While hardwood decking is relatively low maintenance, there are some required steps to ensure the deck remains the original, beautiful color it was when first installed. For that, you need to stain your deck, and before you can stain it, you need to clean and sand it.

    Sanding your deck is an important step in preparing it for stain, so it’s critical to take your time and know exactly what you are doing. Below we discuss the best way to sand a deck, so it’s smooth and ready for staining.

    Importance of Properly Sanding a Wood Deck

    When a deck is first installed, there is nothing protecting the wood. If you opt to keep it this way, it will become worn over time, and the color will begin to fade to a silvery-gray color. While this worn color can be beautiful, if you want to ensure the longest life of your wood deck in either its original color or one of your choosing, you want to apply a protective stain or finish. But, before you can apply a stain, you need to prepare your deck to accept it. This involves  thorough cleaning and sanding. 

    Sanding a wood deck provides a clean, smooth surface and removes any splinters or rough patches. By sanding before applying a fresh coat of stain, you are ensuring the stain will adhere to the wood well, and last for years before needing a new coat.

    How Often You Should Sand Your Deck

    Part of knowing how to sand a wood deck is knowing how often to sand it. While sanding a wood deck is important, you also need to practice caution and not over-sand the deck. Otherwise, it could become weak and wear out more quickly.

    Typically, you want to sand your deck before you reapply certain kinds of stains or finishes to your deck. Water-based stains last around 2- to 3-years and require complete removal of the old stain through sanding before a new coat of stain is applied. 

    Alternatively, while oil-based stains tend to last around 1- to 2-years, the deck does not require sanding before reapplying the stain.

    What You Need for Sanding a Deck

    For the best way to sand a deck, you need a few different tools and materials on hand. This includes drills, hammers, a broom, a hard bristle brush, a pressure washer, and a sander or sandpaper. Other optional materials include wood cleaners and brighteners. 

    Today’s Homeowner Tips

    While some consider sanding an optional step, giving your deck a light sanding will help ensure there are no rough or damaged patches of wood that will hinder the application of the stain.

    Prepping Your Deck for Sanding

    Once you have gathered all the necessary materials, you need to know exactly how to sand a wood deck. If you are choosing to do the sanding yourself, you want to work carefully and ensure every step is completed the right way before moving onto the next. 

    1. Make sure that all the nails and fasteners are secure. If any screws or nails are sticking up, this is where you want to use a drill or hammer to force them back into place.

    2. Sweep any loose leaves or other debris from the deck boards to help ensure you have a clean surface. That way, if you choose to use a wood cleaner and brightener, it will apply evenly. 

    3. As an optional step, you can apply wood cleaner and brightener. This will help remove dirt and mildew from the wood surface.

    Mix the cleaner according to the instructions on the bottle, and allow it to soak into the wood for 15 minutes. Once soaked, you want to use a stiff bristle brush to scrub the surface of the deck, being sure to keep it wet. You may need to repeat this process 2 or 3 times to remove all of the dirt and mildew. While it takes time, it will make the rest of the process go much quicker. 

    4. If the deck cleaners and brighteners have removed all of the dirt, then you may not need this step. However, to ensure your deck is clean, it’s a good idea to pressure wash as well. For softwood decks, it’s best to practice caution and use a fan nozzle with a pressure of no more than 2,000 psi. Alternatively, for hardwood decks, you can use a turbo nozzle with a pressure of 3,000 to 4,000 psi. Be sure to keep the pressure washer nozzle constantly moving; otherwise, it can cut into the wood and cause damage.

    5. Once you have power washed your deck, it needs time to dry. Allow it to dry for a minimum of 48 hours. If possible, allow it to sit and dry longer to ensure the wood has no excess moisture in it. Once it’s dry, you can move on to sanding your deck.

    How to Sand a Deck

    When it comes to sanding a wood deck, you want to be extremely careful not to use the wrong kind of sandpaper.

    For the actual sanding, you want to use an orbital hand sander or floor sander. Generally, 80-grit sandpaper is fine for most decks and can be followed up with another pass with 100-grit sandpaper if necessary. 

    Important Tips and Tricks for Sanding

    • Be sure to take your time, so the job is done right. Rushing will only lead to errors or an imperfect job and can make your deck look unattractive.
    • Move the sander in the direction of the wood, so that it follows the wood grain.
    • For board edges and railing, you may want to switch to a detail or palm sander for an easier fit and better control. Here, 60- to 80-grit sandpaper can work well.
    • Once you are finished sanding, wipe off any sanding dust and give it a final inspection, before applying the stain.

    Sanding your deck is an important part of deck maintenance, especially when it comes to applying or reapplying stain. But, it is not just something you want to jump into doing. Instead, you should take the time to read up on the steps and process, so you know the best way to sand a deck. This way, you can ensure you do it properly without damaging your deck.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Matt Greenfield

    Matt Greenfield

    Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

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