How to Restain a Deck Without Stripping

Is your yard deck beginning to weather and fade? Is it absorbing water and soaking up like a sponge, and you’re bothered it’ll rot? Is it too old? Worry no more, as I’ve got a remedy to address all of the above concerns. You can give your deck a facelift without wasting a lot of time and money by restaining. In this article, I’ll guide you on how to restain a deck without stripping to save yourself the agony of replacing the entire deck.

To circumvent stripping or sanding off the old stain from your deck, you first need to thoroughly clean and rinse it! Then, allow the wood to dry for 24 to 48 hours. Afterward, apply the same stain, or darker stain, from the same manufacturer. It’s important that the new stain either matches the old stain or is of a darker color; otherwise, you’ll have to strip and even sand off your deck before restaining.

In this article, I’ll point out the differences between cleaning and stripping a deck, explaining how to get rid of the old stain, and preparing your deck for restaining. When you’re done reading this piece, you’ll have a better understanding of the steps you need to take to realize a successful new look on your deck.

Deck Stain Stripping vs. Deck Cleaning

Deck stains shield the wood against excess UV rays from sunlight and soaking of water, thus preventing splintering, rot, mildew, and mold growth. If your deck is sucking up moisture or has started flaking, fading, and is looking dull, it’s high time you restrain it and repeat this process every 2 to 4 years. Before restaining the deck surface, you can decide whether to clean or strip the old stain.

Image of a deck cleanerCaustic agents are used for stripping paints off of decks by first applying them on the wooden planks. The stripping cocktail is then left for a few hours (3-5hrs) to emulsify or chemically disentangle the stain’s molecules from the decking. Afterward, the waste is scraped off, leaving the wood exposed; it is advisable to apply a neutralizer on the stripped wood to restore its PH.

It is also essential for you to clean any surface if you’re planning to restain or reseal, and a deck is no exception. For decks covered with mildew or mold, use a mildewcide cleaner to prevent future growths. A decking that has weathered or grayed requires a brightener or restorative cleaner to give it a new look. For most decks, an all-purpose wood cleaner mixed with mild detergent works perfectly to remove grease, grime, and other blemishes.

Cleaning and stripping decks are somewhat similar processes that you can mistake. In cleaning, the cleaning agent is applied on the surface, allowed to stay put for a while, and then washed off. In stripping, the agent is applied, allowed to stay a little longer than in cleaning, and then scraped off using a chisel-shaped tool. Stripping takes longer and is more invasive than cleaning.

Do You Have to Remove Old Stain Before Restaining? 

Deck stains are water-resistant and protect the lumber from rot, mold, mildew, splinter, and termites. They are either water-based or oil-based and come in translucent, opaque, semi-solid, or transparent forms. Transparent stains reveal the wood color, grain, and texture, while solid stains obscure the deck color and grain, but not its texture. Transparent stains make the surface susceptible to graying or dulling, so they need to be tinted to give UV protection against sunlight. Choose a tint that closely matches or resembles your lumber tone.

The degree of adherence of staining agents to the deck varies; there are those that penetrate deeply and get embedded in the wood fibers and some that bind less. If the old stain is deeply embedded in the wood, I’d advise you to strip or remove the old stain then restain; otherwise, the new stain will not bind well to the wood surface leading to peeling.

Image of Makita in use, the best belt sander for woodworkingOld stains that don’t respond well to stripping calls for sanding of the deck before restaining for a better outcome. Additionally, you should read carefully and follow the manufacturer’s instructions before using the cleaning or restaining agents as there are subtle differences between stain brands that could amplify negatively when applied improperly on your decking.

Removing an old stain before applying a new coat isn’t invariably mandatory. If you are using the same color and brand of restaining agent, you don’t have to strip the existing paint; you only need a quality deck cleaner in this case, which you’ll use before restaining. However, Ensure that the manufacturer hasn’t replaced or added a new ingredient to the cleaner formula following your last purchase. 

Image of a stain stripperIf you’ve decided to change stain brands, you’ll have to strip the old paint, use a brightener for PH buffering, then apply the new stain brand. Changing stain brands calls for stripping of your deck even if the new brand is of the same color as the original stain. Indeed, it would be best if you stripped before restaining when switching to an opaque or darker stain from another manufacturer.

The most challenging process is removing an opaque or darker stain to replace it with a lighter or transparent stain. Another difficult undertaking is replacing a colored stain with a differently-colored stain, for instance, a red stain with a green stain. In both of the above cases, you have to strip the old paint, power sand, clean, brighten, and finally apply the new paint.

Take Note: Following stripping or cleaning and the surface grain still feels coarse or furry, I recommend a light sanding with a 60 to 80 grit sandpaper.

The following table is a quick restaining guide based on the deck’s condition:

Restaining a Deck

Deck Condition Same Color and Manufacturer Same Color Different Manufacturer Dark Color or Opaque (Same Manufacturer) Darker Color or Opaque (Different Manufacturer)
Even wear Use the cleaner on decking then recoat Strip the floor and stain Use a cleaning agent then apply new stain Strip, brighten and apply the staining agent
Uneven wear Strip the planks, brighten, then apply new stain Strip the deck, brighten, and restain. Clean the deck and restain afterward Apply a stripper, brighten, then restain
Absorbing water and graying Apply a cleaner, brighten decking, then restain Strip, then brighten and restain Apply a cleaning agent and stain Apply a stripper, brighten, then restain
Peeling and flaking in high foot-traffic areas Strip the peeling areas, clean the whole deck, then stain Strip the floor and apply stain Remove the peeling stain, apply a cleaner, then stain Strip, brighten, then stain
Embedded dirt Use a cleaner. If still dirty, strip and restain Strip the deck and restain Use a cleaner then stain Use a stripping agent, brighten, then apply stain
Faded or sun-bleached, and absorbs water Use a cleaning agent, brighten boards, and restain Strip the decking, brighten and apply stain Use a cleaning agent first then apply stain Strip, brighten, then apply new stain

How to Prepare a Deck for Restaining

Before applying a stripper, restaining agent, or cleaning your deck, there are various steps you need to follow. Some of these steps give your floor a perfect finish, while others are for your safety during the entire process. Prepping up a deck for staining is different from cleaning, although there are a few similarities.

