How to Paint Decking

A close-up of a painted wood deck.
  • 4-6 hours
  • Beginner
  • 25-400
What You'll Need
Power washer
Stain and sealer remover
Paint rollers
Primer and paint
Safety glasses

It doesn’t take long before a beautiful wood deck becomes aged and in desperate need of repair, especially after a bad paint job. Luckily, restoring a deck to its original glory is an easy, straightforward process that can be knocked out in a weekend. Here is a quick guide on how to properly paint a deck and get it looking brand new in no time flat.

Step 1 - Cleaning

A power washer on a wood deck.

Prep work is the most important step in painting a deck. If the deck is not thoroughly cleaned, then the paint will not look good. Start by sweeping away any dirt and debris and spraying down the deck with a hose. Using a pressure washer will help strip away the tough stains and rough patches, though you may need to sand away some of the more stubborn spots by hand. You can also use a stain and sealer remover to get rid of all the old stain. The goal is to get down to the bare wood in order to get the smoothest layers possible. Once the deck is completely clean, allow it plenty of time to dry before moving forward.

Step 2 - Picking The Right Paint

A lot of people opt for staining a deck, but paint is often a better alternative. Paint is generally thicker than stain and offers better protection and longevity. A good paint job can also hide imperfections on the surface of the deck. The only exception to the rule is when the decking is close to the ground and does not have adequate air circulation under the boards. Without good circulation, the boards are more susceptible to trapping moisture, which can lead to chips and bubbles in the paint.

Step 3 - Repair The Decking

Someone using a screwdriver on a deck.

Before you begin staining, double-check the surface of the decking for any loose nails or large holes. Remove loose nails and replace them with one size larger. This will help secure the board tightly in place without splitting the wood. Repair large holes in the decking with exterior putty. Remove excess putty to cut down on additional sanding and dry time.

Step 4 - Priming

You should always lay down a good layer of primer before painting a deck. The primer will help hide imperfections on the surface and allow the paint to stick better. The primer will also lengthen the longevity of the paint, which means less maintenance down the road. Be sure to double-check that you are using the right primer with whatever exterior paint you select. In most situations, you should also select a primer that is a few shades lighter than the final paint.

Step 5 - Painting

Someone using a paint roller on a wood deck.

A paint roller is the best tool to paint a deck. You should keep a paintbrush on hand for detail work, but the majority of the project will be complete with the roller. A roller is perfect for painting decks because it can cover large areas with ease. It is also less likely to splatter the paint and is easy to get a smooth layer. As you paint, work in sections starting with the area that is the furthest away from the stairs. As you move along, use the paintbrush to get between the boards and paint any handrails. It's important to cover as much exposed wood as possible to prevent moisture from building up and damaging the coats.


Protect nearby flowers and plants by covering them with plastic. Make sure you are going to have a few days of nice weather before painting and avoid starting this project if the temperature is too hot. You should also avoid painting a deck if it has been oiled in the past. It's very difficult to get the paint to stick to oiled surfaces and even the smallest spots will be noticeable once you’re done.