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To Paint or Stain the Deck? That's the Question!

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

As summer ends, I find myself looking at my deck and thinking "I love you." The minute the weather turns nice, we start eating and entertaining on the deck. In fact, because of COVID-19, that is the only place we have been entertaining. We just order a table with a built-in fire pit so we can extend our the days we spend outside with friends this year.

But I digress.

This blog is about our deck. We love it. And like anything we love, we take care of it.

Maintaining the deck’s appearance increases its life, creates a safer place for the family and improves the overall appearance of the property.

Caring for your deck can mean a few things: repair, repaint or replace.


The frequency with which you should replace the deck is hard to nail down. It can be anywhere from 15-40 years depending on the initial materials used and how well it was taken care of.

First, here are the signs that you may need to replace your deck

  1. Erosion around the posts. The posts of the deck are dug into the ground and secured with cement. When the earth above that cement is washed away, the deck can become less stable.

  2. If the posts or joists are rotted. If one post/joist is rotted, replace it. But if the majority of them are rotted, it might be time to consider a new deck. These are the supports of your deck

  3. If most of the boards need to be replaced, you should replace rather than repair especially if that damage is due to rot, mold or insects (carpenter bees or termites) because there is a good chance there is further damage that you are not seeing.

  4. Gaps between the deck and the house mean that the ledger board, what keeps the deck attached to the house, has loosened. Again, this is a safety hazard.

  5. Wide range discoloration or peeling can be a symptom of something larger and can be a sign that your deck is old enough that it needs to be replaced. Consider an inspection.


You can repair by replacing a board that is loose or damaged. You can update the hardware for a fresher look. When choosing to do this, be sure that there is not secondary damage that is greater than what you see.


If you have decided that your deck just needs some sprucing up, here are some things to consider.

If your deck is already painted, it is highly recommended that you paint the deck. The steps and labor involved in stripping the paint off your deck so you can apply stain are extensive and probably not worth it.

Paint is more durable than stain. It adds more water resistance, unless it is chipped then water can get under the paint and become trapped in the wood. Paint also covers the surface better and fills in little gaps in the wood. But maybe for you, that is a downside because it will be unlikely that the grain shows through the paint.

Paint comes in many colors so there are many options for each aesthetic you are going for. And paint is more UV resistant, so the color you choose will stick around longer than the stain color your choose. But if you are in a cold-weather area with temperatures below freezing, you may consider stain. The expansion and contraction caused by freezing and thawing can cause the paint to chip.

Solid-color stains are a great in-between combining the benefits of both. They provide UV protection, allow the grain of the wood to show through, and when it needs to be replaced, it is easier than repainting!

Remember, to clean your deck before you paint or stain. You can use a deck cleaner or a powerwasher!

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