your chosen deck paint or stain a really good stir, before applying to make sure you get a consistent colour. Don't shake it otherwise bubbles will form in the finish. Alternatively, if using an oil or a protector, this should be shaken or stirred thoroughly.

Find a hidden area of deck you can test the colour on to make sure that you're completely happy with it - remembering to let it dry fully.

Test how the sprayer works with your paint or stain before applying to the decking. Depending on the thickness (or viscosity) of your product, it might need a thinner or water added, so be sure to refer to the product instructions of both the stain and the sprayer being used.

Practise by spraying onto some scrap wood or cardboard to find the right flow rate.

Step 3

Start in the furthest corner to ensure you have an exit path and work your way back from the painted deck.

Hold the sprayer by angling the pick-up tube in the pot to the bottom of the container to minimise the number of refills needed. Keep your arm at the same distance from the decking as you cover the decking (around 20 to 25cm) for a consistent finish. Follow all instructions provided.

Avoid any unsightly sags or runs of paint by keeping the sprayer moving quickly, or by applying a lighter coat with a reduced flow dial.

Step 4

Leave to dry and apply another coat if necessary.

Step 5

When finished, pour any remaining paint in the sprayer back into the paint vessel before cleaning it.

Wait until the paint has completely dried before removing any dust sheets.