February 22, 2021 11 min read

The Ultimate Guide To Painting Your Deck

Decks expand the functional space of your home, create an elegant locale for entertaining and enhance your outdoor living area. They are one of the few additions that you can add to a home that delivers a dollar for dollar return on your investment.

As wonderful as it is to have a deck on your home, they do require some care to assure you reap all of their benefits for the longest possible period of time. To prevent the premature aging of your deck, one of the wisest decisions you can make is to apply a deck sealant. Deck paint comes in many colors and finishes to fit almost any décor imaginable and adding a new coat revives decks that might be a bit past their prime.

Why Paint Your Deck

There are many reasons to paint your deck. Many people do it simply because they prefer the slick consistent look deck coatings can provide. But beyond aesthetics, deck paint offers several other advantages over other decking options.

  1. Low maintenance: If you have a stained wooden deck, you should retouch the finish about every two years. Any quality deck paint should deliver a finish that lasts 4 years or more before it needs to be reapplied. Beyond minimizing this major expense, deck coatings are stain-resistant and depending on the type of paint used, impervious to oil and grease that can permanently tarnish unpainted decks built from the most popular decking materials. Essentially all the maintenance painted decks require is sweeping and an occasional washing with an appropriate deck cleaner.
  2. Versatility: The colors of stains available for wood and concrete are very limited and once applied, what you have is what you will always have. Composite decking and vinyl decking offer more options but again what you get is what you will always have. Deck paints come in a wide variety of colors and finishes. If you tire of the color or pattern you currently have, you can repaint it for a totally new look.
  3. Restorative: All decks age. Even if your deck is past its prime and showing signs of use, a fresh coat of paint can return it to like-new condition. This makes painting wooden or concrete decks a relatively inexpensive alternative to rebuilding.
  4. Durability: Some deck sealants like Polyurethane Deck Coating are up to 10 times stronger than other deck finishes, highly UV stable and can deliver decades of service life before needing to be touched up.
  5. More comfortable: Deck paints like Liquid Rubber Cool Foot Deck & Dock Coating offer high solar reflectivity which means they don't absorb the sun's heat like other materials and coatings.

What Options Do You Have For Painting Your Deck

There are three possible ways to apply deck paint. Most of them can be sprayed, rolled or brushed like any other house paint.

As to choosing the type of deck paint for your project, you have three options to choose from, oil-based, water-based and polyurethane paint.

Oil-Based Deck Paint

Oil-based deck paints once ruled the market and many pros still swear by them. They offer excellent moisture protection and a tough durable finish that can last a decade before needing to be reapplied. These paints come in a wide array of colors and finishes and flow well, making it easy to get professional-looking results with a minimum amount of practice.

On the downside, oil-based paints are high in volatile organic chemicals and require the use of paint thinner or turpentine for clean-up. Their fumes can irritate your eyes and throat and shouldn't be inhaled by people with respiratory issues.

Oil-based coatings are also generally slower to dry than other types of sealants. Many require up to 24 hours between coats being applied though some have accelerants added to cut drying time.

Water-Based Deck Paint

Water-based deck paints are primarily acrylic-based. They are low in VOCs, fade-resistant and also come in a variety of colors and finishes. Being water-based, they clean up easily with soap and water and most dry sufficiently in four to six hours for subsequent coats to be applied.

While water-based deck coatings are less prone to cracking, peeling and fading than oil-based coatings they aren't as durable. The expected service life of water-based deck paints is only four to eight years.

Polyurethane Based Deck Paint

Polyurethane deck paint is the new kid on the block but is quickly taking over the market. You should be aware though that not all Polyurethane coatings are created equal. There are literally hundreds of Polyurethane compounds on the market and not all are suitable to be used as a sealant on your deck. For best results use only Polyurethane Deck Coating from the top manufacturers like Liquid Rubber USA.

These specially formulated deck coatings are VOC free and environmentally friendly. They come in a wide selection of finishes both clear and pigmented and are super simple to apply with the method of your choice. When properly applied they form what is essentially an impermeable plastic coating bonded to your deck that can last ten times as long as other deck sealant options. In essence, Polyurethane deck paint has all the advantages of its competition without their individual drawbacks.

What Types Of Decks Can You Paint

Virtually any type of decking can be painted, provided you use the correct paint and prepare it properly. We use the word "virtually" because of the wide array of materials that are now used to build decks and the simple truth that new products are coming on the market continuously.

