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Deck Woods And Deck Refinishing

by The Handyguys

in Audio Podcasts

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The Handyguys discuss decking materials and refinishing your deck.

The weather is starting to get warmer and many of us are thinking about getting outside again to use our decks. If you have a deck, it is time to think about cleaning and refinishing your deck for the summer season. If you don’t have a deck, then you may be thinking about building one. But what material should you use to build that deck?

Most decks are built with pressure treated wood. However there are many alternatives to this common decking material. One of the more popular new materials is composite decking which is sometimes made with recycled plastics and saw dust. The Handyguys discuss their opinions on several kinds of woods and composites, including cedar, red wood, ipe and tiger wood. So whether you are considering composites or Brazilian hard woods, you should check out this podcast.

The other issue that many of us face is refinishing that deck (unless you already have a composite deck). There are a few methods for cleaning and refinishing so check out episode 10 of the Handyguys podcast!

After listening the podcast, see Brian’s finished deck here:

Comments are always welcome. Also, feel free to contact The Handyguys with your DIY or Home Improvement questions.

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

David Hedrick July 13, 2008 at 3:51 pm

What do you think of Australian Timber Oil? I have used Behr semi-transparent oil base in the past, but Home Depot no longer carries Behr alkyd based deck stains. I have always custom-tinted the Behr stain, but I tried a small sample of Cabot’s Australian Timber oil in the Mahogany Flame and it looks great.
How do you think this will work on redwood in the harsh UV sunlight of mile-high Colorado?

David

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The Handyguys July 14, 2008 at 7:48 am

David – Great question – I have used Cabbots Australian Timber Oil on mahogany for an exterior application. I have found that it needs re-coating about yearly, maybe two, to maintain the freshly applied look. Its not a semi-transparent stain, its purely an penetrating oil finish. The great thing about the Timber Oil is it imparts no un-natural color and does not form a film that could peel off which make renewal very easy. Personally I prefer the look of a natural finish and would not hesitate to use it on redwood. If, down the road, you want to use something with a tint you could certainly do that instead of the renewing with the timber oil. I would make sure what ever you used in the future was also oil based just to help ensure compatibility.

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Doug June 16, 2009 at 10:00 pm

I’m working on a exterior mahogany deck. The customer complained that her children had got splinters and thought that it needed sanding. I heard that sanding should not be done prior to sealing a wood mahogany deck. Is this correct, and if so how can I solve the splinter problem? The deck has already been presure washed.

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The Handyguys June 17, 2009 at 8:08 am

Doug – I see no reason why you couldn’t sand mahogany. Yes, a smoother mahogany would likely take up your finish at a slower rate than a rougher mahogany. I built a mahogany railing system and sanded that and had no issues with my oil finish. I have also built some furniture from mahogany and had no issues with finishes. I would consider something like Cabbots Austrailian Timber Oil for a natural look.

Send us some pictures when its done!

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Matt July 29, 2009 at 6:18 pm

I plan on staining my newly built deck made of all pressure treated lumber. What do you think is the best deck stain on the deck? I know oil would be best but most of stains are acrylic due to the VOC laws. What do you recommend? Also, does Australian Timber Oil look good on pressure treated? I also have a light gray siding on my house it will be up against.

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The Handyguys July 30, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Matt – Cabbots is highly regarded. I have only used it on PT picnic tables and such. It seems to hold up well under those conditions. Sikkens has some top of the line products as well but they may be hard to find in your area. I would look for Sikkens first.

I like the oil products myself if you can find them.

As for timber oil – Sure, I think it looks fine on PT. I recently saw small pint ot half pint sizes of it at the home center. Pick one up and try it on some scrap and see if you like it. Something like timber oil is the easiest finish to apply and maintain but it will also need to be renewed fairly frequently. The good think is you can just slather more on when the deck starts looking dull and after a quick cleaning.

If you want to impart more color you have some pigmented stains. The more pigment the better the protection and the longer the finish will last. The downside is pigment hides the natural beauty of the wood.

Lastly – make sure your deck is dry before doing any finish. The pressure treating process leaves the wood very wet. If it was just built wait until the fall at the earliest. Next spring or summer would even be better.

