Even the sturdiest and most well-maintained wood decks will fade over time and begin to look old and tired. This is a simple fix, as a new stain can make it look as good as new in no more than a couple days. However, if it’s time to redo the finish on your deck, you will need to remove any existing stain and protectant before you can brush on anything new. Follow these steps to sand away the old finish so you can get to work on the new one as soon as possible.
Step 1 - Sweep the Deck
Your first step is to thoroughly sweep the deck with a hard-bristled broom to remove all loose debris. Make sure you move all deck furniture and plants off of the surface so you can get the best clean possible. Just because you will also hose it down later does not mean you can skip this step, as a broom can more easily dislodge leaves and twigs from between the slats.
Step 2 - Spray the Deck With a Hose
Once you’ve swept everything, put a spray nozzle on your hose and use it to remove any dirt that remains on the wood. You can also use a power washer for this if you have one available, but be sure to use a wide fan tip and hold it the proper distance away from the wood so you don't gouge it.
Step 3 - Apply Deck Stripper
Some deck strippers are very toxic, so be sure you weigh your options to find one that will suit your needs; you can find more mild strippers that will work fine, so read the bottles! Because some of them can be toxic, protect any plants or vegetation near the deck, just in case.
Read the directions of your product carefully. Some strippers will require that you wet the deck first, while others require it to be dry. Most deck strippers can be hooked up directly to your garden hose while others require you to mix them yourself and spray. Some also come as a sort of paint that you roll on. Only your product will tell you the proper way to apply.
Place a pair of work gloves on, and then spread the stripper on your deck according to the directions. You generally have to wait 20 minutes or so for it to begin working. Then, after your directed time has elapsed, use the pressure washer again to rinse the wood. Work slowly and carefully to prevent damaging the surface.
Step 4 - Sand It
It’s best to wait several days for the wood to completely dry before attempting to sand. Sanding a wet or damp deck can not only be messy and ineffective, but it can also damage the wood.
If you have a small deck, you can use a hand sander, but if your deck is larger, consider renting a larger machine. As long as you use the correct grit sandpaper, you won’t have to worry about any nails either, as the sander should just glide right over them, not causing any damage.
Put on a pair of googles and start from one corner of your deck, working your way systematically across. Make smooth, even passes over the wood and don't linger in any one place too long or else you'll create a depression.
When you are finished, hose the deck down one more time to get rid of any sawdust left behind. Then, you will be ready to apply a new coat of stain or paint.