Oil and water-based deck paints may or may not adhere to PVC or similar materials as some will not properly bond. It is best to consult the manufacturer's recommendations before using them. Polyurethanes, due to their superior bonding properties, can generally be used on vinyl provided the surface is properly conditioned prior to applying the coating.

You can universally paint wooden decks and concrete surfaces provided they are not overly deteriorated or moist and proper cleaning and preparation have been performed on them. Wooden decks should be thoroughly cleaned and prepped prior to painting. Concrete requires etching to assure deck paints properly adhere to the surface.

Preparing Your Deck for Painting

When preparing to paint your deck it is best to remember the 5P principle. Proper preparation prevents poor performance. While deck coatings hide minor flaws, a few extra minutes spent in preparation can greatly enhance the looks of your deck and the service life of your deck paint.

Newer Construction

If you have a newer deck made of pressure-treated lumber or concrete, it will need time to dry and cure before being painted. As a general rule, you should wait at least a month to allow these processes to take place.

On concrete decks, you can tape a 2-foot square sheet of plastic wrap down and leave it overnight to test moisture content. If the wrap has water under it when removed or the concrete looks moist, it is best to wait a week and retest. On wooden decks, you can do a test application on a hidden area to see if the wood has sufficiently dried to accept sealants.

General Guide

Your deck should be thoroughly inspected and cleaned before you begin. Pressure washing is recommended but not an absolute necessity. A good scrubbing with a mild detergent, using a stiff-bristled brush is adequate for most. Mineral spirits can be used to remove oily stains and hydrogen peroxide for removing blemishes left from pets.

On wooden decks you should make sure that all nail and screw heads are firmly set, rotting or loose boards are replaced and any cracks or imperfections have been filled with high-quality exterior wood putty. Any cracks in your concrete exceeding 1/8˝ (3 mm) should be filled with a flexible crack repair product. All repairs should be allowed to fully cure before proceeding.

Thoroughly clean your deck once more before you begin. Be sure that any containments, organic growth or dust that could interfere with adhesion are removed. On wooden decks use a quality deck and patio cleaner to assure proper results.

Concrete, of any age, should be etched and then pressure washed with a similar cleaner and allowed to fully dry before proceeding. At this point, it is recommended that a moisture test be performed once more.

For fiberglass or vinyl decking it is recommended that it be sanded until a uniform dull finish is achieved. Then the surface should be conditioned by wiping it with acetone on a soft rag. This will assure that the surface is porous enough for the paint to adhere. Note, that only polyurethane deck coatings should be used on these materials.

  1. If a uniform surface is desired, any seams, hairline cracks and flashing can be covered using Liquid Rubber Multi-Purpose Primer and 4" Geo-textile.
  2. Once all are filled, cleaned and dry it is time to mask off any areas that you don't want to paint.
  3. If a uniform surface is desired, any seams, hairline cracks and flashing can be covered using Liquid Rubber Multi-Purpose Primer and 4" Geo-textile.
  4. Once all are filled, cleaned and dry it is time to mask off any areas that you don't want to paint.

An important reminder:remove masking while the paint is still wet.

NOTE: Use a high-quality masking tape and either plastic or rubberized drop cloths to avoid any bleeding in case of spills or overspray. An important reminder: remove masking while paint is still wet.

Tools Needed for Painting Your Deck

The supplies needed to paint your deck can be broken down into 2 categories, those for preparing your deck to be painted and those for doing the painting itself. Due to the wide range of materials used in decks, you may not need all of these but it is better to have and not need than to need and not have.

Tools to Prepare Your Deck for Painting

  • Hammer
  • Nail puller
  • Putty knife
  • Scrub brushes
  • Paintbrushes
  • Pressure washer
  • Sanding blocks or electric sander
  • Masking tape
  • Drop cloths
  • Saw (if needing to replace rotten wood)

Tools Needed to Paint Your Deck

  • Paintbrushes (even if using a sprayer or rolling)
  • Paint rollers (optional if spraying)
  • Paint roller pan (optional if spraying)
  • Paint sprayer (optional if rolling)
  • Sandpaper
  • Rags
  • Jars, buckets, pans for cleanup
  • Soap and water (for water-based deck paints)
  • Paint thinner (for oil-based deck coatings)

How to Apply Deck Paint and Coatings

The proper application process for your deck paint may very slightly depending on the exact paint chosen and the surface that it is being applied to. It is always a good idea to check the manufacturer's recommended guidelines before you begin. Here we will focus on Polyurethane deck sealant as it is now the most popular choice and the guidelines for it can generally be applied to other forms of deck coatings as well.

