Color Me Home Episode 5: Clean and Protect Your Deck

This week, Betsy and Dan talk about the quintessential Spring/Summer project:  cleaning and protecting your deck! Deck projects may seem complicated, but they’re really very straightforward. You just need to arm yourself with a little information. Lucky for you, that’s almost entirely what’s contained in this episode. (Actual information content is roughly around 85%. The other 15% is stuff we have a tough time categorizing…)

Episode Outline

  • How long do I have to let a new pressure-treated deck dry before staining? (2:30)
  • My deck’s gray and faded! How do I get it ready for stain? (6:37)
  • Why is cleaning the deck important? Can’t I just skip this step? (15:00)
  • Do I have to protect my wife’s plants around the deck? Or will they be OK? (18:00)
  • I don’t understand all the different deck stains that are out there! Can you help? (22:38)
  • What tools do you recommend for applying the stain? (30:02)
  • How do I apply the stain to my deck? (37:52)
  • Is there a best time of day to apply the stain? (43:20)

Pressure-Treated Lumber

Pressure-treated lumber has been chemically treated to resist rot, decay, and termites. And really, it’s an interesting process by which this is all done. See, the lumber is rolled into giant pressurized tanks where the preservative is forced deep into the wood’s fibers. Here’s a video for those of you who want the full “deck experience”!

Getting the Deck Ready for Stain

OK. In the episode, Dan talked about having video of a co-worker, Dave Williams, falling down the stairs while cleaning the deck. As is usually the case, Dan’s memory of the event and the reality depicted in the footage, aren’t necessarily the same. While in his mind, the event was long, drawn out, and utterly hilarious, the video is much less so. Still, it’s someone falling down who’s not Dan. So, that’s cool. And, best of all, Dave was just fine! The big takeaway here is this: these deck cleaning products can create a very, very slippery surface! So be careful!

Other than the video of Dave falling, we also mentioned a very quick video that demonstrates a sample of what Benjamin Moore’s Restore and Brighten can do for a deck that’s old and weathered. The results are remarkable! Check it out:

OnFloor Machine

Here’s a demo of the OnFloor Machine we discussed in the podcast, though we want to note that the situation in this video shows the OnFloor Machine removing nearly 5 layers of freshly applied stain (yikes!). As a result, the speed is dramatically reduced. Still, you can see a great example of how clean the OnFloor Machine will get your deck. It’s a very quick way to get your wood ready for stain without having to do any cleaning or introduce any water to the deck at all. This means you could clean it and stain it on the same day!

We have an OnFloor Machine for rent. You can contact us at 616-396-5213 to check availability and rental rates!

Which Tools are Best?

In the podcast, we discuss 3 recommended tools for staining your deck. For a more in-depth look complete with video of how quickly (or not!) the tools work, look below:


And that’s it for all the information we covered in the podcast. We knew this was a long one and we debated about the best way to present it. In the end, we decided to present it in it’s entirety and let people pick and choose what parts they wanted to listen to more closely! We hope the information’s helpful. And don’t forget, if you have any questions at all, you can stop out at any RepcoLite Paints, Port City Paints, or Snyder Paints location and let us help! Or, you can email Dan and Besty directly at!

Cleaning a Deck is EASY with Benjamin Moore’s RESTORE and BRIGHTEN!

Every now and then I stumble into a project that is easy and remarkably rewarding.  This was one of them!  We found an old deck that was slated for demolition and we decided to try out some of Benjamin Moore’s wood cleaning and brightening products.  I expected the products to work, but the results were amazing!

Peeling Paint on a Deck . . . Now What?

closeup of paint peeling on a railway station at sunset

I was out of the office and working in one of our RepcoLite stores last week Friday and a contractor walked in with some questions about a deck.

