Whether you’re are just not happy with the current stain on your fence or deck, or your old color is peeling, cracking, or fading away, you want to remove all previous products to get down to bare wood before you apply new product if you want to get the best results. Unfortunately, not everybody knows where to start on this process, and it can seem like a daunting task. So we’ve simplified the steps for you here:
Step One: Remove Debris
If you are working on a deck, remove all furniture and non-attached objects from the area. Sweep or blow off any dirt, leaves, cobwebs, etc. that may be on the surface of your deck.
Step Two: Remove Previous Stains/Coatings
You will want gloves, mask, and a quality wood stripper of your choice for this next part. How much to buy depends on the brand that you choose, so calculate the square footage of your wood and see the recommendations on the container.
Always follow the instructions and recommendations for the product that you are using, but here are some good rules of thumb to keep in mind:
Protect nearby brick, siding, stone, concrete, grass, vegetation, etc., with drop cloths, plastic covers, etc.
Following the instructions on the product you choose, saturate the wood with the stripper. Make sure it is applied well on each board.
This will start a chemical reaction that will turn your wood very dark within minutes.
If it is a quality product, the stripper will do the work for you, no scrubbing is generally required. However, if you notice areas where the previous paint/stain is stubborn, you can use a steel bristle brush to gently agitate in that area to help remove it. Make sure you agitate WITH the grain of the wood, NOT ACROSS the grain.
Step Three: Rinse Well
Using a pressure washer (with pressure set to 1200PSI or less) or a garden hose with a good jet attachment, power wash away all the stripper and residue. Make sure you move the water jet in the direction of the length of the boards and not across the boards. Once all the residue is rinsed away, sweep or blow away any excess moisture remaining on the surface.
If you notice any spots where there is residual stain or paint still on the wood, reapply the stripper in those stubborn areas and repeat these steps until the product is removed.
Step Four: Neutralize and Brighten
You are almost done! While the old paint or stain should be gone at this point, that does not mean that the job is finished quite yet. It is important that you neutralize the stripper and brighten the wood with a product called oxalic acid as soon as the stripping and rinsing are done. This will help brighten and restore your wood to its natural color and prevent any lasting damage from the stripping process.
Oxalic acid can be purchased at any home improvement store. Prepare the oxalic acid following the instructions on the package, mixing it with hot water, then apply to the entire area. A pump-up garden sprayer is one good option to use for efficient and easy application across large areas. DO NOT RINSE the oxalic acid off.
Step Five: Dry Dry Dry
If you plan to use an oil-based, semi-transparent stain like Ready Seal, it is imperative that the wood is dried completely, which may take several days. We suggest using a moisture meter, which can be found inexpensively at home improvement stores and online retailers, to gauge the internal moisture content of the wood. For the best results with Ready Seal, the wood should be 12% or less before application of stain. This may seem like a step you can skip, but it truly is the most critical factor for the success of an oil-based, penetrating stain like Ready Seal. A moisture meter is an inexpensive, but great investment in your outdoor wood projects.
By following this guide, you will be able to remove most paints and >wood stains. You will now be able to apply a new stain or sealer of your choice to protect and beautify your fence, deck, or other wood structure. Ready Seal would be an excellent choice!
Broom or leaf blower
Pump-up garden sprayer
Steel-bristled brush (optional)
Tape, drop cloths, plastic coverings, etc. (optional)
Pressure washer or garden hose with jet attachment
Quality wood stripper