Follow the steps and measures below to prep your deck for restaining:

  • Remove all furniture, rugs, toys, planters, BBQ, and other materials from the deck surface.
  • If there’s a garden in the surrounding environment, cover it with plastic to shield the plants from contamination due to run-off. Uncover it immediately after finishing.
  • Cover surrounding glasses and metallic surfaces with polythene or plastic to guard against splashing chemicals and aerosols.
  • If there are items stored under your deck, remove them or cover them well.
  • Sweep the deck surface to remove dirt and other debris.
  • Tighten any loose bolts, nuts, screws and remove nails that stick out.
  • Replace any wrecked or rotting planks.
  • Clean or remove spots and blotches to prevent them from sticking permanently; use detergents or soap and water, a degreaser if necessary, and a brush with stiff bristles, then rinse thoroughly.

Power Washing Your Deck

Power washer for deck cleaningInstead of cleaning your deck superficially, you can opt to deep-clean it by power washing, but you have to be cautious here. Power-washing is a highly effective way of cleaning the planks before restaining, but if done improperly, it will cause damage to your deck. 

Holding the sprinkler nozzle too close to the floor, using very high water-jet pressure, or using an unwarranted sprayer can etch the lumber, thereby destroying some of the boards.

When cleaning decks using a power washer, always use low pressure that doesn’t cause damage to the floor, but still performs effective cleaning. The pressure used on softwoods, such as pine, redwood, and cedar, should range from 500 lbs per square inch to 600 lbs per sq inch; hardwoods such as oak, maple, and mahogany can handle higher pressures between 1200 and 1500 lbs per sq inch.

If you are not comfortable using a power washer, use a garden hose or a homemade washer with a sturdy spray nozzle, then scour the floor with a brush and a deck cleaner, adhering to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Reasons for Restaining a Deck

Decks get damaged by the harsh weather and other elements, no matter how well-made they seem to be; one of the best and easiest ways to safeguard your deck is by staining it regularly. Here are some of the reasons for restaining your deck:

For Aesthetics

Staining wood improves the appearance of its texture and grain. There are several options to pick from regarding stains; while some stains are translucent, others cover your deck floor as paint would. Various tones are also available, which allow you to match your deck stain to the rest of the house while still maintaining the wood’s natural look.

Prevents Sun Damage

Unsealed or untreated wood is highly susceptible to damage from sunlight. Excess UV rays make the deck warp, lose its tone, and evaporate essential oils of the wood (this leads to cracking and splintering). Regularly restaining decks minimizes evaporation, thus preserving their integrity. Staining agents also nourish the wood for longevity.

Repels Moisture

Deck paint, just like paint, shields the wood from excess moisture and water. Although stain does not exactly cover the wood as paint, it still forms a protective barrier between moisture, water, and lumber. Water-soaked timber is susceptible to mold and mildew growth and promotes rotting, which weakens your deck. The repair costs of the above damages are costly, but they can be averted by regular restaining.

Mitigates Cracking

Many people buy into the false notion that sealing timber with a sealant is all it takes to solve all the wood deck related problems. Well, cracking is one of the issues that sealants alone can’t prevent. Wood usually cracks and splinters due to excess heat, sunlight, and stress. Staining agents, more so oil-based, effectively prevent the above-mentioned problem as it keeps the necessary moisture trapped within the timber planks and prevents entry of unwanted moisture. This balance maintains the rigid structure of the decking.


Wooden decks require constant maintenance practices to preserve their grain, color, sparkle and give them longevity. Throughout the year, decks are exposed to heavy loads like furniture and harsh weather like sunlight, snow, ice, sleet, and rain, which cause wear, fading, and splintering. It’s vital to restain your deck every two or so years to mitigate the detrimental effects of the elements above. Replacing the deck in its entirety is an awfully tiresome process due to the time, labor, and costs involved; the process needs to strip the paint and a host of other procedures that are a little too draining.

Image of ready seal, best stain for deckNOTE: Ready Seal is a great deck stain and sealer in one, perfect for your deck restaining projects. You can buy it here.

Takeaways on How to Restain a Deck Without Stripping:

  • Use the same stain brand from the same manufacturer as the old stain.
  • The stain color should either be the same as the original stain or of a darker color.
  • Repair or replace defective and rotted planks before you restain the deck.
  • Remove all the furniture, machines, and other items on the wood’s surface before commencing the restaining task.
  • Cover delicate items like glass windows and walls that are within the vicinity of the floor before restaining.
  • Clean the floor with deck surface cleaning agents and leave to dry before restaining.
  • Give the floor enough recovery time post restaining instead of rushing items back onto the wet floor.
  • Repeat the entire restaining exercise every 2 to 3 years for the best outcome.

If you meet the above standard practices of restaining, you won’t need to strip your deck beforehand, and that makes the entire process easy, and your floor will always look as good as new. Plus, it will add durability to your decking.

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.