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How To Restore A Deck | Best In Backyards

grey deck restoration

Decks are an integral part of your home, and of your backyard. The deck is a focal point and a gathering place, where friends new and old come together and the family makes new memories over celebrations large and small. But here’s the deal about decks: they do require maintenance, and if yours is falling into rough shape, it’s important to know how to restore a deck to its better, brighter days.

Because most decks are made of wood, there are wood care and safety implications that you should know, as well as handy tricks to turn a DIY project into something that will benefit you, your home and your family for a while to come.

We highly recommend getting out in front of this home improvement project, because when it’s too late, it’s too late. In this Best in Backyards blog, you’ll learn how to identify when your deck is in need of repair or restoration, the materials you’ll need for a wood deck restoration, and how to complete the project from start to finish. 

Yes, this is a priority project – but it’s not an overly difficult task if you have what you need and know where and when to start. By the end of this blog, your questions will (hopefully) be answered and you’ll be ready to tackle a deck restoration project. 

Does your deck need restoration?

If it’s been six months to a year since you’ve stained, sealed or maintained your deck…the answer to this question is most likely “yes.” There are many factors that can impact the condition of your deck: the elements (especially if you live in an area that experiences multiple seasons throughout the year), high use, furniture, pets, and more. 

But the most prevalent source of decks in disrepair is neglect. Most people think it will take too much time, be too expensive, or they simply forget about it altogether. By the time they realize what’s needed for a DIY deck restoration, it’s too late – and the time, money and resources needed to rip out a deck and build a new one are far greater than some routine maintenance. 

A quality deck, with the right TLC given to it, should last you and your family decades. Yes, decades (plural). But that timeline is shortened significantly if you don’t address the problems when they arise – and that’s what we’re here to help with.

Here are some things to look for before you even start the deck restoration process.

Check your deck’s structural integrity

The first thing to look for is any sign of warping. Warping is defined as “deformity in wood occurring when the moisture content of different parts of a piece of wood changes unevenly.” If different parts of a piece of wood get wet, those pieces will shrink faster and change the shape of the lumber. Also, look closely for structural movement, cracks or large gaps in the wood itself. Any of these are signs that your deck needs an update sooner than later.

Look for potential pest damage

You’ll know ‘em when you see ‘em. Deck restoration typically starts with intent to solve a problem, and problems can include termite damage, insect nests or borer bee holes. These will contribute to the deterioration of your wood and expedite the need for a deck restoration.

Examine the deck for signs of rot 

Rot can sometimes occur from the inside out, so when checking for signs of rot, we recommend starting with the footers of your deck. A small handheld tool like a screwdriver is a great way to check for darkened or splintered wood, which is typically a telltale sign of rotting. 

Tighten screws and loose hardware

Basically, you want to be sure that the wood in your deck is secure. If, after examination, you find that it’s not, we advise applying screws at a different angle to get a strong adherence to the wood. 

Materials you’ll need

You’re going to need a few items on-hand to complete this project, however, it’s not overly expensive or time-consuming. You may even have most of these already at home – so don’t fret if the job requires a quick trip to the hardware store.

Many of these items can be reused, too, so your deck restoration project isn’t the only time they’ll be in the game. Let’s take a look at a comprehensive (but not exhaustive) list of the main items you will need to start and finish a backyard deck restoration:

Paint scraper

A regular old paint scraper will help you perform an early and essential part of your deck restoration. The paint scraper should be used to remove loose paint or deck stains, and you’ll want to make sure you scrape down to bare wood.

Stiff bristle brush

A bristle brush will help remove dirt and other flaky stains on the wood. One thing to note: do not use a metal bristle brush on cedar or redwood as it can scar the wood (which, obviously, we don’t want to happen as it causes further damage).

Deck refinisher

We recommend using a brightener or refreshing product to the wood. Always be sure to consult with packaging instructions before mixing and applying to any wood surfaces; the right formula for the right wood is important and most manufacturers will include this on the product label.

Pressure washer

Who doesn’t love a good power wash? Whether you have your own or rent/borrow one from a neighbor or hardware store, this is arguably the most exciting and rewarding part of the deck restoration process. Our advice? Be thorough, and examine closely to remove the brightener solution (see below). Always, ALWAYS let the deck dry before applying new finish. 

Hand-pump tank sprayer

Be sure to work the brightener into the wood with a stiff bristle brush – and remember that slow and steady wins the race. We want to be doing this the right way so the restored deck can last for a long time!


This will help you complete the restoration! The paintbrush will help you work the finish into the grain of the wood and ensure a long-lasting result. Some people will call this “back brushing” and you should pay attention to see if the finish is soaking into the end grain…because if so, you will need to apply more.

How to restore a deck

Step #1: Make Repairs Before Your Deck Restoration

Any structural damage, rot or warping that you find before beginning the deck restoration should be completed BEFORE you start the process. You don’t want to be working backwards, or rolling up your sleeves and working on a deck restoration that will ultimately be undone by undetected damage.

Step #2: Clean Your Deck’s Surface

Use that paint scraper to get the loose paint off, make sure the surface is smooth and ready to be scrubbed. We’re just getting started, but be diligent during this step because it sets you up for success the rest of the way!

Step #3: Scrub the Surface of Your Deck

Grab that stiff bristle brush and use that elbow grease! Scrubbing ensures smoothness and gets excess dirt off the surface of the deck. During a deck restoration project, this is one of the most crucial steps because it ensures the cleaner and finish will be able to do their jobs.

Step #4: Apply Cleaning Solution

Remember to follow manufacturer instructions and mix the cleaning solution properly. Once this process is complete, you’ll want to start getting your pressure washer ready!

Step #5: Power Wash Your Deck

Here. We. Go. The project is starting to get real and the results are coming along. We advise using the “fan spray” setting on your power washer to get the most coverage (and the most even results). Low power settings will also reduce damage to the wood and dry faster before your final steps. This is another reminder to let the deck dry completely – this can take hours or up to a day – before you begin the finishing steps. 

Step #6: Apply Finish & Use Brush

We’re almost to the finish line, so let’s keep our eyes on the prize. Using a tank sprayer, apply the finish material to the deck and use the right setting for different areas of the deck. For example, it’s best to use a hand-pump unit for smaller decks and smaller areas, while a full-size sprayer is ideal for larger areas. If you have a roller, use it to smooth out any pooled liquid and press the finishing solution into the wood. 

Using a paintbrush, you can now work the finish into the grain of the wood. As mentioned above, you may need to re-apply finishing material with the paintbrush if it’s soaking into the wood. 

See? That wasn’t so bad. All you need are the right materials, some patience, and a solid game plan to take your deck from outdated and dilapidated to shining and stunning. At Best in Backyards, we believe in the power of a beautiful deck – a place where you, your friends and family can get together for years to come.