The Beginner’s Guide to Sealing a Wood Deck

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sealing wood deck beginners guide

There’s nothing quite like unwinding at the end of the day by lounging on your deck and enjoying the beauty of nature around you. For most people, their deck or patio is their pride and joy. According to a recent survey, over half of all homeowners have invested in improving their outdoor space by building a deck and/or purchasing outdoor furniture within the past year!

An outdoor deck is a great way to create an inviting outdoor space, perfect for relaxing or entertaining. But a wooden deck can soon fall into disarray if you don’t keep up with the necessary maintenance. The outdoor elements can be incredibly harsh on wood, causing it to fade, chip, or even start to rot.

Sealing a wood deck is the best way to keep it in top shape for the long haul. Here’s a helpful, handy guide to explain why this is so important and the right way to seal wooden decks.

1. Is Sealing a Wood Deck Necessary?

Is sealing wood deck necessary

First and foremost, you may be wondering why sealing a wood deck is even necessary. Although most wooden decks are built with treated wood, this material will not last long in most weather conditions. Harsh UV rays from hours of direct sunlight will start to dry out the wood, leaving it vulnerable to fungal growth and rot. Heavy rain and snowfall will only make matters worse.

Wood sealant creates a protective layer on top of the wood. This creates a waterproof seal, so no moisture can seep into the wood. It also reflects UV rays and nourishes the wood, so it doesn’t fade.

Why Does Pressure Treated Lumber Need to be Sealed?

Many outdoor decks are made from pressure-treated wood. This process injects a chemical preservative into the wood. This helps to ward off pests like termites and also offers a bit of protection from moisture and rot.

However, this is not enough to skip sealing a wood deck. While pressure-treated wood is less susceptible to moisture damage, it does not protect it from UV rays.

What’s the Difference Between Staining and Sealing?

It’s very important to understand that a wood sealant and a wood stain are two different things. Sealants are designed to create a layer on top of the wood, whereas stains penetrate the grain.

Now, there are some overlaps and similarities. Both sealants and stains can be used to change the color of the wood. However, a sealant changes the color by adding a pigmented layer, like a coat of paint. Stains, on the other hand, use pigments that are absorbed into the wood to alter or enhance the color of the wood.

Stains are not nearly as protective as sealants and should only be used for cosmetic purposes. If you want to use both, it’s recommended that you stain the wood first and then apply a sealant on top.

2. What You Need to Know About Sealing a Wood Deck

There is a right way and a wrong way to seal a deck. If you aren’t sealing your wood deck correctly, it won’t do much good. Any areas that are not properly sealed will be vulnerable to the outdoor elements and could start to rot or face.

Here’s what you need to know before diving into your next sealing project:

Know When it’s Time to Seal

Is it time to seal wood deck

If you’ve got a brand-new deck, you might not need to add a sealant right away. Freshly processed pressure-treated wood won’t absorb the sealant well, so it won’t be as effective.

Thankfully, there’s a quick and easy test to see if it’s time to add a layer. Simply pour a bit of water on the wood. If it absorbs quickly, then it’s ready to be sealed. However, if the water pools and sits on top of the wood, wait a few more days.

Use the Right Type of Sealant for Your Wood

Depending on the type of wood used in your deck, you may need to purchase a specific type of sealant. Some sealants may also alter the color of the wood or enhance the natural wood grain.

You Will Need to Wash, Repair, and Sand First

Wood deck sanding

You’ll want to start with a clean slate, so your first step is to clean your deck thoroughly before sealing. Brush away dust and debris and use a utility brush to get at any problem areas.

If you have an old layer of sealant or paint, you’ll want to lightly sand this away. Don’t use a power sander, as this could damage the wood. Instead, use 80-grit sandpaper and a pole sander to buff away the top layer.

Do It on a Warm, Sunny Day

Applying wood deck sealant on a sunny day

It takes a full 24 hours for most wood sealers to dry completely, but many experts recommend it dries for a full 72 hours before using the deck. Check the weather before you start to make sure there’s no rain in the forecast and temperatures will be fairly warm, so it will dry completely.

Use Rollers, Brushes, and Sprayers for Full Coverage

When sealing a wood deck, you want to make sure the product gets in all the nooks and crannies. You’ll want to use a variety of tools to make sure all of the edges and cracks in the wood are sealed. But you also need to make sure that the sealant is thin and even, so it dries correctly.

Rollers are great for wide-area coverage, whereas brushes should be used for smaller spots. You can also opt for a paint sprayer for a more even, light coverage.

Repeat Annually

It is generally recommended to seal your deck every year or two. Harsh winters or extremely hot summers can cause the sealant to wear away. Plus, it can get scratched from shoes or outdoor furniture. You should also keep up with routine deck maintenance to ensure that it lasts as long as possible.

3. How to Seal Your Wood Deck

Ready to start sealing your wood deck? Here’s how to do it:

  1. Remove all furniture, mats, and plants on your deck. Sweep away any dust, mop dirty areas, and let the wood dry completely. Lightly sand if needed.
  2. Cover the surrounding area with protective tarps. You can also lay down painter’s tape if your wooden deck is adjacent to other surfaces you don’t want to be sealed.
  3. If it’s your first time, test a small area of the wood with your sealant to see how it dries. Sealants can alter the color, so make sure you like the end result before applying it to the whole deck.
  4. Start by applying the sealant with a large roller or sprayer and work from the bottom up on railings and stairs. Start by sealing the full length of three to four floorboards at once. This helps you create a more even coat and avoid splotches and spills.
  5. Repeat with one or two more layers if needed or as directed by the sealant manufacturer.
  6. Let it try completely for a minimum of 24 hours before walking on the deck. Let the sealant rest for 2 or 3 days before you move the furniture back, as this could scratch the sealant.

Applying sealant isn’t the most complex project – but it can be quite time-consuming and laborious. Plus, you want to make sure you get the job done right – otherwise, your sealant won’t do much good. If you want to make sure that your deck is sealed the right way, consider hiring a professional service to get the job done.

Need Help Sealing Your Wood Deck?

If you want to make sure that your deck stays in great shape for years to come, you need to take good care of the wood. Teak & Deck Professionals can help you out. We offer all kinds of deck services, including repairs, restorations, and maintenance assistance in the Southern California area. To learn more, reach out to us online!

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