Deck stains are perhaps THE most challenging product to adhere long term to any surface on the exterior of anyone’s home.
Well, there are a few factors involved, which also tend to be intertwined with each other.
Let’s start off with the obvious where most deck stains are not able to be applied to all six sides of a piece of decking once it is in place.
If this type of treatment is not done when the deck is initially installed, it would be pretty much impossible to do afterward.
If the deck is not sealed on its underside and butt ends, moisture (both when it rains or snows & natural moisture that emanates from the ground below the deck) can easily be absorbed into the unsealed portions of the wood and loosen up any coatings that may be on the sealed portions of the deck as the deck dries out.
If this process occurs enough,
it will do so to the point where the coatings will start to peel.
One overwhelming fact of this whole conversation,
is that the majority of decks do not have wood that is super receptive to receiving ANY type of coating.
In fact, the harder the wood (mahogany, Ipe, etc.), the more challenging it will be to get any type of product to properly absorb into it; even pressure treated wood, as soft as it is in comparison to the harder types of decking, is not easy to get stains to properly penetrate.
Unless the deck surface is roughed up enormously (glassblasting is the only true process I am aware of that 100% allows for this), there is a shot that the pores of the decking are not open enough to comfortably receive whatever stain product is being applied to them.
Simply sanding a deck is not necessarily the complete answer because although it is a necessary part of the surface preparation process, if not done correctly, can actually tighten up the grain of the wood TOO much.
Because of this, unless someone is willing to undertake the expense of glassblasting their deck, I typically advise folks to use as thin a stain as they are ok with using along the thought process that the thinner the stain, the easier it is going to be to penetrate the wood.
This may be counterintuitive to other information that is out there, but in 25+ years wrestling with these types of projects, this is what we have found to work best.
When staining a deck, one should be prepared to put a maintenance coat on it yearly if need be.
Depending on individual situations,
deck coatings absolutely could last more than 3 years, but should not be banked on to do so.
Having a deck with any type of coating system associated with it, is not for the faint of heart.
Decks can be beautiful centerpieces of one’s home,
if they are not properly maintained however, they can develop into an eyesore that is the bane of existence for many a homeowner.
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