Whether to Paint or Stain a Wood Deck?

Freshly stained wood deck.

Our 10-year-old pressure treated wood deck is a dull, dingy gray. Can I paint the wood deck successfully? -Marian

While you can paint a pressure treated wood deck, I don’t recommend it. A wood deck takes a lot of abuse from sun, rain, and snow; and the constant shrinkage and expansion of the wood causes paint to peel over time.

For a wood deck or fence, I prefer the look and longevity of a semi-transparent stain. Advantages of a semi-transparent stain over clear sealers, solid stains, and paint include:

    • Last longer than clear sealers.
    • Gives a uniform color to the deck compared to clear sealers.
    • Hides defects and weathered wood better than clear sealers.
  • Doesn’t tend to peel like paint or solid stain.

No matter what finish you’re applying, it’s important to thoroughly clean the deck with a product like Flood Cleaner/Brightener first, using a long handled scrub brush to remove any dirt and open the pores of the wood before sealing, staining, or painting.

If the deck has mold or mildew, use a mixture of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water with either a little non-ammonia based detergent or TSP (trisodium phosphate) added. Mixing some detergents with bleach can release poisonous chlorine gas, so read the detergent label carefully before using.

Wear protective clothing, rubber gloves, and eye protection when working with bleach and keep it off bare skin. Allow the bleach solution to remain on the deck for 10-20 minutes, then scrub with a long handled scrub brush and rinse well with a garden hose. Bleach can kill or damage plants, so wet down any plants or grass around the deck or cover with plastic before spraying.

Once the deck is clean, allow the wood to dry thoroughly before staining. Drying can take several days or longer, depending on the weather conditions. When possible, use a moisture meter to make sure the wood has 15% or less moisture before finishing.

If the wood fibers on the surface of the wood have deteriorated and have a soft, fuzzy feel, sand the deck before finishing. Choose a quality stain that resists mildew and waterproofs the wood. Apply the stain following the directions, making sure to back-brush the stain into the wood.

If you do decide to paint rather than stain your deck, follow the same cleaning, sanding, and drying procedures as outlined above; then paint with a quality primer and paint made for decks.

Good luck with your project,


Further Information


  1. My home has a deck that has been painted twice. The paint peels in traffic areas. I would like to obtain a better look for the deck. I pressure washed the deck, however the paint will not completely come off. Any suggestions? The deck looks awful!
    Thank you so much!
    Michelle Simpson

  2. My backyard is heavily wooded so the deck only has partial sunlight for a few hours a day. The current deck material is part pressure treated wood and part cedar and I’ve been fighting a losing battle with rot for the past 12 years. Every year I have to remove and replace boards due to rot which tends to start at the area where the decking touches the house or where it touches the 2nd deck level. This year, in addition to the rot mentioned, I found that the posts have rotted from the inside (may be due to the carpenter bees that are always at work in this area) and will also have to be replaced. Before I pour more $$ into the deck this year, I would like your thoughts on best material and preventing rot.

  3. My home has a deck that was originally stained and then sanded, primed with sealer, and painted with two coats of latex. I want to remove the paint and go back to treating the deck with stain. Can you advise as to the right procedure?

    • Hi, Julia,
      “All the paint will need to be chemically stripped in order to provide a surface that stain will adhere to. Good luck with your project!”


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