Putting It On
Waiting nine months to a year before applying finish to a new pressure-treated-wood deck used to be standard procedure. Leaving wood unprotected lowers the interior moisture content and allows the pores to open and accept more sealer or stain. Unfortunately, it also contributes to weathering. Instead, apply finish on a new or newly cleaned deck within a few weeks. Then apply a second coat the following year. "That second application leaves more finish in the wood. Doing it right also lets you wait two or three years before putting on another coat," says the USDA's Knaebe. The one exception to finishing right away is new lumber that has a waxy buildup. This mill glaze won't allow the finish to penetrate and any finish applied to it will peel off in a few months. You'll know it's there if water from a hose beads on the surface. Mill glaze can also appear as a burnished area. In either case, wait two or three weeks so the surface can weather. If water still beads up, sand lightly. Apply the finish when the temperature is above 50°F and the weather will be dry for a few days. Follow directions; these tips apply to all products:
  • Wear eye protection and long pants and sleeves. Also wear rubber gloves, especially when using a stripper.
  • Before applying a finish or cleaner, protect surrounding vegetation by wetting it with a hose and covering it with plastic tarps. Rinse again when done.
  • Finish the top, exposed sides and — on new decks — the bottom of boards, if possible. Also coat any structural members you can reach. Future maintenance can concentrate on surfaces and end grain exposed to the weather.
Relaxing on a deck is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. The right care will prolong your enjoyment by protecting the surface of the wood for years to come.
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