Here’s the scenario:  He’s been hired to fix a deck for a homeowner.  The deck had been painted before and was now peeling.  He’d power-washed it and managed to remove about 20% – 30% of the old paint.  He was at RepcoLite to pick up some primer and some paint so he could prime the bare spots and get everything coated.
Well, that sounds easy enough, but there’s a problem and after explaining the situation to him, I decided it was perfect for a blog entry.  So, here’s what we covered at the counter:
  • OLD, FAILING PAINT CONTINUES TO PEEL:  The first concept I needed the contractor to understand is the notion that once the paint starts to fail and peel, it will continue until it’s mostly gone.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t typically do this all at once.  So, even though the contractor had done a good job and had power-washed the deck, the problem was that much of the old paint remained.  The reason this is a problem is because…
  • NEW PAINT/PRIMER WILL NOT MAKE OLD PAINT STICK BETTER:  Putting new paint overtop of old paint–old paint that has started to peel–will not bond that paint to the surface.  The new paint WILL bond to the old paint . . . but if the old paint is starting to fail, it will eventually peel and take the new paint off as well.  This is bad news because…
  •  ALL THE WORK YOU DO CAN BE WASTED:  If you go through all the work of power washing, priming and painting a deck that is covered with old paint that has started to peel, the chances are the spots where you primed and painted BARE WOOD will hold up alright for a couple years.  However, equally as likely is the chance that the old paint that you couldn’t remove will peel soon, taking the new paint with it.  In the end, you (or your customer) will be left with the same situation they just thought they rectified.
Well, we covered those problems and I could tell it sunk in and made sense to the contractor I was helping.  He then asked the obvious question:  WHAT DO I DO TO FIX IT, THEN?
That’s a bigger concept, but to briefly sum it up:
  • POWER WASH!  A good place to start is where my contractor DID start:  a good power washing.  Much of the time, the pressure from the wash will blast off much of the loose and flaking paint.  
  • SAND/STRIP THE DECK!  If the power washer doesn’t completely remove the paint–or at least remove 80% – 90% of it, you may want to consider stripping the deck with chemical strippers or possibly renting a sander and sanding the paint off.
  • FLIP THE BOARDS OR INSTALL NEW!  This is a hard-core solution to the problem, but would typically fix the issue.  Some decks are in good enough condition that flipping the boards to the uncoated side gives a new surface to work on.  Other decks might be better suited simply being replaced.
  • BITE THE BULLET AND DEAL WITH THE FAILURE!  Another option–though not terribly appealing–would be the option of simply accepting the failure.  This means you weigh all the options and decide that for your situation, you’re better off just cleaning the deck as well as you can and then priming and painting and accepting the fact that next summer you’ll probably have to do it again.
In the end, I write all of this for two reasons:  first, to give you some tips if you’re dealing with a deck that’s been painted in the past.  It’s important to understand the limitations and the struggles you’ll have trying to make it look good.  Sometimes at least knowing those issues up front will help!  Secondly, I mention this mainly for this reason:  To help you realize that paint on a deck is NOT THE WAY TO GO.  It sounds good, it looks like a good option, it’s appealing to many people . . . but the problems quickly arise and then, dealing with them can be extremely time-consuming and expensive!  Paint’s great for many surfaces.  A Michigan deck, however, isn’t one of them!

When It’s Time to Clean Your Deck, Lay Off the Bleach!

bigstock-Deck-57020912_smallerWell, Spring’s upon us and many of us, because of the rainy start, are still scrambling to get our decks cleaned and protected for the season.  If that’s you–if you’re one of those folks looking for a good, dry weekend so you can get your deck cleaned and ready for cookouts and parties, well be sure you read this first. See, one of the tendencies we often notice at RepcoLite is a customer’s desire or plan to use regular household bleach to clean their deck.  Since Chlorine bleach does a great job killing bacteria and stuff like that, many of us figure it’ll be perfect for our dirty, moldy or mildewed decks.

But before you go and jump into a job like this, you should be aware that Chlorine bleach has never been proven terribly effective in killing molds on rough, porous surfaces.  Also, be aware that it actually destroys
the lignin in your wood deck.

Now, for those of you not quite up to speed on what exactly lignin is, or does, let me explain:  Lignin is a naturally occuring “complex polymer that binds to cellulose fibers and hardens and strengthens the cell walls of plants”(1).  Basically, when lignin is destroyed by bleach, the way the wood bonds together is disrupted or compromised.  When this happens, the wood’s much more likely to exhibit signs of aging, splintering and checking.  On top of all of that, Chlorine bleach will effectively remove the natural coloring from the wood of your deck, replacing it with a bland, washed-out appearance.

no_bleachAlso, not only does Chlorine bleach negatively affect the durability, quality and appearance of the wood of your deck.  It also can make your deck restoration project.  See, bleach is basically 99% water. And water is largely the reason we see the growth of bacteria and mold on our decks.  Now, the nature of Chlorine prevents it from penetrating deep into materials like concrete or wood.  However, while the Chlorine won’t penetrate–and instead, just lays on the surface–the water WILL penetrate.  And this really only serves to feed the roots of the mold.  So, you clean the deck, get it looking great–right away–only to find a few days later that the mold is back with a vengeance.  This is all likely to happen when Chlorine bleach is used as a cleaner.

So, with all that said, the answer’s pretty simple:  when it comes to cleaning your deck, lay off the Chlorine bleach!  Instead, use an oxygenated Bleach cleaner like “Defy’s Safe Oxygenated Bleach Wood Cleaner” available at RepcoLite for $20.95.  This powder mix will mix with water to produce 5 gallons of deck cleaning solution–enough to cover 700 – 1000 square feet.

An oxygenated Bleach like Defy’s cleaner will give your deck a clean look without harming the wood, detracting from it’s appearance or endangering the surrounding vegetation.  Oxygen bleach give you a clean deck and will not harm vegetation surrounding your deck, which is a huge plus and will save you time from covering your grass and landscaping to protect it.  Remember, the healthier your deck wood is, the better the deck’s going to look.

So lay off the Chlorine bleach when it’s cleaning time!

