Can I Seal My Deck In Winter?

Sealing your deck in cold weather is sometimes the best approach. The formula will not evaporate too soon and lead to peeling or cracking. In addition, cool temperatures allow you to deliver full coverage before the surface dries up and thus enhance an even finish. However, how cold is too cold? Let’s answer the question Can I Seal My Deck In Winter?

It is not advisable to seal your deck during winter or in freezing temperatures. More specifically, avoid sealing wood when temperatures are below 50 degrees. Otherwise, the surface will remain wet and deliver a sticky finish. Also, do not seal the wood when there is snow on the deck.

That said, check out this article for more insight on the most suitable temperatures for your sealing project. In addition, you will learn how to prepare the deck for winter seasons and keep it safe from early failure.

What Does the Temperature Have to be to Seal a Deck?

The temperature range favorable for sealing your deck is 50 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit for both application and drying. Anything below or above this prescription may lead to a failed product.

On top of that, please note that a 65-degree day may quickly turn into a 40-degree night and ruin your finish. Therefore, it would be best to check the weather forecast and choose a good time for the task.

Is It OK to Stain Deck In Cold Weather?

It is not OK to stain a deck in cold weather. Low temperatures are detrimental to your work because they lengthen the drying duration. And even worse, the temperatures can hinder the curing process if they go below 32 degrees Fahrenheit before the finish dries.

In addition, cold weather compromises the stain’s ability to penetrate well into the wood grain. Thus it will not adhere tightly to the surface and will peel off or crack within a short duration.

Cold weather also comes with high humidity and rain, which are unsuitable for a freshly stained deck. High humidity leads to long drying durations, whereas the rain washes away the fresh stain and takes you back to square one.

On top of that, windy days are not ideal for your deck staining process. The wind blows twigs, leaves, and other debris on the wet wood, leaving or sticking imprints in the stain. Therefore, consult with the weather forecast and choose a day with fair weather.

Is It Better to Stain or Seal a Deck?

It is better to stain a deck when you want the surface to resist UV rays. The formula also keeps the wood from drying out, which can cause checking, cracking, and graying. On the other hand, you are better off sealing the lumber to showcase the wood’s grain and natural color. In addition, sealers keep the wood from absorbing water from the atmosphere.

Also, remember that although stains and sealers protect the wood from harmful elements, they are not the same product. Therefore, it is prudent to examine their differences to determine the best course of action.


Image of a redwood deck sealerDeck sealers are a transparent finish that coats the wood to repel moisture. This way, they keep unwanted moisture away and discourage a breeding ground for fungal growth and wood rot.

In addition, wood sealers protect the deck from other pests, like insects, mildew, and mold. And even better, they showcase the lumber’s natural grain and color. Therefore, the deck’s structure remains intact and attractive for an extended duration.

Unfortunately, wood sealers feature minimal UV rays protection. Hence, your deck’s color may only last three to 6 months, depending on the sunlight exposure level. Worse still, the sun can dry out the wood’s natural oils and cause it to dry out, check, crack, gray, or split.

Also, you will have to reapply the sealer yearly to keep it functional. But applying the formula is easy and does not need much expertise. Thus, you will not struggle to execute the maintenance requirements.

On top of that, there are multiple types of sealants for deck surfaces to accommodate various projects. And they differ depending on the material they protect and their general use. Below are some of the products.

  • Penetrating Sealers

Penetrating sealers, such as linseed oil, natural and synthetic waxes, tang oil, and hemp oil, are ideal for enhancing the wood grain and bringing out the lumber’s luster. In addition, it would be best to mix them with vinegar or mineral spirits to facilitate easy application and efficiency.

These formulas soak into the wood grain and deliver superior protection against weathering and moisture. Also, you can apply a new coat without stripping or sanding the surface and, thus, finish your work within record time.

  • Coating Finishes

Coating sealers deliver a hard finish and protect the wood from atmospheric moisture. Even better, they are more scratch-resistant and keep the surface looking new. However, lacquer, shellac, and varnish may take more time to dry, making them more vulnerable to peeling and cracking.

Fortunately, modern wood sealers are more durable than lacquers and shellacs. They protect against mildew and bugs and even offer superior UV rays protection. We also have products like spar varnish that are more water-resistant and work well on ship decks.

On top of that, the sealer will not hide the wood’s appearance or texture as it comes in transparent tones.

So, how do you seal a deck? Here are some tips to consider.

  • Clean the Deck First. Ensure that you eliminate all the grime and dirt from the surface. In addition, use a pressure washer, a stiff brush, or a garden hose to deliver a better outcome.

Also, allow the deck to dry well after rinsing. Otherwise, you may risk sealing in dirt and debris. So, please test the wood for dryness before opening the sealant’s can. 

