I bought my house 3 years ago. The deck surface and decorative fence around the edge are painted with a latex-based paint. After shoveling snow each winter, the deck surface is chipped with raw wood exposed. I have painted it twice but this seems like a poor approach going forward. I would like to remove the paint from the surface (3 layers) and stain/seal the deck -- eliminating the need to take care of its surface each spring.

What do you recommend?

4 Answers 4


For the main deck, I would recommend a floor sander, similar to what's used for finishing hardwood floors. Put a 100-120-grit belt on it and take it back and forth along the deck in the same direction as the planks until you see bare wood. Once you have bare wood, I would apply whatever stain or sealant you want very quickly thereafter, as you have just removed a large portion of both the artificial and natural weather and bug resistance the wood had.

A handheld orbital or belt sander will get most of the stuff off the vertical components (handrails and pickets). You'll need a "corner cat" or other detail sander, or some elbow grease, to get the paint out of crevices and detail work.

You will not be able to avoid taking off some wood along with the paint. Paint (especially a product designed for this kind of outdoor application) will seep into the grain of the wood, and you will be removing wood before you see the color disappear and bare wood show through.

By the way, you will still need to maintain the deck after staining and sealing. The stain will last for quite a while, but you'll need to re-apply the water seal at least once a year, once every 6 months if you get a lot of rain.


It's going to take a lot of elbow grease in the form of scraping and sanding. After you do this, it might be helpful to pressure wash it before re-staining it.

The easiest solution will be to keep painting it. As the other answer points out, neither stain or paint lasts forever, and no matter what you do, you will need to keep refreshing it every couple years.

You don't mention what type of wood it is, but cedar, for example, will turn gray but otherwise is pretty resilient to nature and will last a long time even if you don't do anything to it.


Use a pressure washer. The best solution to removing paint from a surface like this. You can buy an inexpensive one for roughly $100, or rent one for less than that.

The problem is, stain does not last forever. If you don't like gray wood, then you will need to stain/seal the deck periodically anyway, and you may well need to do so more often.

  • I contacted 2 folks doing pressure-wash and they said it wouldn't remove the paint. they recommended sanding.
    – susan
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 15:48
  • I also contacted a residential sandblast company and they indicated that it would damage the wood.
    – susan
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 15:48

Oh believe you me, pressure washing will remove the stain (deck paint) with a decent pressure washer. I just did it on 220 sq/ft. took about 4 hrs but it's clean enough so now I can finish it with a quick sanding using an orbital upright sander. You just have to give it a week or so of sunny hot weather to dry before you stain it again. Splash a few areas with water and if the water absorbs into the wood quickly you can stain (splash test). You could also buy a moisture meter for $25 and test it that way.

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