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Play Your Cards Right When Dealing With Your Deck

Play Your Cards Right When Dealing With Your Deck

Dealing with a wooden deck that’s in need of some maintenance is anything but a game. But if you play your cards right, you’ll still be a winner by getting a finish that is more durable and longer lasting than most.

The key is selecting the right type of coating once you complete your surface preparation (replacing damaged boards, removing any loose or flaking stain, treating mildew with a bleach solution, and rinsing the surface clean — or, when changing the color, power washing away all of the existing coating).

Deck coatings fall into two broad categories: water-based latex products, and solvent-based formulations. Latex coatings are more durable and offer the best weather-resistance; these products also dry more quickly, have little or no odor, and clean up with plain soap and water, so they’re better overall.

Water-based latex coatings are available in both clear finishes and in a wide range of attractive colors. The type you choose (colorless or colorful) will help determine how long your deck coating will last.

Clear finishes permit the natural appearance of wood to show through, but they offer very little protection from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. If you choose a clear coating, you’ll likely have to reapply it annually.

Semi-transparent stains are more durable than clear coatings. The modest amount of colorful pigment they contain helps shield the wood from UV rays and other weather. That means they’ll last somewhat longer than clear finishes, usually about 18 months.

The most durable stains are solid-color or opaque products. Because they contain much more pigment, they provide even better protection for your deck. Close cousins of paint, these stains show the texture of wood, but conceal the grain. If you want a longer lasting coating, this is the type of stain to apply. Solid-color coatings typically last three to five years.

No matter which type of coating you choose, one way to give better protection to your deck is to apply a second coat of the finish. In some cases, that will extend the life of your coating, but in every case, it will help the wood better withstand the hazards of inclement weather and abrasion from foot traffic and deck furniture.

And to give your deck the very best protection, don’t forget about your ace in the hole: namely, using only the highest quality coating – which in the case of deck coatings, means those that are made with 100% acrylic binder.

Top quality coatings made with 100% acrylic have better adhesion and better flexibility than standard deck stains. They also contain special ingredients that fight mildew growth. These characteristics almost always translate into longer lasting performance.

Now that you understand the rules of the game, draw on that knowledge when choosing your next deck coating. You’ll be sure to come up with a winning hand in terms of long lasting protection for your wooden deck.

Debbie Zimmer is editor-in-chief of the Paint Quality Institute blog. She's a widely cited authority on color, use of paints in interior and exterior design, and decorativpainting techniques. She can be found on Twitter as @PaintQualityIns.