  • Use a New Paint Roller. You are better off using a new roller or brush because the sealer hardens the tool. And you cannot use it for future projects. Also, you risk applying too much formula if you use an old roller or brush.
  • Use a Penetrating Sealer. It would be best to use a penetrating sealer, especially when working on a deck. It will soak deeply into the wood fibers and offer better protection against elements. 
  • Wait for the Sealer to Dry. Always allow the finish to dry before using the deck. Otherwise, the finish will appear uneven and streaky. Also, the practice will help you avoid brush strokes in your second coat.


Image of the best finish for walnutAs the name suggests, wood stains have pigments that change the deck’s color. Hence, they offer more protection against harmful UV rays, unlike sealers. Stains also possess water-repelling qualities and preserve the wood from rot.

On top of that, we have multiple stain categories ranging from transparent stains to semi-transparent formulas to solid deck stains. However, the correct opacity level depends on your preference and surface type.

For instance, darker and more opaque pigments are better for offering UV protection and hiding wood imperfections. On the other hand, transparent stains are perfect for new decks and expensive hardwoods.

Also, applying stains is more expensive and trickier than sealers. Thus, most woodworkers leave them for the experts. Fortunately, stains last five times longer than sealers and look more professional. So, they give you value for money.

Always clean the wood well before applying the stain. In addition, deck stains on horizontal surfaces need more reapplication than those on vertical ones. Therefore, customize your application and maintenance routine to fit your project.

So, what is the best deck staining procedure? Check out the instructions below.

  • Scrape the Wood.  It would be best to remove dirt, loose paint, and grime before staining the deck. Consider using a scraper for unnecessary elements and a pneumatic wood chisel to remove old sealers.
  • Wash the Deck. Use a brush, pressure washer, a garden hose, and mild detergent to clean the deck. However, avoid using harsh chemicals because they can damage the wood’s structure. Also, allow the wood to dry for better stain adhesion.
  • Apply a Sealer. Consider applying two coats of the formula when working with a water-based product. You will also need a paint roller to deliver full coverage and an even finish.
  • Allow the Sealer to Dry. Always give the finish enough time to dry. Fortunately, the manufacturer provides details on the waiting duration, and thus you do not have to risk a shorter or longer drying time between coats. 
  • Apply the Stain. Use a paint roller to apply the first coat and ensure it is even. Also, the first coat should serve as a sealer if you do not have a separate sealing product. 

That said, staining a deck is appropriate for pine, fir, OSB decks, plywood, spruce, fences, and other surfaces. On the other hand, you are better off sealing cedar, mahogany, teak, and other quality wood with unique wood grain and color.

How Do I Prepare My Deck for Winter?

It is prudent to prepare your deck for the winter season. Otherwise, moisture, rain, or snow will get into the deck’s cracks and freeze, causing warping. So, let’s look at simple strategies to minimize deck damage in cold months.

  • Inspect, Then Repair or Replace Board Damage

A plant container leaving a ring of mildew, an eave onto a single spot, or water dripping from a tree can damage the deck boards. Thus, inspect all the deck areas as a sturdy structure may also have localized board damage.

You will get a better result by assessing the space beneath the boards to identify damaged parts. Then, pull up the damaged boards and replace them with brand new ones when there is too much damage.

On top of that, remember that weathered and warped boards are not the same as damaged boards. For example, hardwood decks get old even with the correct weatherization. But they are still intact and functional.

In addition, aging wood should not worry you until it proves structurally compromised. It is OK to leave the boards alone if they show slight warping signs. But once they begin to crack, please remove and replace them.

Luckily, it is very easy to test the deck’s quality. Take a walk across the deck and observe how the boards feel underneath. Check out for bouncy, spongy, or sturdy spots and if the boards have too much to give. 

  • Apply Some Protective Finish.

Applying some wood protection to the deck will protect the boards from elements. Moreover, a good finish enhances the wood’s water-resistance abilities. Therefore, you are sure of longevity during and after the winter season.

On top of that, you can choose a stain that penetrates deep into the wood fiber. This way, you’ll ensure that sleet, snow, hail, or water will not damage the deck. Also, you can get a finish with UV protection to keep the wood from fading or turning grey.

  • Cover With a Tarp

A tarp covering furniture, floorboard space, and other wooden patio items provides extra protection during winter or freezing seasons. However, it may be hard to cover these items if you use them regularly.

Alternatively, you can cover items not needed daily and move those you need to use frequently to a safer place. This way, you’ll protect the deck and other items from falling snow or rain.

  • Check for Peeling Stain or Paint

Stick a tape strip across the deck wood and yank it up to verify whether the paint or stain is peeling. The tape will pull the finish up if it does not stick to the wood anymore. Therefore, you can quickly tell areas that need repainting or restaining.

Fortunately, peeling stain or paint is not a cause for alarm, but rather it is something that you can fix even as a DIYer. In addition, you are good to refinish the surface after scrapping off and sanding the old material.

On top of that, peeling stains and paint provide a conducive environment for mold or water underneath the wood. You will observe this aspect mostly during wet months in spring or winter. Thus, it would be best to adopt a regular deck maintenance routine to curb the issue early enough.

