A person skilled at sarcasm might answer “When it needs it!”

But the truth is that there are probably some “right” times to refinish a wooden deck and some “wrong” times. In general, late spring is probably the best time. This gets you between the hard winter that might have caused some damage to the finish and the hot summer when you don’t want to work in the direct sunlight. In addition, you’ll have the work completed before you begin to use the deck for family and neighborhood gatherings.

Timing Is Essential

Once you’ve chosen the right product for your deck, such as a good-quality stain or a durable exterior paint, you’ll need to allow time for surface preparation. In fact, this is one of the major mistakes that the do-it-yourself homeowner makes when painting any surface of his or her home. Make necessary repairs and be sure that the entire deck is completely clean and dry. Some property owners use a power washer to get rid of all grime, grease, and dirt.

Allow plenty of time for drying before applying the first coat. You should be sure to fix those loose boards, drive in nails, and so on before you open the paint can. If you don’t want to power wash the deck, use a strong thick-bristled brush with a mixture of three parts water and one part bleach. Remove mildew and stains and allow to dry thoroughly.

When you’re satisfied that the wooden surface is ready for stain or paint, plan to do the work when the deck is not in direct sunlight or the temperature too high. That’s why spring is generally the best time since most paint products work best from about 60° F to the mid-80° F range. Of course, you can also get good results by doing any exterior painting or staining in the fall. The key is to do the work when the temperatures are moderate.

Too Hot, Too Cold

Other painting veterans and paint companies recommend painting between 50° to 85° F for latex paints, as one example. If you paint when the temperature is too hot, the paint will dry too quickly, which may result in brush marks and “clumping” of paint. If the temperature is too cold, your paint will not spread smoothly over the surface nor will it adhere properly. If you try to paint when it’s too cold, you’ll experience peeling and cracking soon after the job is done.

To bring this information together in one place, do all that you can to avoid the four most common mistakes that an inexperienced painter makes. Many people try to put too much paint or stain on the wood surface because they think that “more is better.” Good stains and paints are designed to penetrate to some extent, which gives the protection that you need for exterior projects. Follow the product recommendations carefully.

You’ve read about the problems moisture can cause when painting or staining. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the wood to dry. The last two mistakes often made are painting in hot weather and direct sunlight or not waiting for new pressure-treated wood to “cure” before putting paint or stain on. Consult with your paint professional before starting any project.