How to Refinish a Wooden Boat Deck

Two chairs on the back of a moving boat
  • 3-6 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 50-100
What You'll Need
Wood stripper
Work gloves
Respirator mask
Paint scraper
Oscillating tool equipped with a hook and loop pad accessory and applicable sandpaper
Wood stain

Refinishing a wooden boat deck is similar to refinishing a patio deck. As with a house deck, the more often you maintain the wood, the longer the deck will last. In addition to extending the deck's life, refinishing the wood will give the deck a polished, professional look. Refinished wood also prevents splinters in bare feet.

Step 1 - Clean

Clear the deck of all debris. Use a broom to sweep all dust, dirt and other debris from the deck. If the deck is large, use a push broom instead of a standard kitchen broom.

Step 2 - Strip Wood

Apply wood stripper to the entire surface of the deck. Use a wide paintbrush to apply the stripper. Also, remember to wear work gloves and a respirator when working with wood stripper because the fumes can be noxious. Allow the stripper to sit on the surface for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.

Step 3 - Scrape

Scrape the surface of the deck with a paint scraper. Bubbles of old paint and other residue will have bubbled up from the surface of the deck, and the paint scraper will finish the process of removing the old finish. As you scrape, mop up the sludge with a rag and deposit it in a bucket.

Step 4 - Clean Again

Clean up the residue left behind by the wood stripper. Wear work gloves and use clean wet rags to wipe up any remaining residue on the deck wood. When the deck is completely clean, allow the wood to dry completely before beginning Step 6.

Step 5 - Sand

Sand the deck to remove any remaining stain and to provide for a smooth surface. Use sandpaper, and remember to sand along the grain of the wood. If there are big chips or splinters in the wood, use an extra coarse grit sandpaper until the wood is relatively smooth. Intricate patterns, corners and tight edges are easily sanded with an oscillating tool equipped with a hook and loop pad accessory and applicable sandpaper. Then finish the sanding with a fine grit sandpaper. Sweep the deck when you are finished sanding to remove all loose particles.

Step 6 - Stain

Use a paintbrush to apply wood stain to the deck. The wood stain will add color to the wood and give it an added measure of protection from the elements. Use long, even strokes when applying the stain, but don't apply too much at one time. If the stain puddles, you are using too much. For a deeper shade, apply two or three coats of stain, allowing the stain to dry completely between coats.

Step 7 - Varnish

Use a wide paintbrush to apply two coats of varnish to the boat deck after the stain has dried completely, usually 24 hours after the last coat. Make sure that you choose varnish that is designed to withstand water and extended sun exposure. Allow the first coat of varnish to dry before applying the second coat.