Here is how to paint a deck with a list of tools you’ll need for deck painting at the bottom.
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.
Picking 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 or the Sherwin Williams selections. Without doubt, when deck painting, use the very best primer on the market, Benjamin Moore Fresh Start (K094).
- Pressure wash (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)
- Let the wood dry totally
- Mask (or remove) hardware, windows etc, and spread dropcloths
- 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)
- Primer – best to roll small sections with a normal quality (wool/poly, 1/2″ nap) roller and then brush into all cracks and grooves well with a very good brush*
- Repeat with 2 coats of your paint/solid stain: there will be less work brushing into the grooves now
- Soak brushes and rollers etc right away until you have time to clean them
- Spraying deck paint is explained below as well
How to paint a deck (big time-saving tip ahead)
1. Deck Prep
2. Deck Paint
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:
- The pro way: use a rotary grinder to scrape the deck paint
- 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 (check every square inch that they do!). Buy a few differently shaped, good quality scrapers. See my favorites listed below. These are useless without a good file to sharpen every 5 minutes of scraping: yes, that often. Dull scrapers require too much force. Learn how to sharpen a blade with a file in this short video.
- Your main scraper with extra blades and the right file
- Your 5 in 1 that works all over the house
- This is very useful and pulls nails
- For floors this long handle is great
- Triangle is very helpful
- Finally, an oval is great for moldings
Tip: We pros don’t actually scrape (much). This is how we 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. The key to using this rotary grinder (low-RPM, by Porter-Cable, the only one we will use), is to keep the pads from melting the paint. They last longer if they don’t get gunked up. Duh. Extra pads are here. 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. This one is very similar to the one I bought years ago and it paid for itself in a year as a hard-use professional tool. Eight years later it still works (see my video at the bottom). You don’t need the extra hose, just a long extension cord that can handle 15 amps (If you need a new hose this one has 1,000 perfect ratings: wow).
Be sure to get the rotating tip with your washer (a.k.a. ‘turbo’ tip) so you cannot tear up any wood.
2: Deck Painting- How to paint a deck big tip:
use both roller and brush!
How to paint a deck the easy (but good) way. What primer and paint to use? We cover that in another short post. When you have that all set…
For any deck painting:
- Dip roller with a good deal of deck paint or deck stain (just so it’s not dripping)
- Gently roll and let the paint/stain fall out of the roller, pressing more firmly as you give up liquid
- 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)
- Follow up with a brush (no need to dip brush)
- 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 as sweet.
Two recommendations for two budgets:
- The best non-commercial paint sprayer today is hands down the Graco 390. It’s pricey but will last a lifetime with proper care. We have an entire post all about sprayers for 3 different budgets.
- The budget choice is the Wagner Flexio 590. It has a very reasonable price for what you get.
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. Painters ain’t givin it away! Just go around one dry day per year in the summer and look for cracks. Scrape the loose paint out, you know, like dentistry, hit with the same primer recommended above, 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!
- Annual, get out your washers, scrapers, primer and paint
- Go around like a dentist and scrape (and maybe use water pressure) to rip up the loose cracks: stop where it seems tightly bound to the wood
- On a dry day, prime and paint with deck paint as you did last year!
- Complete list of tools for all types of painting jobs
- bucket (instead of a pan)
- screen (goes in the bucket)
- roller covers we would use and here is a post where all about covers are explained
- roller handles: the best ones are not expensive (it’s explained in this post)
- hand masker
- paper for masker
- drop cloths (I like the grippy kind)
- plastic drop cloths
- Utility knife for cutting sharp lines in your tape and plastic with extra blades
- Razor blade scraper for glass and many other uses with extra blades
Be sure to have all the painter tools that you need
Coming Soon: The Best Deck Treatment: Part Two–What a Professional Painter Uses on His Deck
Good luck. Contact me with any questions!
Looking or a painter in the Mississauga area? Try my buddies: expert painters
Questions about how to paint a deck: email us.