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Greg August 2, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Hey guys,

I’m DIYing new decking on a wrap around porch on my 1840′s farmhouse. I chose to do it in tongue and groove Tigerwood. The planks are 5″ wide and bordered by a 4″ bull nosed decking piece. As I’m putting the flooring down the tigerwood is getting a bit dirty. It also has some water stains from the wood sitting out while I was building the porch. I tried to cover it up when it rained, but it still got wet here and there. The final thing that happened was some black spots from metal touching the deck for a prolonged period. I knew about using stainless screws, but didn’t think about not letting the tools touch the decking overnight. To my dismay, I saw that it was no good and formed a black area where the metal touched it. I’m wondering if you can help me with the best method for cleaning the wood and also what you would recommend for a penetrating oil to finish it with after cleaning. I’m about 3/4 of the way done and would love to get your opinion on the job after its finished. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks

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The Handyguys August 3, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Tigerwood is not too common – I would talk to the supplier and see what they recommend. My thought would be to lightly sand out the stains one the floor is installed. It will get dirty eventually though. As for a finish, again, ask the supplier what they recommend. My thought would be something that doesn’t impart too much color. All oil finishes will darken the wood some. The Cabbtots Australia Timber Oil may again be a good choice. Its a penetrating oil, is easy to apply, and good for hardwoods especially. Try it on some scraps before committing to it.

Back to the stains – if they are deep and do not sand out. You could try some oxolic acid, commonly called wood bleach. Its sold to woodworkers and can remove some stains like the ones from the tools.

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Tim June 10, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Hi guys

I recently finished my 10×16″ deck, pressure treated pine, with Cabot Uustralian Timber Oil. Wood was dry. I applied two coats, per instructions on can. After 24 hrs, it looked a little “blotchy”, shiny in spots, dull in other areas. I applied a third coat after a few days, which looks great. But, after a week it’s still tacky. Will this ever dry? Anything I can do to expedite the drying process? I know the third coat wouldn’t penetrate much, but thought it would dry after a few days.
Thanks!
Tim

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The Handyguys June 13, 2011 at 9:01 am

Yes, it could take a few weeks to fully dry. What I like to do is to wipe off any excess within about 5 minutes of application which eliminates the long dry time of a heavy application.

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Jeff July 1, 2011 at 5:04 pm

I just installed some pressure treated woof for a small landing and stairs. I am prepared to wait for a couple of months for the wood to dry out. From there, can I get away just scrubbing wood with a brush and some mild soap and water before finishing?

What would you suggest for a durable finish that would give the best appearance to the wood w/o constant maintenence? I was considering Penofin for pressure treated wood. I see the mention of Timber Oil. Please give suggestions. Thanks

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The Handyguys July 1, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Penofin makes great products. The basic thing is you do not want something that forms a film (like polyurethane). Woodsman is another product that I just used a few weeks ago. I used a semi-transparent stain from woodsman and it looks great (Its a nice dark color). If the PT Lumber is dry you can apply it now, if the wood is wet wait a few months before applying it. If you do wait you wont need to do anything special except for wash any dirt off (and let it dry). Always use an oil based product in my opinion.

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Ed July 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Hi there,
I have just finished staining of my pressure treated pine deck with Cabot Australian Timer Oil Mahogany Flame. I’m wondering if I need to apply a clear coat when it gets dry.
Thank you.

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The Handyguys July 8, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Nope, never apply a clear coat to a deck. It will create a maintenance nightmare down the road. Just re-apply the cabots when it starts to fade, maybe once a year or as needed.

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Abby June 29, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Hi Ed,
I am just getting a new pressure treated deck. I love the love of Cabot’s Australian Timber Oil in mahogany flame but it was on my friend’s deck and her wood is that fancy iron wood.
How does your deck look a year later? Would you recommend the oil/
Thank you!

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Brian August 20, 2011 at 10:17 am

I have heard that Cabot has changed the formula for their timber oil and it isn’t as good as it used to be. I’m about to re-finish my mahogany deck which I’ve used nothing but Cabot in the past. Any comment on the quality of Cabot Timber Oil? Do you still recommend it or are the other choices?

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The Handyguys August 20, 2011 at 11:28 am

Its been a couple years since I used Cabbots timber oil. I do not know if they have changed anything.

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Jimmy Essien November 3, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Hey there,
I’m building a sauna room that is detached from the house.
I got a bunch of 1×4 mahogany for the outdoor deck and I’m gonna treat it first. I’ve found that I ordered too much decking and am considering using the rest on the inside of the sauna, perhaps the floor.
What considerations should one make for using mahogany inside a wood fired sauna instead of cedar?
Thanks

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The Handyguys November 6, 2011 at 6:17 pm

I dont know much about sauna building but Mahogany would certainly hold up well for the floor. Look at this article regarding treatment of wood for saunas.
http://saunaplanning.com/?111250
They say
Q: What are typical types of woods used to build a traditional steam sauna?
A: Western Red Cedar, White Aspen, White Cedar, Hemlock and even Pine wood. It used to be usually what ever wood species were locally available. Western Red Cedar is probably the most popular sauna wood in North America, with its famous aromatic scent. White Aspen wood is non-allergenic, meaning that it has little or no aromatic scent to irritate certain respiratory health conditions. With Aspen sauna wood, many more people can enjoy sauna benefits especially in public saunas as in gyms, clubs, hotels, etc.

