Building A Deck
Finishing, Maintenance and Inspection
Treated wood can be painted or stained. As a minimum, a clear water-repellent coating is recommended for decking boards. If color is desired, semi-transparent stains are best. Not recommended for decking boards are paint or solid-color stains which will show wear on frequently used pathways, such as from the steps to the door. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and the advice of your local paint dealer for best results. If purchased wet (not re-dried after treatment), allow the wood to dry before finishing. Drying time will depend upon product used and climate.
Select the condition of your Southern Pine decking product below for guidance
- Standard treated wood, wet
- Treated wood with water repellent
- Re-dried after treatment (kiln-dried or air-dried)
Standard Treated Wood, Wet
PAINT* — Do not apply paint until the wood is dry, both on the surface and internally. Otherwise, as the wood dries, escaping moisture will cause blisters and poor paint adhesion. A six-month waiting period is recommended before applying oil-based or latex paint. Once the wood is dry, the procedure for painting treated wood is no different from that for painting untreated wood. Application of a primer is suggested for best results.
STAIN* — A semi-transparent stain will show wood grain, while a solid-color stain will hide the grain but still allow the texture of the wood to remain visible. Solid-color stains are heavily pigmented and form a film, just as paint does, so the wait time recommended for solid-color stain applications are the same as those for paint. Semi-transparent stains, however, do not block moisture movement. It is suggested to wait 30 days before applying a semi-transparent oil-based stain and at least six months before applying a solid-color oil-based stain or any water-based stain. Follow the stain manufacturer's instructions for best results.
WATER REPELLENT — Most water-repellent product instructions recommend an immediate application, which is ideal. Other product instructions recommend a slight delay. Follow manufacturer's instructions for best results. Application of water repellent every year or two is recommended.
Treated Wood with Water Repellent
PAINT* & STAIN* — Recommendations are the same as for standard treated wood, but it may take longer for the wood to dry out. Therefore, the delay may be longer. It is suggested to wait 30 days before applying an oil-based semi-transparent stain to water-repellent treated wood and at least six months before applying an oil-based solid-color stain, oil-based or latex paint, or a water-based stain.
WATER REPELLENT — Initial coating of topical water repellent is not as critical for treated wood infused with a factory-applied water repellent, although it does provide additional surface protection. Generally, water-repellent treated wood will not need a water-repellent coating for about a year. Application every year or two thereafter is recommended.
Re-Dried After Treatment (kiln-dried or air dried)
PAINT*, STAIN*, WATER REPELLENT -- Moisture content of re-dried wood is already in balance with atmospheric moisture levels, so coating can proceed immediately.
Maintenance & Inspection
See Painting & Staining for details about applying paints, stains and water repellents based on the type of Southern Pine Decking you are using. In general, you should apply an effective water repellent as soon as possible (per the instructions in Deck Finishing) to help protect your project against moisture damage and then reapply about every two years. Use deck brightener to revitalize a weathered appearance.
Inspect your deck once a year for signs of decay, condition of structural connections and guard railings, etc. May is Deck Safety Month®, sponsored by the North American Deck and Railing Association. For a self-inspection, download NADRA's Check Your Deck® inspection checklist.
The Splash Test
Regardless of a deck's age, when should you apply, or reapply a finish?
Here is a simple test: First, be sure the wood surface is thoroughly dry. Pour water and observe its dispersion.
Water droplets form on contact when:
A. For newly constructed decks, the lumber is not yet sufficiently dry to accept finish or
B. For existing decks, the finish is performing satisfactorily.
- If water is absorbed into the wood, it’s time to apply a sealer or stain.