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When Should I Stain my New Deck?

There is much controversy regarding when to stain a deck made of pressure treated wood. Some experts suggest you wait 3 to 12 months to let the wood dry and “off” any chemicals used in processing. Others suggest that a few weeks of air drying in summer conditions will be sufficient to lower the moisture content and allow stain to penetrate. There is a camp of professionals that claim leaving your deck open to UV rays for even a few months will break down the lignin (naturally occurring glue that holds wood fibers together). Others claim that letting your deck stand unprotected for a couple of months will not significantly damage it. There is the question of what kind of pressure treated wood you’ve used. Premium pressure-treated lumber has been dried after treatment to remove excess moisture and can be stained immediately. Ordinary pressure-treated lumber has not been dried. Then there are the variables that affect how long wood takes to dry; the original moisture content, how the wood was treated, how the wood was stored before purchase, how you stored the wood before installation, whether your deck is in sun or shade, the climate of your area, and the weather conditions when you install the deck. It’s all very confusing!

To remove confusion and simplify the matter, try the water test. Pour a cup of water on a corner of your deck. If the water soaks in within 30 seconds, the wood is dry enough to stain. If the water beads up or takes longer than 30 seconds to absorb, wait a few weeks and test again.

When the water test demonstrates readiness for staining, follow these tips.


  • Apply stain when the outside temperature is between 10 and 27 degrees Celsius.
  • Make sure the forecast calls for at least two days of dry weather.
  • Protect eyes and skin by wearing safety glasses and disposable rubber gloves.
  • Always test stain on a piece of scrap wood before starting on the deck.
  • Apply only one coat of stain.
  • Be prepared to apply a maintenance coat in 12 to 18 months.
  • Use synthetic brushes as they are ideal for working a water-based stain into the wood.
  • If you use a roller, choose one with a nap that’s ¼ inch or shorter.
  • Use long, smooth strokes to stain two or three boards at a time.
  • Brush in the direction of the grain for the majority of the surface.
  • Brush against the direction of the grain to fill deep pores with stain.
  • If using several gallons of stain for the project, first mix them together to be sure the color is consistent.


Avoid the confusion about when to stain! Use the water test to determine the best time to stain your new deck. Enjoy your outdoor living space!

When building a deck, choose the Calgary based deck experts, Econo Decks. From simple upgrades to complete renovation to new builds, Econo Decks is committed to providing the best quality work for our customers. Call Econo Decks at 403-768-0151 or email us at info@econodecks.ca or quotes@econodecks.ca