Q: Can coatings or varnish be used on sauna woods?

A: The general rule is never apply any coatings or sealants to sauna woods. The chemicals used in chemical coatings will break down from sauna heat and release dangerous gases. Also, the soft sauna woods need to ‘breathe’, by slowly absorbing the sauna heat and humidity and then releasing it when sauna is cooling off. The only exceptions to this rule is that you can apply protective coating to parts like door handles and wood duckboard flooring, where temperatures are much cooler near floor.
The only proven safe sauna wood treatment is pure paraffin oil which is non-toxic, colorless and odorless. Paraffin oil is used on sauna paneling and benches helps keep them cleaner longer by adding a layer of surface protection that helps keep excess moisture and dirt from soaking into wood fibers.

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Bill November 10, 2011 at 11:11 am

I have a covered porch with six-year old fir decking on it. I have twice in the past treated the fir with Penefin. Since our house is in New England, the deck takes quite a beating during the winter, and as a result the wood requires a lot of upkeep. This past week, I hired a painter to coat the decking, and rather than using Penefin as I had in the past, he opted to use Cabot Australian Timber Oil. When I first saw it at night, it looked wet, as if he had applied too much product without wiping off the excess. in the morning, there were still areas that looked wet, and were sticky to the touch. Two days later, the wood is still shiny in areas, and sticky to boot. The painter says it needs time to dry. I say he put too much on, and rather that the product being absorbed into the wood, its “curing” rather than drying on the surface. I called Cabot, and they said that 1) , its too cold now to coat the deck, 2) the deck should have been coated with Penefin again, and not Cabot, and 3) the product will NOT dry until spring, but remain sticky all winter long. They recommended using Cabots Trouble-Shooter prep stuff to remove the ATO. I’m thinking mineral spirits. I need advice quick. I feel stuck, and I’m more than a little angry at my painter at the moment. Advice?

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The Handyguys November 10, 2011 at 11:27 am

Bill – Sorry you are having trouble. I would agree that too much product may have been applied. With Penofin or with Timber Oil I believe the instructions call for wiping off excess after a few minutes.

Trying a wipe down with mineral spirits wont hurt anything and might help. Put on a liberal amount of mineral spirits then wipe with a rag and see what happens. You could also try to be a little more aggressive and use a scrub brush with the mineral spirits. Don’t use the “green” mineral spirits substitute. Use the real stuff.

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judy ross December 19, 2011 at 3:28 pm

hi!
We are putting southern yellow pine tongue and groove flooring in our mudroom. This floor will take a beating with foot traffice – mud, dirt, snow…. (we live in the very north of NY State) and I want to know the best thing to paint/stain it with to see the nice wood grain, maybe add some color too, and best protection/low maintenance – any suggestions??? Thanks!
-Judy

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The Handyguys December 19, 2011 at 4:01 pm

I am going to assume the mudroom is indoors.

Two different types of products come to mind.
1) Marine Spar Varnish – This is a clear, or slightly amber colored clear wood protectant. It can be used over a wood stain if you want to change the color of the wood. The advantage of a Spar Varnish is it is somewhat flexible which is a good thing with the softer yellow pine floors. Some spar varnishes do not stand up well to direct sunlight but they are easier to re-finish when needed. I’m not sure, off hand, if all spar varnishes are suitable for a floor. Check the label before you buy.
2) Polyurethane – This will provide a clear protective film over the pine and can be used over a stain. Its the most common floor finish. I would worry a bit, perhaps, of it chipping off of the wood (someone walking on it in cleats perhaps) due to the softness of the yellow pine.

If you have trouble finding a spar varnish for floors then a poly is really the way to go. Preparation is key and follow the manufactures instructions.

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Tiffany March 13, 2012 at 11:36 pm

My husband and I are building a pergola made or Western Red Cedar just as soon as we have a dry weekend here in TX. I have done extensive research online regarding staining and am reading a lot of conflicting advice.

We want to use either an oil or semi-transparent stain and I am leaning either toward Penofin (red label) or Sikkens. I am less concerned with price as I am purchasing the best quality product. Which would you suggest? Is there an even better option I have not mentioned?