Two things that you should avoid when applying deck paints are temperatures that are too hot or cold and damp conditions. Temperatures that are in the 50-86˚F (10-30°C) range are ideal. If the humidity is above 80% or if precipitation is in the forecast it is better to wait for better conditions. Excess moisture can slow the curing time of deck sealants and in the case of some oil or water-based paints can lead to them drying with a tacky or gummy finish instead of hardening properly. It is also advisable to avoid direct sunlight if possible.

You should begin by applying a coat of primer such as Liquid Rubber Multi-Purpose Primerto the entire surface and allow it to dry. Use a nylon-bristled brush to assure adequate coverage between slats, in corners and in cracks or crevices. Allow this coat to sit until dry to the touch. This will normally take 1-2 hours but will vary depending on weather conditions.

Once the primer coat has dried apply your first coat of deck paint and allow it to sit till dry to the touch. Use a small brush for better coverage in cracks, nooks and crannies. Depending on the type of deck coating used, application time can vary widely. For polyurethanes such as Liquid Rubber Polyurethane Deck Coating, it is around 4-8 hours between coats. For some oil-based sealants, it could take up to 24 hours. Two coats, at a minimum, should be used but more are advised on textured surfaces to provide a smooth, durable finish on any substrate.

Now, inspect your deck for any flaws in its finish. Look for thin spots, pinholes from air bubbles or other imperfections and correct them now before the deck coating is fully cured. Some defects may require a light sanding and reapplication of coating to correct.

Here is a video to learn more:

What to Do After You've Painted Your Deck

After you have finished painting your deck, the delicate part begins. Your deck looks beautiful to the eye and feels great to the touch, but it is not ready to use yet.

You should wait a minimum of 48-72 hours, more in cool or humid conditions, before allowing people to walk on your deck and a full week before placing any furniture is placed on it. While it may appear to be dry it takes time for the molecular bonds to become stable and the finish to fully harden.

Upkeep and Maintenance Moving Forward

A painted deck is not a maintenance free deck. Like any part of your home, it will require a tad of upkeep to stay in prime condition and deliver its full potential both in terms of enjoyment and service life. How much work it requires depends on the material that your deck is made of and the type of deck sealant you chose to use. Note of caution:High pressure washers shouldn't be used to clean painted decks. The extreme pressures that some generate can erode almost any material including concrete.

Concrete, Vinyl and Composite Deck Maintenance

Concrete, vinyl and composite decks that have been properly sealed with a polyurethane deck paint, require very little upkeep beyond regular sweeping, the cleaning up of spills and an annual deep cleaning with a properly formulated deck cleaner and a soft-bristled brush.

This is of course partially dependent on the environment around your home and the use your deck is put to. Roller skates, tap dancing kids and pine sap are beyond normal use factors and may require more maintenance for your deck.

These same decks finished with most of the popular water and oil-based paints will require a bit more care. Being less flexible they are prone to chipping and cracking and may need a touch up during their normal life span.

Wooden Deck Maintenance

Wood by its very nature is slightly more labor-intensive to care for. It swells and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity. While deck coatings can minimize this tendency, there is still the potential for nails and screws to work loose over time and require tightening or replacement. This should be watched for during the course of cleaning. If a screw or nail needs to be replaced it is always a good practice to go up one size and reseal over the replacement.

Because oil and acrylic deck sealants tend to allow the wood to breathe more, over time boards may begin to bow due to uneven drying and need to be replaced to prevent tripping hazards.

Conclusion

Decks can be built from a wide variety of materials and their possible designs are as limitless as the human imagination. Regardless of the aesthetic choices you make applying a deck sealant will prolong the life of your deck and help to assure your investment provides you with years of enjoyment.

There are three basic types of deck coatings you can choose from, oil, acrylic and polyurethane. When you take into account longevity, durability, versatility and ease of maintenance it becomes clear that polyurethane deck paint is the wisest choice. It offers the longest service life and the greatest protection for your deck with the least amount of worry.

It must be remembered though that not all polyurethane is the same. For the greatest peace of mind, chose Liquid Rubber Polyurethane Deck Coating. This VOC free, environmentally safe product lasts up to ten times longer than other deck sealants. Available in a wide variety of colors and finishes, it is the deck paint you can feel good about using.


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