How to Prep a Deck for Painting

A deck being painted.
What You'll Need
Belt sander
Medium grit sandpaper
Fine grit sandpaper
Paint stripper (optional)
Soft bristle broom
Tacky cloth

Deck painting is a great alternative to staining and sealing your deck because with the right paint product, you can provide a seal for the wood and get an opaque color instead of a translucent one. This can make some incredible differences in outdoor design, and should be considered when trying to bring the indoors outside to your al fresco living space. Preparing a deck for paint is similar to stain but will need a couple of extra tools and steps.

Step 1 - Clean and Sand

The first thing you should do is clear off your entire deck of anything on it — grill, chairs, planters, everything, to ready it for the belt sander. Always sand in the same direction of the grain, which is usually up and down the length of the planks.

Sand your planks until any paint or sealant is taken off. You should have bare wood where you sanded. If there was stain that penetrated deep into the wood, this is okay, you don’t have to take all color off, just all finishes that may interfere with the paint finish.

Step 2 - Sand Twice

You have to buff out the deep grooves taking off paint or sealant may have caused, so go back over the wood with a finer grit of sandpaper, always remembering to sand in the direction of the grain. Once you’ve finished this, you’re almost ready for paint.

Step 3 - Clean Wood

Sweep all of the dust off of the deck with your soft-bristle broom and make sure you sweep out the crevices between the planks. Dust off any of your spindles and banisters as well, which also should’ve been sanded down.

Now use your tacky cloth to wipe off each individual plank. You don’t want sandpaper grit or sawdust all over your paint finish, and the tacky cloth will pick it right up. Go over the spindles and into their little nooks and crannies, making sure all dust is off of them.

Then go grab your hammer and go over the nails in your wood deck. You want them to be flush with the wood, so if any are sticking up, pound them back down into the plank. If they’re too deep, it’s okay, don’t worry about those nails. Take care not to put dents in the wood, though, because those markings will show up when you apply your deck paint.

That’s it, you’re all finished. The prep work is a lot harder and more involved than the actual painting of the deck, but if you take all of these steps to get your deck ready for the deck paint of your choice, you can expect a better coating, more efficient paint usage, and better yet, a beautiful finish without any marring.