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How to Paint and Restore a Deck

Updated: Nov. 18, 2022

Tips for your deck restore project: Protect the wood with special coatings made specifically for restoring your deck.

best deck paint deck paintsFamily Handyman

Restore an old wood deck, even if it's worn, cracked and splintery. Simply paint it with a thick, acrylic deck restoration coating, which will create a smooth surface that lasts for years.

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Wood Deck Covering: An Affordable Alternative To Replacement

Keeping a wood deck in good shape takes a lot of work. Even if you stain or seal it, the boards can still crack and splinter, making the deck look old and worn. Switching over to composite decking is one option, though the cost may be prohibitive. But there’s another, far more affordable solution. You can restore your existing deck by applying a deck paint restoration product.

Deck paint restoration coatings are thick enough to fill all cracks, knotholes, and splinters, and they provide a completely new textured surface that can last as long as 13 years without additional applications. You can do the prep work in one day, then apply the restore paint product over a two-day period the following weekend. You’ll need a pressure washer (rent it if you don’t own one), a jug of deck cleaner, a special roller, masking materials, and a roller extension. The cost varies, but figure roughly $1 per sq. ft. Here’s how to buy the best deck paint product, prepare the surface and apply it.

What is a Deck Restoration Coating?

Deck restore paint coatings are made from a long-lasting tintable acrylic base material with UV inhibitors and added solids (aluminum oxide or sand). The solids provide texture and hold the product together (like aggregate in concrete). Some brands of wood deck covering allow the wood to breathe yet repel water, while others form an impermeable barrier. The coverage ranges from 20 sq. ft. to as much as 75 sq. ft. per gallon. All brands require rigorous surface preparation. The procedures vary by manufacturer; read the product label. Apply two coats for the best performance.

Pick the Wood Deck Covering Brand and Get It Tinted

Shop for special coatings for restoring decks at home centers and paint stores.

Deck Covering Options

Some retail brands that we think are great deck covering options are Deckover by Behr, Rescue IT! by Olympic, and RockSolid Deck Restoration by Citadel Floor Systems. Discuss the surface preparation requirements for each brand with in-store experts to find the best deck paint for your purposes—each brand is different.

Next, choose the color of your wood deck covering carefully because deck restore coatings absorb a lot of heat and retain it longer than plain wood. If you pick a dark color and your deck gets direct sunlight, it may be too hot to walk on with bare feet.

Some deck restoration products (such as Restore 10X) can be used only on horizontal surfaces, so you’ll need a matching or complementary product designed for the deck’s vertical surfaces. And, if you’re buying 4 or more gallons, buy it in pails instead of individual gallons. You won’t have to refill your roller tray constantly (the product goes fast!). Before you leave the store, buy the manufacturer’s recommended deck wash to ensure compatibility with the deck coating. And buy enough application rollers (one roller for every 4 gallons of material). Ask the store for extra stir sticks—you’ll need them to clean the product from the gaps between boards.

Prepare the Surface

Photo 1: Before starting your wood deck covering project, protect the house and rails

To avoid splattering the post rails, wrap them with masking tape and apply poly sheeting to the rails and siding. Spread poly sheeting under the deck to catch the product that oozes between the board gaps.

Start by breaking off any large splinters. Then reset any protruding nail heads or remove them and secure the boards with deck screws instead. If you’ve applied a solid stain or clear sealer and then covered areas of the deck with planters or furniture, those sun-shielded areas must be sanded. Use 80-grit sandpaper to remove the gloss and rough up the surface in those areas.

Next, dilute the deck cleaning product, apply it, and let it soak in for the recommended time. Then scrub the entire deck using a stiff scrub brush and extension handle. Pay extra attention to any greasy areas; get all the grease off. Then power wash the entire deck to remove ground-in dirt and loose stain. Aim the nozzle into the board gaps to clean them out too.

Before applying the restoration product, let the wood dry for a week and mask off all vertical surfaces (Photo 1).

Apply the First Coat

Photo 2: Roll on the deck restore coating

Dunk the entire roller in the pail, place it on the deck boards and press down to form a puddle. Then roll the puddle forward to force the product into the cracks. Then lift, reload and do the next section. Don’t back-roll.

Photo 3: Coat the entire length of the boards

Start at one end of a few boards and coat the entire length of the boards, to maintain a uniform texture. Clean the gaps as you go with a stir stick or a 5-in-1 style deck paints tool.

Photo 4: Fill in missed spots

Dunk a brush into the pail and dribble it into missed spots or depressions to build them up.

Photo 5: Smooth with a brush

Start at one end of the board and walk the brush down the entire length in one continuous motion. If you lift the brush, you’ll leave marks.

Start by filling knotholes, splinters and cracks with latex caulk or the restoration product. Let it set until it’s stiff. Then apply the deck coating with the special roller (Photo 2). You’ll have to reload the roller every few feet to get the proper coating thickness. Don’t try to make the product go further by working it back and forth—that’ll thin it and load it with air bubbles. Coat several boards at a time (Photo 3). Some product will fill the gaps and some will fall through and be wasted (get over it; it’s part of the cost of the job). Refill holes along the way (Photo 4). If you prefer a smooth finish, level the coating right away with a brush (Photo 5).

Clean up with soap and water and let the first coat dry for three to six hours (or until dry to the touch). You probably won’t like the look of the first coat. Don’t worry; it’s just the primer coat. The second coat is the “magic coat” that fills in all the gaps and provides the smooth texture you saw at the store. Apply the second coat using the same method. Then let the deck dry for two full days before walking on it.

For the longest-lasting results when you restore the deck, clean the coating in the spring and fall using the manufacturer’s cleaner.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Paint tray
  • Paintbrush
  • Safety glasses
You’ll also need a pressure washer, special application rollers, a stiff scrub brush and a roller extension pole.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • Acrylic caulk
  • Deck restoration coating
  • Manufacturer's recommended deck cleaner
  • Masking tape
  • Paint stir sticks
  • Plastic sheeting