How to Restore an Old Wood Deck

How to refinish a wood deck

We bought our home 5 years ago and at that time our wood deck was looking pretty rough.  I’m guessing that it was original to our home which would make it 20 years old at this point.  Well, this summer we finally addressed our aging deck and I am so happy with how it turned out.  Seriously, why did we wait so long to tackle this project?  Our deck is now our favorite spot in our home.  If you want to find out how to restore a wood deck you’re in the right place.  Doing it yourself will save you so much money.  I won’t lie though, it’s going to be a lot of work.

What’s a renovation project without some before pictures right?  Welp, here is my terrible deck.  It was moldy, had chipped paint and the wood was very weathered.  We also made a gate to keep our dog in a few years ago and it clearly didn’t match our deck since we never finished it.

How to restore a wood deck
How to restore a wood deck
How to restore a wood deck
How to restore a wood deck

What You’ll Need

You are going to need some tools and materials for this deck restoration.  Here is a breakdown.

Tools

Pressure Washer

Sander

Garden Sprayer

Deck Brush

2 Gallon Lawn Sprayer.

Materials

Powdered TSP Substitute

Bleach

Sand Paper

Large paint brush for floor

Directions – How to Restore an Old Wood Deck

Step 1 – Replace boards and secure nails as needed

Start by clearing everything off of your deck so that you can properly assess the condition of each board.

You may be lucky and not have to do anything with this step.  Or you may be like us and have issues with either warped or severely weathered boards so just be sure to evaluate the condition of each board before you get too far along in the refinishing process.

It’s hard to tell from this image but all of the boards that were on the top of our railings were cupped/warped.  They also had a bunch of holes in them from previous owners that had installed hanging baskets.  We just ripped them out and then purchased some new pressure treated (PT) lumber boards to replace them with.  Since we bought our PT boards from Home Depot and they were stored inside, we let them sit for several months to dry out before we installed them.  If we didn’t do this there is a good chance that they would have warped after the fact and we would have been in the same situation as before.  It’s always important to let PT wood dry before using it.

Over time nails may pop out so before you move to the next step be sure to hammer any nails back in place if they have worked their way out.

How to restore a wood deck
How to restore a wood deck

Step 2 – Pressure wash the wood

While it isn’t absolutely necessary that you use a pressure washer to refinish a deck I would highly recommend it.  It will save you so much time sanding and cleaning.  Just trust me on this.  You can even rent them at many home improvement stores if you don’t have one of your own.  Or, I bet a family member or neighbor has one that you might be able to borrow.  We borrowed one from my in laws for this project!

If you’ve never used a pressure washer before, practice on an area that isn’t high traffic or that visible.  We definitely made the mistake of having the pressure too high and holding the nozzle too close to the wood and it completely etched it.  Oops!

How to restore a wood deck
How to restore a wood deck

The pressure washer did a pretty good job getting the stain off of the flat surfaces but not so much on the vertical surfaces like the rails.  Probably because they aren’t high traffic areas and also don’t have the sun beating on them all day long.  Here are a few photos from after pressure washing.  It has to get worse before it gets better right?….

How to restore a wood deck
How to restore a wood deck
How to restore a wood deck

Step 3 – Sand your deck

This was by far my least favorite step in the process.  Sanding is not fun.  I decided to use my small orbital sander and get down on my hands and knees to sand the deck.  Yes, I could have rented a drum sander but I already had tools at home that I could use and I was concerned that the splinters and nails in my deck would damage the large drum sander.  I don’t want to have to pay to replace one of those!

I switched between 120 and 60 grit sand paper depending on how much material needed taken off.  It was probably about 7 hours straight of sanding to do the entire deck.  While I was able to sand down to the bare wood on the floor and steps, I wasn’t able to get all of the material off of the railings.

How to restore a wood deck
How to restore a wood deck

Step 4 – Clean the deck

They make commercial cleaners but I just made my own since it was what the stain manufacturer recommended.  I’m so happy that I did too because wow did it work well!

DIY Deck Cleaner

Mix all of the ingredients together in a garden sprayer.

Spray the deck surface with water and then spray the mixture onto surface and let sit for 15 minutes while you use a hard bristle brush to scrub the wood.  Be sure not to let the wood dry. Just spray it with more water if it starts to.  Then use a pressure washer or high pressure hose to rinse the wood.

Be sure to let the wood dry for at least 48 hours before you stain or paint it.

It looked so much brighter after I cleaned it.  You can see in the pictures below that all of the dirt and mold was removed.  These pictures also show the new top boards that we replaced on the railing.

How to restore a wood deck
How to restore a wood deck

Step 5 – Stain or Paint your Deck

We went with a solid stain for our deck since we weren’t able to get the previous finish all the way off.  I’m not sure what the previous owner used but my best guess is either paint or solid stain.  I would have loved to use a semi-transparent stain to see more of the wood grain but that wasn’t an option for our old deck.  Plus our wood wasn’t in the best condition so a solid stain was a better choice to restore the old wood and get more life out of it.

We had a ton of time into prepping our deck for stain so I did a bunch of research to find the best solid stain on the market so that I don’t have to do this again anytime soon.  I ended up going with PPG ProLuxe and I’m really hoping that it’s as good as the reviews online say it is.  I’ll be sure to come back to this post a year from now and give an update on it.  I will say that it went on very smooth and was easy to work with.  We needed two coats to fully cover the deck and it took just under 3 gallons of solid stain.   The color that we chose is chestnut brown.

How to restore a wood deck
How to refinish a deck

I could have used a sprayer to apply the stain but I feel like you waste a lot of paint when you spray (or at least I do).  So my husband and I just brushed it on.  I bought a deck brush for the floor and that definitely made our lives easier for that part.

Refinished Deck 

Here it is all restored and looking better than ever.  Well the best it’s looked in the 5 years that we’ve lived here anyway.

How to refinish an old wood deck

The chestnut brown color that we chose is a rich color that looks great with our roof and house colors.  The one thing to keep in mind when picking a solid stain or paint color for your deck is that the darker the color, the hotter it will get in the sun.  I wouldn’t dare walk barefoot on the deck when it’s a hot summer day.  We have a pretty rug that we put down which makes it more comfortable but I removed the rug for better pictures of the wood.

How to refinish a deck

Abby sure loves the deck.  We spend a lot more time out there with her now so I’m sure that makes her a happy pup.

How to refinish an old wood deck

Refinishing this deck was a ton of work but I’m so happy that we did it.  I’ll be back next summer to let you know how it’s held up!

Related DIY Projects

You may have noticed a few other DIY projects in the photos on this post.  Here are some links to tutorials and more details for my overall patio renovation.

How to Make a Deck Gate

DIY Bird Feeder/Hanging Basket Holder

DIY Cedar Plant Stand

Colorful Patio Decor

Cedar planters and benches

Download our Free Home Maintenance Checklist

How to refinish a wood deck

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4 Comments

  1. Looks great! I join you in solidarity – we restored our deck last summer too and it was no joke! Took us twice as long as we expected and as per my blog, we made a number of mistakes….. But once complete, it was all worth it – the deck looked so much better! (And congrats on the Friend of the Week at Create with Joy link party!)

    1. Pretty well! The only place that we’ve had any wear is the deck floor where the boards were in really bad shape. I honestly should have replaced them since they were so weathered. My dogs nails have scratched up some of the paint on the well worn boards but in the other areas where the boards are in good condition it’s held up perfectly. The railings still look perfect which makes me happy since that was the tedious part to paint. We’re going to replace the worn boards next spring and then repaint the floor only.

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