I know, I know… “Weren’t you finishing your basement?” The answer is- yes. But if you’ve been to any store that sells lumber in the past year, you would know that prices are outrageous. We finished insulating and framing most of the outside walls before we ran out of lumber and decided we should wait until prices dropped. So, we turned our attention to the wood that we do have that could use some love- the deck! (Keep scrolling for a full step by step guide of what we did.)
Our wooden deck finish was the same red that you’ll see on many homes of the same 70s/80s era I don’t know where everyone got this stuff back in the day but dang, it’s tough. Unfortunately, we power washed our deck last summer to remove the dirt and grime that comes with living in the woods and the finish got super damaged. By the time spring rolled around, the deck looked miserable and just as dirty as it was before.
We thought this would be a quick project. (Yep. Red Flag, haha.) After watching some YouTube tutorials and feeling overly confident, we picked up some Behr Wood Stain and Finish Stripper. Even after following all of the directions and three attempts, the stripping was very unsuccessful. This finish did. not. budge.
There were some areas where the stripping chemical worked better than others (areas that get frequent sun and foot traffic). Guys, I don’t want to blame this product but it just didn’t do it for us. If you choose to try this stripping agent or something similar, please please please wear full length sleeves, pants, goggles, and nitrile gloves. I’m not kidding. One drop of this stuff on your skin will cause a chemical burn. So just be careful and God speed.
After being thoroughly defeated by the finish stripper, we turned to Plan B- sanding by hand. It sounds like a lot of work, because it is, but it has two main benefits. 1) You get amazing, clean results with ready-to-stain wood without having to neutralize the wood from stripping agents and 2) It gives you a chance to sink any nails that have popped up over time. We used four different types of sanders on the deck- orbital sander, angle grinder with a sanding disc, belt sander, and a good old fashion sheet of sand paper. All have their benefits in different areas. The angle grinder will give you the quickest results but requires a light hand to avoid gouging the wood. The orbital sander (lighter but slower) and belt sander (faster but heavy) were great for the posts. And the sand paper gets in all the hard to reach nooks and crannies.
Initially we had planned to salvage the railings and paint the spindles black but the spindles just weren’t as sturdy as we’d like them be… that and it sounded like a too much work, haha! We took a reciprocating saw to the railings one by one until only the posts were left behind.
For the new railings we used-
- 2×4’s (pressure treated) for top and bottom stringers
- 1×4 and 5/4 inch deck board for hand rail
- Deck screws
- Black aluminum deck balusters (Deckorators) We bought the 26 inch balusters.
- Black baluster connectors (Deckorators)
- Black railing post connector (Deckorators) There are two per pack, one for each stringer.
- Black 6×6 post caps
Our first step was to cut the lumber to match the railing gaps. Be sure to measure the top spacing and bottom spacing because your posts probably won’t be perfectly square or straight up and down.
The baluster connectors screw on to the top and bottom stringer boards (2x4s) and the balusters slide over the pegs. They are super sturdy but kind of finicky to line up. Fortunately Tyler is good at this kind of tedious activity. As for the spacing of the balusters- the gap between cannot be greater than 4 inches, per code. But that doesn’t mean you want all of your gaps to be 4 inches. You’ll want to take the total width of the railing and divide the spacing evenly (being sure to keep the gaps under 4 inches).
Once the balusters were connected, we screwed the post connectors to the end of the 2×4 stringers. The next step was to slide the railings into place and screw the connectors into the posts. We just eyed the center of the post and made sure the gap underneath the bottom stringer was no greater than 4 inches.
Every good railing needs a top cap! We layered 1×4 and 5/4 inch deck boards to get a polished look for cheap. The key here is the way you attach the railing. Start with the 1×4 centered on the top stringer and screw down into the wood to attach it.
Next layer the 5/4 inch deck board on top and screw upward into the board so that the screw is not exposed to the elements. This will also leave a clean, screw-less finish on the top!
A cheap and simple finish that makes a huge difference!
Phew! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! It’s time for stain, people! (We’re not refinishing the rest of the rest of the deck so just pretend you don’t see the old railings here.)
We decided to try ReadySeal Wood Stain and Sealer (spoiler alert- we love it!). They offer a sample pack of all 8 stain colors for “free” (you pay $8 for shipping). It was totally worth it to us. After painstakingly sanding every inch of this deck for a week, I would simply pass away if I ended up hating our stain color.
Pecan was the winner for us! We ordered a 5 gallon container of the ReadySeal Pecan Wood Stain and Sealer from Amazon. We used a nylon brush and roller to apply the stain. It was a quick and very easy process. It dried quickly and was water resistant in the same day! No complaints so far, though I can’t speak for it’s longevity as it’s only been applied for a few weeks now. (We used about 3 gallons on our deck and used the rest on our toy shed.)
Now the moment we’ve all been waiting for… let’s get to the before and afters!
Look at her! I’m so glad we took the time to refinish this part our our deck! The wood, though it appeared to be grimy and rotten, looks brand new now!! If you know of any wood suffering outside of your home- go save it!! You won’t regret it.
Here is a breakdown of the steps we took to refinish our wood deck!
- Sand every surface of the wood floor boards and posts, top to bottom, including the support beams around the base. You can use an orbital sander, belt sander, or angle grinder with a sanding disc. 60-80 grit paper is what we used.
- Remove existing railings with reciprocating saw.
- Measure length for new railings and cut lumber accordingly (2×4 stringers, 1×4 railing, 5/4 inch deck board cap)
- Measure and calculate gaps between balusters (must be less than 4 inches).
- Attach baluster connectors to stringers and install the balusters.
- Attach the post connectors to the ends of the stringers, top and bottom.
- Attach railings to posts leaving a gap no larger than 4 inches between the bottom stringer and the deck floor boards.
- Using deck screws, screw downward to attach the 1×4 on top of the rail.
- Screw upward to attach the 5/4 inch deck board to the 1×4.
- Select stain, follow instructions for wood prep (the wood must be dry!) and brush/roll to apply.
As always, thanks for stopping by! Until the next DIY!