How to Fix Peeling Deck Paint
Kevin O’Connor calls on painting contractor Rich O’Neil for recommendations for peeling deck paint
Five years ago, we hired a pro to paint our deck and pergola, and now the paint is flaking off in sheets. What should I do?
—Carol Desmarais, Lowell, MA
I asked painting contractor Rich O’Neil, owner of Masterwork Painting and Restoration, for his advice. Here’s what he recommends.
“Decks and other outdoor structures take a beating from the elements, and any coating on them will need to be refreshed more often than paint on the side of a house. Even so, a finish that peels so extensively after just five years usually indicates inadequate surface prep, an unfortunate finish choice, or both. Your only option now is to strip the paint and start over. This is not a job for a pressure-washer, which would surely damage the wood. Use scrapers, sanders, or chemicals instead.
“Once your deck and pergola are back to bare wood, remove the gray, sun-damaged fibers by scrubbing with oxygen bleach or deck bleach—not laundry bleach—and follow with a thorough rinsing. The wood should return to a semblance of its original color and provide a firm surface for the finish.
“Apply it as soon as you can; the longer the wood fibers are left exposed to the sun, the more they’ll decay. For most decks, I recommend a waterborne stain, either a semi-transparent or translucent toner. Both offer good protection from the sun, can be applied to damp wood, and won’t peel if laid on properly. For the pergola, which doesn’t have to stand up to foot traffic, a solid-color stain would work well. It has more pigment and therefore should last longer than a penetrating stain. Solid-color stain does form a film, so there’s a chance it may peel, but that’s not as likely as with a paint.”