  • Replace Scratched or Broken Glass

Although installing glass in deck railings is an excellent decking idea, replacing the material is complicated. Here, you need to dismantle the wood parts that hold the glass before replacing the panes. So, it is wise to get an expert to help when dealing with scratched or damaged glass.

Fortunately, you can do not need any expertise to perform the inspection. Clean dirt and debris off the glass and examine it for scratches or cracks. Also, please note that minor scratches can hold through winter, but cracks may get worse and be dangerous to family and guests.

Additionally, glass on the deck may probably not be the best alternative if it always sustains consistent damage. You can consider wood and metal materials as they also deliver lovely and perfect decks and are pretty durable.

  • Assess Deck Post Damage

Unfortunately, deck post damage is quite difficult to fix. Even worse, you will have to dismantle the entire deck when the posts begin to show rotting signs. Also, deck posts are often set in cement, and sometimes water pools and mud gathers around them. So, eventually, they become unstable and compromise the deck’s structural integrity.

Damaged posts may shift or collapse, meaning that the deck will move or even fall. Also, any additional weight on the deck structure from dinner gatherings or parties might be too much for rotting posts. And thus, it speeds up the rotting process.

Luckily, you can prevent post damage by ensuring that the cement area around the posts is visible. In addition, you can add more cement to the posts as it creates a downward gradient. This way, the water and dirt leach away from the post and back into the ground.

What Happens If You Stain Wood In the Cold?

Low temperatures cause multiple wood stain problems, such as delayed curing time. Worse still, some temperature-induced complications might affect the project’s quality. Therefore, it would be best to avoid staining wood in cold weather.

On top of that, a penetrating stain will dry up if the weather sinks to a freezing level. And it will not soak into the wood fiber as needed. Even worse, this condition may hinder the project from assuming the desired stain color.

Lastly, you might contend with delamination issues when you stain in the cold. The stain freezes before it penetrates the wood, causing it to fall off. In addition, the curing time will be a bit slower, causing uneven spreading and gloss variation.

Therefore, the primary goal is to stain your deck in the following conditions:

  • The wind is calm.
  • It is a cloudy day, or the deck is in the shade. 
  • The temperatures are between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Rain is not in the forecast.
  • It is a low humid day.

How Much Does It Cost to Seal a Deck?

Sealing a deck costs about $895 or between $551 and $1,277. In addition, you’ll have to pay about $0.75 to $4 per square foot for labor and materials. And labor alone will make up 50% to 75% of the total cost.

On top of that, deck sealing costs may hike, depending on the amount of cleaning needed, your location, and the job’s complexity. But generally, most sealing projects will cost about $300 to $1,300.

Do I Need to Clean My Deck Before Sealing?

Yes. It would be best to clean the deck before sealing. Hence, sweep the leaves, dirt, twigs, and other debris off the deck’s surface. Also, pay attention to the areas between the boards as leaves can rot in there. Better still, you can use a putty knife to clean cracks and crevices.

On top of that, there are multiple products, like bleach, scrub brushes, and warm water, to help with deck cleaning. In addition, these products are ideal for small spaces and work magic on mildew and algae.

Alternatively, you can use a pressure washer for large deck areas. Here, spray a bleach and water mixture on the boards and let it soak. Then, go ahead, and pressure wash the surface. Also, remember to cover up plants and shrubs before spraying the bleach formula.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the most asked questions are:

  • Do I Have to Stain or Seal My New Deck?

Pressure-treated and untreated wood exposed to harmful environmental elements will eventually crack, dry out, twist, split, and discolor. Also, although some woods have natural oils that preserve them, they still dry out and fail. Thus, it is best to stain or seal your new deck to keep it safe.

In addition, the longer you wait to stain or seal the deck, the more damage you allow to your investment. So, consider engaging in a deck staining or sealing project as soon as you install the structure.

You can check whether the wood is ready for sealing or staining using the sprinkling test. Sprinkle some water drops on the wood and observe. The deck will absorb the formula when ready for staining or sealing.

Conversely, you may observe water beads on the surface, which reveal that the wood is not ready for a sealer or stain. So, consider giving it more time to dry and conduct the test again later.

On top of that, sealing your new deck helps preserve the wood’s natural color, whereas staining it delivers a more uniform tone to the surface. Also, even if the sealer fades away over time, it will still show the wood’s natural grain.


Existing weather and environmental conditions will determine when to seal the deck. For instance, sealing the wood during the summer seasons puts more stress on the wood as the formula will evaporate too soon and lead to cracking. Also, sealing the wood in cold seasons has its drawbacks too. So, let’s answer the question:

Can I Seal My Deck In Winter?

It is not advisable to seal your deck in winter as you contend with longer drying times. And even worse, it increases the risk of having a sticky surface. So, it would be best to choose a cool day with temperatures ranging between 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the best outcome.

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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