Does deck stain lighten as it dries?

deck stain

It’s very easy to apply an exterior wood stain, but you won’t know the final results until it dries and then it’s too late to do anything about it. When you first apply the wood stain, it may appear much lighter than it will be when it dries and this can mislead you to apply a second or third coat to make the stain darker. Then when it finally dries, it’s darker than you wanted.

The purpose of a stain is to change the color of the wood, but a stain will lighten as it dries and it will lose its wet look. A stain is like paint because you apply it in layers. However, paint layers rest on each other while a stain penetrates into the wood so the more coats you apply, the further the stain seeps into the wood and the darker the finish. Different areas of the wood will soak up the stain differently like knots will not soak up the stain as well as open wood. You may achieve a uniform and even stain at the top layer, but as you proceed down the stain may not have settled as well as it did on the surface, so you might have to repeat the process later to achieve an even surface.

Staining your deck

Wood is the most common material that is used in building decks and come in a variety of colors, types, and grains to suit your needs. Decks can usually be stained before or after installation to give the wood a certain color.

But why should you stain your deck?

By staining your deck you protect it from the harsh outdoor elements like UV rays, dirt, and water while still maintaining and enhancing its original and natural beauty. You can highlight your wood’s beautiful and unique characteristics of the grain. You can either choose a clear sealer or a semi-transparent stain for your deck. Although staining doesn’t last like a good paint job, your wooden deck stays protects and retains its natural look.

Clear and wood-toned finishes

This type of stain is ideal for wood decks made with redwood and rich cedar because you will want to preserve the wood’s natural color and also show off its beauty. You will find some clear wood finishes that contain UV protection which will help in preventing your wood from acquiring the gray dull color with time. Others contain fungicides that are useful in protecting the wood from mold and mildew.

Solid stains

These give your wood a darker, more uniformed look and covers most of the wood’s natural elements like paint.

Semi-transparent stains

These give your wood a touch of color but still show off your wood’s unique patterns and characteristics. They’re also weatherproof and provide UV protection. They’re lightly pigmented and go a long way in changing the tone of your wood.

Tips on how to stain your deck

Water from rain or snow can take a toll on your wooden deck. You can know if the deck stain is protecting the wood and repelling water and if it doesn’t then it’s time to stain it again.

Check the weather forecast

Wood stain won’t sit well on damp wood and it can cause it to peel and crack. Ensure that your wood is completely dry before applying stain and that the forecast for the next several days is dry weather between 50-90 degrees F. When the humidity is low to average, it helps your wood to dry faster, but be careful not to stain in direct sunlight as the stain dries quickly before it could be absorbed into the wood.

Sweep the surface

For you to successfully stain your deck, the wood should be free of any dirt or debris and it should be completely dry. To prepare the deck surface, use a belt or orbital sander to lightly sand the deck following the direction of the wood grain and splintered spots, but first, wear a protective mask to avoid inhaling the dust. Sweep your deck and use a puffy knife to remove the dirt particles between the boards. Then use a deck cleaner or a pressure washer to thoroughly clean the surface. Wait for 2-3 days for the wood to dry.

Get the right brushes

It’s best to use synthetic brushes because they’re good for applying water-based stain on wood while natural bristles are hollow and can absorb the water in the finish which will cause them to lose their integrity. If you prefer to use a roller get one that is a quarter inch or smaller that you can use to apply a thin layer of stain that will stick to wood without pooling. Also, use painter tape to protect the sides adjacent to the deck. Use a brush to apply the stain in the small intricate areas. Stir the stain well instead of shaking it because it can create bubbles that you can transfer into your deck finish.

Get the right stain for your type of wood

There are different types of stains and each has its advantages and the type of stain on your deck will influence this choice. If the wood has a solid stain, you can apply a clear or semitransparent stain over it because solid stains block the wood pores preventing the wood from soaking in the clear stain. But you can apply a solid stain over other types of stain.

Apply thin coats

If you’re using many gallons of wood stain, it’s better to first mix them to ensure you achieve good color consistency. Then using long smooth strokes, stain 2 or 3 boards at once. For solid stains apply thin coats and for clear sealers and semitransparent stains apply even thinner coats. This will give it a more natural brushstroke and eliminate drips and puddles that don’t into the wood and cause the stain to flake off after it dries. Apply 2 coats of the type of stain you decide to use to give it a more uniformed finish and avoid missed spots.

So, does deck stain lighten as it dries?

The first application of wood stain on your wooden deck gives it a very light look then you will get once it’s dry, but you can apply a second and third coating to make the stain darker. However, if you get darker results than you expected the only option is to sand down until you reach the layer with a lighter color.


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