Also my husband and I disagree on whether to stain the structure before or after we build it. What is best?

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The Handyguys March 14, 2012 at 8:44 am

Tiffany – Some great questions.
1st – Penofin or Sikkens – It depends on which Sikkens. One of their products called Cetol 123 would be a bad choice for a pergola. I’m not sure about their other products. The penofin would be a great choice. A similar sikkens product would be good too. The more color any product imparts the longer lasting it will be (more UV protection). Personally, I really like the oil look of the penofin and it would be my choice.

As for finishing before or after. One advantage of finishing before you build is that the areas where two pieces are joined will be protected but would be impossible to protect after the structure is built. You also do not need to worry about drips and stuff on the deck below the pergola.

I would pre-finish with the penofin and then touch up again after its built. I would then plan on re-coating everything in the fall. Plan on doing the penofin twice a year for the first year or two, then once a year and then every couple years. All this will depend on how much sun the pergola will get. Do it as needed.

Good luck.

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Tiffany March 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Thank you so very much for the advice. The structure faces the west, so a LOT of sun exposure for sure! While it will require more up keep, I think the Penofin will give us the look we want to achieve. Thanks again!

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jack May 16, 2012 at 11:24 am

Read your opinions with great interest. Going to use Cabot’s timberoil (mahogany flame) on my 13 yr old Mahogany deck, but now concerned it has a water base and not sure of the results. Is there a better product? HELP!

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The Handyguys May 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm

The timber oil should look great. My only concern would be how recently has the water based product been applied and how much pigment was in it. If it was applied recently (within the past year) or if it has a lot of solids (color) in it I would be concerned. If its been over a year and wasn’t a semi or opaque stain then I think you should be good to go. Check the instructions on the can and call the manufacturer (number on the can I think) if you have concerns.
Good luck and send us some pictures!

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jack May 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Sorry, I’m confused. I was going to put the new water based timberoil on but was wondering because it’s new if there was a better product. Thanks

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The Handyguys May 16, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Ahhhh, sorry, it was ME who was confused. I thought you had previously put on a water based product and wanted to now use the traditional oil based timber oil.

Generally speaking I’m a fan of the oil based products. Unfortunately you cant buy them in many places anymore due to EPA regulations regarding air pollution.

I haven’t used the cabbots water based products, I’m sure they are okay. For an oil product, similar to the older formulation, check out Penofin.

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Dorsey April 10, 2013 at 5:24 pm

I have used Behr waterproofing wood finish penetrating oil formula #400 Natural on my deck for many years. Home Depot does not stock that formula anymore. Repeated use of the product over the years has caused the coloration on the deck to darkened to a brownish color. What can I use to give me the same color and get the same results without stripping what is already on the deck?

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The Handyguys April 10, 2013 at 5:30 pm

You shouldn’t need to strip but you may want to clean the deck well. The product is a transparent oil finish. You could use another Behr product or go to a different brand. Just keep with an oil finish in a similar color and labeled as transparent and you should be fine.

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Dee Cook April 26, 2013 at 10:38 am

Hello.. We purchased a home with a mahogany deck and they had stained it with a poly stain. So last year to try to renew it we pressure washed and reapplied the poly stain. This year I’d like to do it right. The deck looks awful. It’s peeling and holds foot prints and dog prints and it just looks bad. It is a big area and just needs to look better than it does. So, I was wondering the best way to remove the poly stain. I just started to sand it with a belt sander…and it’s slow going, lots of mess and muscle. What can you suggest? And when I’m done, can I use the Austrialian Timber Oil?

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The Handyguys April 26, 2013 at 11:09 am

Yeah – Poly is BAD BAD BAD for a deck. Anything that is “film forming” should never be used on a deck. I’m sorry you learned this the hard way.
To make things right
ONE – Remove all the old poly. Sanding will do it plus the sanding will remove some of the faded wood fibers. Sanding is hard work. You may want to try a stripper. There are several products on the market. I’m not talking about “brighteners” or “cleaners” these are essentially paint/varnish strippers.

IF YOU USE A STRIPPER PLEASE TEST IT ON SOME SCRAP OR AN INCONSPICUOUS PLACE FIRST
Some strippers could react with the exotic wood and cause it to look black. I know one product that does that with Ipe.

TWO – once all the old finish if off you may want to use a deck brightener/cleaner. This would be useful if the wood looks bad, discolored or faded. I make my own using TSP and bleach, the recipe is on the box of TSP cleaner.

