Why Deck Stain Peels: How to Fix and Prevent Stain Peeling


We all love our timber decks, there is no doubt about that. From how it looks outside to the way it makes us feel – especially during springtime when we want nothing but to enjoy the outdoors – is second to nothing. But when the deck’s stain starts peeling off, how can you fix the eyesore?

The stain beginning to peel can be a result of poor preparation and application during deck staining. However, the story goes much deeper than that. If you’d like to break the cycle of staining your deck annually, then read on as we’ll discuss why stains peel and what you can do about it.

Why Does Deck Stain Peel?

To be able to prevent something from happening, one must first know the cause. For a peeling stain, there are many factors to consider and each of these factors has a different approach to countering it. If you are wondering what causes your stain to peel off, here are some major factors.

Poor Preparation

One major thing that determines the longevity of a stain is the quality of prep done before its application.

If, for example, the deck is not properly cleaned of dirt, the chances of it peeling off sooner than you expect are high.

By cleaning your deck properly, you can be certain that you are staining the actual deck and not the dirt on it.

Unfavorable Weather Conditions

Since the deck is outside, the weather conditions matter a lot when choosing when to coat. Coating when the temperature is high will most certainly cause the stain to dry faster than usual. When this happens, unpleasant marks will be left in some areas.

Using the Wrong Stain

Sometimes, the problem is not in the preparation or time of application. There are numerous products on the market for staining your deck, but sadly, not all are good for staining outdoors.

Since it’s way more exposed, you’ll need to make sure you are using a stain meant to withstand weather and dirt.

Inadequate Maintenance

We’ve all made this rookie mistake, haven’t we? We thought since the decks are stained, there is nothing else to do.

But that just leads to us learning the hard way that deck maintenance is important. The various weather and fluctuating temperature can shorten the lifespan of your stained deck in the long run.

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for how to treat the wood, when to clean it, and when it’s time to give it a new coat. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Over Application

So, you have a deck stain peeling and you hate the fact that you have to waste time on it again. So, what do you do? You apply way more this time to make it more durable.

Well, guess what? That actually won’t help at all! What’s worse, it’s going to cause the stain coats to be even weaker than before.

There is only so much your deck can absorb. When you overcompensate by adding more coats on your deck, you are preventing the bottom layers from drying off.

The excess remains on the surface and prevents the humidity or moisture from dew and water from evaporating. This will in turn cause the stain to start peeling away very quickly.

Here’s a helpful video showing a good way to restore a peeling deck:

What Are the Best Ways to Prevent Stain Peeling?

Now that you know what you have been doing wrong all along, why don’t we talk about how to prevent such from happening again? To have a long-lasting deck stain, here are the rules you need to follow.

Adequate Preparation

This is the backbone of deck staining. Without doing this correctly, none of the other steps would matter.

Before even applying the stain, there are three things you need to do at this stage:

  • Proper deck sanding
  • Make use of deck cleaners
  • Remove previous coating and debris
  • Using brighteners

The first thing you need to do is to get rid of all the stains that are still left on your deck. When doing this, do not sand your deck to be too smooth as it prevents the oil from penetrating. Don’t sand with anything higher than 60 grit.

When this is done, we need to wipe the deck down with a cleaner. This ensures that there are no traces of debris, dirt, or leftover coatings on the surface of the deck.

When choosing a deck cleaner, avoid chlorine-based products as they are known to cause damages to the wood’s structure.

The final stage of your preparation is using a brightener. It is not only the last step of this stage, but also the easiest. You only need to spray the brightener on the already clean surface and wait for a couple of minutes before rinsing it.

The brightener serves two purposes here; it nullifies the effect of the chemical from the deck cleaners, and it also gives the wood grain an enhanced absorption of the stain.

The First Application Matters A Lot

The first application is the most important because it lays down the entire foundation of every coat of stain.

If your first coat is weak, too dirty, unevenly applied, or otherwise poor quality, then the rest of the coats will be as well.

If the first coat begins to peel, the rest will follow—no matter how well you applied them.

Stain When the Weather Is Favorable

As we have said before, staining when there is high humidity could give uneven and unappealing results.

This is why it is highly recommended that you stain your deck when the temperature is between 50-to-90 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s rained recently, it’s advisable to wait till everything is dried up as water in the timber can prevent the stain from absorbing well.

Know your Stain

The biggest mistake you can make before you even begin staining is choosing the wrong type of staining for the job.

There are two types of stains:

  • The penetrating finishes are the type of stain that is well-absorbed by the wood it’s applied on. Since it soaks the wood, the penetrating finishes stains are very durable.
  • The film-forming on the other hand slightly penetrates the wood before forming a film on the surface. As they only barely soak the wood, they are more likely to peel quickly than the penetrating finishes.

You can find good quality Deck Stains (link to Amazon) online now, or in your local hardware store.

Another thing to consider here is the quality of the product you are getting. While expensive doesn’t often translate as quality, going for a cheaper product is a sure way to get a substandard product.

Furthermore, there are also water-based stains that are worth considering. The water-based stains do not only last longer and soak better on deck, but they are also eco-friendly. This should be a go-to option for you especially if you want to stain the deck of your home

Eco friendly stains typically don’t contain any toxic chemicals that can harm humans or pets, too.

Use Deck Sealers

Another alternative to deck stains is the deck sealers. They are waterproof which means it will keep out moisture that causes peeling. Depending on the type of lumber your deck is made from, you may need to apply a primer coat—check the manufacturers recommendations for the sealer you use.

Staining a Deck Without Peeling

Deck staining is an art. It can neither be rushed nor done properly with substandard products. Thus, the key to an enjoyable time on your deck is to practice proper deck staining to prevent peeling or rework at the time you ought to be enjoying the cool breeze and the setting sun.

Robert Sampson

I'm Robert Sampson and I live in Colorado where I spend a lot of time in the backyard with my family either grilling, playing games and sports, or working on a project to make our backyard a better place to be.

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