Finally, it's grilling season and time to eat dinner outside on the back deck. Your deck is an extension of your home. (Literally, just look at your property taxes.) As an extension you want to keep your deck in tip top shape.
Staining your deck regularly is the best way to maintain it and avoid warping wood. So how often should you stain your deck?
The answer here lies in the product and type of stain you use. In general, if you buy cheap, you buy twice. I meet many home owners who come to me fretting because they just stained their deck the year before and it's already chipping and flaking. It's because they used a cheap product and their previous painter didn't take any concern for the proper prep work.
We recommend high quality products like Benjamin Moore Arborcoat or Sikkens Stains. But even with a high quality product you'll be looking at continual maintenance.
For translucent stains, my recommendation is to powerwash every year and apply a clear coat at the beginning of the season. This is a project that will only take two half days in general and would cost around $800/year to have professionally done or around $150 if you decide to rent a powerwasher and buy the products to do it yourself. If you let it go for two or three years you'll be looking at more extensive labor, trying to restore the finish and coat it again with stain.
For semi-solids and solids you'll get a little more longevity out of the product with less maintenance. I still recommend powerwashing annually. But you'll get a strong 3-5 years out of the coating. If, you're using a solid stain, you can also sand down areas that are starting to flake and touch them up.
This all sounds well and good but the reality of what we see is that most people let their decks go uncoated for years and years at a time. It's costly to maintain. But it's also costly not to maintain. Sometimes we see decks that have never been coated. The wood has weathered and grayed. The boards are warped and rotting. Some of the boards will need replaced. Others can be restored through cleaning products that kill mildew, restore weathered wood and brighten it making it look new again. But to say this is a process is an understatement. Often you'll have to strip and sand the stain in addition to using these products. Then recoat one or two times depending on the specifications of the product. This type of deck staining job will cost between $1500-$3500 or more depending on the size of your deck.
So, the choice is yours. Maintain regularly or wait until just before the point of no return. Either way, the luxury of an outdoors space doesn't come without costs. Hopefully, the joy decks bring, out-weigh the cost of maintenance.
And don't forget about the fences!