Q: I have a deck that was built in October 2006. Does it need to be stained this soon? This will be my first deck-staining experience, and I was also wondering what things to be aware of, and if there are any suggestions for easier application, especially on the posts and railings. –Margaret M.

A: Staining a deck offers lots of advantages, and I recommend doing a new deck as soon as the wood has dried and settled in. Yours could be done at any time the weather conditions are appropriate, and should be repeated every couple of years, depending on weather conditions.

A good deck stain will penetrate into the wood, where it offers moisture protection by helping the wood to shed water. This prolongs the life of the wood, and helps prevent splintering and loosening around fasteners. The stain also provides protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which also helps prevent drying and fading of the wood. Finally, the stain helps you preserve the original color of the deck, or lets you change, enhance or restore color as desired.

Deck stains are different from the type of wood stain you would use to stain a woodworking project. Look for a name-brand product specifically formulated for exterior deck use. It should have UV protection, water resistance and mildew resistance. You can select from a transparent stain, which is either natural or has relatively subtle wood-tone pigments to enhance the natural look of the wood, or semi-transparent stains that have more pigment.

If you like the look of the wood as is, choose a natural color. If you want to enhance the color a little or if it’s started to fade at all, your best bet is to choose a color that matches the type of wood on the deck — for example, redwood or cedar. Left untreated, most non-pressure-treated woods will fade to a shade of gray, and if you like that color there are deck stains that will emulate that as well.

Before applying the stain, make sure the deck is as clean and dust-free as possible. Do not apply when the wood is too hot to touch comfortably, or if it has rained recently and the deck is still damp. Mix the stain thoroughly in the can, and if you are using more than one can, be sure and intermix the cans to ensure a consistent color.

The stain can be applied with a brush or a roller for the large flat surfaces. For posts and railings, you can use a pump-up garden sprayer (make sure it’s a sprayer that will be dedicated to the purpose, so that the stain is never intermingled with pesticides, herbicides, or anything else you might use the sprayer for). The sprayer simplifies the application and you shouldn’t have too much overspray, although you do want to be sure and cover landscaping and anything else you don’t want the stain to get on. For really large decks, you might consider renting an airless paint sprayer for the entire project.

Complete mixing, application and safety instructions will be on the can, and they can vary between manufacturers so be sure and read them over carefully.

Q: About six years ago, I had my house painted with Valspar paint. Shortly thereafter, I had a humidifier added to my furnace and have kept it at about 40 percent.

I noticed yellowish-brown marks running down my walls, especially in the bathrooms and across from air ducts. I called Valspar and was told that some pigments in paint will cause this. Now I want to have my house re-painted and I was wondering if you have heard of this problem. I know the walls will have to be washed first but wonder if a primer should be used. –Pat J.

A: I have not heard of this specific problem, but if Valspar says it could be a problem with the pigment in the paint, I would suggest contacting them again (or contacting the paint store where you purchased the paint) and asking for a product representative to come out to your home and analyze the situation. This is a free service, and should be very helpful in determining the exact cause of the problem.

I would definitely agree that the walls need to be washed first, and a stain-blocking primer will be helpful in covering the streaks prior to repainting, and will also help the finish coat adhere better. However, if there is an underlying problem that is preventing the first coat of paint from adhering to the walls, then primer won’t help. You need to get to the root of the problem first, and that’s where the product rep will definitely help.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@ykwc.net.


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