Last Updated: September 25, 2020
In this article, we examine how to paint your own deck properly. The content included here will illustrate how to choose your equipment, and also explain the necessary steps to give your deck the beautiful paint job it deserves.
Read on for a guide that will teach you how to paint like the pros.
Without the right gear, your job is doomed from the start. Realistically, every brush and sprayer in the store will at least allow you to make your deck a different color than it was before.
However, the extent to which this is the case will vary radically. Remember that this is a large-volume job. Even if your deck is dimensionally modest, it will probably require a good deal of labor to paint it.
The traditional handheld brush can get the job done, but going this route will be an exercise in tedium. While it’s true that hand brushes are the most affordable means of painting anything, there is a value compromise that comes with this approach.
It’s a matter of deciding what worth you put on your time. A brush may be half the price of a roller, for example, but it may take four times longer to use.
To that end, the decisions may become very simple for painters who want to go the manual route. A roller will probably be the way to go. Rollers are moderately priced and extremely effective. Though they do require a degree of finesse and technique to master, once you get into the groove with them, they can be an excellent way to paint anything.
Paint sprayers are (almost) always the fastest way to paint something. However, they are also the most expensive by a fairly wide margin. You can rent them at most hardware or paint stores, but even in these instances, the overall cost will be more than that of manual brushes. If you think you may have many DIY paint jobs ahead of you, it may be a good idea to purchase a paint sprayer outright.
Regardless, it is important that if you do decide to take the paint sprayer route, you make sure to get the right kind.
For this task, the HVLP (high volume, low pressure) sprayer makes the most sense. It’s fast, spraying atomized paint particles onto your work surface at rapid rates to produce a clean, professional finish. It’s also easy to use, making it a great option for just about anyone.
Though they’re often used outdoors to paint fences, exterior walls, and yes, decks, HVLPs do suffer a critical weakness when operating outdoors. If it is at all windy outside, you’re going to have a big mess on your hands.
Because the paint particles are atomized, they drift easily in even the slightest breeze. It’s important to select work days on which the weather is mild. It’s also a good idea to prepare your work area to ensure that sensitive surfaces you don’t want to be painted are protected.
Now that you know how to select your equipment, it’s time to get started.
With any paint job, it’s always critical that you give the work surface a thorough cleaning. Dirt and other imperfections can wreak havoc on a fresh paint job, resulting in cracks and other blemishes.
To clean your deck, start with a broom and dustpan. Once the area has been cleared of debris, it will be worth your time to go over it with a power washer. This is especially true if you notice mold, mildew, or other caked-on imperfections.
Though it’s not mandatory, it is a good idea to factor in mold prevention. Since decks are constantly exposed to the elements, they are at high risk for mold and mildew. Mold deterrent can help to prolong your deck’s life, and ensure that it is a sanitary, safe space to be.
Mold deterrent can be purchased in the form of a spray for easy application.
If your deck is wet, or even damp from the mold deterrent, give it the chance to dry out completely.
Now that your deck is thoroughly dried, it’s time to scrape off the remains of your old paint job. This can be done with a paint scraper on any areas of your deck where the paint is either flaky or peeling off.
On the areas where you do remove paint, it is important to smooth out the newly exposed wood with a sander. Something in the 80-100 grit range will be sufficient.
After scraping and sanding, it may be necessary to sweep up again.
It’s also important to remove any other remaining imperfections. If there are loose or obtrusive nails, repair or replace them at this time.
The same is true of any other holes, scrapes, or gaps in the wood. You can repair damage to wood with putty or wood filler. However, when a gap is in excess of a few inches, it may be more advisable to simply replace the entire board.
No matter what painting method you use, it’s important to section off the area where you are working. This can be done via painters tape (for edges, molding, etc.) and sheets and tarps for larger areas such as walls and doors.
Of course, it is possible to paint in the sun if need be. However, if you can paint your deck during a time in which your workspace is most in the shade, this will be optimal.
This approach both makes for comfortable work conditions and gives the paint the environment it needs to thrive.
Stain will improve both the look and the resilience of your eventual paint job. Apply one to two coats of mildew-resistant stain, and allow eight to 12 hours for it to dry completely.
Now comes the time to break out the paint. When painting a deck, it’s always advisable to start high and work your way to the bottom. In other words, if there are railings, posts, or awnings, it’s good to start there, and then work your way down to the boards. This simply ensures that you will have an easier time navigating the area as you work.
If you are using a paint sprayer, best practices are fortunately fairly straightforward. With a steady hand, apply a consistent coating on the target area. It’s important to keep the sprayer’s nozzle within several inches of the surface for best results.
However, if you get too close to the work surface, you run the risk of “overspraying.” An overspray results in runny paint that pools and compromises the look of your paint job.
If this is your first time using a paint sprayer, it may be to your benefit to experiment with a spare piece of plywood before using it on your deck.
If you are using a roller or a brush, the method is a little bit more important. To ensure the best results paint with the grain and be sure to apply at least three coats. It’s generally advisable to allow 6-8 hours for the paint to dry before applying additional coats.
Once the initial paint job is out of the way, you will want to evaluate the deck and make sure that touch-ups are not needed. If they are, it is best to do them as soon as possible to ensure that the paint job looks flowing and fluid.
Painting is not a task that can be undertaken half-heartedly. As the above steps illustrated, this is a job that will demand much of you. From start to finish, the process of painting a deck may span several days. During those long hours of working and waiting, patience and dedication are key.
For the painter who is willing to stay true to best practices, the job ahead will be rewarding, and ultimately highly successful.
Looking for another project? Learn how to paint rubber!
David Janus is the founder and CEO of Paint Sprayer Magazine. He has over two decades of experience in the spray paint industry and still enjoys writing about new products and technologies.
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