Defy Extreme: The Proof It Works

defy_samplesLast time I wrote about DEFY Extreme Deck Stain.  It’s available in several colors, but the main thing I was writing about last time was the fact that it comes in a clear.

Now, for many folks who’ve never worked with a clear, that’s no big deal.  But if you’ve ever put a clear wood protector down on your deck, you know what you usually get out of it:  typically about 6 months before it starts to look terrible.

Well, DEFY’s Extreme Clear product makes use of Nano-Technology to put, in your hands, a clear wood protector that WILL resist the harmful UV rays from the sun.  See, as we wrote last time, most of your typical deck protectors that color the wood contain UV inhibitors.  They block the harmful rays and keep your deck looking better for longer.  Clear protectors, however, don’t possess these blockers.  The sun’s rays just beat right through the coating and damage the wood.

The above picture is a perfect example.  The center squares on all of those sample boards were coated with a clear wood protector from a number of different companies.  They were then left outside to weather for about six months.  All of the boards except the DEFY board–no matter what the brand–show significant evidence of product failure and wood damage.  Only the DEFY product looks virtually unchanged.

So think about it and be aware:  if you’re interested in a clear deck coating, don’t get suckered by great advertising and slick commercials.  The best solution for your deck–the one that will give you the longest amount of time between maintenance coats–is DEFY’s Extreme.  Check it out!

Finally! A Clear Deck Stain That Does Something!

defyWell, in an earlier post, I spilled the “dirty little industry secret” when it comes to Deck Stains and Wood Protectors. I let you know that the truth of the matter when it comes to deck coatings is that you can usually expect to get 1-2, maybe (at most) 3 years out of your finish. After that length of time, it will need to be recoated.

Sure, this probably isn’t groundbreaking news to many of you, but we still run into plenty of individuals stopping in at RepcoLite who are expressing surprise and disbelief and disappointment over their “national-brand, expensive, supposedly high-end” deck coatings that have only lasted a year or two.

And while I’d be the last person to try to give these national brands an easy out, I’d still, in the interest of honesty, like to point out that these national products aren’t failing quicker than other deck coatings. They’re just performing in the manner that all deck coatings usually perform.

So, I wrote all of that to let you know not to get too over-excited by fancy, slick advertising campaigns on TV. These products take a beating and no matter what the commercial leads you to believe, you’re usually going to get a couple years max out of the coating.

However, that’s not to say that some aren’t better than others. For example, there’s a well-known, national brand of wood sealer that absolutely works like a dream. For the first 6 months or so. After that, it’s all down hill. This is probably THE brand that everybody associates with deck cleaners–it’s the “Band-aid” of adhesive bandages–it’s the name everybody knows. And yet, it’s really, in all honesty, an inferior product. It’s all show and no “go.”

On the other hand, there’s a brand that may not be as well-known, but which is breaking all the rules when it comes to deck coatings. This brand is known as DEFY® and they make a full line of deck coatings and cleaners and strippers. And these products are absolutely at the top of the deck-coating heap when it comes to quality, durability and ease of use.

DEFY’S® Clear Extreme Wood Stain is the newest member of the DEFY® line of wood products and is easily their most innovative high performance product yet. See, when it comes to protecting their decks, many homeowners express a desire to “keep that natural look on the wood.”

After all the cleaning and surface prep, folks see the beauty of their natural wood and generally don’t want to put anything on it that’s going to change it. They don’t want to put a colored sealer on it because that will deepen the wood’s color too much. So many folks lean towards the application of a clear wood protector.

However, there’s a problem. The sun’s ultra-violet rays cause wood to turn gray and become susceptible to water penetration and decay. That’s the core problem that all untreated decks face. Unfortunately, almost all CLEAR wood protectors are simply water-repellants. They will cause rain to bead up, but they won’t do a thing about the sun’s damaging rays. As a result, it’s usually not long (quite often 6 months or less) before your once clean and beautiful deck starts to show signs of graying and weather damage.

But now, all that is changing because of DEFY’S® innovative new technology. DEFY® Extreme Wood Stain effectively protects the wood from the harmful effects of the sun and protects wood from graying using state of the art nano-technology.

DEFY® explains on their website: “Extreme Wood Stain contains zinc oxide particles that reflect the damaging Ultraviolet Rays from the sun. When you reduce the size of these zinc particles down to the nano level, they become invisible to the naked eye. These nano-particles are distributed at a rate of over 30 trillion per square inch of surface area to provide protection from the sun in much the same way as they do when used in sun blockers and sunscreen lotions. This results in a “Crystal Clear” finish that when dry, will give the longest lasting UV protection on the market for a clear deck finish!”

So basically, what we at RepcoLite are excited to offer for the first time ever is a truly clear–a crystal clear–wood sealer that will not only defend your wood against water and rain . . . but also the damaging effects of the sun.

That’s the teaser information. We’ll talk more about this great product and I’ll show you some stunning samples next time.