I had some vacation time schedule for the end of June this year, so what better to do than refinish our deck! We had built the deck in early 2016, left it unfinished all Spring and Summer long, with a southern exposure, which baked the wood to needing stain rather quickly. I used the water drop method to decide when the neck needed to be finished, and it was ready (Use a drop of water, if it beads up, then the original wood treatment is still working. If the water soaks in, it's time for stain).
At that time, we used a good (or so we thought) Olympic Elite Semi-Transparent stain to put down. The stain went on well with a nice light coat. The rest of the Fall the stain worked really well for us. Then came Winter, and eventually Spring, which is when we realized we had made a mistake...
When Spring melted the lovely snow we get during the Winter time, we started to notice that the stain was going with it, in certain areas, and in chunks. The heavy traffic areas were the worst, but other areas that weren't ever walked on had stain peeling off.
After a conversation with Olympic, they refunded us the money for the stain, and left us with what ended up being a monumental task of refinishing our deck...
We knew we needed to remove the stain that was still adhered to the deck. Having previously tried to sand a deck with leftover stain, I ran into a big problem with the sanding belts being clogged up with stain, so we knew we had to remove all of the stain we could. After searching reviews and blogs, we settled on trying the JOMAX Stain and Finish Deck Stripper. This stripper was brushed on, allowing it to soak in for a bit, then washed off, which we did with a power washer. Below are some pictures that show the process, it's amazing how much stain this removed. At the time it didn't seem like it was removing that much, but after we finished and the deck dried, it was very noticeable.
The picture below shows what we ended up with after stripping and powerwashing, then allowing the deck to dry... We knew we had our work cut out for us for the next stage of the process...
At first, I thought I could possible get away with my trust Ridgid Belt Sander. It took me about 2 minutes of sanding with it, though, to realize that no, I wasn't going to get it done with the belt sander. I drove to my local tool rental place, picked up one of these bad boys and drove it home, confident that it was going to get the job done.
I figured this would speed things along, but I was more than pleased with how it operated! It was easy to move around, and after getting things started, I noticed I had more work than I thought. I wasn't just removing the left over stain. I also needed to level out the deck boards that had already started cupping, bowing and chipping out a bit. That is what took most of the time. I could notice immediately when the sander was only working on the edge of a deck board, then eventually I could notice the center of the board was starting to be sanded. This sander was a LIFE SAVER, it's a MUST HAVE for any deck refinishing that requires sanding.
We also enlisted the help of some family, who came through with a few palm sanders and orbital sanders to get the bit of stain left over between the deck boards, and along the steps. After a hard days work, we were left with a nearly new looking deck and deck boards.
So after the sanding, we were ready to apply a new coat of finish, but certainly afraid to use any sort of solid or semi-transparent stain again. I decided I just wanted to treat the boards, instead of apply a stain of sorts.
I ran a poll on my Instagram account, on two products I heard good things about. The poll, reviews, and blogs all tended to point towards the old school Thompson's WaterSeal, so that's what we did.
I couldn't have been happier with how the Thompson's WaterSeal went on. It was super simple to roll on, with the one instruction, and blog recommendations, so only use 1 light coat, or it will end up too oily. I quickly rolled a light coat of WaterSeal over the whole deck, and called it a day. The finished process was well worth it!
The WaterSeal held up really well over the last several months. The water is still beading up like it should, and the boards still look protected from moisture. There is a slight oily feel when walking on the deck though. You can feel it when walking on it without shoes, but nothing that would show up on clothing if you sat on the deck. Who knows, my light coat may have been a bit too heavy, but all in all, we're very happy with our choice of Thompson's WaterSeal!