You’ve got a new deck. Congratulations. Now, what do you do to keep it looking great?
First of all, you’ll want to use a semi-transparent stain or clear finish with UV protectors so the grain shows. A deck paint or solid color stain will hide all the grain but does require additional attention.
New wood needs to be dry (less than 12% moisture content) to let the stain penetrate. Sprinkle some drops of water on the wood — if it is absorbed into the wood it will accept a penetrating stain or deck finish, but if the water beads up on the wood it is not ready for stain. Wood that will not accept a semi-transparent stain can be hurried along by sanding, power washing or using a deck cleaning product. Be careful with power washing so as not to damage the wood. Let the deck dry for 2-3 days and then apply your finish. Stain 2-3 boards at a time across their whole length so that you don’t get lap marks.
If you decide to use a deck paint or solid finish (this is something we rarely recommend), please be aware that this requires a good deal more work and precision of coating all surfaces. All sides of the boards, including the ends, must be coated to keep moisture out of the wood. This will help reduce the chance of peeling. Decks that are close to the ground (less than 2 feet) should not use a solid stain or paint because air cannot circulate freely around the deck to keep it dry.
Has your new deck started to turn a silver color before you got around to putting a finish on it? The silver colors are actually dead wood fibers and these need to be removed before any finish goes on. Sanding, or using a deck brightening product will remove the silver and bring the wood back to its natural color. Let the deck dry for 2-3 days and you will be ready to apply the coating.
A good cleaning is always recommended and if there is mildew present it will need to be killed with a mixture of bleach and water. Again, let the deck dry for 2-3 days and then apply your stain.
Remember to take your time, pay attention to the weather, and read the product label.