| | | | | |

Backyard Deck Makeover with Gray Stain

Our deck makeover is underway, and we’re loving the look of the new Chelsea Gray stain by Benjamin Moore. Find out what’s holding up our backyard transformation now.

Backyard Deck Makeover - Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray Deck HC-168 with Cedar Privacy Screen

Last spring, we started the not-so-fun job of staining the deck. As some of you know, this is at least the third time we’ve done a deck makeover in what seems like a fairly short time period. It saddens me to say that we’ll be picking up the paint brushes once again next month. Why, you ask?

Deck Backstory

To give you the short version, we started out with a small 10 x 12 foot deck that was here when we moved in. A few years later, we added a lower section along with a cedar privacy wall.

Because the pressure treated wood on the lower section was newer and the upper was treated with a clear coat previously, we ended up having to select a darker semi-transparent stain to keep the look consistent on both levels. All of the lighter deck stains I tested resulted in a noticeable difference in coverage and colour from top to bottom. Dark seemed like the easiest solution.

Two Level Deck with Cedar Privacy Screen

At first, we were happy with how it turned out. I found the undertone to be a bit red for my liking, but those types of stain colours were more popular at the time. Besides, it was finally done, and being able to enjoy it was all that really mattered. Our summers are much too short.

What we came to realize only a short time later is how high maintenance dark stains can be. Wear patterns from our dog coming in and out of the house quickly showed, as well as marks from our outdoor furniture (even though we were careful while sliding chairs in and out from the table). By the next spring, our deck was looking pretty rough.

Deck Makeover- Adding Grey Stain Over Brown Stain - BEFORE

Since our son was graduating that year and we were planning a big party, we decided to freshen the deck with new stain. Perhaps we could’ve stripped the dark colour and started from scratch, but we were pretty time-crunched. So, we decided to go over the entire surface with a dark espresso solid stain called Cordovan Brown by Behr. As well, our dog Reegan was no longer with us, so track marks and hair weren’t a concern.

Cordovan Brown Deck - Stain by Behr Premium - Natural Cedar Privacy Screen

To address the furniture scuffing problem, we added outdoor rugs to both levels, which helped tremendously. The colour no longer had a prominent red undertone, so we were happy about that. As well, the dark brown deck stain worked much better with our house and furniture colours.

Backyard Updates - Behr Cordovan Brown Stained Deck with Wicker Lounge Chairs

So, why did we decide to go in a completely different direction this time around and select a gray deck stain?

Although the brown solid stain held up better (3 years without having to touch it up), it constantly looked dusty and we were having to vacuum it regularly. Yes, we used our central vac with the brush attachment every few days throughout the summer to keep it looking clean. When it rained, the water droplets dried white, making it look terrible too. Sometimes, I had to mop the deck, then dry it to keep it looking good. It was a total pain!

Deck Makeover with Chelsea Gray Stain

This go-around, I wanted a stain colour that looked good, but was low maintenance too. After testing several outdoor stain colours, we decided on Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray, which is a warm gray with a very slight green undertone.

Comparing Deck Stain Colors - Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray vs. Seacoast Gray by Cabot

Choosing Our Deck Colour

No, I didn’t use a primer as it may appear. That very light gray (almost white) shown above is Cabot Seacoast Gray solid stain. That’s why it’s always important to test stain colours on the surface it’s intended for before you make a decision. On the chip it looked much darker.

However, decks are flat surfaces that reflect light, so colours tend to read much lighter and brighter outdoors. This photo was taken on an overcast day, so you can imagine how bright it was in the sun. My husband thought it looked like snow. Thank goodness I did my homework and tested the deck stain colours before committing!

Deck Makeover - Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray Deck

As shown here in the shade, it reads a bit blue. At times, it looks a bit green.

For the most part, it’s a lovely warm gray that seems to work with many colours. Depending on the time of day, the colour looks different, which is something I like.

Chelsea Gray also works well with our stepping stone walkway that’s joined to our stone patio below.

Staining a Deck Medium Gray Deck Stain - Chelsea Gray (HC-168) by Benjamin Moore


I’m not going to lie and say the transition from espresso stain to this medium gray stain was easy. First, we had to scrape and sand down the old stain that was peeling. Then, we gave the whole deck (including the skirting) two coats of the new colour.

It was labour-intensive and took a lot of patience when it came to the working around the rain. But gray stain over brown stain can be done.

The Result

After only living with the Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray for a week, I liked it so much better. It had rained and there were no signs of water droplets when they dried. We also couldn’t see any dust (not to say it wasn’t there). It seemed to be the perfect deck stain colour for our home!

After a good solid month, it was looking great (minus a few bird splatters we had to clean up). I took this photo with my phone one evening while we were enjoying dinner outside after a light rain. I liked how the deck and fence stain colours looked together.

Two Level Deck Makeover - Medium Gray Deck Stain - Chelsea Gray by Benjamin Moore

Since the deck staining was done, I was able to focus on other outdoor projects. I always look forward to the part when I get to plant flowers and add outdoor decor to our backyard. I worked hard to get it done before Canada Day.

The Storm

At the end of June, when everything was finished and I had planned on taking the reveal photos of our deck makeover, a huge storm ripped through our town. We’re talking the most hail I’ve ever seen in my life. Yes, that looks like snow in the photo below, but it’s actually melting hail. Yikes!

Backyard After Hail Storm

All I could do is watch out the windows as the storm ripped our trees and plants apart, and started peeling the stain right off our deck. All I could think is please don’t let any windows break since we finished our main floor renovation only months before. I couldn’t help but start crying :(

Medium Gray Stained Deck - After the Hail Storm

Those black bits are tiny pieces of our shingles. Yes, they took a beating too.

The only parts of the deck that looked okay were the ones that were covered with the rugs.

Deck Stain Damage After the Hail Storm

What about our plants? Pretty much toast! Thankfully, many of them bounced back within a month or so. Others, never recovered.

Our Backyard After the Hail Storm

That storm, along with several other obstacles we faced during our renovation, taught me many life lessons.

We had to wait several weeks for our insurance company to assess the damage. Meanwhile, at least two more big hail storms passed through. By the time everything was worked out, it was too late in the season to repair the stain. That means we’ll be addressing it next month (if the weather cooperates). Hopefully it will be the last of the deck staining for a very long time!

Update: See how our refinished deck looks now!

Like this gray deck stain? Be sure to pin this project for later!

Two Level Deck Stained in Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray

Facing any of your own home improvement challenges? Looking for new stain colours for your own deck makeover? Want to know more about our gray stained deck? Be sure to leave a comment below!

Want more paint colour suggestions like these sent directly to your inbox? Be sure to SUBSCRIBE.

Enjoy your day,

Shauna at Satori Design for Living Blog - Home Decor, DIY, Vintage Finds, Recipes


  1. Shauna,

    We are painting our deck floor this same color. I’m curious why you didn’t use a primer. Thoughts?


    1. Hi Todd, We used Benjamin Moore Arborcoat solid stain which is self-priming. We did prep the deck thoroughly before we began to ensure a good bond. If you’re using Benjamin Moore exterior paint, I believe it’s self-priming as well. Hope this helps :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *