How to Paint a Deck With One Big Timesaving Tip

how to paint a deck
Here is how to paint a deck with a list of tools you'll need for deck painting: it's really straightforward.
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To decide on what product you should use for your deck, read our post on Deck Stain vs Deck Paint, and if you will be deck painting, read about the best deck paint on the market. How to paint a deck is not rocket science, but a few tips will really help.

beautiful painted deckPicking colors and materials: we only recommend two paint brands: don’t be fooled by advertising. Most advertised paints and stains are nothing like the real thing: save money by spending more on the paint for your deck! We only like to use the Benjamin Moore deck stains and deck paints if our customer can afford it: it saves on labor in the long run. Without doubt, when deck painting, use  the very best primer on the market, from Rustoleum). (Paint thinner to clean up, but worth it.)

The Short List (with the full explanation below)

  1. Pressure wash—as described below, this can do 99% of your prep—use water pressure to remove loose paint, but be sure to cover your grounds with large drop cloths. (‘drops’ are on the list of painting tools we recommend). Paint chips fly a long way!
  2. Let the wood dry totally—bone dry.
  3. Mask with tape and paper. Cover windows and cover or remove) hardware, etc, and spread dropcloths.
  4. Create a spacious work base in a shady area and cover with a tarp or plastic (prevents foreign objects from dropping in your buckets etc).
  5. Primer – mentioned above, use the oil-based exterior and have no fear that you can put latex over that. It’s best to roll small sections with a normal quality (wool/poly, 1/2 and then brush into all cracks and grooves well with a very good brush.
  6. Repeat with 2 coats of your paint/solid stain: there will be less work brushing into the grooves now.
  7. Soak brushes and rollers etc right away until you have time to clean them. You’ll see another short post on cleaning brushes: way easier than you think.
  8. Spraying deck paint is explained below as well.

How to paint a deck (big time-saving tip ahead)

1. Deck Prep
2. Deck Painting Tips (plus spraying option)
3. Annual Deck Maintenance

The key point to have a high-quality deck treatment is great prep work and the very best primer you can afford.

1. Deck Preparation

Start your prep with a pressure wash*

New Decks: just a wash will do it

If your deck is in good shape (and not pressure treated wood), go to the painting section of how to paint a deck (below). Lucky you do not need to do any sanding or any prep other than a washing (for new decks only). Skip down to the section on washing.

* Don’t do this with the green or brown pressure treated wood. The caution about treating this type of deck is in our other post on what products to choose when you Paint or Stain Deck.

How to Paint a Deck with Peeling Paint?

There are 2 choices on how to paint a deck with peeling paint:

  1. The pro way: use a rotary grinder to scrape the deck paint (see below)
  2. The painful way: scrape the peeling deck paint

Scraping is hard work, best done by local teenage boys/girls that want money and are willing to work hard—whatever happened to them? Buy a few differently shaped, good quality scrapers. See my favorites listed below. A good scraper is useless without a good file to sharpen every 5 minutes of scraping: yes, that often. Dull scrapers . Learn how to sharpen a blade with a file in this very short video.

  1. Your main scraper. Use the metal file linked above to keep it sharp and you’ll blaze.
  2. Our right-hand tool: has many tools in one and never leaves my person.
  3. This type is very useful and the slot pulls nails too.

We don’t use much muscle in reality: we go electic (like Dylan, man)

This is the first step in how to paint a deck with peeling paint: we use a rotary grinder to remove the peeling paint. We let the customer’s electric bill do the work. Either we use a drill attachment or a mind-blowing variable speed grinder.

Bosch Angle 5" Grinder Variable Speed with Paddle Switch, GWS13-50VSP
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

This 5-inch grinder will work with the 4½-inch removal pad: the very efficient 3M Sandblaster pads. Here is a guy demonstrating on YouTube.

Depending on your grinder, you may need the adapter for this pad.

3M SandBlaster Grinder Disc 9681 4-1/2-Inch Coarse Clean-N-Strip Disc
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

A great extension cord with an awesome rating is here.

Pressure washing a deck

If you like, you can carefully wash your exterior wood with the garden hose (slowly making sure to get all the surface), but this is a bit slow. To do it right, a small electric pressure washer is what we use.

Sun Joe Pressure Joe 2030 PSI, 1.76 GPM, 14.5-Amp Electric Pressure Washer,SPX3000
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
The Sun Joe (click on photo) is very similar to the one I bought years ago and it paid for itself in under a season as a hard-use professional tool. Eight years later it still works (see my video at the bottom). This one is 3000 p.s.i., my next tool, but you may only want the 1,500 (SPX1500). You don’t need the extra hose, just a long extension cord that can handle 15 amps. Great one linked just above.

Key Tip on Powerwashers: you only need one accessory—the rotating tip—(find it here). You’ll thank me.

Green pressure treated wood: wait a few years to treat.

2: Deck Painting—How to paint a deck big tip: roll, but never dip your brush!

How to paint a deck the easy (but good) way. What primer and paint to use? We cover that in our post on the best deck paint. When you have that all set…

Procedure for deck painting:

  1. Dip roller with a good deal of deck paint or deck stain (just so it’s not dripping).
  2. Gently roll and let the paint/stain fall out of the roller, pressing more firmly as you dry out—think in squares, about 1-yard square or so per dip.
  3. Don’t worry that you’ll lose some through the cracks—you can put plastic under if you want to try to save it (and protect the earth).
  4. Follow up with a brush (no need to dip brush).
  5. Repeat steps 1-3 until you need more paint/stain.
No brush dipping! You just need to dip your brush when you do corners etc, where the roller cannot let it flow.

Spray that puppy?

Spray painting a deck is 10 times faster than paint rolling or brushing, but there is more waste, obviously.

There are 2 basic types of paint sprayers: airless which cost an arm and a leg and small home-owner machines which don’t. The two paint sprayers brands homeowners can trust are Graco (website) and Wagner (website).

Read our post just about sprayers: short and sweet.

Two recommendations for two budgets:

If and when you need parts, (the tips do wear out) you can find them easily if you go with a major brand.

Some keys to spraying painting a deck:

  • Mask what is not getting painted: use plastic and/or canvas and lots of tape. Take your time masking–you’ll save a lot more time in the end (use a razor knife to get sharp lines)
  • Practice first: In a less visible area, move your sprayer hand at a uniform speed, and when you change direction, you make a quick flick of the wrist so you don’t have paint build up (sags and runs)
  • Spraying Oil? Soak the sprayer nozzle in paint thinner (or just gasoline if you are in a pinch) right away when done. Have your cleanup station ready–don’t let your tip get dry
  • Spraying Latex? Soak the sprayer tip in a bucket of water when you put it down to do something else other than spray: keep it wet as it will clog fast, especially on a hot day
  • Use the best deck paint and you should have no problem covering in one coat in the best case
  • A short video from Graco is very good: you won’t need anything more than this video


3. Annual Maintenance

This is necessary if you used deck paint or opaque stain, but not if you use semi-transparent deck stains and similar products.

Sorry to tell you, but on top of all that, you have to do annual upkeep: it’s easier than doing nothing for years, then scraping the entire thing all at once. This work gets old fast! Just go around one dry day per year in the summer and look for cracks. Scrape the loose paint out, you know, like Steve Martin doing dentistry, hit with the same primer recommended above, (or just the stain if you are doing stain), let dry, and then 2 coats of your finish paint/solid stain etc. This is easier than waiting for years while your deck paint cracks and then you have to do all of it again. Just stay on top of the problem!

    • Annually, get out your pressure washer or hose, scrapers, primer and paint.
    • Go around like a dentist and scrape cavities (and maybe use water pressure) to rip up the loose cracks: stop where it seems tightly bound to the wood, then feather sand the edges.
    • On a dry day, prime and paint with deck paint as you did last year!

What you will need:

Be sure to have all the painter tools that you need

Best Deck Stain and Sealer: Complications Simplified

Spray Wood Stain – Zero-Maintenance Deck Stain Treatment

How to Stain a Deck Quickly, the Right Way

Best Deck Paint (with a Big Word of Caution)

Paint or Stain Deck? (bonus: Deck Restore Products That Don’t Work)

Good luck. Let us know in the comments if we missed anything.

Questions about how to paint a deck: let us know in the comments.



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3 thoughts on “How to Paint a Deck With One Big Timesaving Tip”

  1. Hi Brad,
    I love your website it help me a lot When we painting our first house this spring. Now we moved on to restaining the deck. It currently has a solid stain that was coming off in big pieces. We pressure washed it and used a wood cleaner and more of the old paint came off. I then put on citrus stripper and more paint came off but it’s very slow going. Is it possible to remove all of the solid stain and then go to semi-transparent?

    I called one company and they said we have to put a solid stain back on because we could never really get all of the current solid stain out of the wood. Is this accurate?

    Would our next step be sanding? Would we use a wood brightening product after sanding before staining?

    If we have to solid stain again we will but I thought I’d ask. Thank you for any advice you can give us.

    • Hi. I see your photo clearly, thanks. Well, if you can grind/sand the wood down past where the previous paint/solid stain was able to penetrate, yes you could use semi-transparnet…. But can you do this? Difficult. Test in a spot. Search this site for ‘grinder’ and look at that tool and the paint removal pad. You may very well have success with a power tool. I hope you can because semi-trans has much less upkeep: no peeling. Just a pressure wash and re-stain. Nice.
      Also if you take it all off, search this site for “zero” as in no maintenance deck stain. Once for life. I used it on mine. but I’m lazy.

      If you go solid stain, go with a very high quality and get the deck very clean and very dry. Brighteners are helpful, but I rarely used them.

      Let me know here if you need anything else….other than for me to do it for you! …the lazy thing.


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