THREE – use a decent oil finish with UV blockers. I have used “Ipe Oil” on my Ipe deck with good results except it fades after a year. I just applied a product called Armstrong – It comes in Mahogany – It looks great over newly cleaned Ipe. http://www.armstrongclarkstain.com/hardwood-and-ipe-stain I would give that a try. The timber oil will also work but may not have as much color pop with mahogany.

Here is a cell phone pic of my Ipe deck just after putting on the Armstron Clark stain.
Ipe Deck with Armstrong Clark Stain

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Dee Cook April 26, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Wow, great response time, thank you. That deck looks GREAT! Yes, the sanding is hard work, my shoulders are aching this morning and I did a very small area. The wood looks to be in great shape after sanding. I don’t see any issues with it. I was hoping you’d say stripper. I will definately look into one. Can you suggest one in particular? I will still test it, but would appreciate all the help I can get.

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The Handyguys April 26, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I think the stripper I tried, that discolored the Ipe, was from Woodsman. I’m not 100% positive of that. The TSP solution was all I really needed. As for stripper, I would just find the cheapest and start there. Our friends over at http://www.deckstainhelp.com/category/deck-product-reviews/deck-stain-stripper-reviews/ have some reviews. The product that I had that I didnt like was sodium hydroxide like the HD80 in the review.

Also, with a stripper – if you have painted aluminum ballusters you cant get stripper on them or the paint will come off. Same with other hardware or surfaces on or around the deck.

If regular deck ‘strippers’ dont work then I would go with something like citri-strip if you could find it cheap enough.

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dee cook May 3, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Ok.. we ended up sanding the deck and using the stripper on the tough to reach areas. Now we’re ready to stain. I can’t find the armstrong-clark stain, but I’ve heard you mention the cabbots timber oil.. would that be a good choice? The deck does get quite a bit of sun in the summer (4-5 months) and lots of snow (if its a bad winter).. The mahogany still has some bits of discoloration, but most of it (when wet) looks like a very rich redish-brown…beautiful color, but I think we should go with a colored semi-transparent to try to hide some imperfections?? PLEASE HELP!!

Jim McAndrew June 21, 2013 at 8:18 am

I have an 8 year old cedar deck which I am in the process of preparing to stain. I have cleaned most if it off with TSP, a deck brush and power washing. I did not have bleach mixed in with the tsp. what is the advantage of that?

I’m also thinking of sanding the deck. What should I use to do this?

I’m also looking for a good semi transparent stain that will hold up well. The deck gets a lot of sun and can get a lot of snow depending on the winter. Do you have any suggestions for type of stain to use? I’m hoping to use something that I don’t need to strip again. Just clean and reapply. Thanks.

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The Handyguys June 24, 2013 at 10:06 am

The bleach in the TSP will take care of any mold, mildew or alge growth and also brighten up the wood. If it looks good after washing without bleach then no worries, you are ready for the stain.

If you are going to sand (because it has splinters or unusual roughness) then I would recommend a random orbital sander with 40 or 60 grit paper.

Here is a show we did on sanders you may find helpful
http://www.handyguyspodcast.com/3346/which-sander/

As for a good semi-trans stain. I like the oil stains, some brands I would consider – Penofin, Cabbots. I avoid store brands from the home centers.

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Bill June 22, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I power washed my 20 year old deck, was looking really dirty. I have sealed every year but I wondered what your recommendation would be to put on it.
After I powerwashed it, was looking great while wet, wondered if there is something I can put on it that will bring out the grain of my older deck???

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The Handyguys June 24, 2013 at 10:00 am

I like semi-transparent oil based stains. They have some added color which prolongs their life but not so much that they obscure the natural look. The oil will soak in and give you the look you are seeking.

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Mickey Jetpur December 13, 2013 at 4:51 pm

I had my deck stained with Armstrong. Semi solid and it is not dry in some places after 3 weeks. Help,,

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The Handyguys December 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm

No good solutions at this point. I suspect it was applied too heavily. Waiting a couple more weeks may do it, it may not. I would contact Armstrong and ask what they suggest. You may need to wipe things down with mineral spirits or something similar (ask armstrong). That would probably result in a blotchy appearance if there are some dry areas.

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The Handyguys May 6, 2013 at 9:48 am

i would definitely use the armstrong clark versus the timber oil. The armstrong has a bit more color in it than the timber oil. The added color will help even out any imperfections. You can get it online here
http://www.armclark.com/html/hardwood-stains-semi-transparent.html
Its free shipping for the 5 gal cans.

The timber oil is great initially but I think it would fade faster in your situation.

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